Posts Tagged ‘online gambling’

Playing blackjack with soft hands

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Soft hands are great when it comes to women and blackjack. Aside from a pair of aces, which actually is also a soft hand, there is nothing I’d rather have in blackjack than a soft hand. Well, that’s not true, either. I’d rather have a blackjack or a 20. Still, soft hands are powerful hands that give you a lot of room to improve your hand without the risk of busting.

I have covered blackjack basic strategy for soft hands before, telling you what to do when you have a soft hand. This time, I want to go more into your mindset. In my mind, when you have a soft hand you are then the one with the advantage. You are the aggressor and should play accordingly. Too often I’ll see someone stand with a soft 17, probably because they think their hand is already pretty good, but it’s not. Since a dealer will draw to a 17, that hand will only win if the dealer busts. That means it’s not much better than standing on a soft 13 and no one would do that, right?

Still, from time to time you’ll see someone look at their soft 17, look at the dealer’s five up card and stand. And then the rest of the blackjack table groans and rolls their eyes. Not only should you not stand in that situation, but you should actually double down. Why? Because the dealer is likely to bust, so why not double your wager? After all, with a stiff hand you cannot bust.

Stiff hands allow you to be more aggressive in your play. If you have a good hand you can take a hit and try to make it into a great hand. If you draw a card too high, all that does is turn your ace into a 1 and you have a hard hand, but you can draw again.

In that situation, often times other players at the table and even the dealer will advise the player to hit. Usually they won’t listen. I can understand that, because the other players might not know basic strategy and the dealer, well, isn’t he the bad guy? The player is skeptical of the advice, much like I feel whenever a homeless person tells me a sob story about how his family was evicted and needs money for food yet rejects my idea to buy him a slice of pizza.

While it’s okay to listen to the advice of others, it’s best to know strategy yourself. That is why I always advise that players learn basic strategy before playing at any blackjack tables. If you don’t have it memorized, use a strategy chart while you play. The good thing about online blackjack is that you can take as much time as you need. You can look over a chart, look online and even call your friend the gambling expert and ask for advice. Just don’t do that in a Vegas casino.

Perfect Pairs Blackjack tournament at InterCasino

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

InterCasino has a Perfect Pairs Blackjack Tournament going on right now and it’s a good opportunity to take a shot at prizes without risking much of your own money. The blackjack tournament only has a $250 prize pool, but the stakes are low – the entry fee is only $10.

If you only play the traditional blackjack game and are unfamiliar with the different blackjack variants, perfect pairs is a common variation with a side bet where the player earns extra money if their first two cards happen to be a pair. The payouts depend on the type of pair. A “perfect pair” is two identical cards, such as two aces of spades. Another type of pair is a “colored pair,” which is two cards that match in rank and color. An example would be a three of spades and a three of clubs, since both suits are black. The third type of pair is a “mixed pair,” which is a pair that matches in rank but is an opposite color.

InterCasino’s Perfect Pairs Blackjack Tournament is running now and ends Sunday, August 29. Until it ends, you can enter at any time. You just have to pony up the $10 buy-in. When you enter the tournament, the online casino gives you $500 worth of tournament chips with which to play. Your tournament lasts 30 minutes and you want to make as much tournament money as you can.

At the end, only the top six players in the blackjack tournament will win prizes. The tournament winner will earn a $100 prize. The second-place finisher will win a $50 prize. The players who finish in third through sixth place will win prizes worth $25 each.

To take part in the Perfect Pairs Blackjack Tournament, visit InterCasino before it ends on August 29.

BC online casino loses player’s money

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

By now, most of us have heard of the problem British Columbia had with their online casino. On July 15, the Canadian province launched a casino on their Lottery Corporation’s PlayNow.com website and it was only up for a few hours before the British Columbia shut it down.

The problem was a glitch in the software that triggered a security breach, one that caused some players to be logged onto the accounts of other players, giving them access to sensitive information. The British Columbia Lottery Corporation originally said that the online casino was down because of too much traffic to the website, but later admitted to the security issue.

Once the problem was learned and it was revealed that some players wagered with someone else’s money and won or lost with that money, the BCLC assured everyone that the money would be attributed to the correct person. But who is that? If Person A wagers $10 of Person B’s money and then wins $100, surely $10 of that still belongs to Person B, but what about the other $90? I’m not sure.

