Posts Tagged ‘blackjack strategy’

Blackjack Practice

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Practice makes perfect. We all know that saying. It is used to describe the necessity of practice for anything from hobbies to sports to your career. Pretty much anything you do you can do better if you put in some practice. That is true for blackjack as well.

Everyone knows that blackjack is a game where you can win some money. It has a low house edge and by employing blackjack basic strategy, you stand a pretty good chance of coming out ahead. If you don’t believe that, Google the name “Don Johnson” (not the actor). He won $15 million in a single month playing blackjack at the Tropicana Casino in Atlantic City. While his results aren’t typical, it is clear that he is a skilled player. How did he get that skilled? Practice.

Unfortunately, a lot of blackjack players learn basic strategy and then think their training is done. They know the strategy so they’re ready to wager real money and win the big bucks. We recommend that you practice regularly by playing free games, where you can focus on the strategy without caring about the results. It also allows you to practice other things, such as trying out side bets to see if they’re worth your money (hint: they are usually not).

If you play blackjack regularly, practice might not be necessary, but your average player doesn’t play every day or even every week. If you play infrequently, you need to keep your skills sharp. It doesn’t take long for basic strategy to get a little fuzzy or for you to remember something wrong. By practicing with free blackjack in between real money sessions, you can keep your skills sharp and you should do better when you do play for real money.

Blackjack Strategy: Splitting 8s

Monday, July 18th, 2011

When you are learning basic blackjack strategy, some of the decisions seem like common sense while others might have you scratching your head. The important thing to remember is that the strategy is designed to give you the maximum odds over the long run. By long run, I don’t mean 100 hands. It’s more like thousands.

Take for example a pair of eights. Basic strategy says to split that pair every time. That includes against the best dealer hands, like a face card of 10 or ace. A lot of people, even people who call themselves blackjack experts, advise against that, because you are taking a hand that isn’t good and doubling your wager, in the hopes of drawing two good hands. If the dealer already has a good hand, it might be better to cut your losses, they say.

In the short run, tucking your tail between your legs against a dealer 10 or ace might make you look good. However, in the long run, those times when you made double the money will cancel that out. It is important to note that you’re still expected to lose more often than not. If you split your eights against a dealer 10, you are probably going to lose. The same goes for if you stand or hit. In the long run, though, you will lose less money by splitting in that situation.

Some blackjack players will advise that you stand or hit against the dealer’s power hands. That is thinking short term and while those players swear it is the right move, statistics say that in the long run it is not the best move. If you don’t believe me, do your own math. If you’re not a fan of math, just remember this strategy chart.

Hit on Blackjack Hand of 18?

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

There are a lot of mistakes that new players make in the game of blackjack, but perhaps the biggest one is not taking the larger picture into consideration. Often people simplify the game by saying that you “try to get as close as you can to 21 without going over.” That is not the object of the game. The object is to beat the dealer by any means necessary. To do that, either the dealer busts or you outdraw the dealer without going over 21. If the dealer busts, you can win with a 2!

This misguided thinking is very clear when you see people misplay a soft 18. Many new players will always stand on a soft 18. After all, 18 is a pretty high number and there isn’t a great chance of improving that hand. However, since it’s a soft hand, there is no risk of busting, so depending on the dealer’s hand, you might want to hit or even double down.

With a soft 18, you will stand if the dealer shows a 2, 7 or 8 as his up card. That is because if the dealer has a 2 as the up card, he has a good chance of busting, so you might as well stand. If the dealer shows a 7 or 8, there is a good chance that you have already outdrawn the dealer, so it is best to stand and not risk lowering your hand value.

If the dealer is showing a 3, 4, 5 or 6, you want to double down. That is because there is such a high probability of the dealer having a stiff hand, which usually results in the dealer busting. Since the dealer is likely to lose no matter what your hand value is, it is good to put double the money on the wager and hope for the best.

Lastly, you should hit if the dealer shows a 9, 10 or ace. That is because even with an 18, there is a good chance that the dealer already has you beat. If you simply look at your own hand, an 18, you will think that you have a good hand and should stand. However, in this case the dealer likely has a better hand, so you want to try to improve your hand.

Blackjack Strategy for Pair of Nines

Friday, July 8th, 2011

As was discussed yesterday, new blackjack players commonly make a mistake with a hand of 18. The most common mistake is to think that you have an awesome hand and should stand no matter what. However, with a soft 18, at times you will want to either hit or double down. Another mistake people make is not splitting a pair of nines.

If you have a pair of nines, a lot of new players will simply look at that as a hard 18. That is a very good hand with which you should always stand. However, a pair of nines isn’t an ordinary hard 18, because you can gain an advantage by splitting the pair. If you have a pair of nines, blackjack basic strategy says to split the pair if the dealer shows a face card that is a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 or 9. If the dealer shows a 7, 10 or ace, you should stand.

