Posts Tagged ‘A Word On’

A Word on Blackjack Cheats

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

I don’t know how many times I’ve come across an article online about how to cheat at blackjack. They’re all over the place and it gets me mad every time I see it. Those articles usually start with a disclaimer that says they don’t condone cheating or that you can get in trouble if you’re caught cheating, but then they give you all of the information you need to go out there and do it.

We would never tell you to cheat at blackjack and think it’s wrong to cheat, but if you wanted to do it, here’s how! Simply follow our step-by-step guide and you will be an expert blackjack cheat in no time!

It is irresponsible for blackjack guides to tell people how to cheat and it pains me that so many of my competitors do that. I will never advocate or give you information that will help you cheat in blackjack.

There are two reasons not to be a blackjack cheat. The first is that cheating is wrong. There are many justifications that people have for cheating at casinos and I have written extensively about the psychology behind cheating. However, what it comes down to is that the game of blackjack is either a fair game or it is not. If it’s not fair then why are you playing it at all? Cheating in order to “make the game more fair” is just an excuse, because blackjack already has the lowest house edge in the casino. When you use proper basic strategy it can be lowered to 0.5%. If you also count cards, which isn’t cheating, then the player can actually gain an advantage over the house.

So if the game is already fair, why would it be okay for you to not play by the rules? Those rules are good enough for everyone else. Besides, when you enter a casino and sit at a table, you are in essence agreeing to the terms of that table and promising to play by the rules. Think of it as an unwritten contract.

Not only that, but blackjack cheating actually hurts other players as well. Think about it. Unless you’ve been living in a cave (and if you have, how are you reading this?) then you know that most of the world has been in a recession. As a result, companies all across the globe are losing money. The hardest-hit industries have been those of leisure and luxury, which would include casinos. Gambling isn’t a necessity, so trips to the casino are one of the first things people do away with when cutting back on expenses. As a result, casinos across the world are losing money.

Casinos don’t like losing money. Therefore, when the money they’re losing gets out of hand, they tend to make changes to make more money. Those changes can come in the form of getting rid of some of their comps, raising the rates for their rooms, and of course changing the rules in their games to increase the house edge. When that happens, you and other blackjack players suffer. So if you cheat in order to “break the casino” or whatever you’re trying to do, don’t think of the casino as an evil corporation that wants to take your money. Think of it as a business that provides you and other blackjack players entertainment and if they lose too much money, they will either provide less entertainment or may go out of business altogether.

So that is one reason not to be a blackjack cheat. The other reason is much more simple and easy to understand: There are severe consequences if you are caught. If you’re caught cheating, you will be banned from the casino, possibly every casino in that chain, and maybe even from gambling in that city again. Not only that, you will most likely face criminal charges (felony fraud, most likely) and could end up spending years behind bars, aside from having to pay a fine and restitution to the casino. Cheating isn’t worth risking all of that.

So I repeat: Do not cheat at blackjack. And you online casino writers out there, don’t tell people how to do it. For those who do, shame on you.

A Word on Counting Cards

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Your average person learned everything they know about blackjack from watching Rain Man. They learned that you can make money at a casino by hitting the blackjack table and counting cards. They learned that you need to be a math wiz or a savant to count cards. And finally, they learned that if you count cards properly you can get rich quick and walk out of the casino overflowing with cash.

Of course, none of that is true. I don’t blame Rain Man. That scene played out like most card-counting scenes in the movies and like most movies, the drama of the scene is more important than realism. Real card counting, however, doesn’t take a genius, but it takes considerably more time to make money. Instead of making millions in one night, it would be more realistic for that to happen in a year or a few years of consistent play.

Before I explain card counting, let me say this: I do not endorse card counting. Though it is not illegal, the casinos don’t appreciate it and if you are caught counting cards you will be asked to leave and may even be banned from that chain of casinos. In the old days of Vegas, worse things happened to you than that. Counting cards isn’t cheating, but it’s still frowned upon by the casinos, who don’t like the advantage it gives players. You should also note that it is not possible to count cards online, due to the random number generator acting as if the deck is shuffled after each card is dealt.

So what is card counting? Card counting, when done, should be done in conjunction with blackjack basic strategy. Where the counting comes in is in determining how many 10-value cards are remaining in the decks. Tens are more advantageous for the players than lower cards because more tens produce more blackjacks (which usually pay out 3:2). Therefore, a deck (or decks) rich in tens is good for the player and one that is low on tens is bad for the player. A card counter will usually bet high when there are a lot of tens in play and bet low when there are not.

