Posts Tagged ‘blackjack rules’

Pennsylvania Considering Blackjack Rules

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Journalist Mark Gruetze of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is urging Pennsylvania blackjack players to speak out in favor of the current blackjack rules. For the next 30 days, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will listen to comments on a proposal to make several current blackjack rules permanent. Gruetze is right. Players need to speak up for the good rules.

Pennsylvania has some of the best blackjack rules in the business, including having the dealer stand on soft 17 and, most importantly, all natural blackjacks paying 3-to-2. While that used to be the case for every blackjack table, casinos in many states have asked for the option of expanding and offering further options. In some states, the casinos have been allowed to carry some tables that pay 6-to-5 for a blackjack. As time goes on, more and more of the tables start to carry the worse rules. That is why it’s important to make the regular payout permanent.

Usually the 6-to-5 blackjack games use fewer decks, but they still have worse odds than the regular game. What’s worse is that some offer the low payout for the standard number of decks. If those are your only options in the casino, players will get ripped off.

One of the great things about the game of blackjack is that, with standard rules and using blackjack strategy, players can reduce the house edge to a minimal 0.5%. That means the casino, on average, would only take $1 out of every $200 the player bets. Allowing the casinos to adopt more house-friendly rules turns that on its head and does away with the advantage of playing blackjack rather than other casino games.

Right now, the state Gaming Control Board has a choice to make the current rules, which are friendly to the players, permanent rules. They should do so. To help that become the case, players in Pennsylvania and players who sometimes visit the state’s casinos should notify the board that they support making the rules permanent and oppose and chance for 6-to-5 payouts.

Blackjack Side Bets: Lucky Ladies

Monday, December 13th, 2010

One of the things that adds constant variety to the game of blackjack is the endless supply of side bets. Though I advise against playing any side bet, it is good to know what they are. Lucky Ladies is a popular side bet that can be found in many casinos, both on land and online.

With the Lucky Ladies side bet, you win if you draw a 20-point hand. That means any hand where the total adds up to 20 will win you something. How much you win depends on what specific cards you have.

There are a number of possible pay tables that you might see for Lucky Ladies blackjack. If you insist on playing this side bet, be sure you know what the pay table is. Here I will cover the most common pay table. In that pay table, any unsuited 20 pays out 4:1. A suited 20, meaning all cards in the hand are the same suit and add up to a total of 20, pays out 9:1. A matched 20, which is cards of the same rank and suit, pays out 19:1. If you have a pair of a Queen of hearts, the casino pays out 125:1. The biggest money is if you have a pair of Queen of hearts and the dealer has a blackjack. In that case, you win a payout of 1,000:1.

Those payouts sound pretty good, but remember that when it comes to casino games, the general rule is the higher the payout, the less likely the outcome is to happen. That rule applies here as well. With the pay table I described, the house edge ranges from 24.05% for an eight-deck game to 38.16% for a single-deck game.

When you compare that to the house edge for the regular game of blackjack, which can be reduced to 0.5% by using blackjack basic strategy, it is clear that this side bet is not a good deal. If you do play and get that 1,000 to 1 payout, though, you’ll be pretty happy. That is the appeal of side bets. You will most likely come out a loser, but there is that slim chance you could get a big payout.

Online Blackjack Advantages: Better Rules

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

There are a number of advantages to playing blackjack at online casinos rather than at brick and mortar casinos. One of those advantages is that online casinos sometimes offer better rules. It seems that standard blackjack rules are no longer standard, and the rules are getting worse in land casinos.

In the past, you could take it for granted that the casino would pay out 3:2 for a blackjack. However, with casinos hurting for cash, many are turning to 6:5 payouts, and that is for multi-hand games. It has gotten to the point where blackjack tables with low limits and 3:2 payouts are becoming hard to find in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and other popular destinations.

It’s not just the blackjack payout, either. Casinos are going away from player friendly rules such as having the dealer stand on a soft 17, allowing surrender and more. While the blackjack rules in brick and mortar casinos are getting worse, those in online casinos are staying the same for the most part.

That is because online casinos have a much lower overhead. They have no large building that they have to pay for. They have a smaller staff. They don’t have to offer drinks, food or any of the other perks of gambling on the Strip. Because they have fewer costs, online casinos can offer better rules for blackjack and still make money. If you find an online casino that doesn’t have good rules, then don’t play there. With thousands of online casinos available with the click of a mouse, there is no excuse for playing a blackjack game with bad rules.

Pennsylvania may shift blackjack rules toward house

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

If you have been playing blackjack at the new tables in Pennsylvania casinos, you should probably take advantage of the good rules while you can. One blackjack expert (and it’s not me this time) predicts that the state will soon tighten the rules to increase the house edge.

