Friday's column noted that several readers had complained there was an error in The Washington Post Magazine's coverage of gambling in Atlantic City.
Our reporter, who conceded he was a novice at casino gambling, wrote that while he was playing blackjack he drew a card to bring the count of his hand to 18. Then the dealer announced he had blackjack.
"Most unlikely," several letters said. "Couldn't have happened," one man wrote. "I have never seen it happen and I'll bet 1,000 to 1 that you haven't either," another added.
I agreed and said that when the dealer has an ace, 10 or picture card showing, before he lets any player draw cards he is supposed to look at his hole card to find out whether he has blackjack.
So the question appeared to be whether our novice gambler had not reported the incident correctly or whether an insufficiently trained dealer had failed to follow his instructions. However seven District Liners have already written to defend both the writer and the dealer. They say the complainers were wrong, and that I was wrong for supporting their position.
Bob Gookin of Annandale was the first to respond. He wrote: "Your reporter was almost certainly accurate when he said the dealer had blackjack. In Atlantic City, unlike Las Vegas or any other place I've heard of, the dealer does not check his hole card until the players have drawn cards. I predict you will get many more letters like this one."
The most complete explanation came from David C. Warheit, who wrote: "In Atlantiic City, the dealer deals two cards to each player and to himself but he never looks at his hole card until all players have stood or busted.
"This is actually a variant on the English version, where the dealer does not take a hole card until all players have stood or busted.
"The reason for this rule is that it avoids cheating - both advertent and inadvertent. When the dealer checks his hole card, he may tip off its value deliberately or unconsciously. If he doesn't check his hole card, he can't tip off its value.
"Thus, if the dealer had done as your suggested, he would have been fired on the spot.
"By the way, this rule favors the player. A player who does not like his first two cards is given the opportunity to 'surrender.' The dealer collects his cards and half his bet. 'Surrender' is most valuable when the dealer has an ace or a 10-value card face up. Were the dealer to be requred to turn up his blackjacks immediately, this option clearly loses some of its value.
"So, to continue your misery, now you know who erred. If wasn't the reporter. It wasn't the dealer. It was, alas, you. Again."
I'll take your word for it, David. I have never risked 10 cents at blackjack in casino, but I have watched the game played in casinos in Detroit and other Michigan cities; in Indianapolis and other Indiana cities; in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Steubenville and St. Bernard, Ohio; in Charlesston, huntington and Beckley, W. Va.; in Newport, Covington and Southgate, Ky.; in the Washington area's two best-known gambling joints and and in perhaps a dozen other places.
In all these travels, I have never seen an establishment that did not require its dealers to ascertain whether they had blackjack before offering cards to players.
However, inasmuch as I have not made an eyeball check on the action in Atlantic City, and may not get around to that formality for a few decades, I cam content to pass along the verdict of those who have been there. I waas wrong. I am mortified. If I weren't so busy this week I'd commit hara-kiri.