That sounds complicated, right? So why don’t you need to be a math genius? For one thing, you’re not really keeping an accurate count of the cards that are played. That would require a math wiz. Instead of keeping track of all of the cards that are played and comparing that to the cards in the deck to determine which cards have not been played, card counters usually use a simple plus/minus system.

Instead of keeping track of every card that is played (2, 3, 4, etc.), card counters only track whether a card was high or low. High cards are tens and low cards are everything else. Though I’m not going to go into detail here about how to count cards, the basics are this: Simple card counting systems use a plus and minus one ratio. In this system, high cards are given a value of -1 and low cards are given a value of +1. As cards are dealt to the players and the dealer, the player adds or subtracts from the count accordingly. When the count gets high, there are a lot of tens left to play and the players will bet higher. When the count is low, they bet lower because there aren’t many tens left.

Sorry if I ruined that iconic scene from Rain Man for you. If it helps, the movie was right about one thing: K-Mart sucks.

A Word on Retro Blackjack

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

Maybe you’ve always wanted to play blackjack but you’re a little intimidated. You’ve read up on strategy and have played friendly games at home wagering with peanuts. You’re still a little worried about starting a real game, though, partly because of the money involved. There are two ways to handle this problem. The first, as I have written about before, is by playing free online blackjack. Most online casinos have free blackjack games that you can play using fake money. The free games give you the change to practice your basic strategy without risking any of your money.

Once you have that down, though, you will logically want to step up to a real money game. While the upside of the free blackjack games is that you don’t risk losing any money, the downside is that you can’t win any money, either. With real money games, there is greater risk but there is also greater reward.

It would be foolish to go straight from the free games to high-stakes blackjack tables. Betting hundreds on each hand may not be a good idea for anyone and if it is, it’s only for the rich and experienced blackjack players. Instead, I suggest finding a table with the lowest betting limits. Both online casinos and brick and mortar casinos have blackjack tables with a wide range of betting limits.

To accommodate people looking for a lower risk to blackjack, many casinos have started holding “retro blackjack.” Making a blackjack game retro can mean many things, but it often entails setting up an ambiance that reflects an older time and having low betting limits that are not adjusted for inflation. In other words, the tables can have betting limits as low as $1, which was a lot more money back in the days of the retro casinos, but due to inflation everything costs more now, including (usually) casino bets.

Blackjack, of course, is the ultimate game of risk-reward. If you bet only $2 on each hand, you won’t win a whole lot of money when you win, but at least losing won’t be painful. If you have enough success betting $2, you might want to step up to $5 and then $10 and someday you might find yourself at that high-stakes table.

Until then, however, enjoy the thrill of putting your money, no matter how small the amount, up against the dealer and betting that you can outplay him. Even if it’s only $1 at stake, there is nothing like the experience of that challenge. It was true back in the casinos of old and it’s still true today.

A Word on Blackjack Movies

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Whenever gathered around the water cooler at work, talk often comes to movies. What are your favorite comedies? What are your favorite sports movies? Despite being super famous, has Angelina Jolie ever been in a movie that doesn’t suck (the answer is no)?

Since I write for this website, I’m often asked about my favorite gambling movies. For the record, my favorite gambling movie of all time is The Sting, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. When it comes to blackjack movies, there are a lot of great choices.

The most recent blackjack movie I can think of is 21, starring the always-interesting Kevin Spacey as the MIT math professor who takes his class to Vegas to do some card counting. Though dramatized, this film is based on true events. Though it isn’t entirely accurate about card counting, it gives a good idea of both how it’s done and the consequences of getting caught (Hint: the pit boss wasn’t happy). Both Spacey and Jim Sturgess turn in excellent performances that make this film a must-see for blackjack fans.

The classic Rain Man, though not about gambling, has one of the most famous gambling scenes in cinema, when Tom Cruise’s character, Charlie, takes his savant brother, Raymond, to count cards. This is the scene that brought awareness of card counting to mainstream America. The scene works on two levels. On one hand, there are some good laughs, such as when Charlie tells Raymond “you took my Queen,” when Raymond unwisely hit an 18 and was dealt a Queen that would have helped Charlie. In response, Raymond slides the Queen over to Charlie and is told by the croupier not to touch the cards. The scene also works on a more dramatic level, where the two brothers bond for the first time. It is an iconic movie scene, though it may have had the adverse effect of causing people to attempt card counting but don’t know what they’re doing.