Now another problem has come up. At least one player has reported that the online casino lost his money. Mike Reid, a retired banker, says that he won a few hundred dollars at blackjack on the PlayNow.com site and then transferred $100 of the winnings to his bank account. After the website was shut down due to the security breach, Reid checked his bank account and found that the $100 wasn’t there. When he contacted the Lottery Corporation, they said that the money was basically in limbo and that all transactions would go through once the online casino re-launches, whenever that may be.

But how could they have taken the money from his personal bank account? And why would they do that? After making an issue out of it, Reid eventually received a $100 check from the Lottery Corporation, but that is of little reassurance to other players. Does the BCLC think it’s okay to take money out of your personal bank account?

The more time passes since the launch of North America’s first online casino, the more unpleasant the questions get. This is a reason that, while I support legalizing online gambling in jurisdictions where it is banned, I am not in favor of governments running the online casinos. I certainly can’t recommend that blackjack players go to PlayNow.com once it reopens. I’d rather point people toward InterCasino or Pure Vegas, which are much safer options.

Blackjack Tips: Cards Face Up or Face Down?

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

If you have been to enough casinos, you have noticed that the tables have cards dealt in one of two ways. They are either dealt face up or face down. In this blog, I will give you blackjack tips on which table to use.

First, you need to know that blackjack is a game of etiquette and there are different rules depending on how the cards are dealt. If the cards are dealt to players face up, you’re not allowed to touch the cards, including your own. Since they are facing up, there is no need to touch them. You can see them just fine already. By not letting the players touch the cards, the casino protects themselves against players marking the cards, swapping cards or engaging in other forms of cheating.

In blackjack games where the cards are dealt face down, it is a handheld game. In these games, you pick up the cards and hold them, but there are also specific rules for the handling of those cards. For one thing, you are only allowed to touch the cards with one hand. Again, this is to minimize the possibility of sleight of hand tricks. The cards must also be held over the table at all times. This is to avoid you hiding the cards below the table and making a switch.

You might be wondering which version of the blackjack game is better to play. If you are a card counter, my blackjack tip is to play at a game where the cards are dealt face up. That way, you can see what cards the other players have and it makes it easier to count cards and determine how many tens are in play. If the cards are dealt face down, you can only track your own cards and the dealer’s cards, making card counting more difficult.

If you are not a card counter and rely solely on blackjack basic strategy, it really doesn’t matter which game you play. I prefer face up games but that is only my personal preference. They also are more traditional. In both forms of blackjack, basic strategy can reduce the house edge to as low as 0.5%.

Wii blackjack game underwhelming

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Nintendo’s Wii console has a new game where players can experience activities aboard a cruise ship, including playing blackjack, roulette and other casino games. Unfortunately, the response to the game has been very underwhelming, even by Wii standards.

The Cruise Party Wii game is a game aimed for young players to recreate the fun of playing at a casino on a cruise ship. That, in itself, is a little odd. Is Nintendo trying to get kids interested in casino games? The game is fully interactive and multiplayer, which allows players to play their favorite games with their friends either in person or online.

The graphics are good for a Wii game, which means that they’re slightly better than the games for the Sega Genesis. However, most reviews of the game have said that while it looks okay, it’s not very fun. Whether or not a game is fun should be the major determining factor in the quality of a game, but you couldn’t tell that from the selection of Wii games I’ve seen. It seems that Nintendo usually places the fun factor of a game near the bottom of the list, right after “Will it be novel enough to interest people for the first 20 minutes they see the game?”

So what’s wrong with the Cruise Party Wii game? Well, the casino games are poorly designed. For example, in the video poker game, each player’s complete hand is visible to everyone. Without being able to hide your cards, there is no skill involved and it becomes a game of luck, where all that matters is what cards you happened to draw.

There is a blackjack game, where up to four players sit at the table and play against the dealer. Of course, blackjack isn’t a competitive game, because the players don’t play each other. That makes it rather dull as a Wii game, since you can’t earn any real money in Cruise Party.

