Having watched the 2008 movie '21', a movie about a college student who can't afford to attend Harvard Medical School after being accepted and is lured into gambling because of his tremendous math and logic skills - which he puts to use to 'beat the bank' to finance his college monetary requirements, I had an urge to play some Blackjack!!
I was never all that crazy about card games when growing up, but I always did enjoy Blackjack and Go Fish when I did happen to play. Blackjack was my favorite.
Blackjack is a simple game at the core, but requires some actual skills to excel and actually beat the bank! While the game does require said skills to strike it rich (unless you just beat the odds and get lucky), it's still a fun game for even the most unskilled of players!
I searched the TreoCentral store and found Panoramic BlackJack, by Panoramic Software and, after playing it, thought it'd make a great review. Read on for the review!
Setup and Features
I'm reviewing Panoramic BlackJack on my Treo Pro and I simply downloaded the install file from TreoCentral, ran the EXE file and synced my phone. Once installed, I eagerly anticipated playing a game of 21.. err BlackJack!
Panoramic BlackJack brings the excitement of the casino to your Windows Mobile phone or PDA. For players who are looking to improve their game, or for those who are looking for entertaining casino game play, Panoramic BlackJack is fun for players of all skill levels.
The store's description of Panoramic BlackJack is right on target when it lists the features. I've listed them below:
- Classic Blackjack gameplay
- Amazing realistic graphics
- Card Counting options
- Authentic sound effects
- HiScores saved
- Gamestate always saved, even when you turn off your phone/device
- Hit, Stand, Double, Surrender, Split and Insurance capability
- Three (3) levels of difficulty
- Learn to Play mode - displays the basic optimized strategy
- FUN FUN FUN to play!!
Panoramic BlackJack can be played with the stylus or the 5-way controller, but I prefer the stylus to keep the game as simple and as enjoyable as possible!
Basic Rules of Blackjack
For those who have never played Blackjack, the rules are simple. The dealer deals everyone 2 cards, typically a card face down and another face up so everyone can see the face value of the top card. The object is to get as close to 21 as possible, without going over. The cards 2 through 10 count as their face values. Aces can be counted as either 1 or 11, and face cards (Jack, Queen and King) count as 10. There are all kinds of strategies involved in the game, but I enjoy it best as a simple matter of getting 21 or as close as possible!
Should you not have 21 or close enough to satisfy your taste, you can ask the dealer to 'hit' you and he deals you another card, face up. If your total is over 21, you've 'busted' and lose. If you're close, but wanna try to get closer, you can request another hit. Once you're satisfied with your total, the dealer can now hit his own cards to try to get 21 or very close. If the dealer is closest to 21 he wins and vice-versa if you're closer. There are a few other tidbits when it comes to rules, but I consider Blackjack a game and like to keep it simple - which works for this game.
Should you need more information on playing the game, such as rules or instructions, you can check out the excellent Help built into the game. From the screen above, you would simply click on 'How to Play' for clear, easy instructions on Panoramic BlackJack.
Deal the Cards!!
Okay. You're ready to play a game of Blackjack? Let's begin!
When starting a new game, you're given $10,000 in chips ranging from $50 chips to $500 chips. You can bet any amount made possible by combining the chips, but cannot bet more than you have in chips. Easy enough, eh? First, you place your bet and then are dealt the cards. You can add to your existing bet, but must hit the Reset button if you wish to bet less than your current bet. Like real BlackJack, once your cards are dealt, you can hit, stand, double, surrender, split or even buy insurance against the house hitting 21 - pretty neat!
As you can see from the above picture, I bet $50 and was dealt 2 cards that totaled 15. Man! I hate getting 15's! There are so few cards that I can be dealt that will help get me closer to a 21 and so many more that will put me over and make me bust! But, the general rules say that you should hit a 15. I, err, lost the screenshot depicting if I won or lost that hand, hehe! Nah, I lost! I guess the odds actually were against me. It's ok, I lost no real money.
For the next hand, I left the bet at $50 and didn't have to click anything to do so. A nice feature, the bet remains at your last bet unless you either add more by clicking, say $25 and increasing the bid to $75, or hitting Reset and then you can bet less than the last bet you made. I like to go wild when I 'play' at gambling, so I quickly bet my 'wad' and was soon broke, hehe! The crowd was with me too! How did I know? Another nice feature of Panoramic BlackJack is that the crowd reacts to your play. When I lose, I hear the crowd give a collective 'aww!'.
Levels of Difficulty
The game can be set to increasing levels of difficulty, which is nice if you become familiar with the rules and strategies and find yourself winning too easily against the computer opponent. For instance, easy mode uses only 1 deck, Blackjack pays 2 to 1, the dealer hits on a soft 17, you are allowed to see the dealer's cards and if you get 5 cards without going over 21, the hand counts as 21. Also, you can surrender a hand. Surrender means you bow out of a hand and you lose half of your bet, which is perferable at times to losing your full bet.
