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Vingt-un Or 21

Vingt-un, or twenty-one, is another game we find described in books
published at the commencement of the present century. Its name would seem
to imply that it is of French origin; but in reference to this, as well
as in regard to the date of its introduction into the country, we have
no definite details. The manner of playing it at the present time is
very little different from that practised at the earlier date mentioned,
although modifications have been introduced in some minor points, and
the tendency is to make yet further departures from the methods adopted
in years gone by.

The game is well suited for a large number of players, and may also be
engaged in by smaller parties; its practice, with even only two competing,
being both interesting and exciting. It is purely a game of chance,
and little or no skill is required in playing it, although a little
judgment may often prove of advantage to the player who exercises it.

Vingt-un is played with an ordinary pack of fifty-two cards, which count
in accordance with the number of pips on each, the ace reckoning as either
one or eleven, at the option of the player, and each of the court cards
counting ten. No distinction is made during any part of the game in the
various suits, each of the four sorts being of equal value in counting
the points.

A player may retire after the completion of any hand, and the game
itself may be concluded at the same period, although it is desirable
to arrive at some understanding, previous to the commencement of play,
as to the method to be adopted in closing it, as, from the fact of the
deal being an advantage, it is unfair to conclude until each of those
engaged has had a turn, or equal number of turns, as dealer. This is
assuming that the deal goes round in rotation, which is the arrangement
now generally adopted, in lieu of the old-fashioned method of transferring
the privilege to the player throwing the dealer out by the declaration
of a "natural" Vingt-un, as explained later on. It must be understood,
however, that with several players engaged it may take a considerable
time for the deal to pass round, unless it be further agreed that each
player shall hold the deal for a limited period, another modification,
and one possessing many advantages over the old system, which was,
in reality, a mere question of chance, and often resulted in the privilege
of dealing being very unevenly divided among those engaged in play.

As already mentioned, the deal is an advantage, and the earliest
consideration should be to decide who is first to enjoy the privilege,
and for how long. By the old system one player retained the deal until
put out by one of the others receiving a natural Vingt-un, that is,
an ace (counting as 11) and a 10, or court card (counting as 10), and, as
a consequence, the deal often remained for a considerable period with the
same person, to the disadvantage of all the others engaged in the game;
and even when a change was made, it was not in any definite order,
but by mere chance, governed by the fall of the cards.

Modern innovations in the method of playing the game have tended to remove
these objections,--firstly, by arranging that the deal shall pass in
regular order from left to right; and secondly, by placing a limit
on the number of rounds to be dealt by each player in turn. Although the
latter of these changes is not yet generally adopted, the former is almost
universal; and we shall now proceed to explain the game on that basis,
ignoring the second point, for the time being, as, although its adoption
may make matters more equal, it has, perhaps, the disadvantage of depriving
the game of one of its main elements of chance, and, in the opinion of
many, thereby robs it of much of its attractiveness.

The limits of the stakes are first determined, and then the dealer
is decided upon. The minimum is usually one coin or counter, and the
maximum whatever may be agreed upon. The maximum is understood to mean
the highest amount that may be staked by a player on his card, and
not the maximum that may be lost or won over any hand, for, by the
rules of the game, the dealer is allowed to double the stakes, even if
a player has staked the maximum. If after that any one secures a Vingt-un,
i.e twenty-one points, that again doubles the stakes, and thus it
is quite possible for a player to win or lose four times the amount of
the maximum over one hand.

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