For that to make sense, you first have to keep in mind that there are more cards with a value of 10 than any other value. Four of every 13 cards has a value of 10. If the dealer shows a two through six, that means the dealer has a good chance of having a stiff hand (12-16). A stiff hand is the worst hand in blackjack and one that is very likely to bust. Against those odds, splitting is a good idea because it doubles your bet. If the dealer has an 8 or 9, he is likely to have an 18 or 19, which would either beat you or cause a push, where neither of you win. Facing those odds, it is best to split and start two hands with a 9, which give you a good chance of drawing hands of 19.

If the dealer shows a 7 as his up card, he has a good chance of possessing a hand of 17. If that’s the case, you have already beaten the hand with an 18. For that reason, you want to stand. If the dealer shows an ace or 10, those are the two best hands in blackjack. The dealer has a good chance of having a 20 or 21. Facing those hands, even your good hand of 18 is probably not good enough. You don’t want to hit, though, because you would have a good chance of busting. Therefore, you want to stand instead of splitting because you don’t want to double your bet if you are likely to lose.

Blackjack Tip: Avoid New Strategies

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

As long as there has been gambling, there have been people trying to sell you their secret to beating the game. They say they know a new betting system that will ensure that you beat the house. Or they say they figured out a new strategy that gives you better odds and can make you unstoppable. There is one thing you need to do when confronted with those people: Stay away.

Surf the Web enough and you will find lots of websites where someone is selling a system for beating blackjack. It is a new strategy that gives you the edge and is way better than basic strategy or card counting. Of course, they won’t tell you what it is right away. You have to pay for their e-book or their print book. Sometimes they’re rather expensive. In all cases, it’s a rip-off.

Basic blackjack strategy is tested and found to be true. Mathematicians have determined that it gives you the best odds of winning. If you want to increase the odds, you can add card counting to basic strategy, but any miracle strategy that ensures you beat the house and walk away with lots of money is a scam. Let me put it this way: If the system worked, more people would be using it. Enough people would have bought that book and tried it in the casino for it to have caught on. It would be all over the news and all over gambling blogs like this one. If there was a new blackjack strategy that worked, you would know. Any strategies that people are trying to sell you are no better than snake oil and should be treated the same.

Blackjack Player Takes Casino for Nearly $6 Million

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

High-stakes games are risky. That is why they have the name “high stakes.” They are risky for the player, who has a chance of losing a great deal of money. They are also risky for the casino, who stands to lose a lot of money if the player wins. Generally speaking, there is more risk on the player because of the house edge, but sometimes they come out on top. For an Atlantic City casino, a risky business strategy recently backfired, with one blackjack player taking them for almost $6 million.

The Tropicana Casino and Resort was looking for a way to boost business. CEO Mark Giannantonio came up with the idea of offering high-stakes blackjack games and heavily promoting those games. For a while, it worked. High rollers played more blackjack at the casino and the casino made more money. And then the house’s luck ran out. In a single sitting, one skilled (and lucky) blackjack player won $5.8 million at high-stakes blackjack.

Giannantonio said it was “the single-largest winner in our history.” He also said that “if it hadn’t been for bad luck at the tables, we would have had a good month.” Giannantonio has been fired as CEO and will be replaced by Tony Rodio on June 1. No one will say whether the high-stakes strategy is what got Giannantonio fired, but it is clear that in this case, his risky strategy backfired.

I don’t advocate playing high-stakes blackjack games. With the house edge, the odds are against you coming out on top. This player, who they have wisely not named, was able to take advantage of the risky strategy, though. It may have been bad for the casino and for Giannantonio, but it was undoubtedly great for the player.

Make sure you follow doubling rules

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Though the simplest form of blackjack is pretty much the same from table to table and casino to casino, there are a lot of subtle rule variations. To make sure you are following the correct strategy, be sure you know all of the rules ahead of time. If you don’t know, ask. The dealer won’t mind explaining the table rules to you. Often times there is a card or sign that has the rules written out for you. If you are playing online blackjack, read the rules of the game before entering it.

One such rule variation that you might run into regards doubling. In most casinos, you are allowed to double down on any hand. In that case, you should follow basic strategy and double appropriately. However, some blackjack games have rules where you can only double on a nine, ten or eleven. Other blackjack tables only allow you to double on a nine or a ten. For some, you can only double on a ten. The best player odds are in a game where you can double on any card, since taking away any doubling options helps the dealer. The above doubling rules are most common in European casinos.

So what happens if you double when you’re not allowed? Do you just get scolded and told “no?” Sometimes. At some blackjack tables, the dealer will simply tell you that rule is not allowed and ask if you want to hit or stand (and obviously you would hit). At other blackjack tables, though, the penalty for disobeying the doubling rule is a lot worse: It can make you lose.

Let’s just say you have an ace-seven combination versus a dealer 3. The blackjack table only allows you to double on a ten, but you double down anyway, not knowing the rule. You then draw a three and are really excited, because you have just drawn a 21. The dealer then plays out his hand, draws an 18 and then takes your money. You just lost. But how?

