Posts Tagged ‘blackjack odds’

Blackjack Basic Strategy Reduces House Edge

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Of all of the casino games, blackjack has the best odds for the player. It is the one game where the player can develop enough skill to consistently win money from the house. The other strategy-based game that can be profitable is poker, but in that case you’re winning money from other poker players rather than the casino.

Over the last couple months, there has been news all over Google about a man named Don Johnson (not the actor) making $15 million from the Tropicana Casino. We covered Johnson’s story here as well. Though Johnson says he did not count cards, many don’t believe him. He says he used good strategy and was lucky.

At the very least, he was using blackjack basic strategy. Using basic strategy, you can reduce the house edge to only 0.5%. That means that for every $200 you wager on blackjack, over the long run the casino would only take $1 and you would keep the rest. Because hot and cold streaks can happen, that average won’t always hold true for the short term. That’s how you can have sessions where you win (or lose) a lot of money. Don Johnson says he won $15 million at the Tropicana because a lucky streak combined with his good strategy. While that is certainly not common, it can happen.

You’re not going to see anything on Google about professional slot or roulette players continuously taking casinos for big bucks. It doesn’t happen. Sure, people get lucky sometimes and win big money on those games, but not consistently. Plus, there are no professionals at the other games. It’s just another example of why blackjack is the best game out there (with the possible exception of poker).

Why I Love Blackjack Tournaments

Monday, February 28th, 2011

One of the great things about online casinos, rather than the brick and mortar variety, is that they offer blackjack tournaments. Now, a lot of online casinos don’t offer tournaments for blackjack, but for those that do, it’s an opportunity I can’t resist.

There are two main appeals of playing blackjack in a tournament rather than the normal way. The first is that it is cheaper and almost devoid of risk. With regular blackjack, you pay for each wager and on every hand you risk some of your money. That means you can win money, but you’re also facing the possibility of the house taking it from you. With blackjack tournaments, you normally only pay an entry fee and after that, the wagers are using points that were awarded to you simply for joining.

The other great thing about blackjack tournaments is that the gameplay is different. It is more competitive, for one thing. Instead of a bunch of players competing against the dealer, with no one really caring how well the other players do, everyone is against each other. If another players is winning a lot, that puts more pressure on you as you fall behind on the leader board. The competitive nature of blackjack tournaments make them more exciting and dramatic. Also, some online casinos have head-to-head blackjack tournaments. In that type of tournament, instead of a player against a dealer, two players compete directly against each other. There is no dealer, so there’s no house edge. Both players have the same rules and can strategize accordingly. Because of the different rules, different strategy is needed, which also provides a new challenge for those who have basic strategy memorized.

I don’t play tournaments all the time because that’s not where the good money is. However, for a different type of game with less risk, playing in an occasional blackjack tournament can’t be beat.

Blackjack odds when cards are removed

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Online blackjack is a great game because of the low house edge and the fact that you need skill and strategy to be successful without needing to know too much strategy. Not all blackjack games are the same, though. As you surely know if you read this blog, there are countless blackjack variations. One type of variation is achieved by removing a certain card.

There are a number of blackjack games that involve removing cards. Some games remove the ace, some remove the tens. In fact, for every card in the deck, there is probably a blackjack variation somewhere in which that card is removed. If you are not up on your statistics (and I certainly can’t blame you), you might not know how that affects your odds, though.

As a general rule, always remember that high-value cards are good for the player. That’s why players who count cards want to increase their bets when the deck is rich in tens. The reason high cards favor the player is that aces and cards with a value of ten can be used to make a natural blackjack. While the dealer could also draw that hand, the advantage for the player is that if you draw it, the house pays you 3:2. That higher payout for a blackjack is one of the things that tilt the scale toward the player. Therefore, you should be wary of any blackjack game where high cards are removed. For example, removing aces from a deck increases the house edge by 0.59%. Considering basic strategy on the standard game reduces the edge to only 0.5%, that’s a pretty big jump.

Once you remember that, you might want to learn the rest. While high cards are good for the player, low cards are bad for the player. They lead to a lot of stiff hands, for one thing. Therefore, losing low cards is good for you. For example, removing twos from the deck increases the player’s odds by 0.4%. That 0.4% reduction in the house edge means that if you follow basic strategy, the house edge would only be 0.1%.

