Just How Bad are 6-5 Blackjack Games?

It’s been awhile since I’ve discussed this topic. But it’s still relevant.

The casino industry is still not pulling in the revenue like it normally is. But then the economy is down and, therefore, so is tourism. And that means less people are coming to places like Vegas and Atlantic City, and they are gambling less and spending less.

However, the downturn in the economy hasn’t impacted the online casinos too much. But then players have no travel or accommodation expenses to worry about. They can sit there in their bunny slippers and play blackjack to their hearts content.

But in Vegas, thanks to the tough economy, blackjack players are seeing more and more games that are offering a 6-5 payout. It seems Vegas is trying to hang on to as much of its money as it can.

Some blackjack players may be wondering just how bad 6-5 games are. Well, let’s take a look.

First we’ll look at some of the things that casinos do to improve their edge over a player: hitting on a soft 17 increases the house edge by 0.002%; having players play a six deck game rather than a single deck increases the house edge by 0.05%.

We know that perfect basic strategy can lower the house edge to about 0.05%.

Got a grasp on those numbers? Good.

Playing in a 6-5 blackjack game increases the house’s edge by 1.39%. Huge by comparison. That’s more than triple what basic strategy brings the house edge down to.

Now for the numbers and the money. Pretend that you’re playing at a $10 table, making $10 bets.

On average you will play 441 rounds of blackjack, just you and the dealer. Of those 441 rounds you’ll receive, on average, 20 blackjacks that you win and don’t push on. In a 6-5 game you’ll be paid $12 for blackjack rather than $15. So in a 6-5 blackjack game you will have lost $60, and that $60 could have been put towards six more rounds of blackjack rather than line the casino’s pocket.

The thing with 6-5 blackjack games is that they skim a little at a time off of players. And a little can add up fast. Let’s say that you’re at a full table of 6-5 blackjack. In 441 hands those seven players have just given the casino $420. And that’s just one table!

It’s best to avoid 6-5 blackjack games for the sake of your own money and for the sake of the odds—don’t give them extra money or that extra edge.

Hawaii Looking to Legalize Gambling?

What could be better than Vegas?

How about a Vegas with a beach?

If it sounds good then you better jump on the wagon for those that support Hawaii in their consideration to legalize online gambling. Who knows, within a year or two you may take a plane to these beautiful islands, enjoy the beach by day and play some blackjack by night.

Yes, Hawaii has now joined the list of states that are looking to change their stances on gambling. And like other states that are considering legalizing gambling, including blackjack, slots, roulette and poker, Hawaii is looking at it as a potential boos to their budget, which is coming up short by a lot.

Here are a couple of scenarios that those who are pro-gambling are putting forth to show how much money could be generated and how it can be spent for the good of Hawaii:

In one scenario Hawaii would establish a gaming commission to issue a single five year license for a casino on Oahu. Just this one casino could provide 4,000 jobs. As for generating revenue, one casino with blackjack, slots, roulette and poker could generate around $100 million for Hawaii through taxing the casino rather than Hawaiian residents.

Another scenario would allow for casinos on Hawaiian Islands, more than one. These casinos would be handing over 80% of their taxes to Native Hawaiians. This should be a scenario that perks up the ears of Native Hawaiians as it could be used for more Hawaiian homes, financing for start-up businesses and improved health coverage—something that’s on the minds of many Americans right now.

However, those who are pro-gambling are butting heads with those who feel that legalizing casinos to have blackjack, slots, roulette and poker would only overrun the islands with crime and ruin the picturesque vacation destination that Hawaii offers. They also feel that the family-friendly environment would disappear along with their heritage.

They seem to be missing the fact that Hawaiians fly to Vegas regularly enough for Vegas to be called Hawaii’s ninth island, showing that Hawaiians like to gamble. Online offerings such as online blackjack and online slots are easy enough for Hawaiians to access. And let’s not forget that gambling is in their history—this goes back to when Hawaii was a kingdom with betting on horse races.

With the need to fill in the rather large holes in the Hawaiian budget, Hawaii should give some very serious consideration to legalizing gambling. It would provide them the revenue they need without having to tax its residents (no one likes that) and generate new jobs. Creating jobs and not over taxing residents will go a ways to stimulating the Hawaiian economy—not to mention the money tourists would be putting into casinos.

More Blackjack Advice: the Good and the Bad

This morning I posted about the amusing side of bad blackjack advice. Well, we’ll call this morning’s examples more ineffectual rather than bad. Here I will give some examples of bad blackjack advice being offered and why it’s bad.

In the same article that I was reading this morning I found this advice for choosing a blackjack table: “Always look for a table where the players are having a good time, where they are making bets somewhat larger than normal, and for the most part where the players have larger stacks of chips.”

