What is Spanish 21?

Spanish 21, or Spanish blackjack, is a variant of the classic game of blackjack. As the name suggests, Spanish 21 is traditionally played with the Spanish 48-card deck, although the standard 52-deck, minus the four tens, is equally suitable. Obviously, removing four, or 25%, of the 10-point cards increases the house edge, but only to 0.40%, if the dealer stands on 17, compared with 0.28% for blackjack played under liberal Las Vegas Strip rules. Indeed, in common with liberal Las Vegas Strip rules, Spanish 21 players may double after splitting, resplit aces and late surrender of the first two cards is allowed.

Spanish 21 is akin to blackjack in many ways, although the main difference is that a player 21, including blackjack, always beats a dealer 21. Any five-card, mixed suit 21 pays 3/2, any six-card, mixed suit 21 pays 2/1 and any seven-card, or higher, mixed suit 21 pays 3/1. Similarly, a mixed suit 6,7,8 pays 3/2, a suited 6,7,8 pays 2/1 and a suited 6,7,8 in spades pays 3/1; the same odds apply to 7,7,7 in all three cases although, in the event of a suited 7,7,7, if the dealer is also showing a seven, the player receives a bonus of $1,000, or $2,500 – known as a ‘Super Bonus’ – depending on the size of his or her initial stake. Note that none of these bonuses apply after doubling or splitting.

Where in a casino would you find ‘Little Joe’?

Not to be confused with ‘Little Joe’ Cartwright, the character made famous by the late Michael Landon in the television series ‘Bonanza’ from the late Fifties onwards, ‘Little Joe’ is a traditional – in fact, almost obsolete – term used in casino craps games. The term ‘Little Joe’ was first recorded in the late nineteenth century and is often used, loosely, and erroneously, according to some sources, to describe any roll of four – that is, 1-3, 3-1, or 2-2 – or a point of four in a craps. The term ‘Little Joe from Kokomo’, on the other hand, was a later development and refers specifically to a ‘hard’ four or, in other words, 2-2 alone. For the record, the probability of rolling any four is 3/36, or 1/12, or 8.33%, while the probability of rolling a hard four is 1/36, or 2.77%.

In the case of the latter term, the ‘Little Joe’ in question is believed to be ‘Little Joe’ Fohn, who was one of the top tournament bowlers in Kokomo, Indiana in the Twenties. Interestingly, the first Japanese American jockey in the United States, Yoshio Kobuki – who, his father once joked, was small enough to fit in his jacket pocket – was also nicknamed ‘Kokomo Joe’. However, Kobuki Jnr. was not born until 1918 and did not rise to prominence until the early Forties, by which time the ‘Little Joe from Kokomo’ term was probably already in common usage. It is also interesting to note that U.S. Route 31 and U.S. Route 22 pass through Kokomo, Indiana north-south and west-east, respectively.

What was the biggest gambling loss ever?

In the gambling industry, extremely wealthy patrons, who consistently gamble far more than the average man in the street are known as ‘high rollers’ or ‘whales’, depending on the level of their bankroll. In Las Vegas, casino hosts offer generous complimentary services to these high-stakes gamblers, safe in the knowledge that they are not immune to the unswayable laws of mathematical probability and may, periodically, come a cropper and suffer eye-wateringly heavy losses.

The man who has the dubious distinction of achieving what is believed to be the biggest losing streak in the history of Las Vegas is Japanese-American Terrance Watanabe, former owner of the Oriental Trading Company, founded by his father, Harry Watanabe, in 1932. In 2000, Watanabe sold his stake in the family business, for an undisclosed fortune, and became a philanthropist and self-confessed gambling addict.

In 2007, while staying in what was later described as the ‘most elegant suite’ in Caesars Palace, Watanabe claims that he bet over $825 on a variety of casino games at Caesars Palace and The Rio, losing a total of $127 million. Unlike most high-stakes gamblers, his choices included games, such as keno, roulette and slots, which carry a large house edge. Even in games carrying a much smaller house edge, such as blackjack – which Watanabe would reputedly play, three $50,000 hands at a time, for hours on end – he repeatedly made awful decisions and could lose up to $5 million a day.

What’s the history of baccarat?

Nowadays, baccarat is the most popular gambling game in the world, accounting for the majority of casino revenue in Macau and Singapore and, even on the Las Vegas Strip, playing second fiddle only to the ubiquitous slot machines in terms of profitability.

Like many ancient card games, the origin of baccarat is disputed. The name ‘baccarat’ is derived from the French word ‘baccara’, which dates from the mid-nineteenth century, but the origin of which is unknown. One suggestion, by independent game historian Thierry Depaulis, that the name is derived from the Provençal expression ‘fa bacarrat’, which translates into English as ‘go bankrupt’, seems at least as plausible, if not more so, than unsubstantiated rumours of an Italian heritage. In his ‘Dictionary of Conversation and Reading’, published in 1867, William Duckett claims that baccarat was originally an Italian game, imported into the south of France in the late fifteenth century, but provides no supporting evidence.

Whatever the origin of the game, the first printed records of baccarat being played in the United States appeared in ‘The New York Times’ in the late nineteenth century. Baccarat was not played in Nevada casinos until 1958 but, the following year, a new version of the game, known as ‘punto banco’ was imported to Las Vegas from Cuba by Tommy Rezoni. The original version featured a side bet on ‘naturals’, which has since been replaced by the ‘tie’ bet but, otherwise, punto banco was virtually indistinguishable from modern baccarat.

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