Posts Tagged ‘blackjack house edge’

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%.

Want bad odds? Play the lottery

Monday, May 17th, 2010

I like playing blackjack. I think it’s a fun game and I play it in the hopes of winning money, but knowing that I am more likely to lose money. I am okay with that. However, some people give me a hard time about it, saying that gambling is “throwing money away” and that it’s a “waste of money.”

The first question I normally counter with is, “Don’t most hobbies cost money? Doesn’t a night out normally cost something?” Even if I lose money at the blackjack table, I am always responsible with my bankroll, so I never lose a large amount. Therefore, when I lose I simply consider it the cost of a fun night. Going to Disney isn’t cheap, either. Neither is going to a movie or baseball game. However, I never hear people talk about those activities as throwing your money away. Why? At least when I play blackjack I have a chance to break even or sometimes even make money. I guarantee you that you will never make money by taking the family to Disney.

Maybe people see it differently because gambling can cause you to lose lots of money, much more than you would lose doing most activities. It’s true that some people have lost their house, car and more by gambling their money away. However, doesn’t that come down to personal responsibility? You can blow a lot of money at Disney, too, if you decide to buy stuff at the souvenir shop, pay for a nice, sit-down meal instead of hot dogs, and stay in the resort overnight. If you can’t afford to spend all of that money, you need to have the responsibility to say no.

Being responsible with your money is just as possible in a casino. You may not be able to control whether you win or lose money on a hand (though you do have some control, luck is involved as well), but you can control how much money you bet. If you are responsible when playing blackjack, you should never lose a lot of money. I always plan how much money I will bet ahead of time and set that aside, not increasing my bankroll no matter what happens in the casino. Yes, folks, being fiscally responsible is possible when playing blackjack (even online blackjack).

Some people still won’t see my side of the argument and are simply against blackjack because it is gambling. Usually at that point I ask if they play the lottery. The answer is yes more often than you might think.

It is absurd to be against gambling while playing in the state lottery (and that includes the governments). After all, the lottery has the worst odds of all. In most 6-ball state lotteries, the chances of winning the jackpot are between 1 in 14 million and 1 in 16 million. Doesn’t sound too good, does it? Some people try to increase their odds by buying many lottery tickets at a time (which would be “throwing their money away”). How well does that work? Well, if you buy 50 lottery tickets every week, the odds say you will win the jackpot approximately once every 5,000 years. Most people don’t live that long.

Okay, so we know that hitting the jackpot isn’t likely with the lottery, but you can win smaller amounts of money, too. You might be wondering what the house edge is for the lottery. It’s 50%. Of all of the money paid into the lottery for the tickets, only half of it is ever paid out. The rest is used for other purposes. That is half of the money gone right away and you’re still going against all of the other ticket-buyers for the other half. To put things in perspective, double-zero roulette has a house edge of 5.26% and baccarat has a 1.24% house edge on bets on the player. Blackjack has even better odds. You can reduce the house edge to 0.5% if you follow perfect basic strategy. So which game would you rather play, the one with a 0.5% house edge or the game with the 50% house edge?

Blackjack Side Bets: Perfect Pairs

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

One of the appealing things about blackjack is that there are a number of variations for the standard game that can keep things from being too repetitive. One of those variations is the side bet, of which there are countless combinations. One popular side bet is perfect pairs.

The perfect pairs side bet is common in casinos in Australia and London as well as online casinos. This blackjack game is simple. You play everything else like the traditional blackjack game. However, if you choose to do so, you may also place a side bet on whether or not you will draw a pair in your first two cards. Any pairs after that mean nothing; only the first two cards for this side bet count.

There are three types of pairs that you might draw in this blackjack game. The first is the “perfect pair,” which is two identical cards, such as two ace of clubs. The second type is called a “colored pair,” which is two cards that match in rank and color, such as an ace of spades and an ace of clubs (both suits are black). The third type of blackjack pair is sometimes called a “mixed pair” and other times called a “red/black pair.” This is a pair that matches in rank but is opposite color, such as an ace of hearts and ace of spades.

There are three different pay tables that are common for the perfect pairs blackjack side bet. These examples show your odds when playing with 8 decks. While the house edge for the general game of blackjack increases as the number of decks increases, the house edge on the perfect pairs strategy actually decreases. That is because the more cards there are, the more pairs exist.

In the three common pay tables, a perfect pair pays either 25:1 or 30:1, a colored pair pays either 12:1 or 10:1 and a mixed pair pays either 5:1 or 6:1. Those may sound good, but look at your probability of drawing those pairs. In an 8 deck game (these are your best odds), you have a 1.7% chance of drawing a perfect pair, a 1.9% chance of drawing a colored pair and a 3.9% chance of drawing a mixed pair.