While on the surface this is amusing advice, it is actually bad advice.

First, players having fun indicates nothing. They could be having a good time because they’re all buddies. Or they could have had a lot to drink. A ‘good time’ doesn’t indicate whether it’s a good table or not.

Secondly, a table at which players are betting more means that they have recognized that there is a run of high cards—card worth 10 and Aces. You don’t want to sit down then because the run could end at any moment, returning to low cards that favor the dealer. What you want to look for is a table that is currently playing through a run of low cards, because it is likely that a high card run will follow. I have a more in-depth blog on this that you can find here.

More bad advice: being told to not take insurance but to go ahead and take even money.

These are essentially the same thing! You’re net gain is the same!

If you take even money you are being paid the same as if you had won an insurance bet. If you take $5 insurance on your $10 bet and win the insurance but lose the hand, you will be paid $10. If you have blackjack on a $10 and take even money you will be paid $10.

You know insurance is bad for your overall blackjack strategy and bankroll. Think of even money as insurance for a natural blackjack. And don’t take it.

When you are looking for blackjack tips look at what they are saying very closely. Are they talking about gambling tips in general, like money management? Is their advice contradicting itself? Or are they actually talking about blackjack itself, including examples of their tips? Does their language reveal that they actually know the game and why certain plays are made or not made?

Reading closely can save you the chance of following some bad advice that may have the opposite effect on your blackjack game. There is good blackjack advice out there.

Blackjack Advice: the Good and the Bad

It never fails to amuse me. Blackjack advice from someone who obviously doesn’t know much about the game or its nuances. And I found just such an article this morning. The lesson in this post is why you shouldn’t listen to what they are saying.

For one thing, when the tips they offer are vague and can be applied across the board of casino games, you know the person who wrote the article doesn’t know much about blackjack. So I’m going to share some ‘tips’ from the article I found this morning.

The first one has to be the funniest: “If you ignore all of the following information, you will have a very good chance of losing all of your money while at the blackjack tables.”

This is a wonderful start! Put the fear in the person seeking knowledge. When a tips article starts out this way it’s a pretty good indicator that the person behind the article doesn’t have a good base of blackjack. If you pick up a book written by a pro nowhere in it will they make such a hellfire and brimstone statement. They’ll warn you that blackjack is a game in which you can use strategy, and that strategy can improve your game and your odds, but they won’t tell you that you will lose all your money.

Another one that I found rather entertaining: “Players must be prepared to play blackjack.”

What exactly do they mean by prepared? Are we talking breaking out a full suit of armor and helmet? Are we talking about putting ourselves through some rigorous mental preparation—some meditation with a blackjack mantra?

If you want to play blackjack, if you’ve gone to the casino or online casino with the intent of playing blackjack, then you have already prepared yourself. This is a fun game that doesn’t require some extraneous amount of preparation. You set out to enjoy it and then you play.

Now it might be a good idea to have a basic strategy chart handy, but it’s not a requirement to play. It’s smart to play with it considering how it can impact the house edge. But there is no rule that bars you from blackjack if you don’t have one.

While tips from those who really aren’t familiar with blackjack can be amusing they can be harmful to your game as well. I’ll discuss a couple of those in my next post.

Why You Should Stand in Blackjack

The thing with blackjack is that it gives you a certain feeling of power. Here’s a casino game that you have some control over. YOU get to choose what play to make. YOU choose to hit. YOU choose to stand.

It’s a rather empowering feeling.

And when we find ourselves all empowered that we want to be the dominate player. We want to show that dealer that we fear no up card! Even that Ace—we’ll pass on insurance, thank you.

But the problem with being on an empowered high is that mistakes can come from it.

I guess that’s where strategy comes in. Strategy is there to rein us in, to guide us, when we become excited about blackjack and have the urge to hit every hand we have that doesn’t total to at least 17.

But let’s go back to having the ability to choose our play in blackjack. While it can make us feel empowered, it should also make you feel crafty. It’s not that you have a choice to do or not do, you can stand, hit or double. You have more than one choice, and that’s where the craftiness should come in—what play do you make to take the house’s money?

Standing is probably the least favorite play to make. It’s so passive. It feels like we aren’t doing anything. And if we don’t feel like we’re doing anything we feel like we’re making a bad play. …Unless we’re standing on a strong hand.

But standing is necessary. It’s a part of that crafty feeling in blackjack. It’s actually a pretty smart play. We are sending a message to the dealer. We are telling that blackjack dealer that we know we have a pretty good chance of busting; we also know that he does too.

