Archive for February, 2010

Blackjack Variations: Double Exposure

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Blackjack is one of my favorite games and one of the things that I like about it is its simplicity. The game has the perfect combination of chance and skill and it’s not very difficult to memorize blackjack basic strategy. The game is all about playing the percentages and each possible move already has pre-determined odds of success. It is a game that is fun, simple and pure. Some people, however, feel a need to take that game and tweak it a little and we end up with variations on the game. There are a lot of blackjack variations out there and to be honest, I don’t like any of them as much as the original. Earlier I covered the games of pontoon and Spanish 21, which are the most common variations. Today I am writing about a variation called double exposure. I know what you’re thinking: How can something called “double exposure” be bad? Well, keep reading.

The double exposure variation of blackjack is normally only found in online casinos, though it can occasionally be found on casino cruises or brick and mortar casinos. The game also sometimes goes by the name of face-up 21 or dealer disclosure.

The main difference between the double exposure variation and traditional blackjack is that with this version of the game, both of the dealer’s cards are face up, rather than there being a hole card. Obviously, this change is highly beneficial to the player. You don’t have to guess what hand the dealer has when deciding what move to make, because you can actually see for sure what he has. Don’t let that fool you, though. Other rule changes are made to even that out.

The main rule change that hurts the player is about ties. In traditional blackjack, if the dealer and the player have the same value hand, it’s a push, meaning the player doesn’t win anything but gets to keep the original bet. However, in double exposure blackjack those ties are considered a loss for the player, including if they both have blackjack. Losing money with a 21 is tough to swallow.

Another common rule change with double exposure blackjack is that blackjacks only pay even money rather than 3:2 or even 6:5. The player usually can only split once and can’t hit after doubling. After taking into account all of the rule changes, double exposure blackjack has a higher house edge than the traditional game and it can be as high as 1.47%. See why I prefer the original game?

Big Dance Blackjack Tournament at Cherry Red Casino

Friday, February 26th, 2010

Cherry Red Casino seems to have a thing for coming up with blackjack tournaments that coincide with huge sporting events. I, for one, am a big fan of the idea, because two of my favorite things are sports and blackjack. Blackjack Bowl III, which coincides with the Super Bowl, has recently ended and now it’s time for the Big Dance. Any college basketball fan knows that March is the most exciting part of the year, when we get into March Madness with the start of the NCAA Tournament, also called the Big Dance.

Big Dance is a Mano a Mano blackjack tournament, which is Cherry Red’s fancy name for a tournament where two players compete head-to-head. The final round of the tournament, which you can consider like this tourney’s Final Four, will be held on April 16 and the tournament qualifiers begin on March 1.

Like the NCAA Tournament, 64 players will qualify for this event. They will then compete for a prize pool of $6,400 (unlike the NCAA Tournament, since the NCAA frowns upon their athletes getting paid). Though 64 players will gain entry to the final round for free by qualifying, other players can buy their way in if they didn’t qualify. To buy your way into the tournament, the entry fee is $110. The qualifiers are held every week and are limited to 64 players each. The entry fee for the qualifiers is $16.

With such a big different in the entry fee from the qualifiers to the main event, it’s definitely worth it to join the qualifiers and try to play your way in. To take part in the Big Dance tournament, visit Cherry Red Casino today.

Manager Steals from his Company to Play Blackjack

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

People sometimes ask me, “How do I know I have a gambling problem?” One clue would be if you steal from your employer to pay for your gambling habit. An Edinburgh, England man was charged with doing exactly that. Benjamin Metcalf, a 26-year-old restaurant manager, was caught embezzling from his company after a five-figure amount was found to be missing.

Metcalf was the managing director of Nando’s and according to the BBC, he admitted embezzling £10,220.72 between June 28 and August 1, 2009. Metcalf loved to hit the blackjack tables and embezzled that money to fund his gambling habit. But wait, folks, it gets worse than that.

