Hoyle's Games Modernized/Vingt-Un

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Vingt-Un derives its name from the fact that each player aims at making, by the cards he holds, "twenty-one." Any number may play. The full pack of fifty-two cards is used. After they have been duly shuffled and cut, the dealer[44] distributes one card, face downwards, to each of the other players (whom we will call the punters), and one to himself. The punters look at their cards, and each places on, or beside his card, the coin (or counters representing coin) he proposes to stake. A maximum and minimum stake are usually fixed beforehand, and a prudent player will make a practice of always staking, according to the nature of his hand, either the maximum or the minimum, never an intermediate amount. The reason of this is obvious. With certain cards,[45] say, eight, nine, ten (or a tenth card), or ace, the holder has the chances in his favour, as a tenth card, of which there are sixteen, will give him a good hand. With any other as his first card, the chances are against him, and he should therefore risk as little as possible.

The dealer also looks at his card, and, if he thinks fit, says, "I double you," or simply "Double," the effect of his so doing being that he will receive or pay, as the case may be, double the stakes offered by the punters. In deciding whether to double or not, he has two points to consider, viz. (1) the fact of himself holding an exceptionally good card, and (2) the absence or rarity of high stakes among the punters, indicating that their cards are not such as they feel safe in backing freely. It must, however, be remembered that the dealer has the important advantage of receiving from ties, also from all players who overdraw. These two points make a considerable percentage in his favour. With an ace, tenth card, nine, or eight, he should always double; and the weighty authority of "Cavendish" is in favour of his doubling with a seven, or even a lower card. In these latter cases, however, we think the amounts of the stakes should be taken into consideration, as affording some gauge of the probable strength of the enemy.

All court cards at this game count ten; an "ace," eleven or one, at the option of the holder; all other cards according to the number of their pips. Differences of suit are not recognized.

The object of the game is, as we have said, to make twenty-one, and this may be made either by the conjunction of an ace and a court or other tenth card, called a "natural," or by three or more cards, say a five, six and ten; ace, five, seven, eight; or ace, seven, three.

The ace is, as will readily be perceived, the most valuable card; not merely from the fact that there are sixteen cards out of the fifty-two that will form a "natural" with it, but from the fact that (counting as eleven or one at pleasure), it gives the holder a double chance of making a winning number.

The stakes having been made, and the dealer having decided whether to "double" or not (in the latter case, silence is a sufficient negative), he deals a second round of cards, still face downwards.

Each player again looks at his cards. If those of the dealer form a "natural," he turns them up, and receives from each player double the amount of his stake, or, if he has "doubled," quadruple.[46] (The proportionate increase in the latter case will henceforth be taken for granted.) What cards the other players may hold is, in this case immaterial, save in the event of some one of them holding a second "natural," in which case the two cancel, neither paying nor receiving.

We will now take the case of the dealer finding that his two cards do not constitute a "natural." If there be any such among the punters, the holder turns up his cards, and receives double the amount of his stake. To all other players, beginning with the elder hand, the dealer is bound to offer cards. This he does by the interrogative, "Do you stand?" or "Card?" The elder hand looks at his cards. If he has sixteen points or more, he will usually decide not to draw, conveying his decision by the word, "Stand," or "Content."[47] If he has less than sixteen, which is generally accepted as the average limit, he will probably draw a card, intimating his desire to do so, by replying, "Card," "Please," or "Yes." He may now be in three different positions. The card given him (as where, holding a six and an eight, he has received a ten), may make his total more than twenty-one. In such case he is "over," and at once hands his stake to the dealer, and throws his cards, face downwards, in the middle of the table, where they are collected by the player to the right of the dealer, known as the pone.[48]

The dealer then asks the same question of the next player. We will suppose that his hand consists of an ace and a two.

This, according to the value put upon the ace, will represent either three or thirteen. Thirteen is not good enough to stand upon, and the player accordingly draws a card. (This third card, and all following, are dealt face upwards.) He receives, say, a second "two," making him fifteen. Not caring to stand on this amount, he draws another card, and receives a "seven," making him twenty-two, or twelve. With twenty-two he would be over, and with twelve he is worse off than when he started. Again he says, "Card," and receives, say, a "three," making him still only fifteen. He draws again, and this time receives, we will suppose, a "five," when he of course "stands."

And so the game proceeds, all who overdraw paying and throwing up their cards forthwith. Last comes the turn of the dealer himself. If his cards are eighteen or upwards, he will "stand." At seventeen, he should usually stand. At fifteen, or sixteen, it is an open question, to be decided partly by the number of punters who may be still standing (and who, if numerous, will probably have some low hands amongst them), partly by his knowledge of the idiosyncrasies of his opponents, and partly by the nature of the cards which have been "drawn" by the other players. Should he go "over," he pays all, with the exception of those who, having overdrawn, have already paid up their stakes. If otherwise, he pays or receives as the cards of the punter, or his own, are nearest to the critical "twenty-one." Should the cards of any punter amount to exactly twenty-one, he will receive double the amount of his stake. In like manner, should the dealer's cards make exactly twenty-one points, each of the punters pays double the amount of his stake. In the event of "ties" (twenty-ones included), the punter pays the dealer. It must, however, be remembered that a natural vingt-un always takes precedence over one made by drawing.

