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Dealing Blackjack at a Party

Learning to deal blackjack in a casino is a tough job. There are blackjack schools that charge big bucks (up to $1,000) to learn the game, but many casinos hold their own schools, promoting current employees to dealer positions. These schools usually last about two weeks and the dropout rate is around 20%. Before you ever go to a dealing school or hold your own blackjack party you can learn the basics of dealing right here.

Because casinos deal in cash, their inventory is chips – which again are cash. Dealers are first and foremost responsible for handling the exchange of cash for chips in an exact manner that the Pit Bosses and Surveillance cameras can see and understand. Even if you are just dealing at home it is a good idea to announce the exchange of cash for chips, such as “Changing one-hundred”.  This lets your customer know what they are getting and gives them a chance to ask questions if they think they are not getting the correct amount.

In virtually every casino in the world a cash buy-in is “proven” even though stacks of chips are always 20-high. The chips are cut-down into four stacks, each five-high (five stacks of four for $25 chips). In European casinos the stacks are immediately restacked and handed off to the player. In North American casinos, the final stack of five-chips is “splashed” to further prove that it is five-high and contains only chips of the same denomination.

Your ability to handle chips accurately will make any dealing job easier. For now, you can start by holding one stack of 20 chips with your fingers on the sides and the top chip pressed into the palm of your hand. Then move your index-finger up slightly to “cut” five chips, pulling the stack closer to you as you do so. Your index finger will slide along the top of the fifth chip and you can do the same thing again three times to get your four stacks of five.

Whenever you pay a winning bet you can take a stack of chips in a similar manner from your tray of chips and “size-into” the players bet with your stack while sliding your index finger along the top of their stack and into your stack to “cut” the chips and prove the two stacks are the same size. Obviously if their stack is of different denominations you’ll have to break it down and pay each denomination individually. Always make sure your player’s have their chips bet with the highest denomination at the bottom, so they can’t “accidentally” add any big chips to their winning bets.

Blackjack Knowledge

Obviously you need to know how to play blackjack to deal it. We’ll assume you’ve got the rules down pat. Each casino sets their game limits and their house rules independently, but standard rules for home games include paying 3 for 2 on a blackjack, using a single deck of cards, allowing splits of any two cards, no double-down on splits, no resplit of aces, and double down on 10 and 11 only. These rules give the house about a 1% edge and are easier to deal to.

As the dealer, using a single deck has advantages in keeping track of all the cards – you won’t have to worry about a whole shoe of cards. Make sure you start with a full deck of 52-cards, and make sure you shuffle them well each time you break the deck. A standard house shuffle is to split the deck into two half decks and riffle them together twice. Then, cut a third off the top and put the bottom two-thirds on top of those and then cut the deck in half again and riffle (shuffle) them together again. This will get them well-mixed.

You’ll have to handle the actual dealing of the cards to players, but use a separate, brightly-colored cut-card and allow a player to cut the deck where they want. You should then leave the part below the cut on the table, move the upper part to the table and put the bottom part on top. Move the cut card to the bottom without exposing any cards, and then burn a card (which means you’ll take the top card and move it to below the cut card, turning it face-up as you do so.

Although the art of dealing a perfect casino game and pitching cards is well beyond the scope of this article, you can simply deal one card at a time. Once the players make their wagers, starting with the player to your left, give each player their first card, face-up, and then give yourself a card, also face-up. Now continue in clockwise fashion to give each player their second card face-up. You’ll follow this by giving yourself a second card, but face-down.

For security reasons it is much better to deal them this way and have the players scratch their finger towards themselves to take a hit and wave off any other cards when they are done. Don’t let them touch their cards or their bet until you are all done.

Follow Your House Rules

Now go back to your house rules: players can double down on what totals, players can split what cards, how many times, and blackjack pays what? It’s a good idea to write or print the rules so there are no arguments later.

Play each player’s hand one at a time, taking the bust hand’s chips and leaving the rest. Pick up the cards from the busted hands and place them on the bottom of your deck, so no cards are ever unaccounted for. Once each player finishes their hands, expose your down card and follow the dealer rules (hit until either soft 17 or hard 17). Obviously if you bust, all remaining bets get paid. If you don’t bust, announce your total (17 to 21) and pay and take winners and losers. Ties are a push.

Practice First

You’ll want to practice all of these things before ever actually dealing to “live” players, so break-out the chips and practice cutting and handling them. Practice your shuffle until the three moves: the two shuffles, the one-third by two-thirds cut and the final shuffle (riffle) are second nature. Then, start practicing your card totals.

Probably the toughest part will be counting your point total and knowing when to hit your hand,, especially if you have an ace. Practice dealing yourself hands, over and over: Deal the cards out to player spots, then turn your bottom card over, say the point-total in your head, hit when appropriate, and announce your point-total when you are done (17 to 21). The more you practice, the better and faster you will become.

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