But unlike him, we don’t have to hit until we bust. We can stay right where we are with our hard 16. We then sit back and watch that dealer hitting until he busts. Well, we hope he busts.

But standing is what we do when the only option we have is to hit and to hit would mean a good chance of busting. Think of standing as your safety. It is your crafty little move in your blackjack strategy arsenal that can make you feel like you’ve saved your hand and didn’t have to go on to bust.

If you can turn your thinking of standing as a weak, passive blackjack move, you will feel better when you have to stand.

Three Parts to Keeping Your Edge in Blackjack

Blackjack is one, perhaps the best, casino game to play. This is owed to the fact that, if strategy is used and used correctly, it is possible to lower the house edge to 0.05%. In some cases, again, depending on how good your strategy is and how well used, you can even out the odds, if not get an edge over the dealer.

For the rest of this post we’re going to assume that basic strategy is being used in all the blackjack scenarios mentioned. The reason we’re going to assume basic strategy is being used is because we need to look at these three parts from the perspective of a blackjack player who has lowered the house edge to 0.05%.

And I’m not going to state at the beginning of each part ‘if you were using basic strategy’ etc, etc, etc. So just remember all blackjack scenarios are using basic strategy for this post.

So while playing basic strategy is good to lower the house edge, what else do you need to keep a hold of you edge?

First, and this one is the most frustrating I think, is that you need a fair share of blackjacks. I know, easier said than done. And this is the one part that you have no control over. But you need your fair share because it is the hand that beats all others. Yes, yes, it pays the best. But you winning is what takes away pieces of the house’s edge. And winning with blackjack takes more of their edge than a non-blackjack win.

If you don’t seem to be getting a decent amount of blackjacks, switch to a new table or leave your online game and try again later. Or try playing blackjack online at another online casino.

These next two you as a player do have control over. And they can both be applied to both online blackjack and land-based blackjack.

You must know when to stand. While your brain might be telling you to hit, there are some times that you need to stand. This isn’t just about memorizing a basic strategy chart. This is about understanding why you stand. And when you and the dealer both have better shots at busting, you need to stand and let him bust. He busts equals you win.

And the third part is to take full advantage of double downs and pair splits. Double downs give you the potential of winning more money. Pair splits allow you to play more than one hand. And this is why you must take advantage of them. Those are plays that a dealer isn’t allowed to make. And if you can do something the dealer can’t—do it!

Ways to Cut Down on Your Loss per Hour

Let’s say that you have been playing blackjack with your basic strategy chart on hand. And you’re playing it perfectly. So, thanks to your perfect basic strategy you have lowered the house edge to 0.05%. Which is great, but is there any way to do away with that remaining disadvantage?

Play at a full table. Play with as full of a table as you can find.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for blackjack online. But online blackjack players can apply what I’m about to say about game speed online.

First, a full table means that each round will take longer, slowing down the speed of the game. In the average multi-hand game, a full table will play about 55 rounds. If it’s just you and the dealer you’re talking about 220 hands. That’s translates to an average $7 loss per hour versus $28.

You can apply this to online blackjack simply by slowing your own game down. Don’t fly through the round. The slower you play the more money you are saving yourself. But since it’s just you, you have to be in control of your playing speed.

Okay, so a full table will save me cause me to only lose $7 an hour instead of $28. That’s good. What else?

Make bets on other players’ hands. If they won’t double down at an advantageous point, offer to cover it. Same if they’re hesitating on splitting an advantageous pair. This will give you a possible chance to win something even if your own hand isn’t so hot. Playing on another player’s hand allows for a greater positive effect.

If, in an hour, you can get in on at least two instances of betting on another player’s hand for $30 each you can earn back about $4. So take the $7 you lost in an hour minus the $4 you got back in betting on other hands and you’re only down $3 per hour now.

Playing at a full table allows you to see more of the cards being played and to get a better sense of the deck.

If you find yourself at a table with a great many face cards and Aces, save your spot and play at another table for a bit. If the high cards are passing out of the shoe it means that low ones are on their way. Doing so can save you around another $1. That will bring you down to losing $2 an hour.

On the other hand if you see at least eight more low end cards than higher end cards you’ll want to try tripling your bet. The low cards are passing out of play and the high cards are on their way in. Tripling when the cards turn high again can give you back another $1 or $2 an hour.

All that taken into consideration means that you can lower how much you lose per hour at a full table from about $7 to only $1 per hour. Or maybe you’ll be able to make it to losing nothing per hour. But you must be playing at a full table.

You, Blackjack, and the IRS

Ah, the euphoria of winning! You’ve been having the time of your life. The blackjack tables have been most kind to you in 2009. You have money and bragging rights. And if the IRS says you’ve won too much money you might only be left with bragging rights.