Michael Shackelford is one of the top blackjack experts in the field and probably the best blackjack statistician in the business. Going by the name of the Wizard of Odds (including on his website), Shackleford has an unending supply of stats and odds for the game of blackjack. According to the Wizard, the Pennsylvania blackjack games have a house edge of only 0.4% when proper basic strategy is applied.

The good house edge is due to a number of rules that are beneficial to the player. First, the tables have the standard 3:2 payout for blackjacks. While that used to be a given, many casinos are now using 6:5 payouts, which greatly increases the house advantage. In addition, Pennsylvania blackjack tables have rules that require the dealer to stand on a soft 17 and allow the players to surrender.

While speaking in Las Vegas recently, Shackelford praised Pennsylvania for offering good rules for the player. However, he said that he expects the rules to get worse. “In markets where there’s not a lot of competition, you tend to see lousy rules,” he said.

Some are calling for the casinos to tighten those rules. The most suggested change is to have the dealer hit a soft 17. Another suggestion is to switch to a 6:5 payout for a blackjack. Those two changes would have the biggest impact on the house edge.

In the spring, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will get together and discuss the current rules and the possibility of changing rules. Some casino representatives want the rules changed to favor the house more. However, others worry about losing business. If Shackleford is right, though, the days of a 0.4% house edge in Pennsylvania casino are numbered.

Effect of rule variations on blackjack

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Blackjack is blackjack, right? Wrong. Though the basics of the game, and therefore the strategy, stay pretty much the same, not all blackjack games are created equal. Even if you avoid a blackjack variant where the gameplay is changed such as perfect pairs or double exposure, individual rule variations in the standard blackjack game greatly alter the odds.

Even seemingly minor things greatly affect the odds of the game, such as the number of decks. The best odds are with a single-deck game, as long as it still pays out 3:2 for a blackjack. However, those are increasingly difficult to find, both online and in a brick and mortar casino. Finding a single-deck blackjack game in Las Vegas is virtually impossible. For each deck that you add, the odds tilt slightly in favor of the house. Though the base game can have a house edge of only 0.5% when you utilize basic strategy, playing with two decks adds 0.31% to the house’s advantage. Playing with four decks give an additional 0.48% advantage to the house. Six decks provides the casino with an additional 0.52% advantage. Finally, eight-deck games are the worst, increasing the house edge by 0.55%.

It’s not just the number of decks that affect the odds, though. Whenever you play a blackjack game for the first time, make sure you know of any minor rule variations they have. For stance, if they don’t allow a resplitting of pairs, that adds a 0.03% edge to the house. A table where the dealer hits a soft 17 increases the house advantage by 0.20%.

Conversely, there are some rule variations that help the player. For example, a blackjack game with late surrender increases the player’s odds by 0.02% and a game with early surrender increases those odds by 0.62%. A blackjack table that allows you to double after splitting increases the player’s odds by 0.14%.

With all of those variations and more affecting the odds of a traditional blackjack game, it is best to know all of the table rules before you play. That is especially true of an online casino or land-based casino with multiple blackjack options available. You want to be sure you are playing a game that gives you the best chance of making money.

Blackjack Etiquette: Transparency

Monday, May 10th, 2010

One of the advantages of playing online blackjack is that when playing on a website, there are far fewer rules of etiquette to obey. Particularly for new players, this can make the game less confusing or intimidating. Since you are playing by yourself, there really is no etiquette to stick to other than “don’t cheat.” When playing blackjack at a brick and mortar casino, though, it’s a completely different story. The game has strict rules regarding what you can and can’t do.

For today’s blog, I will focus on transparency. Blackjack, like all casino games, involves the exchanging of a lot of money and casinos want to make sure everything is done properly. That’s why they have that “eye in the sky” keeping tabs on everyone. That security camera keeps an eye on the blackjack games to make sure that the players and the dealers are playing an honest game. However, in order for the camera to be able to tell, there are certain rules that must be followed.

The security cameras can’t tell whether anyone is cheating if they can’t see what’s being done. That is why there are so many etiquette rules based on transparency – making every move clear to an observer. That is why the hand signals are so important. You can’t simply say “hit” or “stand;” you must also make the appropriate hand signals so the security can spot a mistake or cheating.

There are other blackjack rules that are less obvious, though. One is that if you want to exchange cash for chips at the blackjack table, you never hand the money to the dealer. Instead, you put the money on the table and tell the dealer what denomination chips you want. By not handing the money directly to the dealer, it eliminates the possibility of slipping him something extra. It also makes it easier to determine if there was a miscount. While we’re on the subject, you shouldn’t hand anything to the dealer, including chips.

