Attn: New Jersey Blackjack Fans!

Recently Pennsylvania’s State Government approved table games for their casinos and resorts. This happened mostly because of a large hole in the State’s budget that needed to be filled badly. Very badly. But not only would allowing table games, such as blackjack, to be allowed in casinos and resorts provide income for Pennsylvania through taxes, it will also be a boost for the State’s economy.

Next door neighbor New Jersey, known for its famed gambling center Atlantic City, seems to pull those interested in gambling out of Pennsylvania. Now by having table games of their own, Pennsylvania hopes to keep their citizens gambling in-state. They also hope to pull citizens of New Jersey and New York over the state line with games like blackjack and poker. Pennsylvania is hoping that residents of New Jersey and New York will see a place to play their favorite table games and not have to make the drive to Atlantic City. In other words, Pennsylvania is trying to offer convenience in hopes of boosting their income.

But with a reputation of not being one to mess with, New Jersey isn’t going into the night quietly. Queue that “Anything you can do, I can do better” song please. New Jersey is now looking at legalizing online sports betting using an account system to take wagers over the phone or internet. But it doesn’t look like this will be limited to sports betting.

New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak is working with the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association on a bill to make most forms of online gambling legal for citizens of New Jersey. That would include blackjack. Lesniak is looking to go for all of it to compete with Pennsylvania.

Get ready for some serious online gambling competition from these two in the months to come.

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part VIII

Today we’re going to talk about another aspect of being dealt a pair of Aces, and a player favorable blackjack rule that has to do with them.

We’re familiar with what happens when we split a pair of Aces. It’s almost like doubling down. We double our original bet and then we only get one more card to each of our new hands.

I think the reason for this is because casinos see us with an Ace for each hand and they think we’re already halfway to 21, why allow a player to have more than one card per hand? They think that we don’t need the ability to hit for more than one more card. We’re not doubling down here—we’re splitting! And you notice this only applies to splitting Aces of course.

It seems casinos are forever trying to find ways to lower our chances and raise their own. That Ace means we are halfway to 21. The only cards that we can hope for to give us a strong hand is an 8, 9 or 10. Casinos put blackjack players in a hard spot with this rule—only one more card when splitting Aces.

But there are some casinos who have a sense of reason, and allow blackjack players to hit for more cards after splitting their Aces like we can do with any other pair.

Casinos that have this player favorable blackjack rule in place don’t feel the need to try to put players at a disadvantage. They know that they have the edge. And while card counters who used basic strategy can overcome the house edge, they also know that most blackjack players aren’t that dedicated. They don’t feel threatened. So they allow us this rule, this ability to draw more cards after splitting Aces, and it lowers their edge by 0.14%. Another decent rule to look for in a blackjack game.

Florida Trying to Legalize Online Gambling

The last several months, Florida politicians and legislatures have been going back and forth with Governor Charlie Crist and the Seminole Tribe about allowing table games at the tribal casinos. These are of course land based casinos. And the Seminoles want to exclusively offer table games to Floridians and tourists. Obviously racinos across Florida have issues with this.

But the taxes and fees that the Seminoles would be paying would be going into the State’s funds, specifically the education budget. But with the continued stalemate has resulted in no revenue from gambling going towards the State’s financial needs.

Thankfully other options are being examined.

Florida’s Legislative Office of Program Policy and Government Analysis (OPPAGA) is coming to the rescue. They will be presenting a review they have conducted on online gaming to the Senate Regulated Industries Committee on this coming Tuesday, January 19th at 4pm—their time. They are trying to legalize online gaming—blackjack included—in the State.

With extra revenue needed to fill out the budget and the Seminoles, Crist and State Legislature still squabbling, it’s no surprise that another group has stepped up to the plate to try to find revenue. And with how popular online gaming this just might be a good source of income for Florida.

Blackjack fans, if Florida legalizes online gaming then it will provide much needed revenue. But it will also give the Seminoles a run for their money. Whereas Floridians and tourists would have to actually travel to the tribal casinos, any Floridian will be able to play from the comfort of their home. In other words it opens up the potential of generating more revenue.

