What Favors the Dealer

There is a fear amongst some blackjack players that the dealer is more likely to hit to 21 when a 5 was showing. And while it’s true that 5s and 6s are both cards that tend to favor the dealer, but there is another one to keep an eye open for: the 2.

Starting with a 5, a dealer will hit to 21 one in nine hands. That’s an 11% chance. But if the dealer is starting with a 2 he has a one in eight chance of hitting to 21. And that is a 12.5% chance. I know, 1.5% isn’t much of a difference, but the point is to keep your mind open to the fact that there’s more than just the 5 and 6 out there.

In reality all of the low cards tend to favor the dealer in blackjack.

But you don’t want to be too worrisome about that 5 or 6 or even that 2 when you’re playing a game of blackjack. Don’t get discouraged or think the hand is lost. Look at it from this point of view: if the dealer is starting with a 5 he still has another card to turn over. His hand could go one of two ways. He could have a low hole card which means that he has a chance of hitting his relatively low hand to something stronger.

But what a blackjack player has on his side is that if the dealer’s hole card is not a low card, he is likely to wind up starting with a stiff hand. And for the dealer that is a bad thing. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing casino blackjack or blackjack online.

While a blackjack player can stand on a hard 12 through 16, the dealer can’t. The dealer has to hit until he reaches 17 or until he busts. Remember that with a 5 up the dealer only has an 11% chance of hitting to 21. That leaves an 89% chance of anything else happening. So do not worry overly much when you see that 5 or 6 or 2.

How Card Counting Works

Card counting is a skill used by blackjack players as a part of their blackjack strategy, more specifically their betting strategy. The purpose of card counting is to give the player an idea of how the cards are flowing in order to manage their betting.

Card counting allows a blackjack player to keep track of whether more low cards have passed out of play, leaving the remainder of the deck rich in high cards and vice versa. Blackjack players know that low cards favor the dealer while high cards favor them.

Knowing which type has mostly been played and what still remains is what helps a blackjack player determine when to raise and lower his wager. For example, if the remaining cards are rich in high cards, the player knows to raise his bet. When the count changes and reveals that the high cards have been played and the remaining deck is rich in low cards, he knows to lower the amount of his wager.

The most basic card counting system, Hi-Lo, assigns low cards a +1 value while high cards have an assigned value of -1.

During the course a game if a lot of low cards have been played the count will become positive. This is because for every low card played the player adds a +1. The more low cards that are played, the higher the count goes in the positive range. A positive count of +3 or higher is a good indicator that the remaining deck is rich in high cards. At this point blackjack players that are card counters will begin raising their bets.

Conversely, when more high cards have been played, adding in -1 for every high card played will bring the count lower and lower until it slips into a negative count. This means that more high cards have been played and that the remaining deck is rich in low cards. This is when blackjack players will lower their bets.

You can see how blackjack players who have practiced this skill can use it to control their betting. This is why card counting factors into the betting strategy portion of a blackjack strategy.

Card counting also influences your blackjack odds. The more money you win from the house, the more you are taking off the house edge because it puts them at a disadvantage and causes them to lose more money.

Want Free Blackjack?

Who doesn’t want something for free? I can’t think of one person that would turn his or her nose up if something was offered for free.

For those of us who like blackjack, we can have blackjack for free. No joke. Free.

Many reputable online casinos offer their software for free in two ways. All you have to do is choose which way you like more. You can down load the online casino’s software in a free download. Or you can play using their instant play mode, which is a flash version of their software that will open in its own window.

If you don’t already have one, register for a player account. These are free as well. They allow the customer support staff to better assist you. Don’t worry, an online casino doesn’t cost you a penny unless you choose to deposit your money into that player account.

Once you have your player account and have decided on whether you want to download the online casino or play in the flash version, you are all set to go.

Many reputable online casinos will offer different variations of blackjack. The two most common are your standard Blackjack and Vegas Strip Blackjack. You can play blackjack like you normally would for fun or for practice, or you can get to know a different variation of blackjack online while playing for free. And practice is always good for your blackjack strategy, and free practice is even better.

I’m sure you’ll also find other variations, you know, the kinds with those side bets. Playing online for free allows you to get a taste of these side bet variations that are designed to take more of a player’s money, although those side bets do heighten the risk and thrill feeling.

Whether you want to play for fun or for practice, or if you even want to try out a blackjack variation, you can do so for free online without having to put your actual money at risk.

Application to Help Teach Blackjack

Any novice blackjack players out there with an iPhone? You will be glad to know that recently an application was launched for the iPhone that helps teach blackjack to you on the go.

The application can also be used on an iPod or one of those new iPads. The only thing required of any of these Apple machines is that they have touch screen capabilities. For interested iPhone, iPod and iPad users the application can be found in the Apple Apps Store for $0.99.

With this new application users can be taught two different types of blackjack: Vegas Strip Blackjack and Atlantic City Blackjack, which is, for the most part, standard blackjack. The only difference in these two variations is that the dealer checks for blackjack before plays make their plays in Vegas Strip Blackjack.

