Is it a surprise if you hire a fox to design your hen house and you wake up one day to find all your chickens gone? Super Fun 21 is a blackjack variation with plenty of options for the players that enable it to live up to its name. Experienced players adept at card counting find the game fun as well since there are rewards to be had when the count is high and when the count is low. Is it a surprise that Super Fun 21 was invented by a card counter?
Howard Grossman first came to the attention of the blackjack world as an original member of Ken Uston’s counting teams in the 1970s. Kenneth Senzo Usui was born and raised on Long Island, New York in the 1930s and 1940s and picked up degrees at Yale and Harvard universities. During his routine business life Usui spent his weekends playing piano in San Francisco jazz clubs and studying the card counting theories of Edward O. Thorp laid out in his classic 1962 book, Beat the Dealer.
He emerged from his workaday world as Ken Uston, playing on card counting teams run by professional gambler Al Francesco. Teams of card counters would enter a casino floor and spread out across many tables. When one table was particularly “rich” with high cards a signal would be flashed and team members would join the table to cash in and make large bets. When New Jersey opened to legal gambling in 1978 Uston flew east with his own team.
He was soon making headlines by getting barred from Resorts International, the first boardwalk casino. Uston sued the casino, arguing that casinos had no legal right to bar skilled players. The New Jersey Supreme Court sided with Uston but casinos started adding decks and instituting more frequent shuffles. Uston’s team broke up and he resorted to authoring books and playing blackjack with elaborate disguises until his death from heart failure in 1987 at the age of 52.
For his part Grossman founded the Las Vegas Blackjack Academy as a school for card counters and then hopped the fence to work for the casinos as a card counter-spotter. He then began developing games. His most popular turned out to be Super Fun 21, a blackjack variation he claimed was invented overnight on a dare in 2001. Today the game is distributed as a proprietary property of Tech Art, a company that ironically came into being in the 1990s by marketing a dealer hole card reader that helped combat card count teams. Casinos had determined that losses could occur when the dealer checked the hole card for blackjack, either through dealer “tells” or inadvertent exposure.
So What Is So Super Fun about SuperFun21?
Start with what is not so super fun. The payoff for a player blackjack has been whittled down to 1 to 1, except for a blackjack in diamonds which has been juiced to 2 to 1. This bumps the house advantage to approximately 2.3%. It is making that house edge more appealing to players that triggers the fun in Super Fun 21.
The total of 21, for instance. The player will win with a blackjack even if the dealer also pulls a blackjack. Any hand that totals 21 with five or more cards pays 2 to 1 instantly, regardless of the dealer hand. And if the hand is less than 21 with six or more cards that pays an instant win as well.
Players can also double down at any time, with any number of cards, even after splitting. Identical values may be split up to three times to form four hands. If things are not going well the player can surrender at any time after the dealer checks for blackjack and hold on to half of all bets that have been made to the point of the Double Down Rescue. The surrender becomes advisable any time the player hand falls between 12 and 16 and the dealer shows 8 through ace.
The house can retrieve a small edge with a dealer choice on hitting a soft 17, but this varies from house to house. The standard version of SuperFun 21 played against basic blackjack strategy carries a house edge of 1.16% – roughly double the conventional game but a small price price to pay for all the player shenanigans permitted during the play of the hand.
Tech Art has also baked a side bet into the game but it is not often employed at most casinos. When found, the player can stake $1 in the SUPER FUN bonus bet area to gamble on only the first round in a single deck game or any round in the multi-deck game. If the side bet has been made and the player is dealt a blackjack of both diamonds the bonus pays $300 in addition to the 2-1 payout on the original bet. And while you are on a roll, if the dealer shows an ace you can still take insurance on that as well.
The additional advantage to the card counter is the potential of instant payouts available on non-busting hands of five or more cards. When it is known that the shoe is rich in small cards bets can be raised in the same manner as when the player is hunting blackjack with high cards, which is still a possibility in SuperFun 21. Grossman realized the advantage for experts like himself in his game. His goal was to balance the fun game play for the customers and the profit for the house – given the popularity of the SuperFun tables in casinos, mission accomplished.