But Florida isn’t the only state looking to the country’s citizens’ love of online gaming as a source of money to tap into. Recently Pennsylvania legalized table games—including blackjack—at their racinos and resorts. Kentucky is also allowing online gambling in a fashion.

But the point is that with revenue needed the States shouldn’t be too quick to turn their noses up at online gaming. This is now a popular form of entertainment and it’s best for the States to recognize it and tap into it.

Appreciate Your Pairs

It’s a shame to see novice blackjack players misplay their pairs. But then when first learning blackjack, many just focus on whether to hit or stand. It takes some time before they feel comfortable expanding their betting comfort zone with double downs and splits. But it’s the splits we’re going to look at today.

For one thing being dealt a pair is not only a chance to win on two hands; it offers an opportunity that dealers just don’t get. Players can split their pairs while dealers just have to stick it out as a hard hand.

Let’s look at one of our favorite pairs to be dealt: two Aces.

The beauty for players is that we can, and always should, split those Aces. This is where the novice player needs to take a deep breath and put out the extra money to split those Aces. The reason is that this is a strong split to makes is because you can start each new hand with an 11. You’re half way to winning. Or at least to a strong hand.

And if you’re in a land-based casino and counting cards you have a little extra advantage. You’ll know if the remaining deck is rich in high cards or not. And if it is, it is especially important to split Aces.

And if worse comes to worse and you hit too high, you can reduce the value of those Aces from 11 to 1. So in a sense each of these new hands has the potential of a second chance.

Now we’ll look at the dealer. If a dealer is dealt a pair of Aces he is stuck with a hard 12 because he can’t split pairs. And we all know what it’s like to play with a stiff hand. You are in a more advantageous position than he is.

This is why learning when to split pairs and double down is important. Those are the two plays that you can make that put you in a better place than the dealer. And because those are plays that the dealer can’t make it is those plays that contribute significantly to lowering the house edge to 0.5%.

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part VII

Yesterday I talked about late surrender and why that’s a player favorable blackjack rule. But there is another form of surrender: early surrender.

In terms of what both forms of surrender do to the house edge, this one is the better one. Early surrender can lower the housed edge by 0.6%. So blackjack players should love it if they find a game that offers this option. However, it’s not as common as it used to be in the 70’s.

Early surrender allows players to give up their hands before the dealer checks his hole card. And that is how it differs from late surrender, which allows players to surrender only after the dealer has checked his hole card.

In terms of lowering the house edge, early surrender is by far the better rule.

The reason why early surrender cuts of more of the house edge than late surrender does is because you can still get out before losing your entire bet, even if the dealer has blackjack. See, in late surrender, if the dealer checks his hole card and has a natural blackjack you lose. And you lose your entire bet.

But in early surrender, let’s say you have that stiff hand and the dealer’s up card is a 10. Assuming that the hole card is another 10—which is how we play our basic strategy—then you know that your odds at beating him aren’t all that fantastic. And that is the frustration of a stiff hand—you tend to assume that you’re going to lose your bet.

The beauty of early surrender is that you could just give up your hand and only lose half of your bet rather than all of it regardless of what the dealer’s hole card is. Even if he has a natural blackjack you still have half of your bet lost rather than all of it lost like you would have if you were in a blackjack game that was offering late surrender.

So if you can find a blackjack game that offers early surrender play there.

Keep an eye open for Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part VIII

That Third Base Chair at the Blackjack Table

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people at a blackjack table getting up in arms about how the person at third base plays their hand. They somehow always ruin the play for the rest of the table. If they hit they’re accused of taking the dealer’s bust card. If they stand then they’re accused of not taking the card that would have allowed the dealer to get a card that would make him bust.

It seems that no one thinks that third base plays blackjack right. …Unless of course other players win their hands. Then they seem to find no fault with how third base played.

In blackjack, there is no way to tell whether that card that third base has a chance of taking or passing on will help or hurt the dealer.