After he was caught and admitted to the embezzlement, Metcalf came up with a plan. He offered to play blackjack at a local casino and use the winning money to repay it. Brilliant! Of course, if he needed to steal money from his employer to play blackjack in the first place, I don’t know how he could pay it back by playing blackjack. First of all, he probably doesn’t have enough money to get started and make some money (which is why he had to steal it). Also, making money at blackjack is far from guaranteed, even for the best players. If Metcalf needed to steal to have enough money to play blackjack, then I don’t see why he would be so confident that he could win £10,220.72 playing it.

For obvious reasons, Nando’s declined Metcalf’s generous offer and instead agreed to press charges. The authorities then arrested Metcalf and charged him with theft. A guilty plea was made en abstentia and Metcalf is currently awaiting sentencing.

Folks, this kind of goes along with my last post. Metcalf did a bad thing (stealing) but justified it by saying that he was going to turn it into more money at the blackjack table and pay it back to the restaurant, keeping the rest. If you find yourself stealing from your employer to pay for playing blackjack, you have a problem. Actually, if you find yourself stealing from anyone for any reason, you have a problem of some kind.

Cheating in Blackjack

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

I recently read an article online about the training of special agents in casinos who are tasked with identifying cheaters. The methodology in their training was very interesting, but my mind kept going back to the basic questions of why do people cheat and is it immoral to cheat?

Both questions are so intertwined that it’s impossible to fully discuss one without the other. First of all, I’ll point out that counting cards is not cheating if you do so using nothing but your mind. Using any sort of outside help, which can range from a digital counter to a rubber band, is cheating.

So why do some people cheat at blackjack and other casino games? First, let’s concede the fact that most people think of themselves as good people. Short of someone with a severe mental disorder, such as antisocial personality disorder, it’s virtually impossible to continue doing bad things, realize that they are bad, know that it makes you a bad person, and be okay with it.

People are not okay with thinking they’re a bad person. A person’s self-concept is formed at an early age and with the exception of extreme circumstances of abuse, as children we come to think of ourselves as good people. Doing bad things contradicts that positive self-image, forming cognitive dissonance, which is when someone holds onto two contradictory ideas simultaneously. One of the ways of resolving that dissonance is by rationalizing the bad behavior.

Yes, I had an affair, but my husband is never home and doesn’t love me anymore. Yes, I spent too much money on this house, but it’s an investment for the future. I would never abuse a child, but it’s the only way to keep him in line.

People invent justifications for their bad behavior that allow them to think of that behavior as okay. This allows them to see what they did not as something bad, but as something that was necessary or acceptable due to the circumstances. In this form of rationalization, they no longer see the bad behavior as being bad. In blackjack, it can take an “ends justifies the means” form, where the player is hurting for money and has bills that they can’t pay. They rationalize that I am only cheating because I need the money. I would never do it just to have extra money to spend on trivial things, but I have a family to support. That rationalization makes cheating not seem bad because not being able to support the family would be worse.

People also rationalize by comparing themselves to others with whom they match up favorably. This is done all of the time in the constructing and reinforcement of our self-image as a good person. We see ourselves as being good by recognizing that we are “better” than people we consider to be bad. After being accused of stealing, football player Peter Warrick protected his self-image by saying “it’s not like I shot the president.” Sure, being a thief is bad, but not as bad as being a murderer. People rationalize buying an expensive TV that they can’t afford by pointing out the average debt of American households. Sure, I might have spent too much, but not compared to those other people! Have you seen the size of our neighbor’s boat?

In this way, players can justify stealing from a casino because, compared to murder, rape, child abuse and countless other crimes, what they’re doing isn’t really that bad. Also, it’s not like the casino can’t afford it!

And that is probably the most common rationalization behind cheating at blackjack. Another way in which people resolve cognitive dissonance and preserve their self-image of a good person is by making the victim out to be the villain. That way they deserved it. Yes, I killed my wife, but she was having an affair. Yes, I lied on the witness stand, but I know that man was guilty.

Casinos are easy targets for this. Sure, they provide basically any amenity you can ask for, are a great place to have fun, and will willingly pay you when you win fair and square, but let’s face it, they’re greedy and like taking my money! People rationalize that since the casino takes everyone’s money and the games have odds unfairly tilted in the house’s favor, there’s nothing wrong with cheating them out of money. I’m like Robin Hood. I’m stealing from the rich and giving to..well, not the poor, but me! Since the games all have a house edge, people can see cheating as simply evening things out to make them fairer, ignoring the fact that anyone who gambles in a casino accepts the fact that a casino is a business that needs the revenue from gamblers to make money and stay in operation.