Because of the low probability of drawing those pairs, the house edge on the perfect pairs side bet ranges from 3.37% to 7.95% with 8 decks. If you think those are bad, the perfect pairs side bet has a house edge up to 26.2% when playing with 2 decks. Compare that to the 0.5% house edge for the regular blackjack game and you see how bad your odds are with this side bet.

Most online casinos allow this side bet simply for that reason: It is an easy way for the casino to take your money. Therefore, play this side bet if you wish, but you should realize that the odds are stacked against  you.

$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.

Blackjack Variations: Removing Cards

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

The nature of blackjack’s simple game makes it perfect for a wide variety of rule changes. Whether playing a friendly game in your house, at a casino, online, or on a cruise ship, there are a number of blackjack variations that you could see.

For the most part, the blackjack variations favor the house, which is why I recommend sticking to the standard game. Also, it’s easier to remember the basic strategy for one game rather than the standard game and all of its variations.

One blackjack variation that is pretty common is the removal of one or more cards from the deck. Traditionally, blackjack is played with a standard 52-card deck, with face cards counting for 10 points, an ace standing for one or 11 points and everything else having its face value. However, it’s fairly common to find a game where all of the tens are removed or all of the sevens are taken out of the deck.

In the game of blackjack, high cards favor the player and small cards favor the dealer. Therefore, any blackjack variation where the high cards are removed tilts the odds farther in the house’s favor. In contrast, any variant where small cards are removed tips the odds in the player’s direction.

Below is a complete list of how each card being removed from the deck affects the house edge. The percentages given are the amount that is added to or subtracted from the house edge. For example, removing all twos from the deck reduces the house edge by 0.40% and removing all aces from the deck increases the house edge by 0.59%. Keep in mind that in the standard game of blackjack, playing perfect basic strategy reduces the house edge to 0.50%.

Removed Card = House Edge
2 = -0.40%
3 = -0.43%
4 = -0.52%
5 = -0.67%
6 = -0.45%
7 = -0.30%
8 = -0.01%
9 = +0.15%
10, J, Q, K = +0.51%
Ace = +0.59%

How Shuffling Machines Affect Your Bankroll

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Blackjack, when boiled down to its most basic elements, is a very simple game. Get a higher hand total than the dealer without going over 21. However, there are a lot of variations in the game that changes the odds and can have an effect on your bankroll.

The most obvious odd-changing blackjack variations involve whether the dealer hits a soft 17, whether you can resplit, whether there is late surrender, and other decisions. The number of decks also impacts your odds, as the house edge increases as the number of decks increases (it also makes it more difficult to count cards).

One thing that people normally don’t think of, though, is how the cards are shuffled. Believe it or not, how the cards are shuffled has an effect on your bankroll. Though the house edge does not change, different shuffling methods can cause you to lose more money simply by allowing you to play more hands.

Casinos want the game of blackjack to be played as fast as possible. Since there is a house edge to the game, the more hands that are played, the more money the casino makes. Therefore, they want to play as many hands as possible. Hand-shuffling, for that reason, is not a preferred method for casinos, but if you can find a table where the dealer shuffles by hand that offers you chance to keep the most money.

There are also different kinds of shuffling machines. For years, casinos have been using automatic shufflers. The traditional automatic shufflers randomized a deck or several decks and then the cards were discarded into a pile after being played. This is much faster than shuffling by hand and, due to the house edge, costs the players more money. Recently, however, many casinos have turned to the newer continuous shuffling machine (CSM). These work even faster and instead of creating a discard pile, the discarded cards are immediately returned to the deck.

This does two things: It makes it so that the dealer doesn’t have to stop to shuffle cards and it makes counting cards virtually impossible. Therefore, a blackjack table that uses a continuous shuffling machine will cost you more money in the long run.

Or does it?

As the renowned gambling mathematician Michael Shackleford explains, a continuous shuffling machine actually lowers the house edge. In simulated tests, Shackleford showed that a CSM reduces the house edge by 0.014-0.113%, depending on the number of decks in use. In blackjack, high cards favor the player and low cards favor the dealer. Tens especially help the player. With a CSM, since there are already more 10-value cards than any other value, the tens are more likely to be reshuffled into the deck than any other value card. Therefore, in the long run, continuous shuffling machines result in more high cards being in play.

So CSM’s are good for the players then, right? Well, no. Using a CSM may reduce the house edge by 0.014-0.113%, but it also increases the amount of hands played in an hour by 20%. That means a lot more hands that are exposed to the house edge. For that reason, despite the lowering of the house edge, CSM’s are still not beneficial to the player.

CSM’s are only used in brick and mortar casinos, but when playing online blackjack, since the dealing of the cards is controlled by a random number generator, it is in effect like having the deck shuffled after every card is dealt. That makes card counting impossible, but it does give you the possibility of receiving more tens.