Those aren’t the only rules for your hands, though. If the blackjack game is a face-up card game, then you should not ever touch your cards. It is not necessary to touch them because you can see them while they sit on the table and keeping your hands away from them eliminates the possibility of several cheating techniques, such as switching or marking the cards. For similar reasons, you should not place any objects on the blackjack table. Anything from a phone to a purse can block view of a card, be used to swap cards, or aid in cheating in some other way. Only a drink can be placed on the blackjack table and even then, there is usually a designated area for placing your drink.

Similarly, you should never touch the chips in the betting circle after the dealer starts dealing cards. Your wager should not be touched after even if you are doubling your bet, in which case you would place the same amount in the betting circle next to your original wager. That original wager, again, would not be touched. This rule is to avoid you altering the wager by discretely adding or subtracting chips once you see the cards.

You may have noticed that there are a lot of rules about not touching things. If you want to be on the safe side, you can always keep your hands at your side or in your pockets. If they’re not on the table, they can’t cause any problems!

The final rule of blackjack etiquette that is related to transparency – at least the last I can think of at this moment – regards the stacking of your bet. When you place a wager in the betting circle, if you are using chips of different amounts the chips should be in order, with the highest denomination on the bottom and the lowest on the top. This makes it easier to count and it also helps avoid a player sneaking a high-value chip on top of the stack when he sees that he has good cards.

If you follow all of those blackjack rules of etiquette, then the dealer and other players will be a lot happier with you. That will help the game run smoother and you should have more fun. If all of those rules seem too much for you, though, don’t worry, because none of them apply to online blackjack. When playing blackjack at an online casino, it is a much more relaxed atmosphere. Aside from not cheating, there really are no rules of etiquette.

Blackjack Variations: Reno Rules for Doubling

Monday, April 26th, 2010

Blackjack is a game that, though rather simple in its basic form, has enough variations to make it complex and constantly evolving. All the time I am learning about new rules or side bets offered at certain blackjack tables. Each rule change carries different odds, though, and affects the house edge. Before playing any blackjack game, whether at an online casino or the brick and mortar variety, it is important to know what your odds are and how the game is played.

Doubling rules are common variations for blackjack games. While the most beneficial rule is that the player can double down on any hand (as long as he hasn’t already doubled), sometimes only certain hands can be doubled. Any blackjack games that only allow certain hands to be doubled are said to use “Reno rules.”

The most common Reno rules are that you can only double on hands of nine through eleven or ten and eleven. At these blackjack games, you can only double down if your first two cards fall within that range. If you can only double a 9-11, that increases the house edge by anywhere from 0.09% with an 8-deck game to 0.15% fir a single-deck game. This rule is fairly common with online blackjack.

If you can only double down on a hand of 10 or 11, the odds are even worse. Those blackjack games increase the house edge by anywhere from 0.17% with an 8-deck game to 0.26% with a single-deck game.

Whether you are playing online blackjack or blackjack at a brick and mortar casino, it is important to know all of the rules ahead of time. It helps you to know which decisions to make and it can also help you decide whether you want to play at all. Believe me, there are some blackjack games where the rules are so bad I would never consider playing. For that reason, always make sure you know the rules ahead of time and if you have a variety of blackjack games to choose from, pick one with rules that are the most beneficial to the player.

Blackjack Strategy: Read the Rules

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Most people know that you can’t sit down at a blackjack table without knowing what you’re doing and make money. Just randomly picking what to do in blackjack results in a house edge of, oh, I don’t know, probably around 90%.

Okay, admittedly, I made up that number. I don’t know what the house edge would be in that situation, but it would be very high. Most people know that you have to memorize blackjack basic strategy and stick to it, but even then the casino has a slight advantage (0.5%), unless you count cards correctly.

There is one part of blackjack strategy that people often forget, though, and that is to read the rules. Let me make this very clear. Not all blackjack tables have the same rules. There are countless variations in the rules in both online casinos and the brick and mortar variety. Therefore, you should not assume that you know what the rules are for that particular blackjack game. Unless you have played at that particular table enough times that you know the rules already, you should always familiarize yourself with the rules before you play.

Rules variations can significantly affect the house edge and your decisions. Though a natural blackjack traditionally pays 3:2, some table pay 6:5 and I’ve even seen even money tables. At some tables the dealer will hit a soft 17 while at others he will stand. Some tables will allow you to split any pair, while others will only allow you to split tens or nines and tens. Some blackjack games let you resplit while others don’t. Some blackjack games offer insurance and late surrender, while others do not. Those are just a few of the many rule variations you will find at blackjack tables.

For that reason, you need to familiarize yourself with the rules before you play. At a brick and mortar casino, you can usually find the rules clearly printed on the table itself. If you’re unsure about any rules, feel free to ask the dealer. For online blackjack, it is even easier, because you can simply go to a section of the website that explains the rules. If you have any questions, you can contact customer service. You should never play blackjack without knowing all of the rules for that game ahead of time.

