Early Surrender vs. Late Surrender

I love blackjack. It has the thrill that gambling offers yet it’s a game of skill. There are only two games of skill to be found among casino games: blackjack and poker. And between the two, blackjack is the better one.

Some would say that poker is better because you have an out in poker: folding.

But blackjack has a lesser known yet better option: surrender.

In poker, folding means giving up your entire wager. In blackjack, surrender means that you are only losing half of your wager rather than all of it. And that alone already gives blackjack a leg up on poker.

But surrender isn’t limited to one form; there are, in fact, two forms: early surrender and late surrender.

Late surrender is the more widely found form. It allows a player to exit the round, but only after the dealer has checked for blackjack. So regardless of whatever the dealer has, as long as it isn’t a natural blackjack, the player can give up half of their wager and leave the round, which is preferable to losing the entire wager.

Late surrender can actually impact the house edge. Played properly, which means according to basic strategy, it can knock 0.08% off of the house edge.

Early surrender is the other form. This one is the more advantageous one, which is why it’s less commonly found in casinos. In early surrender a blackjack player can surrender their hand before the dealer checks to see if he has a natural blackjack. And even if he does have a natural blackjack, the player can still exit the round, unlike late surrender.

Because early surrender allows players out even if the dealer has a natural blackjack it the more advantageous of the two forms of surrender. It also impacts the house edge harder: 0.6% is taken off of the house edge. And that is why early surrender is found less often.

But these house edge impacts are only effective when surrender is done at the most advantageous times. Those times can be found on a basic strategy chart. But just to recount them they are you have a hard 16 versus a dealer’s 9, 10 or Ace, and a hard 15 against a dealer’s 10.

Cheeseburgers and Legalizing Online Gambling

John Stossel is a business anchor for Fox News, and when it comes to the concept of legalizing gambling, he’s a savvy and straight forward guy.

In a recent interview with Bill O’Reilly on The O’Reilly Factor, Stossel brings up several good points as to why the government should legalize gambling and leave “consenting adults alone.”

The government’s main problem with legalizing online gambling is that it’s a public safety hazard. Mainly one person could go out, be irresponsible and lose all his money and wipe out his family. Ergo, the government says that gambling is a danger to others.

But then Stossel points out that adults can go out, get drunk and crash their car. That would wipe out a family too, in addition to potentially wiping out the lives of others. Yet, as long as you are 21, you’re legal to drink alcohol.

To counter that, it was pointed out to Stossel that the government understood that and enacted prohibition. Stossel then asks us to consider how prohibition turned out. Americans still wanted to drink and they found ways of doing so. Just like how right now Americans want to gamble in online casinos from the comfort of their homes, and they are finding ways to do so.

The problem with this is that the money being made off of Americans gambling isn’t going back into America. It’s going to other companies overseas. We are, in essence, funding other countries.

O’Reilly then brings up the point that if it’s bad for you then it should be banned. Stossel counters that by saying that everything would be banned for public safety because some many things that we like could have a bad impact on us. Like cheeseburgers. Overindulge in those and you could give yourself a heart attack, die and hurt your family. Because you died from a long-term cheeseburger overdose.

Stossel sums himself up by implying that the government can’t mother us all, and to “leave consenting adults alone.’

I like this guy’s point of view. There are a good many things that we do that are harmful to us that are legal, such as cigarettes and liquor. Granted those have age limits on them, but if you’re at least 18 and 21 respectively then you’re legal to use them.

Stossel has another good point about legalizing online gambling. The tax revenue is going overseas rather than funding our own country. And if Americans are going to find a way to play games like blackjack, slots, roulette and poker then go ahead and legalize it and bring the revenue into our own country.

Besides Americans will find a way to gamble online if they really want to.

Blackjack vs. Dealer’s Ace

There will come a time when you will be dealt a natural blackjack. You will be elated as you will always be when one is dealt to you. But then the dealer’s up card is dealt and it’s an Ace. Bummer.

At this point the dealer will offer you even money rather than insurance. On the surface this sounds like it’s different than insurance, I mean it is a different question right?

The truth is that there is no difference between even money and insurance. Even money is the special name that casinos give insurance for natural blackjacks in hopes that you will feel all the more threatened by the dealer’s Ace and, therefore, feel more inclined to accept even money. But you don’t want to take even money because it’s a fancy way of insuring your blackjack.

First a quick reminder of what insurance is. It’s offered when the dealer has an Ace up. An insurance bet cost half the amount of your wager; so a $10 wager would have $5 insurance. Insurance pays 2-1. But all insurance really is is a side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is a 10 or not.

