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Blackjack playing strategies and beliefs: A view from the field

Will Bennis


A great deal of research on the psychology of gambling has been conducted that has looked at non-experienced gamblers in laboratory or classroom settings. Yet there has been comparatively little research examining the practices and beliefs of actual gamblers within their natural gambling context. The current research contributes to the naturalistic study of casino gamblers. It reports the results of 10 weeks of ethnographic participant observation conducted in 1999 in two Indiana riverboat casinos located about 1/2 hour from Chicago. The research examines blackjack players' strategies for and beliefs about winning as explained and understood by the gamblers themselves. It uses blackjack's basic strategy and card counting as organizing principles around which to discuss and assess these strategies and beliefs.


blackjack; decision making; gambling; ethnography; casinos

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