Another problem with the Cruise Party game is that it doesn’t take advantage of the Wii’s features. The Wii has always been a console where you play stupid, simplistic games that seem unique because you’re actually moving your arm around instead of just pushing buttons. The idea behind the Wii was combining video games with pantomime and the Wii really is about that exciting. Even that excitement, though, isn’t present with the Cruise Party game. Casino games don’t require the physical activities like swinging a tennis racket or golf club. They pretty much involve holding cards, placing bets, and rolling dice.

So I guess what we learned from this – other than that it’s possible to make a Wii game so bad that it will stand out as a stupid game even among other Wii titles – is that if you want to play casino games at home, you should do it at an online casino. If you want to play for free, there are free trials available. If you want to use real money and hopefully win some cash, you can do that as well. Of course, children can’t visit online casinos, but I’m not so sure they should be playing gambling games on the Wii, either.

NY Judges Denies Tzvetkoff Bail

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Australian national Daniel Tzvetkoff made news 2 weeks ago when he was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with bank fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to operate and finance and illegal gambling business.

Yesterday, a New York judge denied Tzvetkoff bail, meaning that he will have to remain in jail until his trial, which is more than a year down the road. Last week, a Las Vegas judge ruled that he should be released on bail because a U.S. citizen in his case would have. The prosecution then appealed to the New York District Court, where he is facing charges of bank fraud and money laundering. There, Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that Tzvetkoff is a flight risk, due to his foreign status and access to over $100 million dollars, and denied bail.

Tzvetkoff was co-founder of online payment processor IntaBill. He allegedly moved money from American online gamblers’ bank accounts to the accounts of offshore shell companies. He then moved the funds from the shell companies to online casinos. Tzvetkoff’s type of money laundering is called an Automated Clearing House system and he used it to funnel millions of dollars between the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands.

In 2009, online casinos stopped doing business with Tzvetkoff due to allegations that he had stolen $100 million from them. Two weeks ago, Tzvetkoff attended a conference in Las Vegas where many representatives from those online casinos were present. It is believed that one of those people alerted security, which then resulted in an FBI arrest.

If convicted of all of the carges, Tzvetkoff would face up to 24 years in prison. In addition, it is estimated that he could have to wait 18 to 24 months before his trial begins. He will be locked up in jail that whole time.

MA Bill Bans Marketing to Gambling Addicts

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

The U.S. state of Massachusetts is considering legalizing gambling, with lawmakers discussing a gambling bill on the floor of the House that would authorize full casinos as well as slot machines at the state’s dog and horse racing tracks. If the bill passes and becomes law, gamblers in Massachusetts will have somewhere to play blackjack other than online.

Recently the House voted on three amendments to the bill, approving one and rejecting two. One of the rejected amendments would have required the casinos to post the odds (all of the odds, not just the house edge) of each slot machine in a conspicuous place in 18-point type. This amendment was rejected by a 137-20 vote.

The other rejected amendment required the newly created state gaming commission to conduct specific background checks on all applicants for jobs at the casino resorts. It would also require drug testing, fingerprinting and more. Since the amendment was struck down, the gaming commission may still conduct those background investigations, but it is not required. Also, the casinos may conduct their own investigations. This amendment was rejected by a 112-45 vote.

It is the other amendment, the one that passed, that is of the greatest concern to me. By a slim 80-76 vote, the Massachusetts House approved an amendment to the casino bill that allows problem gamblers to voluntarily request to opt out of marketing for the casinos. The players are then placed on a “self-exclusion” list and the casinos will be prohibited from marketing to anyone on that list.

This is of concern to blackjack players and players of any casino game that have a gambling problem. Though the overwhelming majority of blackjack players gamble responsibly, there are some who do not. Those problem gamblers, according to some, can develop a gambling addiction (though some in the psychological community dispute the “addiction” claim).

Many people believe that it would be hazardous to market to someone with a gambling problem, because they might not be able to say no. They may end up going to the casino and losing lots of money because they couldn’t control themselves. Those who are concerned with the financial and mental safety of compulsive gamblers support legislation that bans marketing to those individuals. Those who opposed the amendment state that is unnecessary interference in the free market by the legislature.

