Superstitions at Blackjack

There are actually superstitions in some casinos that were being followed in the past.

One fascinating superstition that formerly pervaded some casinos was the notion that women brought bad luck. They were unwelcome--- and sometimes even barred, if possible. That custom is long past. Modern casinos are frequented by women, and their money is duly cherished.

Still, among the ranks of expert Twenty-One players, the proportion of women is small. The result is a remarkable waste of opportunity. A woman with the odds on her side enjoys a notably greater advantage in a casino than her male counterpart.

First, the sense of chivalry of the male dealers and pit bosses can only operate in her favor. And women dealers are likely to identify more sympathetically with a woman player than with a man.

More important, dealers are not likely to suspect that a demure young beauty or a sedate grandmotherly type can really be an adroit and calculating card counter.

Her presumed innocence does not accrue to a male gambler.

On the historic role of casino personnel who sits at tables and seem to play as customers is to stimulate business. Popular fantasy often shrouds a person who 'plays for the house' with a shadowy aura invoking mistrust.

To whatever extent such reputation is deserved, it would apply principally in games where players compete against each other.

At Twenty-One, where the players compete entirely against the dealer, the concept of such a person playing 'for the house' becomes meaningless in its usual connotation; he can just as well be regarded as playing against the house--- but with the house's money.

Also at Twenty-One, in fact, such a person, known as a shill, is not engaged in any contest at all. To avoid any appearance that he is serving as an 'anchor man', or that his decisions in playing his hands will have any discretionary influence on the game, he is required to play in a stereotyped, predetermined manner, using 'shills' rules'.

Such rules dictate that the shill never split a pair, never double down, and never draw to a hand that can break.

He draws to hard hands that cannot break; he draws or stands with soft hands by mimicking the dealer's formula. Thus, like the dealer, the shill has no options in how to play a hand (although his formula for drawing or standing with hard hands is different).

This procedure provides some consolation to superstitious players who often fret that, 'he took my card', when a preceding player happens to draw a card that would have helped the other's hand.

At least when a shill takes a card that would have helped the next player, no discretion is involved.

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