Posts Tagged ‘basic blackjack strategy’

Parlay Betting System

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Gamblers are always looking for a way to beat the odds and blackjack players are no different from the rest. Blackjack basic strategy can already reduce the house edge to 0.5% if played perfectly and counting cards in conjunction with basic strategy can lower the edge farther and even tilt the odds in favor of the player. However, some people aren’t content with that and also want to incorporate betting systems.

I said this before when covering the martingale betting system, but I’ll say it again: I do not recommend any betting system. The best chances you can give yourself in blackjack are to play perfect basic strategy and do flat betting, which is to bet the same amount on each hand, whether you win or lose. Betting systems are designed to maximize your profits when you win and minimize your losses when you lose, but none of them work as well in practice as in theory. That is because they don’t take into consideration the randomness of the games.

Blackjack is a game that is a combination of skill and chance. Even if you are the smartest blackjack player in the world, you can’t win with a bad hand. Which cards you and the dealer are dealt plays a large part in the outcome. This is where the parlay betting system fails.

The parlay system basically says to “let it ride,” which means to bet all or part of your winnings in the next hand. Using a parlay system, if you bet $10 on a hand and got a natural blackjack, you would win $15. You would then bet $25 on the next hand (your $15 in winnings plus a $10 bet). Some people think this is a good idea because you’re “playing with house money.” That is the wrong way of thinking. As soon as the dealer gives you money, it’s yours.

Playing perfect strategy, the blackjack table will take 0.5% of the money you bet; the rest you keep. By always betting your winnings, you are exposing your winnings to the house edge and in the long run, you will lose more money. Think of it this way: In blackjack you are more likely to lose money than win it (thus the house edge), so why would you be so eager to bet money that you have just won? Logic states that you are more likely to lose that money than to increase it.

The parlay betting system would only make sense if you could predict a winning streak, which the random nature of the dealing of cards all but makes impossible. The only chance you have of predicting a streak is if you’re counting cards and know the count is heavily in your favor. In that scenario, it might be a good idea to use the parlay betting system. However, if you are not counting cards or if the count is not heavily in your favor, it is without a doubt a better idea to use flat betting.

My betting system is actually the exact opposite of the parlay system. It is to protect all of your winnings. I advise that you go into the casino with a set amount of money that you are willing to spend and don’t wager any money other than that. Any winnings that you have should be set aside and not touched until it’s time to cash out. This will guarantee that you don’t turn around and give your winnings back to the casino and will make sure you leave with something to show for your night.

Bad Alternative Blackjack Strategies

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

People are always looking for ways to increase their odds in the casino. That’s why there are so many playing strategies out there and for each one, there is someone who knows someone it worked for. This goes for betting strategies and playing strategies. If these strategies are necessary for any game (and they’re usually not), they are definitely not good for blackjack.

The thing is, blackjack already has an accepted strategy that has been shown time and again to be the best way to reduce the house edge. It is the strategy usually referred to as “basic blackjack strategy.” Using this strategy and sticking to it over the long run will reduce the house edge to 0.5%. No other casino game has odds that good. To make matters better, players who can count cards effectively in addition to using basic strategy can actually tip the odds in their favor. For now, though, let’s look at the most popular alternative blackjack strategies and why you should avoid them.

The most common alternative strategy is the “never bust” strategy. This is the ultimate conservative strategy, where the plan is to make sure you never bust, thereby (in theory) increasing your chances of winning. While being conservative is a good idea in many things, it is not when it comes to blackjack. With this strategy, you won’t bust, but you will often have a lower hand total than the dealer.

In the “never bust” strategy, players never hit on a hand of 12 or more. The thinking is that you want to stop on a number where a 10-value card can cause you to bust. The problem is that if you stand on a 12, you’re only going to win if the dealer happens to bust. This conservative strategy of always standing on a 12 or more increases the house edge to approximately 4%.

There is another bad strategy where the player always assumes that the dealer has a 10 in the hole. It seems to make sense, since there are more 10-value cards than cards of any other value. The problem is that, though there are more cards with a value of 10 than with any other value, there are still 9 cards out of 13 that have a value other than 10. That means there is a 69% chance the hole card has a value other than 10. Add to that the fact that if the dealer has an ace up, in most casinos he will peek at his hole card to see if he has a blackjack. If he doesn’t, that means his hole card can’t have a value of 10. This strategy of assuming a 10 in the hole increases the house edge to approximately 10%, way higher than when following basic blackjack strategy.

The other common alternative blackjack strategy is to mimic the dealer. It makes sense, because the dealer usually wins, so it seems like a good idea to do what they do. However, the dealer wins because the rules are set in their favor (i.e. if both of you bust, you lose). Mimicking the dealer means the player would always hit on a 16 or less and stand on a 17 or more. Whether or not they hit a soft 17 depends on the casino rules. In any case, this strategy deprives the player of options that the dealer doesn’t have, such as doubling and splitting. Eliminating those options hurts the player. Playing this strategy increases the house edge to approximately 5.5%.

As you can see by the house edges, basic blackjack strategy (0.5%) has much better odds. Instead of looking for a way to beat the system or an alternative strategy that will beat basic strategy, it is a good idea to memorize basic strategy and use it every time, regardless of any streak you’re on.

