The World Series of Blackjack was started in 2004, created and produced by GSN (Game Show Network), a cable television network. For the first two seasons, commentators Matt Vasgersian and Max Rubin hosted the World Series of Blackjack. In it's third season, 2006, the World Series of Blackjack began airing weekly as a part of GSN's 'Casino Night', which then became 'Vegas Night' with the addition of 'High Stakes Poker' to the regiment. Two new hosts, John Fugelsang and Ben Mezrich, took over the job of commentators as well.
When season 4 premiered in June of 2007, Vasgersian returned to his commentator role as a field 40 Blackjack players tested their skills for a total prize pool of $1,000,000. Famous names joined the tables, including celebrity Blackjack Champion Caroline Rhea, magician Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller, and baseball star Orel Hershiser.
The World Series of Blackjack is a closed tournament, where players are either invited to join in the tournament or must compete in satellite tournaments to win a spot at the tables. Six decks are used in the World Series of Blackjack and some of the rules are made quite intriguing, thereby peaking the interest of viewers.
Each player starts with $100,000 in chips. At the start of the tournament, the minimum bet is $1,000, maximum $50,000. Players are allowed to split, double down and buy insurance for an amount less than their original wager. If a player is unable to place the minimum bet amount, they are eliminated from the World Series of Blackjack tournament. Competitors have the option of surrendering their hand, resulting in a loss of only half of the original wager.
One twist on the common rules of Blackjack is that each player receives a "Burger King Power Chip" (can we guess who sponsors the World Series of Blackjack?). For each round of the tournament, each player has one of these chips. The chip can be played at any time throughout the round, allowing the player to replace one card with the next card in the shoe. This chip can even be used on a double down, allowing the player to look at the facedown card and replace it if he/she wishes. The Burger King Power Chip was added to the World Series of Poker in its third season (2006).
Another most interesting aspect of the World Series of Poker is the "Knockout Cards". There are two of these cards shuffled randomly into the 6-deck shoe. When the first Knockout Card is dealt, the player with the least amount of chips is automatically eliminated from the World Series of Blackjack tournament. In addition, the minimum bet is raised to $2,500. If 4 or fewer players remain, no player is eliminated, but the bets are still increased. When the second Knockout Card is revealed, again the lowest player is eliminated (unless 3 or less players remain) and the minimum bet increases to $5,000. Each time a Knockout Card is played, the deck is re-shuffled. Like the 'Burger King Poker Chips', 'Knockout Cards' were also introduced in the third season of the World Series of Blackjack.
Blackjack pays at a rate of 3 to 2 (or 1.5 to 1) and the dealer is forced to stand on a Soft-17 (Any 17 that includes an Ace counted as 11 - example: Ace+6). As of season 4, which started in June of 2007, the World Series of Blackjack consists of Rounds 1 though 8, Wild Card Rounds 1 and 2, Semi-Final Rounds 1 and 2, and the highly anticipated Finals.