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Original Issue


Even though Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder is thought of by the general public as a big-time Las Vegas oddsmaker, what Jimmy really is is a public-relations man—and a good one. One of the things Jimmy has been pushing lately is an electronic calculator called Unisonic 21, and it's a fairly astonishing gadget. It looks pretty much like a standard basic calculator, but there is an extra set of buttons, as well as a little switch. Push that switch one way and Unisonic 21 behaves like a calculator. Push it the other way and the contraption turns into a blackjack game—Las Vegas at your fingertips.

To play, you first punch out the amount of "money" you want to use as your stake, then push a button marked Bet, which gets things started. Punch the amount you want to risk from your stake on the first deal, hit the Bet button again and—voil√†—on the display panel two hands of blackjack appear. Yours shows two numbers denoting the cards you've been dealt. The dealer's shows one, the other being hidden for the nonce, as it would be in a regular blackjack game. Now you have to decide whether you want to stand with what you have or receive another "card." If you want an additional card, you push Hit and another number appears; if you push Stand, your hand is complete and the value of the dealer's hidden card is shown on the display panel.

In Unisonic 21 the dealer's moves are made automatically once you've pushed the Stand button, until the hand is ended. Punching the Total button will give you your cash balance—obviously more if you win, less if you lose.

There are other buttons, too. If you've been dealt a pair, you can push Split and play two separate hands on that deal, one after the other. If your first two cards are of such a nature that you feel one more card would put you in a commanding position, you can push Double, which doubles your bet and gives you a single extra card. You can even push Insurance to protect yourself against the dealer's having blackjack.

Perhaps an expert would become bored with the electronic choice of cards, but a nickel-and-dime fraternity house player can push buttons for dozens and dozens of hands without detecting an obvious pattern. It takes both skill and luck to win more often than you lose. A small hand-size version of the game sells for about $40 (Unisonic, 16 W. 25th St., N.Y. 10010), a larger "console" model for around $60.