When to Take Insurance in Online Blackjack

Typically you would avoid insurance like the plague. I can’t emphasize that enough.

And while it is possible to make insurance work for you in a land-based game, it only works because of card counting. And since we all know that card counting isn’t possible online, it’s very difficult to make insurance profitable in online blackjack.

There is only one instance in a land-based blackjack game in which insurance is profitable: when you are dealt blackjack and the dealer has an Ace showing; he could have blackjack also or he could not, either way is net gain is still the same.

And while you could eliminate the need to card count in online blackjack and just take insurance when you have been dealt a natural blackjack, this won’t work either.

It won’t work because as soon as you are dealt a natural blackjack in online blackjack the game will tell you that you’ve won regardless of the dealer’s up card. It won’t give you a chance to take insurance. In fact, it’s probably the fastest blackjack payout you’ll ever receive.

So those of you who play blackjack online want to cash in on insurance there might be one way to. But keep in mind this isn’t nearly as sound as card counting and waiting for the deck to be high card rich and a natural blackjack. I still am an advocate of passing on insurance.

But for those who would like to try their chances at raking in on insurance in online blackjack, you could try taking insurance when you are dealt 20 and the dealer is showing an Ace. This way you stand a stronger chance of hitting either the insurance bet or betting the dealer. The net gain won’t be quite the same as if you had won with a natural blackjack. But if you are set on trying to make insurance pay in online blackjack, this might be worth a try.

But I still say to stay away from insurance and stick with basic strategy if you aren’t a card counter.

Hard 16 Meet the Dealer’s 7

This seems to be a rather tricky play for blackjack players to make.

When faced with a hard 16 against a dealer’s 7 you should be hitting it, not standing.

Okay, it’s not that it’s a tricky play, it’s that it’s a tough one to make, both in online blackjack and land-based blackjack. Tough as in your brain is telling you, ‘No, no, no! You’re going to bust! Don’t hit that 16! No!’

But let’s look at it this way for a moment, and you better tell your brain to pay attention to this. Let’s say that you have been dealt a hard 16. The dealer has a 7 showing. What play do you make? Hit or stand?

You should hit and here’s why. Using that defensive blackjack strategy in which you assume that the hole card is worth 10. Based on that assumption, then with that 7 and assumed 10 hole card the dealer would have 17. And if you had chosen to stand on your hard 16 you would have lost.

So why set yourself up to lose when you have the chance to better your hand by hitting.

Want further proof? Look at a blackjack basic strategy chart—look at the line for hard 16. Notice that you’re told to stand on 2-6 and hit 7-10 and the Ace. This is because with all hands 7 and up would beat a hard 16 that you stood on if you assumed that those up card were matched with a 10. Any hole card of 2-6 there is the chance that the dealer will hit to bust.

So in blackjack, again both online blackjack and land-based blackjack, you want to hit a hard 16 when faced with a dealer’s 7. It gives you the chance to build your hand into something stronger. And you know that the dealer is going to hit his hand whatever his hole card turns out to be.

Standing on a hard 16 against a dealer’s 7 is like giving up before you give yourself the chance. So give yourself and your hand a shot at winning. You may, you may not. But if you stand on that hard 16 you’re setting yourself up for a loss.

Double Down Smarts for Blackjack

It’s easy to win with a blackjack. All you do is receive the two cards from the dealer that total to 21; and then all you do is receive your payout. Easy.

But you only win 43.5% of your blackjack hands, both in online blackjack and land-based blackjack. This includes all hands that you hit, stand, split, double down on and your blackjacks.

But it is possible to increase the amount you win from those hands. The key lies not in hoping to be dealt more blackjacks but in double down. Do you know how many of your double down hands that you win when you do it correctly? Out of the double down hands you are presented with, you’ll win about 58% of them. But you have to be doubling down at the right time.