Here is the rest of the card-removal odds in chart form:

Card Removed Effect on House Edge
2 -0.40 (player advantage)
3 -0.43
4 -0.52
5 -0.67
6 -0.45
7 -0.30
8 -0.01
9 +0.15 (casino advantage)
10, J, Q, K +0.51
Ace +0.59

Blackjack streaks and the house edge

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

If you’ve been reading this blog, you have probably read over and over that following basic blackjack strategy can reduce the house edge to 0.5%. That is one of the lowest house edges of any casino game. However, it is still a disadvantage. Even with the edge that low, it means that you would lose 0.5% of your wagers to the casino, with you losing more money than you’re winning.

A common response to that is “well, if I’m at a disadvantage and am bound to lose money, why would I play blackjack?” That’s a good question. A disadvantage, however small, is still a disadvantage. So why would anyone gamble on a game where they have a disadvantage? There are a few reasons.

First of all, playing blackjack is fun. Just like going to a theme park, seeing a movie, or going on a vacation, having fun costs money. A trip to a casino shouldn’t be looked at as a way of making money. Instead, it should be looked at as entertainment. Like most entertainment, it usually isn’t free.

Having said that, just because you’re at a disadvantage doesn’t mean you can’t make money. Any thinking to the contrary is due to a misunderstanding of odds. Odds tell you how likely something is to happen, but that doesn’t mean that unlikely things don’t happen. They happen all the time. The odds of being struck by lightning at some point in your life are 1 in 6,250. Despite that, there are people who have been struck multiple times. That’s not “defying the odds,” because if you take the total number of people struck by lightning, the statistic still holds up.

The same goes for blackjack. The odds say that you will lose $1 out of every $200 that you wager. However, you could also wager $200 and win $50. You could also wager $200 and lose $75. The house edge doesn’t mean you will lose 0.5% of every hand, every sitting or every trip to the casino. What it means is that in the long run – and we’re talking thousands or millions of hands – the casino will win 0.5% of all money bet on the game of blackjack.

That is in the long run. Short term, it is quite common to go on a good streak and win lots of money at the blackjack table. It is those exciting streaks that make people come back to the table again and again to play. Also, anyone who counts cards, and does it well, can actually gain an advantage over the house. Keep in mind, though, that the casinos frown upon card counting. Though it isn’t illegal as long as you’re not using anything to help you count, casinos will often remove and ban a player who is caught counting cards.

Blackjack Odds: Bust Percentage

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Contrary to what many people think, the goal of blackjack isn’t to get to a hand of 21. It’s not even to get as close as possible to 21. The goal is to beat the dealer. That is certainly more likely if you have a hand of 20 or 21, but you can also win with a hand of 5, if the dealer busts.

For that reason, there is perhaps no statistic more important in blackjack than the odds of busting. If the dealer is likely to bust, you want to stand no matter what cards you have. If you are likely to bust, you usually want to stand, unless doing so gives you higher odds of being outdrawn by the dealer.

Blackjack basic strategy takes into account a lot of odds, including your likelihood of busting with a certain hand, the dealer’s odds of busting, what the dealer’s hole card is likely to be and more. As you probably assumed, the higher your card, the more likely you are to bust if you hit it (unless it’s a soft hand, in which case you can’t bust). With that in mind, look at this chart of the odds of busting when hitting a certain hand:

Hand Value % Of Busting If Hit
21 100%
20 92%
19 85%
18 77%
17 69%
16 62%
15 58%
14 56%
13 39%
12 31%
11 or Less 0%

That’s fine for telling the likelihood of you busting your own hand, but you don’t know what the dealer has. Because one of his cards is a hole card, you can’t be certain what hand he has. Basic strategy takes that into account and plays the odds of what card he has in the hole. In addition, blackjack statistics can tell you the chances of the dealer busting when hitting a certain up card:

Dealer Up Card % Of Dealer Bust
2 35.30%
3 37.56%
4 40.28%
5 42.89%
6 42.28%
7 25.99%
8 23.86%
9 23.34%
J, Q, K 21.42%
Ace 11.65%

If you’re not a mathematician, instead of checking these odds to see if they’re right, I advise simply memorizing them, or at least remembering the pattern. You’ll notice that the odds of the dealer increase from 2-5 as the up card but then the odds go down again. That is because with a card higher than a five showing, the dealer has increased odds of already having a hand of 17 or more, in which case the dealer would stand instead of drawing another card.

Blackjack Side Bets: Lucky Lucky

Monday, December 20th, 2010

There will never be a shortage of side bets for the game of blackjack. Walk into any casino for the first time and you’re bound to find a side bet that you have never seen before. Unfortunately, none of the side bets are good deals. As a general rule – and I have yet to find a blackjack side bet that doesn’t follow this rule – side bets have a higher house edge than the regular game. Therefore, it’s best to stick to the traditional game and avoid side bets. Since I’m sure you’re curious, though, here’s what you need to know about the Lucky Lucky side bet.