That iconic scene was later lifted in last year’s hit comedy The Hangover. In that movie, Alan, played by the hilarious Zach Galifianakis, reads a book on blackjack and then decides to hit the blackjack tables to make some easy money. This funny scene plays on people’s ignorance about card counting, with Alan even saying that “it’s not gambling when you know you’re going to win.” His friend then says that you have to be really smart to count cards (which is a myth). Alan responds that they should “tell that to Rain Man, because he practically bankrupted the casino and he’s a re-tard.” This is funny because, like most things Alan says, it is very wrong. First of all, no player can count cards well enough to break a casino. Secondly, Rain Man wasn’t retarded. He was autistic and just so happened to be a savant at math, including counting, which means he would be much better at counting cards than your average person. Once at the casino, they count cards in the most obvious way possible and of course are noticed, which serves as another cautionary tale about card counting.

One of the most overlooked blackjack movies out there is one of my personal favorites – Croupier, starring Clive Owen as a struggling author who takes a job as a croupier to make ends meet and ends up being seduced by power, greed, gambling, and of course women. Perhaps the best blackjack scene is when Owen’s character is interviewing for the job and has to show off his skills at counting, stacking chips, dealing and keeping track of the count.

Those are my favorite blackjack movies. What are yours?

A Word on Free Blackjack

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

There is one thing offered by online casinos that many beginners take for granted and that’s the free blackjack games. Many people don’t give it a second thought, but the free games are one of the biggest advantages of playing online. It would be foolish for a new player to not take advantage of those deals.

If you’re new to blackjack, you probably don’t know a whole lot about the game. Maybe that’s why you’re here on (and thanks for that). Even if you read everything I have written on the subject (and if so, thanks a lot), there is no substitute for experience.

Memorizing the blackjack basic strategy chart is a great idea and something I encourage. It’s wise to read up on strategy so you will know not only what to do in a situation, but also why you should do that. For one thing, strategy is easier to remember if you know the reasons behind it. However, remembering what to do is more difficult in the middle of a game. That is why practice and game experience are so important. Blackjack is a skill and like any skill, you get better at it the more you practice.

So it’s easy: The more you play blackjack, the better you will get at it. The problem is, if you are a bad player in the beginning, that could cost you a lot of money in the casino. That is why the free blackjack games are so important. Even if you plan to do all of your gambling in brick and mortar casinos rather than online, playing free online blackjack is a good way to practice the game and get used to playing using the proper strategy without having to worry about losing money. In fact, even though I know blackjack strategy inside and out, I often play the free online games because I want to play even at times when I don’t feel like gambling.

The casinos, of course, don’t offer free blackjack games solely out of the kindness of their hearts (though I would like to think that’s part of it). They are hoping that you will enjoy playing it for free so much that you will then play at their casino for real money. Often this is the case. The fact remains that free blackjack games are an incredibly helpful tool and the best way to iron down your strategy before you put any real money on the line.

A Word on the UIGEA

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

There is a lot of confusion about online gambling in the United States. Many people think that it is illegal. Some think that some games are illegal while others are not. Allow me to clear that up the best that I can.

First of all, there is no federal ban on online gambling in the United States. There are 4 states that expressly prohibit online gambling. For the rest, it is either legal or kind of murky, with the legislative and judicial branches of government working on finding a solution to the legality question.  Many people think that online gambling is banned by the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). That is not the case.

As the courts have ruled, the UIGEA does not ban online gambling. All it does is allow for the punishment of those who engage in illegal online gambling. Nowhere, however, does it say what would be considered illegal. The UIGEA is an amendment added on to the end of the SAFE Port Act of 2006 (which has nothing to do with gambling). UIGEA does not deal with the gamblers at all. It only regards the financial institutions that pay out money from online gambling. If they pay out funds from “unlawful internet gambling,” then the funds can be seized and the institution can be punished under law. UIGEA can do nothing to someone who plays a game online, even if the activity were to be deemed “illegal.”

Not only that, but most people do not know that UIGEA is not currently in effect. It was passed in 2006, but it was not scheduled to take effect until December 1, 2009. As that deadline approached, lawmakers sought an extension because they thought the middle of an economic crisis was a bad time to be placing more burdens on the financial industry. The Fed and Department of Justice agreed and delayed implementation of the restrictions from UIGEA.

So if you are an online gambler in the United States, let me say this very clearly, there is no federal law making that activity illegal. Make sure your particular state does not ban it and if not, you are committing no crime.

