21 Pro: Blackjack
A great way to learn and practice card counting if you're ok with getting your face broken.
While on flights to Las Vegas, it's not uncommon to see folks studying books on how to play blackjack. Not only is it one of the city's most popular card games, but it's also in the spotlight, thanks to the novel and film 21, a story about a bunch of MIT nerds that learn card counting and subsequently win tons of cash. However, as the saying goes, you can only learn so much from a book. It's better to practice, and we strongly recommend 21 Pro: Blackjack, a free iPhone app that lets you learn the nuances of the game.
21 Pro is your all in one companion to blackjack. Not only does it contain the card game (which is quite good), but it also comes with a detailed history of the game, strategies, rules and terminology and info on variations (Spanish 21, English Pontoon), though you can't play them. There's also a section on card counting, a strategy designed to give you an idea of what cards the dealer will draw next (the primary reason why those MIT students won big). Casinos frown on this, so keep that in mind before strolling to the tables.
You begin the game with $1,000 and have the option of betting $5, $25, $100 and $500 chips placed on the right side of the screen. Along the bottom are six options (Surrender, Split, Double, Stand, Hit and Deal). In addition, there's a Menu icon to the left that allows you to return to the main menu, restart, research card counting stats and cash out. Finally, you can ask the dealer for advice.
All of these buttons respond to touch, but they're too small for large fingers. Instead of gliding our fingers along the screen, we settled for poking. This doesn't cripple the game, but it would be nice to see improvements in future updates. We'd also love some music, online play and different variations of blackjack, but considering 21 Pro's free, these nitpicky issues aren't important.
If you'd like to tweak the rules, the game has some options. You can choose whether the dealer hits soft 17, the number of decks in the Shoe and whether you want to double down after a split, among other things. But here's the thing. In screens, we see multiple people betting and we can't figure out how to access this feature.
Although the game is free, you'll need to put up with two ads before playing. They pop up right before you reach the table, and you can bypass them by tapping the screen and selecting Skip. However, if they annoy you, waste $4.99 on the ad free version, which contains the same amount of content.
We've yet to play all of the blackjack games for iPhone, but considering that most of them cost money, you should download 21 Pro. It's free, addictive and you'll learn some helpful tips. Whether they'll help you break Vegas, however, remains to be seen. Good luck.
What's Hot: Free, includes a detailed history of blackjack, has tips for mastering the game and card counting, neat ask the dealer feature, excellent touch screen controls, good visuals, customizable games.
What's Not: Free version has ads, no music, no multiplayer, lists variations of Blackjack but doesn't let you play them.