Normal mode uses 2 decks, Blackjack only pays 3 to 2 and you're no longer allowed to score any 5 cards as a 21. Here, you can also surrender a hand. The game doesn't go into why it adds another deck, but I suspect it's to help ward off card counters, which I'll touch on a bit later.
The difficult mode is played with 4 decks and you lose the ability to surrender. I didn't try the difficult mode other than to see it in action. Not much to mention other than some of the features that make the game easier to win at are now gone. Those of you who consider themselves expert gamblers may notice a big difference when switching from easy to difficult.
For those of you who've never really played Blackjack, don't fret - Panoramic BlackJack even includes a 'learn to play' mode! Not sure of the strategy? Let the game help you. It displays the basic optimized strategy. After a few rounds/games, even those completely new to Blackjack can pick up on the rules and be on their way to becoming a master player! Sweet!! ;-)
Panoramic BlackJack even supports card counting for those of you who actually wish to utilize/learn this method. Now you all know that I'm an ace card counter and have been kicked out of Vegas casinos many times for my excellent skills. Uh huh, and if you believed that, you'll also believe that I'm Wayne Newton's backup singer. Not in this lifetime! ;-)
Anyway, I prefer to just go hog wild, as I never plan to visit a casino and chance losing my hard-earned money! For the hard-core gambler, though, taking advantage of the house when the cards are in your favor could prove profitable! The built-in help and rules even warn against utilizing card counting, as some casinos do consider this to be 'cheating'. The help even delves into explaining how the card-counting theory works, which could be helpful for those who may consider actually utilizing card-counting in a casino.
I looked at the help to look at their explanation of card counting and found that the options allow for 7 types of card counting. That's a lot of options for something that the game itself warns against employing, LoL! But, I guess it's nice that the feature is included, as I'm sure even those who know the in's and out's of Blackjack like to play it at home and not actually lose any REAL money!
For those of us who don't need or want to employ card counting, the option can be toggled on, off, or be available on demand from the options menu.
Having played Panoramic BlackJack quite a bit for this review, I have noticed that I get a lot of 14's and 15's! While the general rules of strategy say you hit up to 16 and hold on 17 and above, I always get a little bit nervous when I see my initial 2 cards totaling to 14 or 15! Remember my initial hand for this review? Sure enough, I got a 15 and busted! But, that's just part of the game, and sooner or later, you're gonna get a run of this type of hands!
I've played countless hands of BlackJack and one thing I like about this game is that the game doesn't tend to 'pity' the player like some games I've reviewed do. Take Farkle Dice, for instance. I noticed that if I intentionally farkle and keep losing money that the computers AI seems to fall back and let the computer misplay horribly until the computer is back on a less skillful playing level which lets the player 'catch up'. While this may be enjoyable to some, I'd rather take the loss, as it makes winning more enjoyable to me! With Panoramic BlackJack, you don't have to worry about the computer taking pity on ya! It's do or die! This keeps the game interesting and makes for days, hours, who knows, years of playability!
If you should have a good game and make the top 10 high scores, the game has a high score screen which displays the bank dollar amounts and also the date the scores were obtained. This could be handy for when you're on a losing streak and wish to relive your 'glory days', J/K! I suppose it can be used for bragging rights, though.
I've learned a lot about playing Blackjack playing Panoramic BlackJack! That's one of the better features of Panoramic BlackJack - the game can actually teach you to play the game!
If you're new to the game of BlackJack or perhaps have children who don't yet understand the principles of game play, take advantage of the Learn to Play mode! Here, the game will display the basic optimized strategy to help you develop into the pro blackjack player you aim to be!
One of the nicest features of Panoramic BlackJack is that even if you lose your whole 'wad', you've really lost nothing but the time you've spent playing and you can simply begin a new game, complete with all the starting money again! Man, I wish real life was like that!!
Be warned, though - you may find yourself so caught up in playing that you lose track of time and miss or nearly miss an important appointment! Oh, something came up and you need to quickly exit your game? No worries! Panoramic BlackJack automatically saves your game state upon exit! The next time you run the game, you can choose to resume your previous game or start a new game instead. This way, if you're way ahead on chips, you don't lose out on a potential gold mine of chips!!
Interested in playing Panoramic BlackJack but not sure you wanna spend the $9.95 and find out the game just isn't right for you for whatever reason? No problem! Download the free trial and decide for yourself! Just click on free trial! But, I can honestly say that $9.95 is completely reasonable for the hours and hours of enjoyment I've gotten from playing it myself! Check it out today!!
I have a very similar game on my iPhone called Blackjack 21 and I love playing it too! I'm so hooked on both games!
pleasant sound effects
Lots of fun
Simple to learn and play