There’s some debate one which is the better way to play blackjack: at a full table or one on one against the dealer. The truth is that there are advantages to both. It just depends on what kind of blackjack player you are.
A Full Table
Playing blackjack at a full table—or at least with more players than just you—is better suited for fun play and for novices.
The reasoning behind this is that the more players there are in a game of blackjack the slower the game play is. This allows novices to have more time to think before making their plays. It also doesn’t require a great deal of focus if you’re out playing with friends.
Playing at a blackjack table with other players cuts down on the number of hands played per hour. This effects the house edge in that the fewer hands that are played per hour. The less hands that are played per hour means that there are less opportunities for the dealer to fun and for the casino to collect your money. If their chances for collecting are less it lowers the house edge.
So if you’re still learning blackjack and are still working on your basic strategy stick with fuller tables so that you are playing less hands per hour. Less hands per hour allows you to hang on to more of your bankroll. Once your strategy and game play improves you can always try going head to head with a dealer.
One on One
Going head to head, one on one with a blackjack dealer is better suited for more advanced players. The reason for this isn’t because the house rules change or anything like that.
The reason that one on one play with a dealer is better suited for sound blackjack players is because more hands are played per hour. More hands per hour actually increase the house edge because it gives the casino more chances to beat you and to take your money.
And if you’re are going to be playing, knowing that house edge is stacked even a little higher, you will want your blackjack strategy and basic strategy to be sound.
Cards are also to count when you’re only watching your hands and the dealer’s. But more caution is advised since all of the dealer’s attention is focused on you. And you certainly don’t want to get caught. This is another reason you want your blackjack play and card counting to be very sound.
Mostly the difference and preferences for a fuller blackjack table or one on one play with a dealer comes down to how comfortable you are with your own blackjack strategy and how it stacks up against the house edge. Always pick your method of play based on which set of house odds you would like: a higher house edge from more hands per hour or a lower house edge with less hand per hour.
For those of you who are always on the hunt for a betting system to use in blackjack I have one for you. And this one is by far the best—or at least the most reliable.
Yes! Card counting is the most reliable betting system that can be used in blackjack. For those players who take the time to learn and practice card counting, they are the ones in the best position to take the most advantage of their wagers.
See card counting will give a blackjack player the best idea of whether the remaining unplayed cards are rich in high cards (blackjack friendly cards) or low cards (dealer friendly cards).
Blackjack players who count cards know to raise their bets when the reaming deck is rich in high cards because they know that their chances of being dealt a strong hand, if not a natural blackjack, are on the high end.
They also know that when the remaining unplayed cards are rich in low cards that the dealer stands a better chance of winning than they do. They also know that if the remaining deck is rich in low cards, then there aren’t a lot of ten value cards or Aces left. And those Aces are an integral part of having a natural blackjack—can’t have one without them. So if the remaining deck is rich in low cards these card counting blackjack players know to lower their wagers.
When players try using a betting system like those progressive ones that so often pop up, they are at a disadvantage. Each hand in blackjack is independent of the previous one. Meaning, just because you haven’t had a blackjack yet and this is your seventh round it doesn’t mean you’re going to be dealt one. This is why betting systems are a bad idea—they are based on the idea that the next hand is dependent on the previous one.
So if you want a better gauge to your betting strategy, give card counting a try.
The double down play should be one of the favorite plays of any blackjack player. Unfortunately this particular play isn’t used as often as it should be. So we’re going to take a look at why players tend to shy away from it and why they shouldn’t.
Doubling down in blackjack is most advantageous when you have one of the following hands versus these dealer up cards:
Hard 9 versus 3-6
Hard 10 versus 2-9
Hard 11 versus 2-10
Ace/2 versus 5, 6
Ace/3 versus 5, 6
Ace/4 versus 4-6
Ace/5 versus 4-6
Ace/6 versus 3-6
Ace/7 versus 3-6
5/5 versus 2-9
The biggest downside to doubling down in blackjack is that you have to bet more. To get the most for your money with this play you need to double the amount of your original wager. And this idea makes a good number of blackjack players squeamish. I’m not sure why. This is gambling. You already have money on the line. So why be squeamish about doubling the amount of your wager.
It’s in the wording, how you think of it! Let’s say you’re playing at a $25 table. You make the $25 bet and you are dealt an 11 versus a dealer up card of 7. This is one of those hands where it’s most advantageous to double down.
But you’re hesitant because you have to put down another $25. Well guess what—you’re going to have to put that $25 down on another hand. You’re going to gamble on it anyway. So why not take that second $25 and put it towards a hand with a shot at winning? You know doubling down on an 11 versus a 7 is advantageous; you have no idea what you’re going to be dealt next.
The thing that makes blackjack players hesitant to double down is that one word ‘double.’ It’s that word that makes players squeamish. Oh no, they have to put out another wager!
But why should you not take advantage of a hand that’s got a good shot at beating the dealer?
