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Reader's reflexes tested by fast-pitch blackjack

Reader's reflexes tested by fast-pitch blackjack

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BlackJack Cards

When I write about speed at blackjack, it's usually about hands per hour.

The fewer players there are at a table, the faster the game. Averages range from fewer than 60 hands per hour at a full seven-player table to more than 200 if you're playing heads up with the dealer.

Faster games favor whoever has the edge, and that's usually the house. If you're a card counter or other advantage player, you like a fast game. If you're a basic strategy player or less, speed works against you. Your bankroll will be happier if you slow down.

There's a different kind of fast, one I touched on with Blackjack Bob several months ago. Bob was playing a two-deck pitch game where cards are dealt face down. The dealer was pitching so fast Bob was knocking down cards in self-defense, until one finally flew off the table. A pit supervisor told the dealer to slow down because Bob couldn't handle her fastball.

Other readers have chimed in since, mostly to note the rarity of one- and two-deck pitch games. They'd like the opportunity to test themselves against those fastballs.

Greg, who says he's played blackjack for more than 20 years, met his need for speed at a double-deck table in Las Vegas. Like Blackjack Bob, he found it challenging.

" I have problems with speed at blackjack," he wrote in an email. "The most embarrassing time came in Las Vegas in a two-deck pitch game. Cards were dealt face down and you could pick them up, not like the six-deck games where they're all face up.

"One day, this dealer was just flinging the cards through the air. Players had to be alert and stop the cards. Mostly, they'd hit the table rim and stay on the table, but every now and then a player would miss one and it would fly off the table. Sometimes the edge of the card would hit your hand, and it hurt.

"I held my own in either catching cards or at least blocking them and knocking them down. If a corner of a card caught you in the hand, it stung."

I've been hit by corners of cards rotating by Frisbees, and I could sympathize with Greg. It can sting for a second, not that it stops me from playing when the games are available.

But let's allow Greg to continue.

"I'd been playing for a while and got used to the rhythm. I wasn't missing many. But one hand, the cocktail waitress appeared with my beer just as a card flew at me.

"When I looked toward the waitress, it was all over. There was no way I was going to catch that card, and it was a high one, over the table edge. It flew off somewhere, but I didn't exactly know where.

"I looked around, other players looked around and I asked the waitress if she saw any cards on the ground. She even looked on her tray, just in case there were any cards mixed in with her tokes.

Finally, the dealer said, 'Have you tried looking down?'

"That's where the card was, smack dab in my lap. Never felt it hit.

"One player said, 'I've heard of an Ace up your sleeve, but this is a new one.'

"The rest of the session, other players teased me about how maybe it's time to play the lap card."

I asked if the speed would hold him back from trying again.

"Heck no!" Greg replied. "I had a great time. I wish there were more games like that."

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).


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