How to Learn Basic Strategy

Basic strategy is an awesome tool for blackjack players. Playing it perfectly can lower the house edge from 2-5% to 0.5%. But you must play it perfectly for the house edge to come down.

Playing perfect basic strategy means playing every single one of your hands according to what the chart says. No deviating no matter what your brain is telling you. And while it is perfectly legal to carry a basic strategy chart with you into a casino or use one online, the quality of your blackjack games can improve if you can play without the chart.

There are a few ways that you can learn basic strategy so that you don’t have to carry a chart around.

You can practice playing at online casinos in their free play mode. Just keep playing, trying to remember what play you’re supposed to make without looking at the chart. The repetitive nature of learning this way will allow you to learn while playing. This method tends to take longer.

Another method is to sit down and study the chart. Try memorizing a line a day. It’s even recommended to make flash cards. Put the dealer’s up card versus a player’s hand on one side; on the back side write down what the correct play is. Keep running through the flash cards until you can name the correct play to make without hesitation. Every so often take a blank sheet of paper and recreate the entire basic strategy chart—see how much of the chart you have memorized. Keep recreating the chart until you have the entire thing right.

Having the basic strategy chart memorized will help speed up the game when you play. You will also know that you are making the best play possible when at the blackjack table or online.

Best Hands to Double Down On

Blackjack is usually played from a defensive position. You make your playing decisions based on what the dealer’s up card is. Think about it. When you’re looking at your basic strategy chart you are seeing what to do in the situation that the dealer is showing X card.

However, there are some instances when we blackjack players get to go on the offensive. And those times are when we are dealt a starting hand total of 9, 10 or 11.

When we have one of those three starting hand totals, usually our best move is to double down. And doubling down is an offensive stance. When you are doubling down you are telling the dealer that you have a better chance of out-drawing the dealer—that your hand is stronger than his.

Having a starting hand of 11 you have the most opportunities to double down. Basically it’s best to double down if the dealer is showing a 2 through 10. The only time you don’t is when the dealer has an Ace showing.

If you have 10, double down against a dealer’s 2 through 9. And if you have a 9, double down 3 through 6.

When you double down you only receive one more card. If that last card is a 10 you know have 19, 20 or 21—all of which are strong hands.

And because you doubled down on a hand in which you have a better chance of out drawing the dealer, you have a better chance of doubling your winnings.

If you can’t have a natural blackjack or a hard 20 or 19, an 11 would be the hand to wish for next.

Casinos Taking 6-5 Games Too Far

I’ve said it before. Any blackjack game that pays a 6-5 payout should be avoided.

Now I’m going to say it absolutely must be avoided.

Casinos are getting greedy and desperate it seems down in Vegas. Overall, the gaming revenue at Vegas casinos is declining. And like any smart business, owners and managers are looking for ways to try to boost revenue. And while I can understand this and condone the need to do something to increase a business’s revenue, I do not condone players being taken advantage of.

Several years ago the 6-5 payout blackjack game was introduced. Yes, the payout is terrible. It still is. And the same applies to the house edge. But the carrot that casinos dangled in front of us was that these 6-5 payout games were single deck games.

Now with the need for revenue, casinos are seeing how much more they can squeeze out of players. What have they done? They are now ‘offering’ 6-5 payouts on multi-deck games.

Why is this worse than a single deck 6-5 payout blackjack game?

For one thing the payout is still terrible, and you won’t make the money you could playing in a 3-2 payout game. For every $10 bet you would only win $12 instead of $15.

But the biggie is what changing the payout on a multi-deck game from 3-2 to 6-5 does to the house edge. Just by changing the payout to 6-5, the house edge just jumped by around 2%. Now, before basic strategy and card counting, most 3-2 blackjack games carry a house edge of 2% to 5%. A 6-5 blackjack game will carry a house edge ranging from 4% to 7%, making it worse than some slots games. This throws of the skill play for blackjack. Basic strategy will not be as effective here and it will take longer to play for the house edge to be lowered because you’re starting with a higher house edge.