After all if you are in the position to double down and beat the dealer on what started as a $25, you will be paid $100. If you didn’t double down and won you would only be paid $50. Which amount would you rather have?
What a blackjack player has to do is stop thinking of doubling down as having to put more money on the line, and start getting excited about the opportunity to win more of the casino’s money. Will you win on a double down every time? No. But if you do then you’ll win more. It’s a gamble. But then blackjack as a game is a gamble so stop being afraid of doubling down and do it.
Just like how there are certain pairs in blackjack that should always be unsplit, there are some pairs that should always, always be split. So we’re going to take a look at two of those pairs: the Ace/Ace and the 8/8.
First let’s peer closely at the Ace/Ace. We love Aces. We all love to be dealt them. They are the necessary card for a natural blackjack. But as far as pairs come—pairs that are split, this discussion now excludes unsplit pairs—the Ace/Ace pair is the best one to be dealt.
This is the blackjack hand that has three chances at building a good hand. Obviously you can’t play an Ace/Ace with both Aces being counted as 11’s. So you would have to play one as an 11 and one as a 1, making 12. Not an advantageous hand at all.
So naturally if you had the choice of playing a hand of 12 or splitting your Aces, you would of course split them. Now you have two hands that each start with an Ace. Splitting the Aces was that hand’s second chance.
Now you’re playing out your two new hands. But you have an advantage over other pair splits because you can reduce each Ace from 11 to 1 if you need to should you hit too much. That is your hand’s third chance.
It’s way more advantageous to split a pair of Aces in blackjack than leave them together, so split those Aces!
Now the reason for splitting a pair of 8’s is easy to see. What is the hand total of 8/8? 16. A hard 16. And that is one hand you don’t want to have. It’s one of the worst of the stiff hands because it’s very easy to hit and bust, which is why you usually have to stand on it.
But with a hand made up of two 8’s you have the option to split them and give your hand a second chance. With each hand starting with an 8 you can be pretty confident in your hitting and have a better shot of building a strong hand than if you played those 8’s as a hard 16.
Splitting these hands is about taking advantage of being dealt a pair in which your blackjack odds are better to split than play them as hard hands.
You have to give it to the Seminole Tribe. They never give up.
The Seminoles and Florida are going another round to try to find a solution to blackjack tables that both sides can agree on. And it seems that both sides are finally reaching a real potential compromise.
In this new proposal, the Seminoles would get their blackjack tables and they would be their casinos would be the only ones outside of Broward and Miami-Dade counties to have them. The Seminoles would have to pay $430 million right away and then another $150 million each year for the next five years.
But on the state side, no pari-mutuels would be allowed to have table games. If either the state legislature walked away from this deal in the next three to five years, or if pari-mutuels outside of Broward and Miami-Dade counties started up table games, then the Seminoles would be allowed to stop paying the state.
The comprise is that the Seminoles would get to keep their table games but they would not be getting long-term exclusive rights. This is good for the state since it allows for future table game expansion down the road.
But the best thing about this potential agreement is that blackjack tables will be found in Florida, and that money—from the Seminoles’ payments—would go mainly into the state’s education budget. So blackjack fans get a place to play and hopefully some improvements can be made to education of Florida’s children.
And knowing that your blackjack losses are helping kids and their schools kind of takes the sting out of losing. True, the Seminole casinos are only giving part of their profits to the state but if you lose a hand you can imagine that your money is helping to pay a teacher’s salary so that the state can have more teachers and less crowded classrooms.
The only real downside to this potential agreement is that if the legislature doesn’t walk away, and if no other pari-mutuels take up table games, this deal would only be good for five years. So if this agreement goes through we could be looking at another round of drawn out squabbling in five years.
But let’s be happy for now and enjoy our blackjack tables and hope the Seminoles and Florida reach an agreement so that the education budget gets some much needed funds.
Have you ever thrown a good thing away?
Have you ever split a pair of 10’s or 5’s?
If so, then, yes, you have thrown a good thing away.
The thing with those two pairs is that they’re worth more as a pair than split. I know, splitting pairs is one of those novel plays that you don’t get to make all that often. It’s not like hitting or standing in blackjack. Or even doubling down. Splitting can only be done when you’ve been dealt two of the same card. Not exactly the most common of starting hands.
So when we get dealt a pair we tend to get all excited and want to make that special play. But sometimes a pair played as a hard hand is more valuable than playing it with a split.
Those pairs are 10/10 and 5/5.
First off a hand made up of 10/10 is one of the strongest hands you could be dealt. It has a hard total of 20. The only hands that the dealer can have to beat you is a natural blackjack or hitting to 21; of course, a dealer’s 20 would cause a push but at least you won’t have lost you wager.
The point is that a hard 20 is a hard hand to beat. That is why it is best played unsplit.
Now that 5/5 is worth more as a hard 10 because you can double down on it. So you still get one of those fun special blackjack plays.