There are several hands that you should be doubling down on that many novice blackjack players pass up again and again. Below is a list of hands that should be doubled down on that often aren’t, along with percentage of times that those double downed blackjack hands win:

11 vs. dealer’s 10: 54%
10 vs. dealer’s 9: 54%
10 vs. dealer’s 8: 57%
9 vs. dealer’s 4: 55%
9 vs. dealer’s 3: 53%
Ace/7 vs. dealer’s 3: 54%
Ace/7 vs. dealer’s 4: 56%
Ace/7 vs. dealer’s 5: 58%
Ace/7 vs. dealer’s 6: 60%

Every single one of those hands has more than a 50% chance of winning. Which is why it’s such a shame that so many blackjack players pass them up? The reason is caution. Blackjack players will tend to play on the cautious side thinking to preserve their bankroll.

But the truth is that they could be adding to it by doubling down on hands that they tend to be more cautious with. But this is gambling. Gambling is a risk—that’s where the thrill of the game comes in. So, being true to the spirit of gambling, try doubling down on these hands several times and see what happens. You just might stop being nervous with them and be one of those lucky blackjack players that other players wish to play like.

Precarious Blackjack

Many young, and I don’t mean in literal age, I mean in terms of how long they’ve been playing blackjack, will make the mistake of walking into a casino or sitting down at their computers thinking that they can beat blackjack. I mean, this is the casino game that, with basic strategy, only gives the house a 0.05% edge. In terms of casino games, these young blackjack players translate this to meaning that this is an easy game that leans towards the player.

But this isn’t really the case. Even with that 0.05% house edge, things in a blackjack game can be pretty precarious at times. You can swing from being the favored to the underdog and back in a matter of cards. Not rounds. Cards.

Here, take a look. We’re going to say that you’re at a blackjack table or are playing blackjack online. It doesn’t matter which because this could happen to anyone in either type of game.

You have just been dealt two cards that total 9 and the dealer has a 3 showing. You don’t have much of an edge but you do have it. For now. This could all change in a card. But for now you’re the 8-7 favorite.

With this being a 9 against a 3 you double down according to basic strategy just like you’re supposed to; and you’re dealt a 7 to make your hand total a not fun stiff 16. Guess what? You’re now the underdog 5-3. Uh-oh.

It’s now the dealer’s turn to play with his 3. His hole card is a 7, giving him a total of 10. Things just got worse for you since you’re now a 10-3 underdog. You should be beginning to sweat a little now.

The dealer hits are receives a 6, giving him a hard 16 too. Things have turned around now and you’re on the right side of 8-5 odds. He hits again and busts.

Now he was supposed to bust in the first place, hence blackjack basic strategy telling you to double down.

But the point here is for you to see how fast the odds in one game can change, that blackjack is not a fixed odds game. While you can play perfect basic strategy in a game of blackjack and reduce the house edge to 0.05%, it doesn’t mean that you’re the favorite in this game. Blackjack odds will swing from good to bad so very quickly. And this is why it’s important for players to know the nuances of the game.

Why You Should Be Practicing Your Blackjack

Blackjack, both online blackjack and land-based blackjack, is a game of skill. This means that you as a player can influence the odds. You can change them. Or you can really mess them up.

Obviously the first thing you do is pick up a basic strategy chart. And while it’s fine to take along to casinos with you or to use when playing online, you can improve your game by learning the chart.

Learning basic strategy is fairly easy. You can memorize it until you can draw the entire thing without hesitation. You can practice while playing by choosing what play you’re going to make, and then checking it against the basic strategy chart to see if you chose wisely.

Not only will the quality of your game improve once you learn basic strategy, but you will be able to work some variations into your game. You’ve heard the saying ‘You have to know the rules before you can break them.’ Think of basic strategy as the rules, and once you have it all memorized, you can start tweeking your game play and your strategy.

The reason you want to wait to tweek your strategy is because you will have a better understanding of blackjack and its nuances after you have studied the basic strategy chart. You will begin to understand the why of these blackjack plays. And, trust me, there is a why, a reason, behind each play.

When you understand why a certain play is made you can begin to find reasoning to make adaptations to basic strategy. You will begin to that there are times when you should hit instead of stand. But before you make those changes you must practice and learn basic strategy.