In addition to having both blackjack variations to train with the application will also have blackjack strategy available—basic strategy I’m assuming since most training programs work with that blackjack strategy—as well as tables to help novice players learn the ins and outs of the game.

While working in the application, players utilize the touch screen feature of their iPhone, iPod or iPad to work within the application. Finger movements are said to resemble those used in a real game of blackjack. For example, if you were playing blackjack at a table in a casino and wished to stand, players would wave their palm over the table. In this blackjack training application, players simply slide their finger across the screen in a similar motion. They also push their chips around with their finger.

One of the good aspects of this training application is that, touch screen interface aside, it readies players for playing online. This is because players are taught in a single player versus electronic dealer rather than taught with other players around and a real dealer. This will allow those who train with application to make a smooth transition to playing blackjack online—which they are capable of doing with their Apple devices.

This makes it easy to learn how to play blackjack for those who are constantly on the go.

More on the Dealer’s Edge

I’ve had a few questions on why the dealer’s edge starts at 7.8%. This is because most blackjack games start at around 5%, and, yes, I have been one of the ones to say that.

But remember that the 7.8% is based on the game itself. It doesn’t include rules or payouts. And what is the biggest reward of winning around of blackjack? The 3-2 payout. It doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by other players in a casino, or home by yourself playing blackjack online. The feeling of winning that 3-2 payout is incredible.

And it is that payout alone that knocks the house edge down from 7.8%.

The 3-2 payout knocks 2.35% off of the house edge in itself. That brings the house edge down to 5.45%. So there you go.

The reason blackjack is said to start at 7.8% rather than 5.45% is because the 3-2 payout is crucial to lowering the housed edge to that 5.45%. But remember that there are blackjack games that carrying a 6-5 payout, and that payout doesn’t impact the house edge as well as the 3-2.

So a 6-5 game would not carry a house edge of 5.45%. A 6-5 game has worse odds for the player, which is why any smart blackjack player doesn’t play them. And thankfully you can’t really find 6-5 blackjack games online.

But where does the 7.8% come from? It comes from double busts. A double bust is when the blackjack player hits to beyond 21 and busts and the dealer also busts. The odds increase for the house then because even though the dealer lost, the house still collects your wager.

It would be fair if the player collected when the dealer busts but that doesn’t happen. The dealer keeps the money of your lost round regardless of whether they bust or not. This is another reason why playing in a 3-2 game is so important—you can recover more money in a 3-2 blackjack game than in a 6-5 game because a 3-2 pays more.

Source of Dealer’s Edge

Beginning with the base game of blackjack—this is before we apply any strategy or house rules, only the basic rules of the game—dealers start out with 7.8% edge over a player.

That is a nasty edge. So why to people play blackjack then?

They play because even before you factor in a player’s own blackjack strategy, the house rules can actually act in the player’s favor. This is done because casinos—online and standard—know that players will not play a game of skill with and edge like that to try to overcome. So some house rules are in place to help the players out.

The first cut to the dealer’s edge is the payout on blackjack. Any player who is dealt a natural blackjack receives a payout of 3-2. This hits the house for 2.35%. This is the biggest hit to the house edge and the easiest hit to the house that a player can have because you don’t have to lift a finger for it to happen. It happens just in being paid 3-2 for your blackjack.

There are two plays available to players in blackjack that the dealer can’t use: double down and pair splitting. Of the two doubling down causes a larger hit to the house’s edge: 1.6%. This is because players can make twice as much off of a round, whereas you will probably draw even with a split pair rather than lose a round on a bad hand. So pair splitting only knocks 0.4% off the house edge.

But those two only work to lower the house edge when used at their most advantageous times. The best times to double down and split pairs can be found on a basic strategy chart. If doubling down and pair splitting are done at inopportune times they can actually turn around and hurt the blackjack player. And that is another reason to play according to basic strategy—you want to be able to take full advantage of those two plays.

So just those built in concessions will lower the housed edge to 3.45%. And that’s before any player initiated blackjack strategy is applied, such as basic strategy. You can see now why blackjack is one of the most popular card games played whether online blackjack or regular blackjack is your favorite.

To Take or Not to Take Insurance

For players who are new to blackjack, the concept of what insurance really is not be entirely clear to them. And since this is a house friendly playing option, novice blackjack players need to know exactly what insurance is and what to do about it.

What I’m about to say about insurance applies to both online blackjack and casino blackjack. Insurance functions the same regardless of whether you’re playing blackjack online or in a casino. So this will make it easier if you play one type and ever want to give the other a try.

On the surface insurance appears to be a way to protect your wager from the house should the dealer have a natural blackjack. It’s only offered when the dealer has an Ace showing. This is because an Ace is required in order to have a natural blackjack. While the other card, one worth 10, is also required it is far more common in a game of blackjack than an Ace. So insurance is only offered with the dealer is showing an Ace.

What insurance is really a side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is a 10 or not. If it is a 10 then the player collects the insurance bet; if it’s not a 10 then the dealer picks up the insurance wager regardless of the outcome of the game. Insurance is solely based on that hole card, meaning that the dealer could not have a 10 and still win the round with perhaps a hard 20, and collect both of your wagers.