The truth is that we all like to blame others when things don’t go the way we want them to. We’re late for work—it’s the fault of the guy who drove too slowly in front of you. And really? It’s no one’s fault that you lost your blackjack hand. It’s just chance. So if you want to be mad, be mad at Lady Chance. Or Lady Luck if you like.

The other truth about third base in blackjack, in addition to the fact that we like to place blame, is that there is no way to tell if that card will bust the dealer or not. And there’re two reasons for that.

One, you have no idea what that card is. Let’s pretend that I’m going to bet $100 you that the next card is not going to bust the dealer. And if it didn’t you would pay me $100. Would you actually take that bet? No, I didn’t think so. When put that way you begin to realize that you have no idea what that card is and whether it would hurt the dealer or not.

Two, the dealer has this thing called a hole card. So even if you did know what the next card in the deck was, you still wouldn’t know whether it would hurt the dealer because you don’t know what his hole card is. And without knowing what his hand total is, you have no way of knowing whether the next card in the deck could bust the dealer.

The best thing that you can do in blackjack is to not blame or put pressure on whoever is sitting at third base. They don’t have the power to affect the dealer. If you lose your hand blame it on the cards you were dealt. In this way you won’t be putting negative feelings out on the top. Just remember that in blackjack third base can’t make or break the dealer.

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part VI

After a bit of a break we’re now going to return to the player favorable blackjack rules.

Have you ever been in a game and the round hasn’t played out the way you would have liked it to? You just wish that you could’ve backed out of the round somehow.

If you were playing in a game that allows for late surrender then you could have.

Late surrender allows you to quit the round after seeing the dealer’s hole card for the cost of half of your wager. Let’s say you had bet $20 and then decided to make a late surrender. You would only lose $10 rather than the whole $20.

The only time you can’t make a late surrender is if the dealer turns out to have a natural blackjack. Automatic loss then.

But late surrender can come in handy for the approximate 43% of the time that you are dealt a stiff hand. If you’re dealt a stiff hand, make your play, and then feel that you don’t have a decent shot at winning after the dealer’s hole card is revealed, you can still surrender. This comes in handy with stiff hands because you tend lose more of those hands than win. Late surrender will help to minimalize your losses in those cases.

And because of that advantage you have in being able to bow out of the round, the house edge is lowered by 0.08%. But you must play it correctly. And that means abiding by basic strategy.

A good basic strategy chart will tell you when to surrender if the option is available. Most charts will tell you that the best time to surrender is when you have a hard 15 and are facing a dealer up card of 10. The other best times to make a late surrender is when you have a hard sixteen and the dealer’s up card is a 9, 10 or an Ace.

Keep an eye open for Player Favorable Blackjack Rules–Part VII

A New Blackjack Variation: Streak

Mao Gaming has created a new blackjack variation: Streak. Like most variations, this excludes Pontoon, this new variation is based on a side bet.

The game of blackjack itself is played the same as it regularly would—there are no special rules here that change how you play. Streak comes down to its side bet. And in this one you’re betting on the how many games in a row you can win. Just win, not get blackjack. All you have to do is beat the dealer like you normally would.

At the beginning of a round of Streak Blackjack, after placing wager for that round, you can make one of four side bets: that you will win 2 times in a row, 3 times in a row, 4 times in a row or 5 times in a row. The payout for the streak bet pays out as follows:

Win 2 in a row: 3-1
Win 3 in a row: 7-1
Win 4 in a row: 17-1
Win 5 in a row: 37-1

In this variation when you have to push a hand it doesn’t count against you. And when it comes to splitting hands, if you win one split and lost the other, it will cancel itself out—think +1 and -1. If you win one split and push the other it will count as a win; and if you lose one split and push the other it will count as a loss.

Because you play to win at blackjack anyway, many players feel that this is a pretty decent variation and side bet. In Streak you’re betting on how many times you can win, which you’re trying to do anyway. But let’s look at the house edge on winning each of the streak bets:

Winning 2: 9.7%
Winning 3: 14.3%
Winning 4: 8.4%
Winning 5: 8.2%

Now other than winning three in a row, the house edges for the Streak side bet don’t seem that bad. But if you lose the side bet, that’s more money lost on top of the money lost while playing the regular blackjack portion of the game. And when you look at the house edge of 0.5% after basic strategy, which way looks like the better game to play?