You lost because your cards weren’t counted as 21. Because you violated the rule of doubling on only a ten, your ace was counted as a one. Therefore, instead of having A + 7 + 3 = 21, you ended up with A + 7 + 3 = 11. You lost 18 to 11. Not all blackjack tables will penalize you in that way for breaking the doubling rule, but it is quite common, especially in Europe.

What that means is that it is of vital importance to know the exact rules of the exact table at which you are playing. Don’t just say “Yeah, I know blackjack rules” and assume you know the rules of that table. Doing so could cost you money.

Blackjack odds: Affect of playing multiple hands

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

If you have sat at enough blackjack tables, you have probably seen players who play with more than one hand at a time. Aside from splitting pairs, your average player sticks to playing one hand, but often players will play multiple hands. This is usually an option when playing online blackjack as well. So what is the affect of playing more than one hand of blackjack?

The most obvious affect is that it causes you to play more hands within the same period of time. More hands usually means a loss of money, which is why I usually caution against playing with more than one hand. The house has a statistical advantage in blackjack, just like every other casino game. Playing more hands exposes your bankroll to the house edge even more. That means the casino will take more of your money. There are two exceptions, though.

The first exception is if you are counting cards. If you are counting cards, which is not possible online, you might want to switch to playing two hands when you know the count is in your favor. Be warned, though, that the dealer is trained to spot that behavior. A player who suddenly switches to two hands, gets dealt a lot of tens and goes on a winning streak is something that sends up a red flag in a casino and it can get their attention in a very negative way.

The other exception is if you split your bet. If you were going to bet $20 on one hand, you could instead play two hands, betting $10 on each hand. That way, you are still only betting a total of $20. Depending on your goal when playing blackjack, playing two hands in that situation can help you. Such a strategy makes your bankroll fluctuate less.

When you play with two hands, those hands are not totally independent of each other, because both are playing against the dealer’s same hand. Therefore, when the dealer has a great hand, both are like to lose and when the dealer has a bad hand, both are likely to win. However, if the dealer has an average hand, it’s quite possible that one of your hands could win and the other loose. Because of those times when you will split your bet, your bankroll is steadier when you play with two hands.

Assuming that you play 100 rounds per hour, blackjack odds say that if you bet $20 on one hand, you will lose $10 per hour. If you play two hands, betting $10 on each, you should lose $8 per hour. By lowering your losses per hour, you are actually able to play for longer with this technique.

On the other hand, if your goal is to reach a certain amount of winnings, your chances are lessened by splitting your bets among two hands. Because your bankroll is more stable, you won’t lose as much or win as much. Winning streaks that bring you to a milestone are less likely because often one hand will cancel out the other.

In the end, it all comes down to what your goal is when playing blackjack. If you want your money to last longer, splitting the same bet amount over two hands is a good strategy. If you want to play until you win a certain amount, it is better to play a single hand at a time.

Blackjack strategy: Play sober

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Today’s blog about blackjack strategy has nothing to do with statistics, X’s and O’s, or anything like that. It is about your mindset and maximizing your winning potential by not handicapping yourself. My advice for today is simple: Don’t play blackjack drunk.

To some, that seems like strange advice. After all, if you go to a casino, isn’t everyone drinking? That’s part of the fun! Many casinos will even give you free drinks while you’re on the casino floor!…Well, why do you think they do that? Playing blackjack when intoxicated is a bad idea. If you are visiting a brick and mortar casino, turn down that cocktail waitress. If you’re playing at home, don’t pour yourself a drink before logging on for some online blackjack.

The reason it’s bad to play blackjack when drinking is that alcohol affects your judgment. You don’t need me to tell you that. We have all said something we shouldn’t have said, drunk-dialed someone we had no business calling, or gone home with someone we didn’t even know thanks to alcohol-induced stupidity. Most people don’t think that such a thing applies to playing card games, though. It does.

I’m not saying that if you have a few beers, you’ll find yourself saying “I only have a 20…Hit me!” However, when drinking it can be easy to deviate from blackjack basic strategy. You might have the strategy memorized, but when drinking, you may come up with a “better” idea for what to do in that situation. That idea came to you by doing your own statistical calculations. Needless to say, mathematics is another thing that gets worse when you drink. Therefore, the calculation you made is probably wrong and bad math in blackjack costs you money.

Drinking also affects your memory, which can really hurt you if you’re counting cards. It can become easy to forget the count or come up with the wrong number. Of course, card counting doesn’t work online.

Probably the biggest mistake that drinking causes when playing blackjack – and this is the reason casinos are happy to give you drinks – is mismanagement of your bankroll. I always advocate picking an amount to play with before you begin and then sticking to that. It is wise money management. However, if you’re drinking, it is common to decide to deposit more money and try to win back the money you lost because “I just know I’m about to hit a hot streak.”

Spending too much money is a common problem when drinking and it is the number one thing that will hurt you if you combine alcohol and blackjack. For that reason and the above-mentioned reasons, I advise playing blackjack with the clearest head possible, which means no alcohol.

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.