Online Blackjack vs. Casino Blackjack

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

Blackjack fans didn’t use to have a lot of choices. If you didn’t live close to a casino and didn’t have the means to travel to a casino often, then most of the time you played blackjack with your friends at home, with one of you serving as the dealer. The problem is, friendly games of blackjack has never been as fun as poker. Add to that the complications of wagering (wouldn’t everyone want to be the dealer?) and it is just too problematic. Luckily, these days we have online blackjack. To people new to online gambling, though, they may not know how the online version of the game differs from playing it in a casino.

The main difference comes from the fact that you’re playing against a computer instead of a croupier. This means several things. First of all, it means you can take your time. Though I’ve never witnessed a dealer being rude in any way, some people feel rushed when the dealer turns to them and asks them to make a decision. It can be stressful for some. Should I hit or stand? Stop rushing me! Let me think! When playing online, there is no croupier and there is no one else standing at the table next to you, so you can take all the time in the world to make a decision and no one will care. If you want to, you can even look at a basic strategy chart while you play and consult it before every decision. Since there’s no time limit and no one will look at you funny for needing a chart, there’s nothing to stop you.

The other major difference is how the cards are dealt. In a casino, the croupier shuffles the decks and gives out the cards to each person. A card counter can gain an advantage by counting the number of high and low cards. This is more difficult the more decks there are in play, which the player can determine by looking at the shoe, asking the dealer or by looking on the table. However, though card counting with multiple decks in a casino may be difficult, it is impossible online.

Let me say it again so I’m clear: Card counting online does not work. That is because online, the cards you’re dealt aren’t confided to a certain number of decks. The decks don’t really exist, but if they did, they would be unlimited. You see, with online blackjack, the cards that you are dealt are determined by a computer program called a random number generator.

The random number generator uses a complex algorithm to select a series of numbers hundreds of times every second. Each set of numbers corresponds to a certain outcome, such as which card your are dealt. Because a new sequence of numbers is chosen hundreds of times per second, what card you receive is determined by when you lick the “hit” button. Clicking a microsecond earlier or later changes what card you receive. With casino play, the next card is the next card; it is sitting there in the shoe waiting to be dealt. Because card counting doesn’t work with online blackjack, basic strategy is the best you can do. For that reason, the odds are a little worse online, at least for those people who count cards.

Aside from that, the game is basically the same online. That atmosphere is different than actually being on a casino floor and the graphics may be different, but the gameplay is still the same. So if you don’t live near a casino and still want to play blackjack, visit an online casino. Just don’t try counting cards.

Blackjack Strategy: When to Surrender

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

One option that is available when playing blackjack in some casinos is to surrender. Like insurance, using this option at the wrong times can lose you a lot of money. However, there are circumstances when it can be useful. Not all casinos allow you to surrender, so make sure you are allowed beforehand.

For casinos that allow you to surrender, you can do so at any time after receiving your first two cards. The only exception is that in most casinos, if the dealer’s upcard is an ace, he will check for a blackjack first. If the dealer has a blackjack, you cannot surrender and you will either lose your hand or push (if you also get 21). By surrendering, you give up half of your original bet and do not finish playing out the hand.

This seems to fly in the face of logic. After all, this is supposed to be gambling, right? Giving up and throwing away half of your bet because you think you might lose is kind of contrary to the whole concept of gambling, right? In many ways it is. Your odds are usually better to play out your hand and see what happens. If you just want to throw your money away, I’ll send you a link to my PayPal account. Otherwise, you need to learn the right situations to surrender.

The thing that you need to remember is that surrendering is usually a bad idea. If you surrender, there is a 100% chance that you will lose half of your bet. Since employing the right strategy can reduce the house edge to as little as 0.5%, giving away half of your wager just doesn’t seem wise. Casinos make money on the surrender bet because too many people use them when they shouldn’t. There are, however, situations when it could be wise to surrender.

Take, for example, one of the worst hands in blackjack: a hard 16 when the dealer’s upcard has a value of 10. This is a bad hand to have because if you stand, there is a good chance the dealer has a total over 16, in which case your best chance would be for him to bust. If you hit, you have a good chance of busting yourself. In fact, the odds are basically the same (when rounded) in that situation whether you hit or stand. Either way you lose approximately 77% of the time. How does that compare to surrendering?

To realize the effect, look at what would happen if you played 100 hands and bet $1 on each hand. If you either hit or stand on the hard 16, you would win 23 hands and lose 77, which is a net loss of $54. If you surrendered on each of those hands, you would lose $50. Therefore, you would lose slightly less by surrendering. Keep in mind, however, that the money lost when hitting or standing is a theoretical amount based on the odds. As is always the case, the odds can be different than the true outcome in the short term. When surrendering, though, the outcome is always the same: You are guaranteed to lose half of your bet.

Following basic strategy, you only surrender in the following circumstances: when you have a 15 and the dealer shows a 10 and when you have 16 and the dealer shows a 9, 10 or ace. Remember that these are only for hard totals. Never surrender on a soft 15 or 16.

While surrendering may seem to go against the spirit of gambling, in those select scenarios, it can be a good idea.  If the casino allows it, it is a good idea to surrender then. In each of those cases, if the casino does not allow you to surrender, you should hit, since the odds of hitting are slightly better than standing. By using the surrender correctly, you can avoid throwing your money away and live to fight another day.