Insurance is not to be taken in blackjack. Because it’s a side bet whose outcome is independent of the actual game, it causes players to lose more money to the house over time than if they just suffered losing a round wager to a dealer’s natural blackjack.

Losing more than is necessary actually lowers your blackjack odds and gives that advantage to the house. So don’t take insurance if you want to improve you overall blackjack odds. And don’t forget that this applies to online blackjack as well as to casino blackjack since online blackjack offers insurance too.

Blackjack for Community College

If you love blackjack there just might be a program at community colleges that would be right up your alley.

Remember earlier this year when Pennsylvania approved their casinos to have table games like blackjack? With all those new tables and casino patrons wanting to sit down to play some blackjack, those casinos are in need of something: blackjack dealers.

Northampton Community College purchased the blackjack dealer training course from a community college in southern New Jersey. This way Northampton could offer the course to those who were interested in becoming blackjack dealers.

Imagine going to school and only studying blackjack.

The training is necessary if those who are interested in becoming dealers really want to be blackjack dealers. By the end of the course dealers in training have studied the game of blackjack, all the rules that apply to it, card and chip handling and CPR. Yes, CPR too.

But becoming a blackjack isn’t as simple as taking a course. Students will be tested with written and performance tests. Their potential employer, which is the Mount Airy casino, will also be judging them on their overall performance as students. Mount Airy wants to see what their work ethics, dedication and motivation are like. Judging their overall performance in the class also allows the casino to see how well they interact with people.

Mount Airy is looking to hire these blackjack students right away, at least those that pass their written and performance tests. But for those students who they feel don’t quite measure up, they won’t be hired right away and will be encouraged to practice more in hopes that they can hire those students at a later date.

And finally before they can be hired all blackjack students need to pass license requirements in order to be declared blackjack dealers.

It sounds like a lot but if you have that much love of the game it’s well worth the effort. When Pennsylvania was debating on whether to make blackjack tables legal or not, one of the pro points was that it would create jobs. Of the eighty seven who took the blackjack course, it is believed that they will all pass and that Mount Airy is interested in hiring them…or at least those who need no further training. It’s good to see the actual jobs being created and to see the community benefiting from legalizing blackjack tables.

Hey, Florida, those of you who are opposed to the Seminole blackjack tables, take note—that community in Pennsylvania is benefiting from blackjack through job creation. The same could happen for Florida.

A Pair of 4s Can be Tricky

Basic strategy makes the actual playing of blackjack pretty easy. And for the most part it’s all you need to increase your odds in blackjack.

But every now and then you will hear tell of things that aren’t on that chart but that can be good for you—such as insuring a 20 against a dealer’s Ace. That certainly isn’t on the chart! But it can be advantageous. And that’s what blackjack strategy is all about.

Another instance is a pair of 4s. This one actually depends on the house rules of the blackjack game you’re playing though.

If you check a basic strategy chart you will see that it’s best for you to hit a pair of 4s rather than split them. This applies when faced with all dealer up cards except when one of the house rules says that players can double down after splitting a pair.

If that rule is in effect then that changes how you play a pair of 4s against a dealer’s 5 or 6.

If you are faced with a dealer’s 5 or 6 and the house allows you to double down after splitting, then this is the time you want to split that pair of 4s.

The reason is that if you are dealt a 5, 6 or 7 you are in a very good position to double down. Those three cards would give you a hand total of 9, 10 or 11—all of which are good to double down on. They are offensive hands now.

Looking at a basic strategy chart will show you that against a dealer’s 5, 6 of 7 are good to double down against with a hard 9, 10 or 11. This is why, if the house allows you to double down after splitting, you want to split those 4s.

Sometimes in blackjack, while basic strategy is a good base for your blackjack strategy, sometimes so research will reveal a trick that will increase your odds a little more.

Why I like Basic Strategy and You Should Too

While we can all appreciate something that takes some effort to earn, there are times when it’s nice to get something with some ease. Basic strategy does that in blackjack.

It gives you some very advantageous blackjack strategy without putting a lot of extra effort in it. Card counting, now that requires hours of practice. Basic strategy is so much simpler than that.

With basic strategy all you have to do is print out a little chart and bring it with you to the casino of your choice. They’re perfectly legal to use in a casino.

And it’s even easier to use if you play blackjack in an online casino. All you do there is pull up the chart in another window to reference while you play.

But actually using basic strategy while playing is the easiest strategy to implement. All a blackjack player needs to do is find is hand on in the left hand column and cross check it with the column the card the dealer is showing. The play that shows where the two lines intersect is the best play to make.

The thing that makes basic strategy so easy to use is that all the work was done back in the 1950s by the Four Horsemen. Four men spent a year and a half calculating all the probabilities and statistics for every single hand versus every single dealer’s up card. Their results were then put into the chart form that we use today.

The work for this blackjack strategy has already been done. All a blackjack player needs to do is play every hand according to what it says. Doing so will result in the house edge being lowered to 0.5% over time. And that means more winning for you.

Blackjack has it best in terms of strategy. We get the easiest and most accurate strategy available among casino games. We can use the chart, sit back, enjoy the game and collect our winnings.