Granted you’re still doubling your original blackjack wager but a hard 10 is one of those hands that has a higher chance of success as a double down than other hands. If you were to split those 5’s you’d still be wagering that doubled amount, but you’d have to win with both hands to win the same amount you would with a successful double downed 10. And it’s hard to build strong hands on a 5.
So while you might get that excitable urge to split any and all pairs that come to your hands, remember that good blackjack strategy dictates that some pairs shouldn’t be split.
The majority of blackjack players play the smart way. Meaning that they play according to basic strategy. They start out with the chart and in time, either through playing many, many times or from studying it, are able to play without the chard on hard because they know what plays to make and when.
Playing blackjack—both online and off—according to basic strategy is one of the best tools in a blackjack player’s strategy arsenal. While, yes, it’s true that playing perfect basic strategy can lower the house edge to 0.5%, there is more that basic strategy gives a blackjack player.
Basic strategy will tell a blackjack player how to play any hand he could be dealt against any up card the dealer has. So a basic strategy player will always know what play to make—there is no doubt in their plays.
And what to you get when you know what you’re doing and you know that you know what you’re doing?
Confidence. You have confidence.
Having confidence in your blackjack playing is important. There will be times when you are offered insurance. And we all know what insurance really is and why we never, ever take it. But there are times when you have a strong hand and don’t want to waste it. But you know, as a basic strategy player, that you shouldn’t take insurance.
The other thing that a blackjack basic strategy player must remember is that insurance will undermine the work of basic strategy. While basic strategy lowers the house edge in blackjack, insurance will raise it. This is why it’s very important for a blackjack player to have the confidence to refuse insurance, even when they have a strong hand.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Insurance is a bad bet. It’s a side bet and all side bets should be avoided. Side bets are used by casinos—online and off—the rake in extra money. And that is why I always tell blackjack players to stay away from blackjack variations that are based on side bets.
So how exactly is insurance a side bet?
Well, blackjack players, when is it offered? It’s offered when the dealer has an Ace showing. And since an Ace is required to make a natural blackjack, and it is less likely to be dealt an Ace than a 10 card, the dealer will offer up insurance as a way to protect your bet in case he does have blackjack.
But insurance is a drain on your bankroll. Look at the numbers:
Let’s say you are playing at a $50 table. You place a bet with the minimum $100. The cards are dealt and the dealer is showing an Ace; he, of course, offers insurance.
Just to see what happens we’re going to say that you take insurance and put out the $50 to insure your bet. It turns out the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, but a 9 for his hole card. That’s a soft 20 and the dealer has to stand on it, which means that unless you have a 20 too you just lost the round. And since you lost the round you’ve lost your wager and your insurance bet.
You just lost $150 instead of only $100.
How’d you lose so much more? Simple. You took insurance. And insurance only pays if the dealer’s hole card is worth 10. And in this instance the dealer didn’t have a card worth 10 as his hole card.
There’s a misconception in novice blackjack players in which they believe that if they take insurance and lose the hand that they will still collect on their insurance bet. And that’s why it’s important to understand that insurance is not really insurance but a side bet on what the dealer’s hole card is.
But you can see how taking insurance can cost you extra, which is exactly what the casinos want from you—more money.
Upon thinking about it I’ve come to realize and appreciate some of the pros to playing blackjack online.
Firstly, I can play wherever I want. I don’t have to travel to a casino and mess with hotel reservations. Nor do I have to deal with the worst thing: packing to go and unpacking when I come home. I can site in my home office in my PJs and play to my heart’s content. Pro: Online Blackjack can be played wherever you can get internet access.
Secondly, I don’t have to worry about my speed of play. I can play as fast as I want or at a more leisurely pace. I don’t have to worry about another player slowing the game down either. Pro: The pace of the game is set by me and controlled by me.
Thirdly, and one of my favorites, the payout percentage of playing at an online casino is higher than at a land-based casino. This is because online casinos don’t have nearly the amount of overhead costs that an online casinos has. For example, online casinos don’t have dealers since a ‘dealer’ is built into the game software. With less overhead costs, online casinos can payout more in winnings. It’s not unsurprising to see an online casino with a payback percentage of 97-98%, meaning that they’re only keeping 2-3% of all money wagered; the rest is paid back to players in winnings. Pro: The payback percentage is greater meaning, I could win more.
Fourth, the bonuses and loyalty programs. Sure land-based casinos can hand out comps for free food and rooms in the casino’s hotel, but can they give me free money? Can they give me paybacks on the money I’ve lost? Nope. Online casinos will offer Welcome Bonuses ranging from $888 up to $20,000 to new players. And their loyalty programs will give players weekly deposit bonuses and paybacks on a percentage of money lost in wagers from a previous week. Pro: While land-based casinos can give me free food and maybe a room, playing blackjack at an online casino can give me free money to play with.
To me it seems that playing blackjack online not only offers convenience, but it also offers some great monetary rewards as well. And while playing in a land-based casino can give you the thrill of the casino environment, which is fine, sometimes it’s fun just to stay home in your PJs and bunny slippers and receive some bonus money.