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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Super Fun 21 does have some tough edges

28 November 2005

Dear Mark,
I was playing a form of blackjack that had a bit of a twist to it when it came to the rules. I don't remember its exact name, but I do remember that a blackjack in diamonds paid two-to-one. Do you know what version of blackjack I was playing? I actually won some money. Ed M.

Seeing that you scored some scratch, Ed, you will most likely appreciate its name, Super Fun 21. Although the object of the game remains the same — beat the dealer's hand by getting as close to 21 as you can without busting — this mutant of blackjack incorporates a number of liberal rules and bonuses not found in conventional blackjack.

Here are some of Super's specifics and rule changes compared against those of commonplace blackjack.

The game is usually played with one deck, but sometimes two.
The dealer usually hits a soft 17.
Players may double down on any number of cards, even after splitting pairs.
Players may re-split up to four hands, including aces.
Players may take late surrender on any number of cards, even after hitting, splitting or doubling down.
A player hand totaling 20 or less, consisting of six cards or more, except after doubling, automatically wins.
A player hand of 21 points, consisting of 5 cards or more, except after doubling, pays 2 to 1 instantly.
A player blackjack always wins, even if the dealer has one.

And finally, that one rule that popped up in your question letting me know exactly what version of blackjack you were referencing: a blackjack in diamonds pays 2-to-1 compared to all other blackjacks that only pay even money — that rule can make for some fun. But Super Fun, Ed? Hmmm.

Being that the casino isn't in the business of giving Ed free money, the kicker(s) are that all non-diamonds blackjacks pay only even money, and the dealer usually hits a soft 17.

For those of you accustomed to a 3-2 payoff for your snappers, expect even-money payoffs on 15 of every 16 blackjacks, as only 1 of those 16 happy blackjacks, on average, will be in diamonds.

As to the dealer hitting a soft 17, this gives the house an edge of 0.94% compared to 0.75% if the dealer were to stand. When two decks are used, and the dealer hits a soft 17, the house edge is 1.16%.

These two house rules give the casino an advantage higher than in most everyday multi-deck blackjack games, even when incorporating perfect basic strategy. Nevertheless, if you get a hoot and a holler out of playing Super Fun 21, and are willing to give up an extra few tenths of the house edge in exchange for finally getting paid for a Five-Card Charlie, go have some fun, Super Fun.


Dear Mark,
This may come as a surprise to your readers, you not living in Las Vegas, but there are more Catholic churches there than there are casinos. Not surprisingly, some worshippers at Sunday services will give casino chips rather than cash when the basket is passed. Since they get chips from so many different casinos, the churches have devised a method to collect the offerings. The churches send all their collected chips to a nearby Franciscan Monastery for sorting and then the chips are taken to the casinos of origin and cashed in. I thought your readers might want to know this interesting tidbit. Donald K.

Intriguing item, Donald, and my readers thank you. Actually, things have evolved. There are 39 Catholic churches in the greater Las Vegas area now compared to over 80 casinos. But, that still doesn't change the fact that "Chip Monks" do the collection sorting.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Why is it that the people who come down hardest on luck are usually the ones who've already gotten theirs?" -- The Good Luck Book

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.