Should a punter, on receiving his second card, find that both are alike, e.g. two aces, two kings, or two queens, he may, if he pleases, go on both. In such case, he places the second card parallel to the first, at a few inches' distance, and on it a separate stake, of the same amount as staked on the first card. When it becomes his turn to draw, he says, "I go on both," and the dealer then gives him another card, face downwards, on each. The player then draws as he pleases to complete each hand, but must finish the drawing on one, before beginning on the other. Should the third card dealt be the same as the first two, i.e. a third ace, king, or queen, he can go on all three in like manner. Likewise on a fourth, should the first four be alike. Each hand pays or receives on its own merits, as though belonging to an independent punter.

Where the two first cards are aces, it is a matter of course to go on both. With a pair of tenth cards, it is more prudent to stand. Two nines, or two eights (from the probability of a tenth card being dealt to one or both of them) are favourable cards whereon to go double.

The occurrence of a natural in any hand but the dealer's usually terminates the deal. By way of a sort of grace, however, it does not have this effect in the first round of a deal. Sometimes, by agreement, the deal is made to consist of a given number of rounds; say, till all the pack is exhausted, or till two packs are exhausted, the two being shuffled together. Where the first mentioned rule prevails, the pone collects the cards thrown up at the end of each hand, and shuffles them in readiness for the use of the dealer, but does not hand them to him till the first supply is exhausted. Should the dealer have gone right through the pack without the occurrence of a natural, he throws the last card, face upwards, on the table, and, receiving the remade cards from the pone, gives them a final shuffle, offers them to be cut, and proceeds as before.

In some circles the deal does not pass in rotation, but the holder of a natural (other than in the first round of a deal) becomes thereby entitled to the next deal. The practice, however, is a bad one, for the deal being an advantage, it is but fair that each should enjoy such advantage in turn.

There is no authoritative Code of Laws for Vingt-Un. A Code which covers, we believe, all points as to which any difficulty is likely to arise will be found in The Book of Card and Table Games. A slightly different Code, which has received the approval of the Editors of the Field and Bell's Life, will be found in Round Games at Cards, by "Cavendish" (De la Rue and Co.).


The game which goes by the above name is a variation of ordinary Vingt-Un. The differences are as follow.

The deal lasts during eight rounds, each played in a different way, as under:

1.—As ordinary Vingt-Un.

2.—(Known as Imaginary Tens.) Each player stakes before receiving his card. Whatever the value of such card, ten points are added to it, and the holder then decides, according to the total thereby made, whether to draw or otherwise. The holder of an ace is considered to have a "natural," the holder of a tenth card to have "twenty," and so on.

3.—(Known as Blind Vingt-Un.) Each player, having made his stake, receives two cards, but is not entitled to look at them. He may, if he pleases, draw one or more cards, but does so at haphazard.

4.—(Known as Sympathy and Antipathy) Each player, having made his stake, is called upon to elect for Sympathy or Antipathy. Having made his election, two cards are dealt to him. If they are of the same colour, Sympathy is the winner; if of different colours, Antipathy; and the player receives or pays as he has chosen correctly or otherwise.

5.—Rouge et Noir. The player, having made his stake, declares for black or red, at his option. The dealer gives him a card. If it is of the colour named, the player wins; if otherwise, he loses. (In some circles the dealer gives three cards to the punter, two out of three deciding the winning colour).

6.—Self and Company. The stakes having been made, the dealer deals two cards, face upwards, one for himself, and one for the company. If they are alike, he wins. If not, he continues to deal, turning up the cards one by one, face upwards, before him, until a card appears which pairs one or the other of the two first exposed. If the card for "self" is first paired, the dealer wins; if that for "company," he loses.

7.—Differences. Two cards are dealt, face upwards, to each player, and two to the dealer, who pays all hands which are higher, and receives from all which are lower than his own, at an agreed rate for each unit of difference. Ties cancel. An ace in this case counts as "one" only.

8.—The Clock. The full pack having been duly shuffled and cut, the dealer begins to deal the cards, face upwards, saying, as he deals the first, "One," as he deals the second, "Two," and so on up to king. If at any point the card turned up accords with the number named, e.g. if the fourth card is a four, or the tenth card a ten, he wins an agreed stake from each of the company. If he reaches thirteen without any card having responded to the call, he pays a like amount to each player.

44 ^  The right to deal is usually decided by a preliminary deal of faced cards, the first ace, or first knave, as may be agreed, having the preference.
In some circles, after the cards are cut, the dealer is allowed to look at the bottom card, and if such card prove to be an ace or tenth card, he also looks at the top card. If the two form a "natural," he is entitled to receive double the minimum stake all round.
This privilege is known as the brûlet, from the fact that it is dependent on the nature of the bottom card, which is always, in the French phrase, brûlé (literally, "burnt") i.e. thrown aside when reached in the course of the deal, and not dealt to any player.
The brûlet has never been recognised as an essential part of the game, and is now generally abandoned.
45 ^  Some players risk the maximum stake on a seven, but we question the expediency of doing so.
46 ^  This amount is the same as is paid for an ordinary Vingt-Un, i.e. one made with more than two cards. Sometimes, by agreement, a "natural" receives double the amount of an ordinary.
47 ^  Many players habitually stand at fifteen, and if the dealer is a reckless player, with a tendency to overdraw, it may be good policy to stand upon an even smaller figure. "Cavendish" is in favour of standing, as a rule, on fifteen.
48 ^  Pronounced like pony.