I’m normally very supportive of a free market and a laissez-faire approach to economics by the government. However, I think allowing problem gamblers to opt out of being subject to marketing by the casinos is a good idea. The only downside is I don’t know how difficult it will be for casinos to make sure they don’t accidentally market to someone on the list. That is certainly something that needs to be addressed.

With that amendment passed, the full bill will continue to be debated by the state House. Earlier this month, the bill was modified to remove language that would have made online gambling illegal. With that language removed, there is no ban on online gambling in the state of Massachusetts.

New Hampshire May Get Online Gambling

Monday, April 5th, 2010

I’ll probably never understand politicians. The American state of New Hampshire, like all of the states in the Union, is hurting for cash, though some are worse off than others. New Hampshire right now is facing a growing budget deficit. Staring at all that red ink, the state lawmakers have proposed various ideas for increasing revenue. One of the ideas going through the legislature is an expansion of gambling in the state, which would legalize 17,000 slot machines and table games.

Governor John Lynch, a Democrat in his third term, has spoken out in opposition of the gambling bill. His reasons for being against gambling are the same you often hear, that it will lead to more crime and gambling addiction in the state. None of that is particularly surprising. Gambling is a divisive issue and there are a wide range of opinions on the subject.

What does surprise me is this: Recently Governor Lynch announced his own idea for how to add revenue to the state – the introduction of state-regulated (and taxed) online gambling sites. So, it seems that Lynch is against having gambling in brick and mortar casinos and pari-mutuels but he thinks it’s fine to gamble on your personal computer or iPhone.

It doesn’t make much sense to me. The skeptic in me thinks that it has something to do with lobbyists. Whatever the case, the state legislature seems to be as confused as I am. Whether gambling is added to the state via online websites or brick and mortar casinos (or both), new regulatory infrastructure will be needed. Several lawmakers who support the legalization of casinos in the state are speaking out against Lynch’s proposal, some calling him a hypocrite.

Senator Lou D’Allesandor said that “if the governor is afraid of proliferation, what easier way to proliferate it than online gambling?” Former senator Bob Clegg also pointed out that “the governor is worried about proliferation of gaming but it sounds like he’s going to make every computer terminal in every home and every BlackBerry – including those BlackBerry’s held by kids in high school —  a gambling facility.”

Confusing, indeed. The state of New Hampshire does not currently have any law banning online gambling, though there is also no state regulation of the industry, nor are there any online casinos located in the state.

Machine to Help with Problem Gambling

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Gambling, whether it’s done in a brick and mortar or online casino, can be a fun way to spend your time if you are responsible. Like many forms of entertainment, including sporting events, movies, theme parks and more, it costs money to play your favorite casino games. One difference, though, is that you don’t necessarily know how much it will cost you ahead of time. That’s where budgeting and planning how much to spend ahead of time comes in handy.

Some people, however, have a hard time doing that and even if they do plan, in the excitement of the moment have a hard time walking away when they should. That is a form of problem gambling, an ailment that afflicts too many players worldwide. Now there is a machine available that can help people manage their money more effectively.

A Canadian gaming company called TechLink has introduced the Responsible Gaming Device, which is made to be used in brick and mortar casinos, though it is likely that an online version will be available soon.

How it works is this: Casinos purchase a machine, called Gameplan, and install the software for that device on their gambling machines. Players purchase the Responsible Gaming Device, which can be plugged into the casino’s machines. That Device identifies the gambler and all of the conditions that have been selected.

The machine allows the player to select certain limits, whether it’s a maximum amount of losses during a time period, a certain amount of money wagered, or any other similar limit and is notified when those limits are met. The device then locks the player out and no more bets can be made. If necessary, the player can also use the device to exclude themselves entirely, which is basically a self-blacklisting.

Though this would be easy to incorporate into machines like slots and video poker, I don’t know how it could be used, if it can, for table games like blackjack. For that reason, I think the software is better suited for online casinos. That way it could be applied to every game and it could refuse to let the player make a deposit or play any games once the limit is met.

Ideally, everything that this machine accomplishes would be done by the gamblers without any help. Setting your own limits before you start playing is wise and it’s the easiest way to make sure you don’t spend too much. However, for people who have a problem with compulsive gambling, this machine is a great idea and will eventually help a lot of people. I, for one, am excited about it.

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.