Casinos will be watching to see if players take to these 6-5 multi-deck games. And if they see that players are still playing them, then we can expect that the 6-5 games will be sticking around, if not growing in number. Do yourself and all your fellow blackjack players a favor and avoid these games.

Know Your Winning Blackjack Hands

Remember the 10-10 that we discussed yesterday? You will have around 70% of you winnings between the 10-10 and the always loved Ace-10. So what hands make up the other 30% of your winnings? And how do you play them so that you win when dealt them?

There are five hands that will make up most of the other 30% of your winnings: 10-9, Ace-9, Ace-8, 11 and 10. And each of these hands has their own way of being played.

Ace-21

Do nothing and just take your winnings.

10-10
Just a quick recap. Even though this is a pair, this is one of those pairs that you never split when playing blackjack. Just play it out as a hard 20.

10-9
Even though this isn’t worth 20, this is still a decent hand; the dealer can only beat you if he has 20 or a natural blackjack. With this hand you will want to stand.

Ace-9
Although this is a soft hand, because of the Ace, you need to stand here, playing this hand as a hard 20. It might be tempting to reduce the Ace to 1 and hit on a hard 10, but why throw away a hand that can only be beaten by a dealer’s natural blackjack? If you hit there’s no guarantee that do better than the 20 you had. So your best bet is to stand on an Ace-9.

Ace-8
Again, like the Ace-9, you will want to play this hand as if it were a hard hand. Ignore the urge you may have to hit on what could be a hard 9. The principle here, and with the Ace-9, is not to ignore an opportunity like you have with most soft hands; what you are doing here is taking advantage of a strong hand that you most likely will not better if you choose to hit. Stand on a soft 19.

11
With hard 11 it’s best to just fork over the money to increase you original bet, and go ahead and double down, especially if the dealer is showing a 10 or less. Yes, you will only receive one more card, but you already have a good starting place. If you’re a card counter and the deck is rich in high grades, defiantly double down.

10
And you will want to double with a hard 10 as long as the dealer is showing 9 or less. Also for card counters, like with the hard 11, make sure to double down here if the remaining deck is rich in high cards.

Robin Hood Blackjack Player Takes from Rich Casinos and Gives to the Poor

How many times have we been low on money and wished that someone, somewhere would help us? No, I’m not talking about your blackjack bankroll running low; I mean in life. Most of us have been there.

For Kurt and Megan Kegler, that time for them was when their toddler daughter developed a brain tumor. Treatment costs had accumulated and they were $35,000 in debt.

Then, out of the blue, they received a phone call from a blackjack player in Vegas calling himself Robin Hood 702. He told the couple that he was going to fly them first class to Vegas, where he would win the money they needed.

And sure enough, he did. He reportedly lost hundreds of thousands the first night he played, and you can imagine how the Keglers felt. Here was their chance at getting out of debt, and he was losing. But in the end, he won the much needed $35,000. He walked over to the couple and handed them the chips. And he won their money by playing blackjack.

It’s wonderful to see blackjack used for such an end. And that is Robin Hood’s aim: by playing blackjack, he intends to “take the dark side associated with gambling and use it for good.”

Nobody knows who this man is. But the casino managers call him a whale. That would be someone who wins and loses large amounts of money and doesn’t panic over it. Robin Hood has said in interviews that he has been through his own financial hardships and rough spots in his life. And he wants to give back and help out. He’s helped a woman in Charleston and he offered to sponsor a holiday for the crew that was attacked by Somali pirates.

And he wants to help others in need.

Robin Hood as created his own website where individuals can tell their stories. He will then choose another family to win money for from the casinos. The only “requirement” is that an individual’s or family’s financial need cannot be more than $50,000.

What Hand Stands to Win After a Natural Blackjack?

Every time we sit down at a blackjack table or in front of our computers, we always hope that we will be dealt a natural. We hope for it whether we’re really aware of it or not. And most of the time this is an unfulfilled hope.

So what should we hope to be dealt if we aren’t dealt 21?

That should be an easy answer you either want an Ace-9 or a 10-10.