By knowing the rules, you can make sure you don’t make an error in judgment and make sure you are following the correct strategy. In addition, it helps you know whether that is even a blackjack table at which you want to play. If the rules aren’t good, you might want to find somewhere else to play. But you will never know that if you don’t check.

$5 Blackjack Tables

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Blackjack is one of the few games at a casino where a skilled player can actually have an advantage and make some money in the long run. Even so, the thought of betting a lot of money on the game worries people, and rightly so. We work hard for our money, just like in that Donna Summer song, and risking it on a casino game goes against the nature of many people – who are wired to protect their assets.

Because of that frugality, people often look for the tables with the smallest minimum bet, which in many cases are the $5 blackjack tables (though many casinos don’t have any for less than $10). One thing that people need to keep in mind, though, is that as a general rule, the lower the minimum bet, the more the rules favor the house. The better the rules, the higher the minimum bet.

Keeping that in mind, if you have a higher bankroll, it might be a better idea to play at a $10 blackjack table or even $20 or $30. A blackjack table with $100 minimum bet is going to have the best player rules. The caveat, of course, is that you lose more money each time you lose and if you have a smaller bankroll a losing streak can take all of your money rather quickly.

Online casinos often let you bet anywhere from $5 to $100 per hand at their blackjack tables. So what should you bet? Well, that’s up to you. Blackjack is the ultimate game of risk and reward. Betting a smaller amount using less favorable rules increases the house edge, but it reduces the amount of money in play. Therefore, if your goal is to simply play for a while for fun and hopefully make a little money in the process, that might be the way to go.

However, if you are playing blackjack to try to make money and have a larger bankroll, picking a table with better rules and a higher minimum bet might behoove you. I should caution you, though, that there’s a difference between acting like a high roller and actually being one. A true high roller can walk up to a blackjack table, bet $100 on each hand, lose thousands of dollars, and walk away unphased. That is because a high roller is a person with a lot of disposable income, so losing that money will not impact their life.

However, if you don’t have a large disposable income and simply want to play with the big boys, I suggest you rethink that strategy. You should never bet money that you can’t afford to lose, because even in blackjack there is a house edge. Also remember that card counting doesn’t work online, so you can’t gain a player advantage that way.

So deciding what tables to play comes down to what you’re comfortable with. The low-bet blackjack tables have a higher house edge but that higher percentage is taken from less money. The high-bet tables take a smaller percentage of your money, but there is more money exposed to that house edge. Each blackjack player needs to decide which is preferred.

Whatever the case, before you play online blackjack at any casino, you should check the rules for that game beforehand so you know how favorable the rules are, know what you can and can’t do, and how much you need to bet. When it comes to online blackjack, the more information you have at the outset, the better off you are.

Risk of Blackjack Variations

Friday, April 9th, 2010

One of the great things about the game of blackjack is its simplicity. Basic strategy is fairly simple to learn if you take the time to acquaint yourself with it. Because of its simplicity, however, there is plenty of room for variations in the rules. There are countless rule variations common to casinos, online casinos, cruises and friendly games. I have even covered some of the most common blackjack variations, such as pontoon and double exposure.

However, there is a risk to playing any of these blackjack variations that some people don’t think about. Most players will lose a lot more money playing blackjack variations than playing the traditional game. One reason for that is that most blackjack variations have a higher house edge than the standard game. However, there is more to it than that.

Blackjack is a rare casino game in that it requires skill and if you have enough skill and play using proper basic strategy, you can actually make money at the blackjack table. However, making money is contingent on sticking to strategy and making the correct decisions. Because the blackjack variations change the rules of play, they often require a different strategy than the traditional game. The strategy is often similar, but with subtle variations. If you play with the basic strategy for the traditional game, you could be victimized by the rule changes.

What’s worse, often players will abandon strategy entirely when playing the different blackjack variations. This is especially true if it’s their first time playing that variation. It makes sense. You see a new game and are excited to play blackjack in a different way. Therefore, you get caught up in the excitement and forget about basic strategy. Also, if there are many complex rule variations in that blackjack game, you may focus on remembering all of those and simply waiting for one of those unique situations to occur, forgetting about the rest of the game.

Luckily, if you play blackjack variations online, it is easier for you to combat those bad habits. One advantage of playing online blackjack is that you’re playing on your own. There are no other players at your table waiting for you and there is no dealer. It’s just you and the computer. For that reason, if you’re playing a blackjack variation online, I advise finding the correct basic strategy chart for that game, making sure you understand all of the rules, and playing at a pace that allows you to play mistake free. That way you can take advantage of the perks of the variations without all of the negative elements.