It is when you don’t understand the reasons behind each play and begin making changes to how you play blackjack that you can hurt your own odds.

While you’re still learning stick with basic strategy. And once you know it, really know it, then you can start fine tuning your blackjack strategy. Think of it as entry-level blackjack and advanced blackjack.

Misplaying Soft Hands

Even with basic strategy on their side, there are many blackjack players that misplay soft hands. It seems so easy, I mean, the chart is right there either next to them on the table or pulled up in another window on the computer. If that’s so then how is it that soft hands keep getting misplayed?

The answer is quite simple. Laughably so really.

Blackjack players will play them as hard hands!

Yes, they will play soft hands as hard hands.

Well, if you take a look at that basic strategy chart you will see that hard hands have their own section of the chart and soft hands have their own section. There is a reason for this you know.

And that reason is the Ace. It all comes down to the Ace that makes a soft hand what it is. This is because an Ace can be played as 11 or as 1. That versatility dictates that another approach to how to play this hand is necessary. Hence, soft hands having their own section on the basic strategy chart.

They are not meant to be played like a hard hand.

For example, if you were dealt a hard 16 against a dealer’s up card of 3 you would stand. Basic strategy tells you to stand. But you would be surprised by how many blackjack players would also stand on an Ace/5. In the case of an Ace/5 against a dealer’s up card of 3, basic strategy says to hit.

I think what causes the issue is the hand total. When you are dealt a hand you immediately add up the total of both cards. You focus on the number, not what the cards actually are. And that’s how you end up seeing and playing an Ace/5 as a hard 16. It’s the 16 that you see, not the Ace.

What you can do for yourself is to slow down when you’re playing blackjack, both online and at a table. Slow down and look at what cards you actually have in your hand. Train yourself to see the cards for what they are rather than just focus on the total. In this way you can avoid some costly mistakes, even win more hands and increase your profit.

What Makes Blackjack Beatable

With most casino games the house is favored and as a player you can only really count on losing your money. The only thing to wonder about is whether you’ll lose it slowly or quickly. And you wonder if you’ll hit it big.

This is because the majority of casino games are games of chance. Blackjack is different because it’s a game of skill. It has two factors involved that allow players to come close to meeting the house edge or even overcome it.

Those two factors are choice and elimination.

First off, and most obvious, you can choose how you play. Whereas in a game like roulette you can only place a bet and hope for the best. In blackjack you can choose to hit or stand.

But that elimination factor, now that one is great.

In blackjack once a round is played the cards are discarded, removed from play. This has the potential to turn the favor in the direction of the player or the dealer.

If a lot of low cards are played and a good amount of high cards are left, the game is in the player’s favor. There is more potential for you to be dealt a strong hand if not a natural blackjack. And while it’s also true that the dealer could be dealt these hands, you will receive money for yours and he won’t. If you wager $100 and lose, you’ve only lost $100. But if you win that’s $150 coming to you.

This is why card counters will raise their bets when the deck is rich in high cards.

But it’s when the deck is rich in low cards that the problems begin. Low cards favor the blackjack dealer, the 5 especially. The 5 can be especially helpful to a dealer. If he is dealt a stiff hand, that 5 can make his hand for him. Low cards make it easier for the dealer to hit his hand up without busting.

And this is why a card counter will lower their blackjack bets when the deck is rich in low cards.

Many blackjack players miss the benefits found in cards being eliminated from the deck. This is why you want to keep an eye on the cards being played so that you will know when the advantage is with you or the dealer. Knowing this factors in to how you choose to play your hand because you will know whether or not to play defensively or offensively.

When you know if the cards are favoring you and you know how to play them, that’s when you have the chance to beat blackjack.

Blackjack Bankroll Control

Yesterday I talked about how betting systems don’t work in blackjack. All they really have is the potential to seriously hurt your bankroll.