And would you believe that many, many blackjack players mis-play these two hands?

First, the Ace-9. Because it could be called a soft 20 (and who really calls it a soft 20? It’s a 20!), a good many blackjack players will either hit on this hand or double down. It’s the Ace that throws them. They see that Ace and think that they can play this hand as hard 10. Which is why so many players will also try to double down on it.

Never hit or double down on an Ace-9. Forget the soft part of this hand, and look at the fact that you have 20 in your hand! The only thing that can beat you is if the dealer has a natural blackjack. And if the dealer has 20 also, it’s only a push and you haven’t money.

Now the other hand: 10-10. Because this is a pair, many less-knowledgeable blackjack players will split this. And, again, they are failing to see what is in their hand. They see the opportunity to split and play with two hands. But in the long run they will lose more money by splitting.

Instead look at a 10-10 for what it is: a 20. Never ever split it.

It’s best to just leave these two blackjack hands be and play with them as they are. So incorporate into your blackjack strategy to play with Ace-9 and 10-10 as they are.

Casinos Pouting About Card Counting Players

If you follow gambling news then you’ve probably already heard of this Thomas P. Donovan and the Grand Victoria Casino. If you haven’t, let me give you a quick recap:

In 2006 the Grand Victoria threw Donovan out of their casino in Rising Sun, Indiana for card counting. He sued and lost. So he went to the Indiana Court of Appeals where he won, the appeals court saying that it wasn’t a good enough reason to kick Donovan out.

This comes down to casinos not liking card counters. Online casino operators are thankful that they don’t have to deal with this issue since you can’t count card online. But for land based casinos this, according to them, is a major thorn in their sides. Why? Because they might lose.

Oh my, oh my, a casino might lose a fraction of their money to a player.

And that, blackjack fans, is the problem. Casinos basically expect players to walk in the door and give over their money; they also expect that they shouldn’t have to pay them back…except for the occasional big win that looks good for business and will draw players.

If we wanted to give our money away without the chance of any monetary return, we could just as easily donate our money to the church. The reason this is gambling is because we are putting our money out there on the chance that we can win money back. It’s a chance. A gamble.

And casinos need to except that their business is a gamble. If you’re going to go into business where players are putting their money on the line, then they need to except that they will have to pay players who win.

While most of the games in casinos are games of chance, blackjack is a game of skill. Like with any game, players are going to try to find a strategy, try to win. This is the case with card counting. All card counting is is a strategy that blackjack players use to try to even up the odds.

Casinos start with the edge already. And they think that it’s unfair for players to use mental processes, such as remembering what cards have been played out of the decks and calculating an approximate chance that they’ll hit for a high card—card counting. They feel that it’s unfair for players to try to do something to win.

If that’s how they feel, they should be lobbying for a ban on mental processes or, if they’re that afraid of losing to players, then they should stick to slots, roulette and keno, and stop fussing about card counting blackjack players.

Super Fun 21 Isn’t That Fun for Blackjack Players

Attention blackjack players: avoid Super Fun 21, also known as just Super21.

There, now that my warning is out there, I’ll share with you why it’s in your best interest—and your bankroll’s interest—to stay away from this game. And this applies to all blackjack players, online and regular casino players.

Let’s take a look at what they’re offering.

Casinos will try to lure you in to play this blackjack variation by telling you it’s a single deck game. That should have great odds. But, wait it gets better.

Super 21 rules allow you to double down on any number of cards. Great, blackjack player odds just got better. I know you just can’t believe that. But, wait, there’s more.

Yes, more. You can surrender after doubling down if you like. I know, the odds just keep getting better and better.

Have you ever heard that phrase, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is?’

Guess what? That applies to Super Fun 21, or Super 21 if you’d rather call it that.

Traditional blackjack, online or not, pays out 3-2 for a natural blackjack. In Super Fun 21, the payout for a natural blackjack is even money. Yes, even money. There is one natural blackjack that pays more but it must be made up of diamonds. All other natural blackjacks receive even money.

