Critical Play: Games of Chance – Sreya

For this critical play, I played BlackJack on my phone. In particular, I played “Blackjack 21: Blackjackist” developed by KamaGames. This app is a comprehensive casino skills app with various games including Omaha Poker and Texas Hold’em being offered. 

In this game, players bet a certain amount of chips every round — with some restrictions based on what other players bet — and then get dealt cards. Interestingly, in this game, the dealer plays a significant role. The players not only have to beat each other, but also the dealer in getting exactly 21 in card values or closest to 21. In the round, players can either hit or stand — take another card or leave it as is. But, they can also “split” and bet more money. 

I found playing this game really interesting — despite betting and putting down chips, it’s extremely hard to rely on skill here. Whether you win a particular round or not all comes down to what the dealer draws for yourself, themself and the other players. You could take a particular strategy in terms of betting or splitting but varying or improving strategy will not improve your game. In addition, other games of chance may have an element of “reading people.” In poker, you could rely on luck but you could also rely on strategy based on others around you. In Blackjack, it’s extremely hard to rely on others around you to deduce what to do — I even chatted in the chatroom available and got no response. In addition, the cards are face up — meaning you are truly at the mercy of the deck. It was clear that this was a game where interacting with others only distracted from the task at hand.


I noticed that the game’s mechanics enabled it to progress very fast — you can bet a significant amount of chips at a time and each round (depending on the number of players) takes a minute or less on a phone. The phone version introduced a timer for making decisions regarding hit or stand but I can imagine something similar is introduced in real life. The rounds progress very fast with little deliberation or playing — essentially there are three moves: split, stand or hit. These mechanics and the pace of the game could have an interesting relationship to addiction. When I was reading materials online to learn about the game and how to play, the materials seemed to address the tendency to “split” when the game wasn’t going a player’s way or it seemed like they would lose the round. Indeed, in the game itself, it was very easy to feel like the loss of money was delayed by splitting. This mechanic of splitting combined with the fast pace turns betting into an impulsive, seemingly low-risk decision. Splitting one round seems to be a low-risk decision that only increases your chances — however, in reality you are betting more money and therefore have less in the following round. Yet, the decision and the round is so quick that even if money is lost, it feels minimal. This speed and rapidness could enable addiction as players are losing a little money at a time rather than big chunks. 

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