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In most things in life, there’s a hard way to learn to do things and an easier way. That certainly applies to learning how to play blackjack.

Kitchen Table Blackjack

For the hard way, take your roll of hard-earned bills out to one of the big casinos on the Las Vegas Strip or one the Indian casinos on the outskirts on Los Angeles. In time, if you bankroll is big enough, you might learn a few things that way. But most likely, you’ll see soon enough see that you need to know how to play the game before sitting down opposite a dealer at a casino blackjack table. The same is certainly true if you want to try you hand at online betting, as you can see at Betenemy where you can find detailed reviews about bookmakers and promotions.

Starting when I was about 12 or so, at the kitchen table at my Uncle Ray’s farm, I found a much easier way to learn, one that didn’t involve having a big wad of cash, which I certainly didn’t have then, nor require going to a casino, which I couldn’t have gotten into even if there had been one anywhere close.

Uncle Ray had chosen to stay on at the family farm outside Barnum, Minnesota, long after his brothers and sisters all split for brighter lights and bigger cities the moment they graduated from high school. A confirmed bachelor, Little Ray (his dad had been Big Ray) worked that farm by himself for a half century, milking two dozen Hereford dairy cows, raising a small herd of beef cattle, and hunting deer and pheasant and ducks for his dinner table.

As long as I can recall, my family would drive up from the Twin Cities to visit Ray at holidays and for several weeks during haying season in the summer. We’d help him bring in his hay crop when we could dearly use our extra hands and would generally try to give him a break.

Some of my fondest memories as a 10- or 12-year-old kid were driving Ray’s old International Harvester hi-boy tractor, pulling the hay wagon while Ray, my Dad, and anyone else strong enough for the task would toss hay bales up onto the wagon. Later on, I turned over the tractor driving to one of my younger brothers—or even my Mom—while I joined the men in toting the bales over to the wagon.

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On those summer evenings, the first thing we would do after finishing dinner and clearing off the oilcloth-covered kitchen table would be to pull out a dog-eared deck of cards and a mason jar full of pennies, nickels, and dimes.

On those summer evenings, and especially when we would visit for holidays in the winter, the first thing we would do after finishing dinner and clearing off the oilcloth-covered kitchen table would be to pull out a dog-eared deck of cards and a mason jar full of pennies, nickels, and dimes. Depending how many of us where there, we might play bridge or spades or Yahtzee. But the big favorite would always be blackjack.

We would count out equal piles of coins and set to it. Besides me and Uncle Ray, my Mom would almost always play, as would Curly Johannsen, Ray’s one-handed farmhand from town, and probably Billy and Joelene Swanson from the next farm down the road. Dad didn’t care much for cards and would be entertaining my younger brothers and sisters, who were then too young to play.

Mom and her brother, Ray, had been playing blackjack at that table since they were kids and knew winning strategies like the back of their hands, though Ray still liked to play his little “hunches,” which remarkably turned out to be right more often than not.

Curly liked his beer too much to be very good at cards, so his stack of coins always disappeared first. Billy and Joelene were earnest, attentive players, but they were still learning the game and usually followed Curly off the table soon enough.

Me? I got steadily better, until when I went off to college and no longer spent so much time on Uncle Ray’s farm, I usually ended those evenings with the biggest stack. Ray and Mom taught me when to hit and when to stand, when to double down, when to split pairs, and why not to take insurance. Uncle Ray’s “hunches” usually involved doubling down when the odds were in the dealer’s favor.

big dave

Much later, when I would take my wad of cash out to Pechanga or over to Vegas, I would remember the lessons I learned on those long evenings so long ago.

Dave Price