This even money payout not only wipes out the advantages from this variation’s player-favorable rules, it actually increases the house edge…an 85% increase actually. That translates in a raise of 0.95% on top of their 2% to 5%.

Does sound like much fun anymore does it, blackjack players?

No, I didn’t think so. Super Fun 21, masquerading as Super 21 at times, should be avoided by all blackjack players, online and in casinos, for its even money payouts and increased house edge.

How to Play with Soft Hands–Soft 18

Similar to soft 17, soft 18 is another hand that blackjack players tend to play timidly.

It always boils down to that feeling of relief: “I have 18. I’m good. I have a shot at winning. And I don’t have to worry about busting.”

If you’re choosing to stand on soft 18, you might as well have been dealt a hard 18 if you’re going to ignore the opportunity offered to you by having been dealt that Ace.

So if that’s the way you want to play then let’s take a moment to look at hard 18. Basic strategy says to stand on hard 18. And it’s obvious logic that you do since hitting will most likely bust you.

But soft 18 is not hard 18, ergo the difference in names and ergo the need to treat them differently.

Your best chance of winning happens when the dealer’s upcard is a 2 through an 8, so it’s good strategy to stand on a soft 18 when faced with those dealer up cards. Here’s why.

Always figuring that his hole card is a 10, that would mean he would have a 12 through 18. He would have to hit on his 12 through 16 and stands a pretty decent chance of busting. And he would stand on his 17 or 18; the 17 you would beat and the 18 you would push, so at least you wouldn’t lose money there. So stand on a soft 18 against a 2 through 8—same as you would if you had a hard hand.

Here’s where your blackjack strategy is different from how you would play a hard 18.

You need to hit if you are facing a dealer 9, 10 or Ace. Factoring that assumed 10 hole card, he has 19, 20 or blackjack. And you can’t beat that if you stand on a soft 18. This is knowing your opponent and trying to find the most advantageous play.

Hitting here reduces your soft 18 to a hard 8. You can hit for a combination of low cards that can add up to at least 19, if not 20 or 21.

If it is allowed and you are a card counter and the deck is rich in high cards, you should double down if facing a dealer’s 3 through 6. That would reduce your soft 18 to a hard 8, which you can hit and still have a shot at coming in close to 21 and stay under as long as the deck is rich in high cards. Yes, it’s a gamble, but this is blackjack, not Monopoly.

Always think of what that hole card is, imagine it as a 10. Your blackjack strategy for soft hands should reflect that flexibility of the Ace you’re holding. Remember that some hands will be played the same as a hard hand and others won’t. The best fall-back is to play according to basic strategy—that chart will give you the best plays for soft hands if you can’t remember.

How to Play with Soft Hands–Soft 17

Soft hands can be tricky to play with real success. It’s all because of that Ace. Some players will look for the easy way out when they have been dealt a soft hand.

Take, for example, being dealt a 6 and an Ace. Soft 17.

Many players will play this hand as they would a hard 17. That’s because they are so focused on that 17. And in some cases that’s an acceptable thing to do. But in many cases it isn’t the most advantageous play to make. ‘Isn’t the most advantageous’ as in you are going to lose more money in the long run if you always stand on soft 17.

Let’s go back to the basic principle of blackjack strategy, and that is assuming that the dealer’s hole card is worth ten. Once you assume that you can assume what the dealer’s total is versus what your total is.

Pretend that you have been dealt a soft 17 and the dealer has an upcard of either an 8, 9, 10 or Ace. If the dealer has any one of those for an upcard, and you assume that his hole card is a ten, then you need to play a defensive strategy.

And having a soft 17 gives you the ability to play defensively. You can turn that soft 17 into a hard seven and hit, which is what basic strategy tells you to do with a hard 7. This is giving your hand another chance at winning.

You can take even more advantage of a soft 17 by doubling down. It’s best to double down when the dealer is showing a 3, 4, 5 or 6. This is because the dealer has the best chances of busting against a soft 17, making you the winner.

You can use this blackjack strategy for a soft 17 both in casinos and online casinos.