If the dealer does have a 10, you will lose the round but collect on your insurance bet, which in the above example would mean you would be paid $10.

Now let’s look at even money. Even money is a 1-1 payout. Let’s again say that you wagered $10 and were dealt a natural blackjack against a dealer’s Ace. If you were to take even money you would only get $10. You will have thrown away your 3-2 payout.

Even money is like chickening out. And the casino is hoping that you will because it means that they really aren’t paying you anything considering your wager was the same as what you’re getting paid. Yes, even money does guarantee you a payout but your blackjack is worth more.

Just because the dealer is showing an Ace doesn’t mean that he has blackjack.

But what happens if he does? You will have to push and you would have your wager returned to you—which is the same as an even money payout.

So the best thing for you to do, and add this to your blackjack strategy, is to decline even money. This way if he doesn’t have blackjack you beat the dealer and get the 3-2 payout. And even if the dealer does have a natural blackjack, the money you would wind up with at the end of that round is the same amount as an even money payout.

This way you still have a shot at the 3-2 payout with the push/even money amount as a backup. This way you aren’t throwing away the chance at some winnings.

Rushmore-No More Blackjack Tournaments

A good many online blackjack players like Rushmore Casino. Not only are they a reputable online casino with a high payout percentage (it’s 98.1% by the way), they like online blackjack players.

Rushmore offers blackjack players their own special bonus. But they also offer players some great online blackjack tournaments. Or they used to anyway.

Not only is Rushmore losing their blackjack tournaments, but its sister online casinos, Cherry Red Casino, Slots Oasis Casino and Pure Vegas Casino, will also be losing their blackjack tournaments as well. But of these four online casinos, Rushmore is the biggest and the most well-known for offering a superior gaming experience.

This actually doesn’t have to do with a decision made by Rushmore. This decision is actually thanks to Real Time Gaming and 21 Gnet. Rushmore is powered by a Real Time Gaming Platform, which is who creates and manufactures Rushmore’s games. But the blackjack tournament system is powered by 21 Gnet. But as of April 8th, Real Time and 21 Gnet quit working together.

This is a loss for blackjack players. There are a good many online casinos out there that are aimed at slots players, but not nearly as many aimed at blackjack. Online casinos like Rushmore were a major coup for online blackjack players because we had a place to play that had us in mind.

Such online casinos made a sure we had bonuses and tournaments. Now with the blackjack tournaments being nixed from Rushmore, blackjack players will have to find regular online casinos to play in. Such a loss to Rushmore.

Face Up Blackjack Variation

As we are all well aware, I’m not a big fan of blackjack variations. They usually have a rule or two that is to the player’s disadvantage. But I’ve found one that is worse than the rest: Face Up Blackjack, also known as Double Exposure Blackjack.

Under either name this variation can be found in brick-and-mortar casinos and in online casinos.

In Face Up Blackjack, both of the dealer’s cards are dealt face up. You would think that this makes the game so much easier, regardless of whether you’re playing in a casino or online. But you would be a tad wrong.

For one thing you would have to re think your whole basic strategy. Basic strategy is built around seeing only one of the dealer’s cards, not both. How you play against one card, such as a six would vary if faced with a two hand total. On the upside if you have a hard hand you know what you’re up against and don’t have to wonder whether to hit or stand. If you have a hard 16 and the dealer has a hard 17, you know you have to hit or you will definitely lose.

But the loss of a key piece of blackjack strategy isn’t enough for this game.

If the dealer’s hand is higher in point value, you have to hit until you win or until you bust. There’s no way out of that one. So you can add to the reasons not to play this game you lose some player control, a big reason why many people play blackjack.

As for doubling and splitting you are limited to doubling on hard 9, 10 and 11. That’s it. That eats away at the power double downs have in lowering the housed edge. Although splitting is pretty basic. You can split any pair and keep hitting, except with Aces. With Aces you can only have one more card.

Also against blackjack players is that the dealer can hit a soft 17. And we know that actually increases the house edge by 0.2%. This is because it gives the dealer a chance to rebuild their hands and possible winding up with a hand total that’s better than 17. Hitting on a soft 17 let’s a dealer win more than if he would have to stand on the soft 17.

But then to top it all off a natural blackjack only pays even money. Forget how bad a 6-5 payout is. An even money payout is worse than a 6-5.