Though stealing something from another person is always equally bad, people are able to justify it so that it’s bad if you steal from someone poor but okay if you steal from the rich. It is much easier to rationalize stealing from a millionaire CEO than from a homeless person. Why? Because the rich person can afford it!  Look, it’s not like the casino will even miss this money. They have billions! In this weak economy, though, many casinos are losing money and some have even had to close. That doesn’t matter to the cheaters, though, who justify their actions by looking at the glitz and glamor of the casino and assume that they’re making money hand over fist. They can afford to lose this money. They have plenty of it and I’m barely scraping by.

The mind is a powerful thing. Through rationalization of bad behavior, people can resolve their cognitive dissonance and still see themselves as a good person. Sometimes they do so by justifying the bad behavior so it is no longer seen as bad, while other times they recognize that it was bad, but necessary. They hold onto their self-concept as a good person by admitting that sometimes a good person does bad things.

Blackjack Tournaments at Rushmore Casino

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

One of my favorite things about online casinos is the blackjack tournaments. They allow players to enjoy a different kind of blackjack action than what you would normally find in a brick and mortar casino. In tournament play, instead of going up against the dealer, you’re competing against the other players.

Rushmore Casino has three different types of online blackjack tournaments and each has its benefits. The first kind is the Mano a Mano Single Tournament. This type of tournament runs 24 hours each day, every day. This is a head-to-head matchup between two players. The dealer deals cards to the players only and not himself. The goal of the game is to beat the other player’s hand without busting, the same as you would when playing against the dealer in a normal blackjack game. These blackjack tournaments last 10 rounds and at the end, the player with the most chips takes the entire pot.

Another type of blackjack tournament offered by Rushmore Casino is the Sit-n-Go Tournament. This tournament is played between three and six players. In this type of tournament, the players go against the dealer and at the end of 10 rounds the two players with the most points remaining win the prize. Like the Mano a Mano Tournament, these are found all day, every day at the online casino.

The other types of blackjack tournaments that you will frequently find at Rushmore Casino are called MultiTournaments. Unlike the other two types of tournaments, these are scheduled events that will often have hundreds or thousands of competitors. The prizes for these tournaments are usually larger and vary from tournament to tournament. Players must register for these tournaments ahead of time and the prize money and distribution relies in part on the amount of players who enter.

Regardless of what type of tournament you play, remember that you might want to deviate from your normal blackjack strategies. Because you are competing against the other players instead of only the dealer, many players adopt a more aggressive betting strategy in tournament play.

To take part in any of the online blackjack tournaments offered by Rushmore Casino, visit the casino today.

Update on the Robin Hood of Blackjack

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Lady Greice

Earlier I told you about one of the genuine good guys in the blackjack community, an anonymous professional player who goes by the alias of RobinHood702. And, to toot my own horn, I scooped Fox News and all of the major media outlets, who reported on it a few days after me (though I was not the first online source to report on it).

In 2008, Blackjack’s Robin Hood used money won in a blackjack tournament to pay off a couple’s $35,000 debt due to brain cancer treatments for their daughter. This year, he is again looking for someone in need and has received thousands of responses on his website, RobinHood702.com. This time, a friend who witnessed Robin Hood’s earlier act of kindness, Dr. Richard Schulze, is also helping out, though he’s paying out of his pocket rather than playing blackjack for the money.

They still have not selected the lucky family to help this year, but in the meantime Schulze has donated to a group in Los Angeles that helps homeless children. Both Schulze and Robin Hood are working with the Miami Project, who gives financial aid to people with spinal cord injuries.

The process of choosing the beneficiaries of this charity is taking so long because of the large amount of submissions. Robin Hood stated that each story is heart-breaking and choosing one is incredibly difficult, not to mention the overwhelming volume of submissions. That’s why they’re asking for your help. Schulze told Fox News that they “need more merry men and women to step up and help out. A few have come forward, but not nearly enough.” So if anyone reading this has the financial ability to help, be sure to visit Robin Hood’s website to find out how you can help.