The Lucky Lucky side bet for blackjack is a bet based on the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card. If those three cards together make certain combinations, the player wins money. For example, if the three cards are all sevens in the same suit, the player wins 200 times their bet. If the three cards are a suited 6, 7 and 8, the payout is 100:1. Unsuited triple sevens pays out 50:1 and an unsuited 6, 7, 8 pays out 30:1.

Other winning combinations don’t pay out nearly as well. If all three cards add up to 21 but are a different suit, the payout is 15:1. If they add up to an unsuited 21, the payout is 3:1. Any cards that add up to 19 or 20 pay out 2:1 and every other combination is a losing bet.

Some of those payouts may sound good, but the odds are stacked against you. Getting a 200:1 payout would be exciting, but that only has a 0.0016% chance of happening. Even the winning combination with the best odds, a combination of 20, only has 7.5% odds of happening. Overall, the Lucky Lucky side bet has a 2.65% house edge. That’ relatively low for a blackjack side bet, but it’s considerably higher than the house edge of 0.5% for the regular game when you play using basic strategy.

Blackjack Side Bets: Royal Match

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Royal Match is a blackjack side bet that is commonly offered in casinos. It’s a rather simple side bet, but one I advise avoiding. Like all side bets, it carries a higher house advantage than the regular game.

Royal match is a side bet that concerns the first two cards of a player’s hand. They place their bets before drawing their first card and then win or lose money based on the first two cards they receive. This bet is independent of the hand because it takes place before the hand is paid out.

The player wins money if the first two cards match in suit. A regular match, such as a king of spades and a six of spades, pays out 5:2. A “royal match” is drawing two royal cards (king or queen) that have the same suit. If you draw a royal match, the casino pays out 25:1. Both of those may sounds good because of the good payouts, but the odds are still against you.

The odds for this blackjack side bet vary depending on the number of decks in play. Your odds increase with each deck, because that gives you more potential matches. If the game is played with 6 decks, as is the norm, the casino has a 6.46% house edge with the royal match side bet. With a single-deck game, this side bet has a house edge of 10.86%. Keeping in mind that blackjack basic strategy reduces the house edge of the regular game to 0.5%, those are very bad odds.

If you decide to play one of these side bets, it should be with the same state of mind as playing a progressive slot machine. In all likelihood, you will lose your money on the bet. On the slim chance that you win, though, there will be good money.

Blackjack strategy: Not a 12! Noooooo!

Monday, September 27th, 2010

There’s a reason I titled today’s blog Not a 12! Noooooo! First of all, I think it’s a catchy title that should get your attention. If you’re reading this, then it worked (Also, feel free to comment so I know you’re reading). Secondly, a lot of blackjack players freak out when they are dealt a 12 and make the wrong decision. Blackjack basic strategy says to stand against a dealer 4, 5 or 6 and hit against anything else, but a lot of players don’t want to do that.

It’s understandable why. Players are trained to take into account the high ratio of cards with a value of 10. Well, 12 plus 10 equals 22, which busts you. Players then see that they have a 12, imagine a good probability of losing if they hit and decide to stand. The truth is, if you hit a hand of 12, you will probably lose. However, if you stand you will also probably lose, and the odds are a little bit worse. A hard 12 is a bad hand and no matter what you do, the odds are against you, but basic strategy takes all of that into account.

When you have a hand of 12, your decision is based on your odds of busting versus the dealer’s odds of busting. If you hit a hard 12, there are 4 out of 13 cards that can bust you, meaning you have a 31% chance of busting on that hit. That means a 69% chance of surviving hitting the hand. That’s not so scary, is it?

When the dealer has a 4, 5 or 6, his odds of busting are 39.4%, 41.6% and 42.3%, respectively. Those percentages are taking into account the dealer’s odds for having each specific card in the hole and, after assuming the odds for each hand, the odds each hand have of busting. Those are all higher than your chance of busting, so you want to stand against those hands.

The most common mistake that the player makes is standing with a 12 against a dealer 2. The thinking is that the dealer has a 12 and therefore has a good chance of busting. However, he only has a 31% chance of busting with a 12 and likewise, only a 31% of having a 12 in the first place. He could have a hand anywhere from 4 to a soft 13. Taking all of that into account, when the dealer has a 2 as the up card, he has a 35% chance of busting. With those odds, that means you have a 65% chance of losing if you stand on a hard 12, since the dealer will hit up until a 17 or better. Compare that with your 31% chance of busting and it is better to take a hit and hope you improve your hand.