With all the rules about this game—the loss of basic strategy and player control, the limits on doubling down, the hitting on a soft 17 and the even money—this is, in my eyes, one of the worst blackjack variations that I have seen. Any shrewd blackjack player should avoid this variation if they see it. Even with the better payout percentage offered by online blackjack, this game is still to be avoided.

Double Down House Rules

In most cases the house rules on blackjack will only allow players to double down on two starting hands: a hard 10 and a hard 11. But if you look at a basic strategy chart you’ll see that there are more recommended times to double then only when you have a hard 10 or hard 11.

Limiting when a player can double down in blackjack is the casinos’ way of trying to take away some of the effectiveness of an advantageous play. Doubling down at the most opportune times will hit the house’s edge for 1.6%. This is why doubling down is the most advantageous play in a blackjack player’s arsenal. By limiting when this play can be made, casinos are taking away from its effectiveness.

In other words, casinos don’t like that players can hit their house edge that hard and improve their odds, so they will do what they can to turn the tables.

This even applies to online blackjack. Online blackjack games are already programmed so that players don’t have the opportunity to double down on every hand. This is good for the online casinos because it keeps players from making extra on every hand they win. But it’s also good for players because it limits the losses that could happen from players who would become double down happy.

However some online blackjack games are just as limited as a brick-and-mortar casino in that they only allow double downs on hard 10s and hard 11s.

Going back to brick-and-mortar casinos, some will allow players to double down with more hands than just a hard 10 or hard 11. Take a look at your basic strategy chart again. You will see there are a good number of soft hands that are advantageous to double down on too.

By playing at table that allows players to double down on any hand, blackjack players can take advantage of those soft hand double downs too. The best soft hands to double down on are any in which you’re facing a dealer’s 6. Unless you have a soft 20, and in that case your best play is to stand—don’t throw a good hand away.

Always be on the lookout for a blackjack table that lets you double down on any two cards. And if you’re playing blackjack online and find a game that will only let your double down on a hard 10 or hard 11 find another online blackjack game to play.

Word on the Dealer Hitting Soft 17

In most blackjack games the dealer stands on all 17’s. Doesn’t matter if it’s a hard 17 or a soft 17. However, there are some casinos whose house rules allow one or two or most of their dealer’s to hit a soft 17.

For players this is a good thing and a bad thing.

On the surface, a dealer having to hit a soft 17 looks pretty good. Just the total of 17 sounds high enough to bust. But you have to remember that Ace. The dealer, just like any blackjack player, can reduce that 11 to a 1.

Luckily for blackjack players a dealer will still most likely bust a soft 17. Reducing the Ace to 1 does help them to save their hand, but they are still sitting high enough that they still have a good shot of busting. For example, a soft 17 is made up of an Ace/6. The dealer hits and receives an 8. They have to reduce that Ace, so their new hand total is a hard 15. The dealer has to hit again that is a 7 or higher will bust him. Overall the dealer has more of a shot of busting with a soft 17 than when he has to stand.

You can see how the chances of busting are higher.

However, because the Ace can be reduced, the dealer still has a shot of not busting. When the dealer doesn’t bust he has a greater chance of having a final hand total that is more than 17. Because of this the house edge goes up in favor of the house to the tune of 0.2%. And that’s a pretty good chunk.

Because the house edge of a game that allows the dealer to hit on a soft 17 is 0.2% higher than a normal blackjack game, players tend to avoid these games.

For a Good Blackjack Experience Do Not…

While anyone could learn the game of blackjack, it doesn’t mean that they’re good to go at the tables. The rules are easy enough to learn—add up your card total, hit to raise your total, stand to keep what you’ve been dealt. But there are some other aspects of blackjack that novice players—and even some who have been playing for years—need to be aware of and follow.

I’m talking about blackjack etiquette.

While these aren’t actual rules of the game, they are certain behaviors that are applied when sitting down at the blackjack table. Think of them as unofficial rules.

For starters, if you are playing in a face up game, meaning the cards are dealt face up on the table, do not touch them. A face up game generally happens for games with four or more decks. There are two reasons for this. First, the dealer can better manage the cards by calling out hand totals and moving the game along. The other reason is security. By not allowing players to touch the cards it prevents cards from being marked or tampered with, and from card switching.

On the other hand, if you’re playing blackjack at a table with only one or two decks players are allowed to touch the cards. But you may only touch them with one hand. Two hands aren’t allowed for the same reasons that players can’t touch their cards in a face up game—to prevent marking and switching.