Robin Hood stated that they should select the winners in the next couple of months and fly them to Las Vegas for the tournament. While in Vegas, all expenses will be paid by Robin Hood and Schulze. It has also been announced that a woman who goes by the alias of Lady Greice will be sent to the chosen families to tell them the good news. Robin Hood said that “when you see the face of Lady Greice on your doorstep, then you’ll know you’ve been chosen and your life is about to change for the better.”

If you didn’t notice the picture of Lady Greice, look above. I can tell you that if she arrives on my doorstep, my life has changed for the better even if I’m not getting any money from Robin Hood. In fact, she can come by anytime, even without money.

I really hope my wife didn’t read this article.

Safety: Another Advantage of Playing Online

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

In the past, I have discussed some of the advantages of gambling online rather than in a brick and mortar casino. However, there is one benefit that had never occurred to me until now. You don’t have to worry about being robbed.

Online casinos, of course, have the risk of someone hacking into your account and stealing from you that way, but that’s not what I mean. Besides, reputable online casinos have safety measures in place to prevent that kind of thing. What I mean is some guy sticking a gun in your face and demanding you hand over your money.

That exact situation occurred in a south Florida casino last month. On January 29, 2010, a man identified as Dominic Zibuda walked into a Seminole casino, brandished a gun, and took money from a casino employee. He then fled with the thousands of dollars. Though no one was hurt and no casino customers were robbed, the event has certainly made an impact. Since that date, that casino and others in the area have reported a sharp decline in attendance and revenue. Many insiders believe that there is a direct relation between that two: that people are worried about their safety in the casino and have decided instead to stay home.

The south Florida casino robbery did not have a happy ending. After the authorities were tipped off to the robber’s identity, a SWAT operation at Zibuda’s house ended with the suspect turning his gun on himself and committing suicide.

It’s a sad ending to the story, but it brings up a question. Where do you feel safer, in your own home or in a casino with millions of dollars sitting around? Now, I don’t believe that the casinos are unsafe. I think you’re just as safe, if not more so, in a casino as in a bank or convenience store and people keep going to those. However, if you do your gambling online you can stay in a locked home and keep a loaded gun handy, just in case someone should decide to break in. You don’t have that option at a brick and mortar casino.

Blackjack Myths: What Size Blackjack Table to Play

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Gamblers are a superstitious bunch and are a group of people who are always looking for an edge. That’s why there are so many ideas out there of how to increase your odds of winning. Every time someone finds a strategy, tries it and has success, they think that validates the strategy, rather than being a coincidence. Since they think the strategy works, they stick with it and tell everyone they know about it. Those other people hear about the strategy and have a testimonial that it works. Therefore, they try it themselves. If it works for them, the cycle continues. This is why betting systems and other useless strategies last forever.

Today I want to look at the blackjack table size and how it affects your odds. I have heard many people say that you want to play at a small table or a table with a lot of empty seats. Some “experts” even put a specific number on it, saying something like “don’t play at a table with more than 3 people.” The truth is, the size of the table does nothing to improve your odds.

The odds in blackjack are constant. Whenever you or anyone else (including the dealer) take a card, it has the same odds of being a 10, ace, 4 or whatever based on which cards have been played in the deck. If there was a limit to the number of cards that are dealt, then having more players could affect your odds because those players could take the cards you want. However, at a blackjack table once the cards are all dealt, a newly shuffled deck is used. Ta-dah! The cards are back!

Regardless of the number of people at the table, each card appears in the same ratio. There are 4 ten-value cards for every 13 cards and that doesn’t change no matter how many decks there are or how many people are playing at the table. Since the ratio of cards is the same, your odds of receiving certain cards are the same. For that reason, your odds are the same.

One thing that is different, though, is that the fewer people there are at the table, the faster the game will go. Fewer people means more hands played each hour. If you’re winning money, more hands is a good thing. If you’re losing, more hands is a bad thing. Since blackjack has a house edge even when you play perfect basic strategy, in the long run, playing more hands causes you to lose more money. For that reason, you could make the argument that you should pick a table with more people. That’s how I like it.