A Word on Blackjack Tournaments

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Though poker and slots seem to get most of the tournament action, casinos offer blackjack tournaments from time to time as well. Blackjack tournaments can be found at land-based and online casinos and they are a lot of fun.

Though they are fun, the game isn’t played exactly the same. Different strategies are needed to be successful at blackjack tournaments. For one thing, in tournaments you are actually competing against other players. In a traditional blackjack game, it is only you against the dealer. If the other players win as well then hey, good for them! Not so in the tournaments. In the tournaments, another player winning is bad for you. Though your win still counts the same, the players with the most wins earn prizes, so you want to win more often than the other players.

What that means is you should alter your betting strategy. Normally I preach flat betting, which is to bet the same amount on each hand, not altering it because you’re winning or losing. That conservative approach to betting is great for the long run, but it is not a good idea in tournaments. In blackjack tournaments, you should be more aggressive.

The tournaments are normally played in multiple rounds, with only the top players in each round advancing to the next. You don’t win anything if you don’t get to the final round. Therefore, you need to play more aggressively and bet with an all or nothing attitude. If you’re behind on the leader board, become even more aggressive. Betting larger amounts can help you catch up and get back into the game. If you have a comfortable lead, on the other hand, it might be a good idea to lower your bet so you can avoid losing ground. Then if other players start catching up, adjust your wager accordingly.

Some online casinos offer another kind of blackjack tournament that is quite different. It is a head-to-head tournament, where two players square off against each other rather than the players against the dealer. In this case, there are no set drawing rules (such as stand on 17) and both players can make their own decisions like a normal player. The player who wins the most hands head-to-head advances and plays against another player.

Whatever type of game you play, blackjack tournaments are fun and a good way of playing blackjack with a reduced risk. The risk is reduced because, in most cases, you don’t wager your own money on each hand. Instead, you pay an entry fee to join the tournament and are given an amount of chips to use on the house. At the end, you don’t get to keep any unused chips, but those players near the top of the leader board take home prizes. The prize pool is normally cash made up of the entry fees of the various players. To take part in the fun, find a blackjack tournament at your favorite online or brick and mortar casino.

A Word on Practicing Blackjack

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Today I want to talk about something that should be common sense but doesn’t seem to be: Practice is important for blackjack. There are some games where all you have to do is learn the rules and then you can go play without practicing. Slots come to mind, as do bingo and keno. Blackjack is not that way. If you want to have success at blackjack, you must study blackjack basic strategy, memorize it, and practice it enough that it becomes second nature.

Some people think that going over basic strategy a few times is good enough. Or they think that memorizing it is good enough. Well, that goes a long way toward becoming a good blackjack player, but there is a big difference in memorizing a chart and making the correct decisions when a dealer looks at you and asks you what to do. Being a good blackjack player takes practice.

You wouldn’t buy a violin, play it once to make sure you knew how to make certain sounds, and then get up onstage and play a concert, would you? If so, please never invite me to your performances. You wouldn’t take tennis lessons, learn to play, and then go take part in a tournament without practicing in between, would you? If so, remind me to challenge you to a high-stakes tennis tournament.

The point is, despite what some players believe, memorizing blackjack basic strategy isn’t good enough. When you sit at the table, you’re likely to freeze up. It’s happened to me countless times. I’ve forgotten to split. I’ve forgotten to double. At times I even forget to look and see what the dealer’s upcard is. As crazy as it sounds, it happens. The pressure of sitting at a blackjack table in a casino can get to you and cause you to make bad decisions – decisions that you would know not to make when going over the strategy chart in your head. The only way to overcome that is by practicing blackjack enough that it becomes second nature to you. That’s what athletes and musicians do and it’s what you should do as well.

There are a few ways to practice your blackjack strategy. Most online casinos offer free trial versions of their games. You can play them for as long as you want, wagering fake money, and consult the chart while you play, if you need to. There are also some websites, such as, that are used to train you to make the right decisions when playing blackjack. Another way to do it is the old-fashioned way, how we did it before people used fancy computer programs for everything: Take out a deck of cards. You can deal them to yourself if you’re alone or, better yet, get a friend to deal the cards to you.

Whatever method you choose, as long as you’re practicing, you will benefit. Just remember that if a musician or athlete stops practicing, their skills will lessen, even though their knowledge hasn’t changed. The same is true for blackjack. You need to practice not only to become a good player, but also to remain a good player.