To also go along with using only one hand to handle your cards in a face down game, always keep your cards on the table. Never remove them from the table or hold them in your lap. This is also to prevent cheating and for security—your cards must stay in view of the dealer and the security cameras.

Regardless of which type of blackjack game you’re playing you must always use hand signals to let the dealer know what play you want to make. In a face up game to hit you tap the table, and to stand you wave your hands over your cards in a ‘no, thank you’ gesture. In a face down game to hit you scrape your cards on the table towards yourself, and to stand you slide them face down under your chips. Do not say ‘hit’ or ‘stand.’ The security cameras can’t record what was said, so hand signals are a must in case there is a dispute.

Following blackjack etiquette will help to have a more enjoyable game. You won’t irritate the other players by not following etiquette. And you will not have to suffer through the dealer explaining how to play as if you were completely new to the game.

New Blackjack Strategy or System?

I wrote a post about a new blackjack strategy released by a Dr. Kevin Whitburn. In this post I made it known that I wasn’t impressed with his strategy, stating that it sounded too-good-to-be-true and that he’s trying to make a buck on blackjack players who are looking for a system.

Apparently Dr. Whitburn read this post and wasn’t pleased that I wasn’t pleased with his strategy. I was invited to his site. So I went and looked deeper as I was invited to do. And I still stand by my initial response to his strategy.

I will give credit to Dr. Whitburn’s thirty plus years as a scientist and his devotion to blackjack. In that he believes that blackjack is unlike other casino games we are in agreement.

But I still find some suspect in his explanations. For one in an excerpt he provides on his site he explains that a strategy must be proven for it to attain wide-spread use. He then continues in the same paragraph (this can be found on page 5 of the excerpt) that MOST doesn’t need to be proven through trial in casinos. MOST is proved in the math…which he provides along with his own charts based on his own testing of his own strategy. Think about that one for a bit.

His MOST strategy, while using basic strategy, also employs Exit Range Strategy (ERS). ERS is used to exit the game based on wins or losses compared to tactical ranges.

His own testing contains a replay of the card stream. Meaning he played blackjack with the cards without using ERS, and then playing again with the cards in the exact same playing order with ERS. Dr. Whitburn feels that this is better than field testing because the randomness of the cards has been removed.

What is made clear—although clear can only be determined by the reader and their ability to comprehend the mathematical, statistical and scientific terms used in the writing—is that this is a system.

This system is to be memorized by the player without deviation. A strategy is built of components to cover a range of playing, including defensive and offensive playing. A system is fixed in place in its use. And we have already had our discussions about blackjack betting strategies versus blackjack betting systems.

For any blackjack players who are considering this system have a professor handy to decipher it. And understand this has not been field tested as Dr. Whitburn had made clear.

Dr. Whitburn is a credit to his discipline in science and his academic background; I’m sure he’s a on the higher end of capable blackjack players like any of our good old fashioned basic strategy using and card counting players. But I’m hesitant to go along with something that isn’t field tested—proof must be offered outside of a lab. And that should be applied to anything new, be it a blackjack system or a clinical drug.

Identifying a Good Blackjack Table

A shrewd blackjack player does not just walk into a casino and simply sit down at any blackjack table. No, a shrewd blackjack player will cruise the casino floor, looking and studying the tables.

He is looking for indicators of a good table. So what is he looking for?

Let’s say that there is a table of people laughing and carrying on with large stacks of chips. There’s another table with a group that is making large wagers with lots of high cards out. Then there is another table with moderate wagering with low cards on the table.

Which of these tables is the shrewd blackjack player going to sit down at?

He is going to sit down at the one with the low cards. He does this because it shows that there is a streak of low cards running. And after a run of low cards, a run of high cards will usually follow.

The reason that he doesn’t sit down at the table that already has a run of high cards going is because it’s possible the blackjack player has missed most of the run. There’s no way of knowing how long a card run will last. Because of that, a shrewd blackjack player won’t sit down at a table with a high card run already in progress.

As for the people laughing and carrying on, that’s irrelevant. They could be drinking. They could be a group of friends that having a night out. The boisterousness of a group of players doesn’t matter to your blackjack odds.

As for the size of wagers the people at these tables were making, that’s also irrelevant. You wager an amount you are comfortable with. Some blackjack players are more comfortable with higher wagers, others with smaller ones.

A shrewd blackjack player knows to studying the tables looking for a low card run because it increases his blackjack odds. And increased blackjack odds, we all know, give us better chances at taking some money home.