If you’re counting cards, though, you may want to play at a smaller table. While your odds are still the same, it is easier to count when there are fewer people. When counting cards, you don’t only count your own; you count every card that is dealt to every player. Therefore, for some people it would be easier with fewer people playing. On the other hand, a table with fewer people plays faster, so if you’re counting you might rather have a full table because it gives you more time to count. In addition, looking for a more talkative table, where the players are joking with each other and having fun, would be a good idea because, again, it slows down the game.

Whether you are counting cards or not, the blackjack table size does not affect your odds. Your odds of being dealt a certain card are the same and playing the correct strategy gives you the same odds of winning.

American Gamblers Can No Longer Use Visa

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

Earlier in the year I reported that Mastercard is now blocking transactions between online gambling sites – including sports books, casinos and more – and American customers. At the time, I thought there was a good chance that Visa would follow their lead. Now it has happened.

Visa is now also blocking online gambling transactions, meaning that American customers who want to play some online blackjack or any of their other favorite games cannot use the two largest credit cards to do so. This decision hurts pretty much everyone. The online casinos will lose revenue from people who used to pay using Visa and Mastercard and don’t want to try another method. The players who prefer those two cards miss out on the ability to use them for online gambling. Also, the credit card companies themselves are missing out on the revenue from online gambling.

So why are they doing this? The thinking is that these decisions are due to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, which is slated to go into effect in June 2010. Originally it was set to take effect January 1, but a bipartisan petition to delay the implementation was accepted by the Justice Department and the Federal Reserve.

While the UIGEA cannot be used to punish online gamblers in any way, it can be used to seize the funds from “illegal” online gambling and fine or prosecute the financial institutions involved in the transactions. The financial institutions include banks, credit unions, credit card companies and more. What complicates matters is that nowhere in the UIGEA does it state what gambling is “illegal.” In fact, court rulings have found that UIGEA doesn’t make any type of online gambling illegal. It is only a way to enforce the existing gambling laws. However, online gambling is only expressly prohibited in four states. There is currently no federal ban on online gambling.

The financial institutions, however, aren’t willing to take any chances, since the federal government last year made a habit of seizing funds from online gambling and attempting to prosecute those involved. The lawfulness of those seizures is in question, but in a recession that has crippled the financial industry, many companies are unwilling to take the risk of drawing the ire of the federal government. That is why Visa and Mastercard are blocking online gambling transactions from American customers.

Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate that would repeal UIGEA and they hope to see the floor sometime this year. In the meantime, for Americans who want to participate in online gambling (which is legal in 46 states), there are other payment options available at most online casinos, which can include wire transfers,  money orders and online payment companies such as eWallet. I have also heard conflicting stories about whether or not PayPal is an option.

Guyana Opens First Casino

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

The Cooperative Republic of Guyana now has gambling… sort of. For those of you who are geographically challenged, Guyana is located on the northern coast of South America, bordered by Venezuela, Brazil and some country called Suriname. The country has been ruled by settlers from Spain, France, the Netherlands and England over the course of its history, but gained its independence in 1966.

Now the country has taken the first step toward joining many parts of the world in allowing gambling as a source of revenue. Guyana’s main industry is eco-tourism, with visitors coming from around the world to take in their pristine beaches. By adding casinos, they hope to bring in tourists that are currently going to Brazil, the US and elsewhere.

On Saturday, the country made history by cutting the ribbon on the nation’s first casino. The Princess Hotel houses 11 gaming tables, including blackjack and poker, and 300 slot machines. Those involved in the casino are even hoping it can host a stop in the 2011 World Poker Tour.

There is a catch, though. The new casino is only open to foreigners. Visitors from other countries can go inside the casino and gamble to their heart’s content, but locals are not allowed. This casino is for tourism only. To be certain that no locals are patronizing the casino, everyone who enters must show proof of their nationality through a passport or other means.

Honestly, I’ve never heard of such a thing, opening a business within your borders but not letting anyone who lives in your country use it. There is no ban on online gambling in Guyana, though, so the locals are free to frequent online casinos and play their blackjack there. However, there are no online casinos run out of Guyana, so locals must patronize the casinos of foreign countries to play.