Have all of those statistics confused you? If so, it’s okay. People a lot smarter than me (and probably you) when it comes to math and statistics have tested blackjack basic strategy and determined the odds for everything. If you stick to basic strategy, you should be okay.

Blackjack tips: stay away from side bets

Monday, September 20th, 2010

On this blog I have covered a number of popular blackjack variations, including perfect pairs, double exposure and more. Many of the blackjack variations are different because of a side bet that is offered. While many people like playing these games and enjoy the extra risk and challenge of the side bets, there is something you should remember: Side bets always have a higher house edge than the regular game. By sticking to blackjack basic strategy, the regular game of blackjack has a house edge of 0.5%. The side bets in any blackjack variant are going to be considerably higher than that. Therefore, the best strategy for your bankroll is to avoid side bets and stick to the regular game. Some other blackjack experts take that a step farther and say that side bets are “sucker bets.” I’ll be nicer and say that they don’t have good odds.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at two of the more popular blackjack side bets – perfect pairs and triple sevens – as examples. Perfect Pairs is a popular blackjack variation where at any time a player can bet that their first two cards will be a pair. If they bet on a pair and get one, they can earn a payout anywhere from 5 to 1 to 30 to 1, depending on the type of pair. You can have a mixed pair, a colored pair or a perfect pair in this side bet.

While those payouts may be enticing, the odds are not on your side. While the regular blackjack game has a 0.5% house edge with basic strategy, the perfect pairs side bet has a house edge from 3.37% to 7.95% with 8 decks. If it is a 2-deck game, the side bet has a house edge up to a ridiculous 26.2%. In case you’re thinking you can gain an advantage in this side bet by counting cards, keep in mind that in order to gain an advantage you would have to at least eliminate every card of one rank. That means keeping 13 different counts. Maybe Rain Man could do that, but can you? Also, if you’re playing online blackjack, card counting doesn’t work.

Lucky Sevens is another popular side bet, where you are paid 5 to 1 if your first card is a seven, 25 to 1 if your first two cards are unsuited sevens, 50 to 1 if your first two cards are suited sevens, 250 to 1 if your first 3 cards are unsuited sevens, 1000 to 1 if your first 3 cards are suited sevens and 41,227 to 1 if your first 3 cards are all diamond sevens. That side bet can be enticing because of those rather large payouts, but just like with the lottery, keno, roulette and more, the bigger the potential payout, the less likely an event is to happen. Those bets have a low probability of coming through for you. Even the most likely bet, getting a seven on your first card, has only a 7.1% chance of happening. Those two unsuited sevens only have a .04% chance of happening. The two suited sevens? That has a 0.11% probability.

What all of this means is that the experts are right. Side bets are not wise bets. Of course, neither is playing the lottery, and millions of people do that every day. If you happen to win it will be one of the greatest decisions of your life, but it’s definitely not the wise bet because you are most likely to be throwing your money away.

Blackjack odds: How shuffle machines hurt your wallet

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

In the game of blackjack, there are a lot of things that can affect your bankroll. While the odds are the same as long as you stick to blackjack basic strategy, there are a number of things that can cause you to win or lose money faster. One such example is the shuffling machines.

Few dealers shuffle by hand today. Most use a shuffling machine, which can be a continuous shuffling machine or a non-continuous shuffling machine. In both cases, use of the machine results in you losing money faster, because it allows you to play more hands in the same period of time. Since, even with perfect strategy, the house has a slight edge, more hands means more money lost. There is also a difference between the two types of shuffling machines, though.

Continuous shuffling machines randomly shuffle the discards after every round is played. Compared to shuffling by hand, these machines allow you to play up to 20% more hands per hour, meaning you could lose 20% more money. With non-continuous automatic shufflers, an entire deck of cards is shuffled at a time once the deck is used up. Because the non-continuous machines require a stop in the action to shuffle cards, they do not allow as many hands to be played as with a continuous shuffling machine. However, it still moves the game faster than shuffling by hand. Therefore, a hand-shuffled game is the best to play, followed by a game with a non-continuous automatic shuffler. Your last choice should be a blackjack game with continuous shuffling machine.

The speed of play isn’t the only way the shuffling machines hurt your odds, though. If you are a card counter, those machines can really be a thorn in your side. For a card counter, the shuffling machine – especially the continuous shuffler – makes card counting much more difficult, because cards you counted as being used could suddenly be put back in play. Some players are able to use shuffle tracking with a continuous shuffler, though that can be combated with batch shufflers.