Imagine that you’re in a blackjack game using a progressive betting system that has you doubling your wager after you lose a round. Imagine that you have lost several rounds in a roll. You have the potential of having most of your bankroll on the line, with not enough left to follow that progressive betting system if you lose this round. You can easily go from making a $10 wager to one as big as $320 after six losses in a row.

If you are playing blackjack in a land-based casino you have another option. You can learn to card count. Yes, it does take more effort and practice than a betting system does. But card counting can tell you how much to bet and when. It can also, if you’re playing according to basic strategy, even out the odds and even possibly turn the odds in your favor.

Card counting helps you keep track of what types of card have been played in a game of blackjack. In the simplest counting system, the Hi-Lo system, you count low cards (2-6) as a +1, and you count high cards (10, face cards, Aces) as a -1. In each round you count the value of the cards that are played. Those cards are discarded at the end of the round and are then out of play.

If you have a count that goes positive, as in +3 or +4, it means that a larger number of low cards have been played; you have counted more positive cards. This means that there are a larger number of high cards left in the deck waiting to be played. So the chances of being dealt a strong hand or a natural blackjack. In that instance you would raise the amount of your bet since your chances of winning are stronger.

You would reduce the amount of your wager if the count went negative, indicating that more high cards have been played.

See how card counting offers a better gauge of how to bet and when? It’s more accurate than a betting system for blackjack at any rate.

Again with those Blackjack Players

There are some people who should not be handing out advice to novice blackjack players.

It’s always good to see what other blackjack players are saying, see if what’s being said is in fact true or not. And while a good portion of what you read is just fine and accurate, there is a portion that just isn’t right.

I read this line the morning, “Since your success at the table is determined not only by your own skill but by the other players’ abilities to hit or stay when necessary in order to maximize everyone’s chances of winning.”

As I have said in the past, this is entirely not true.

Another player is not going to make or break your play. You are in control of your game. No one else at the table is. You have no idea if the card the player next you get is better for your hand than the one you actually get.

You can relate this to that idea that the blackjack player at the third base position can make or break the dealer. There is no way of knowing which card is better. And this also applies to player to player.

Remember that the basic principle of blackjack is that it is you versus the dealer. You could be playing blackjack online by yourself and the computer’s dealer or you could be playing with six other people.

It does not matter because blackjack is about what plays you choose to make with the cards that you have against what the dealer has. The other players do not have an impact on your game.

This is also why if you are playing according to basic strategy and the person sitting next to you is playing randomly, you have the better odds since you have stuck with basic strategy and he hasn’t.

You will have lowered the house edge to around 0.05% while he has most likely increased the house edge against him. As you can see your good playing has had no affect on your neighbor, and his bad playing hasn’t affected yours.

Just remember that you are in control of your blackjack destiny, not the person sitting next to you.

Blackjack and the Problem with Betting Systems

Many times you will hear blackjack players swear by a betting system. And in most cases they’re wrong.

But first a betting system is not the same thing as a betting strategy. A betting system is a method that tells you when and how to raise or lower your bet. A betting strategy is a part of your blackjack strategy, and is used to control your bankroll.

The two most common variations of a betting systems are ones in which you raise and lower your bet based on whether you won or lost the previous round. These are progressive betting systems. They will usually work like so: you lose a round so you double your bet in the next round, and you keep doubling until you win a hand.

That is the progressive betting system that is based on a losing streak. The one based on a winning streak works the same except you double your bet win every time you win a round.

The problem with both of these betting systems is that they don’t work.

In blackjack, and this also applies to blackjack online too, is that you will only win 43.5% of the time.

So you sit down at a table for a round of blackjack. You have a 43.5 % chance of winning that round. So that round ends and the next begins. You also have a 43.5% chance of winning. And you have that same chance for the next round. And the next and the next. And so on.

And because the chance of winning is the same each round it doesn’t make any sense to rely on a betting system that doesn’t factor in that 43.5% chance. These betting systems are based on the premise that a previous round will affect the next round. And that 43.5% illustrates that previous rounds don’t have any influence.

And that is why blackjack players—those who play online blackjack or land-based blackjack—should avoid betting systems.