As with all side bet blackjack variations, stick with a regular blackjack game.

Tribal Casinos vs. Online Casinos

It is well known that Congressman Barney Frank is at the head of trying to make online casinos and online gambling legal in the United States. He is trying to put through the U.S. Congress HR 2267, Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act.

Basically Frank is trying to make it legal for us to wager on casinos games, such as blackjack, within the U.S. It would also allow the U.S. Federal Government to regulate and tax online gambling. And if online casinos became established within the U.S., it would allow the Federal Government to tax those online casinos.

It would be more revenue for the U.S., who could use the money.

Enter the tribal casinos.

Tribal casinos are some of the most prominent land based casino organizations in the U.S. And they are, of course, against Frank and his bill to legalize online gambling and online casinos within the U.S. No, it’s not because they’re suddenly against gambling. Just online gambling.

Daniel Tucker is the recently re-elected chairman of the leading organization of tribal gaming. And he is quoted as saying that Frank and his bill are “the greatest threat to Indian gaming in 20 years.”

This could be attributed to the fact that playing in online casinos can be done in your home, without any travel. Online casinos make playing your favorite casino games, like blackjack, more convenient. And therein lies the threat that has the tribal casinos up in arms.

Tucker feels that online casinos are a threat because they “will transfer billions of dollars from Indian Reservations.”

From Indian Reservations.

You can see where their concern lies. And while I have nothing against the tribal casinos—they offer quite a nice place to play in—it seems that they aren’t liking the idea of facing their first real competition. They could face other land based casinos with their own land based casinos. But how can they compete with the convenience offered by online casinos. And rather than put their heads together and try to find a way to compete, they would rather challenge a bill that could generate some much needed revenue for the U.S.

One advantage that tribal casinos have over online casinos is that they offer a whole experience. While online casinos’ gaming software can try to replicate the lights and sounds of a casino, it’s still not the same as being in a real casino.

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part V

Yes! There are more player favorable blackjack rules for you to be on the hunt for. While the 2-1 payout is probably the best thing to look for in a blackjack game, it is not a common sight in casinos. But you can look for the other player favorable rules discussed in this series. While these other rules don’t lower the house edge as much as the 2-1 payout does, every little bit helps.

When building your blackjack strategy, it is important to know what rules of the game are good for you and which ones are good for casinos. This is a more passive portion of your strategy as opposed to learning a skill like basic strategy or card counting. The point of strategy is to work your opponent down through using their weaknesses combined with skill. Think of player favorable rules as their weaknesses and basic strategy and card counting as skills you learn.

That being said, the next blackjack player favorable rule for you to know to use in your overall strategy is doubling down on three or more cards.

We’re all used to doubling down on the two initial cards we are dealt. We also know that hand totals of 9, 10 and 11 are the best times to do this.

And while this is still the most common blackjack practice in regards to doubling down, there are some casinos now that are doing something different with their doubling down rules: they are allowing players to double down after hitting for more cards.

Let’s say that you are dealt a 2 and 3 for an initial total of 5. You would of course hit. Let’s say that you drew a 5 for a new total of 10. And the dealer’s up card is a 6.

With a hand total of 10 you would want to double down, but based on regular casino rules you won’t be able to because you had already hit for more cards. This newer rule would allow you to double down on that 10 even though it’s made up of three cards.

This blackjack rule significantly increases your chances to double down, and therefore to win more hands, which means more money. This rule also lowers the house edge by around 0.2%

Now let’s say that you have been playing perfect basic strategy in a blackjack game that allows you to double down on more than three. Perfect basic strategy can lower the house edge to 0.5%. Now subtract that 0.2%. The house edge with this rule can be lowered to 0.3%. See how it adds up?

Keep an eye open for Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part VI