Winning at blackjack only up to a certain point can go unreported. Once you’ve won too much you have to report your winnings when you file your income tax return. What’s a good indicator that you have to report it? If the casino gives you a W-2G form that’s a pretty good sign.

Casinos will give out W-2G forms on taxable winnings because they have to report such winnings to the government. So if you know they’re filing, you had better be too.

And this applies to online blackjack and regular blackjack alike.

No, winning something like $100 doesn’t need to be reported. Winning $1,000 might be another story.

Yes, reporting your winnings and having to give up some of your blackjack winnings is a downer. But it’s better than paying fees that could cost you all of what you won. Also on the upside is that you can claim your loses at the blackjack table.

Yes, you can claim your loses when gambling at a blackjack table.

It’s not as simple as saying that you played blackjack during the past year and the government has to pay you back.

One thing to keep in mind, is your standard deduction versus your blackjack losses. Say your standard deduction is $5,000 and your blackjack losses are only $3,000—stick with the standard deduction.

The other thing to keep in mind is tracking your gambling. It’s possible the IRS will want to see documentation of your blackjack playing throughout the year to prove your losses.

The easiest way to do this is to keep a blackjack journal. In such a book you will want to record the date you played and that you were playing blackjack. You will want to write down the name and address of where you played. Take down the names of anyone else you were playing with. And of course you will want to write down how much you won and how much you lost.

Also to be kept if you’re serious about deducting your blackjack losses are W-2G forms, records of bank withdrawals in which the money was for gambling and credit card statements from cards that were used for the same reason.

In other words you need to be able to prove to the IRS that you lost that much in blackjack should they choose to audit you. And, no, the cost of hotel rooms, travel and other gambling ‘expenses’ don’t fall under your gambling loss deduction.

The point to claiming losses from blackjack is that you need proof. And having your proof ahead of time will make life easier for you should an audit be coming your way.

Knowing When to Jump into a Blackjack Game

You are scouting tables at your favorite casino. Or it could be the local casino where you’re vacationing at. It doesn’t matter. The point is that you’re scouting blackjack tables looking for a good one to jump in at. But the question is do you know what you should be looking for?

I’m going to give you a table scenario to see if you’re looking at the right signs at a blackjack table.

You’re watching the first hand of a new shoe. The dealer has a 2 showing. The first player splits a pair of 4s and gets a 5 on each one; he then doubles down and winds up with 15 on each hand. The next guy doubles on an 8 but only gets a 3. The third player has a 12 and decides to stand. Finally the guy at third base splits a pair of 7s, also getting fives on both; he will also double down and wind up with two hands that equal less than 17 apiece. The dealer plays out his hand as a five card 21.

Is this a table to jump in on?

Most novice players would say no. And they would be wrong.

This is a blackjack table to jump in on.

Here’s why: the novice blackjack player saw all the players losing and things that the dealer is hot and not to be trifled with. But look at the cards! The cards are what tell the tale of the table.

Take a moment and focus on the cards that appeared on the table.

Notice that they’re all on the low-card end of the scale. This translates to high cards are on the way. Once the lows are played, that leaves the highs yet to come. And that’s why you should jump in on a table that is seeing lots of low cards going around.

Online Blackjack Benefits

Blackjack is a classic when it comes to casino and gambling games. It’s a staple. It’s just not the same to walk into a casino and find that they lack blackjack. It’s one of those games you expect them to have. Like poker.

It is such a staple that even those online casinos that have a heavy emphasis on slots will offer online blackjack.

But we’re not going to look at land-based blackjack right now. We’re going to focus on online blackjack and its benefits.

Mostly I feel kind of bad for telling how insurance can be profitable for those who can card count in land-based casinos while also saying that you really can’t make the same work online. So I’m going to give some benefits of playing blackjack online that those in land-based casinos are missing out on.

First, you can control your rate of play. It’s just you and the dealer. If you want to play slowly, take your time consulting your basic strategy chart, by all means, take all the time you like. When playing blackjack online you don’t have to risk the ire of other players by holding them up. It’s just you. Play as slow or as fast as you want.

But probably one of the best things about online blackjack is its payout percentages.

Online blackjack will generally have a higher payout percentage than land-based blackjack. This is because online casinos have a lot less in overhead expenses than a land-based casino does. Online casinos don’t have nearly as large of a staff. They don’t have a whole casino to up-keep.

As a result online casinos can payout more often when you are dealt a natural blackjack or beat the dealer. This allows for more wins on average than you would normally find in a land-based game of blackjack.

And winning more often allows for more money to be won. And that is probably the biggest benefit of playing blackjack online.