The Most Important Card in Blackjack

Can anyone tell me what the most important card on a blackjack table is? Doesn’t matter if it’s a real table in a casino, or a virtual table in an online casino. The most important card on a blackjack table will be the same regardless. So which card is it?

Nope, it’s not an Ace. Actually it’s not any one particular card. Nor is it a cut card or your first card or, if you’re playing in a brick-and-mortar casino, the third base chair’s draw card. I’ll give you a hint: the most important card is based on its position, where it is on the blackjack table.

The most important card on a blackjack table, online or otherwise, is the dealer’s up card.

Think about for a minute. What card do you base all of your playing decisions on? You choose how to play the two cards you are dealt based on what the dealer is showing. For example, if you have a hard 13 and you’re faced with a dealer’s 4 you would stand. But if that dealer’s 4 was a 9 you would hit it instead. See how the dealer’s up card has been the basis of your playing decision?

Also take a look at a basic strategy chart. That is a visual way to see how the dealer’s up card influences your blackjack strategy and playing. All of the up cards are strung out across the top because they are the most important part of basic strategy. They are what determines the plays that a player will make.

Even if you don’t play according to basic strategy, if you pay attention to your own playing of the game, you will see that you do make your playing decisions off of what the dealer is showing.

How to Practice Blackjack

Considering that blackjack is a game of skill—and it is by the way—it requires some practice.

Like any skill, you only get better with practice. This is why you need to take the time out to work on your game. This practice isn’t about getting more familiar with the game’s rules. Because honestly? The rules of blackjack aren’t that complicated: add up your two starting cards and decide to hit for another card or stand on the total you have; as long as you don’t go over 21 and beat the dealer you’re doing okay.

It is the finer points of blackjack that need practice. Such as your blackjack strategy.

Yes, basic strategy is easy to use—you make the play that the chart tells you to. But sometimes those plays are hard to make either because they require more money, like when you have to split a pair or double down; or you have to stand on a stiff hand and you just don’t feel like that is productive.

The thing is that you need to play over and over again with basic strategy. This allows you to become more comfortable with it and to memorize it. Having it memorized can improve your game quality because you aren’t having to constantly look up what play you should make.

On a slightly side note, studying the game of blackjack such as reading about it (like you’re doing right now) will help you to understand why basic strategy is recommending the plays it is. Like how the dealer has the highest chance of busting when he’s showing a 5, and that’s why you stand when he has a 5 and you have a stiff hand.

As for actually practicing, you can go to a local casino and spend money to practice. Or you can go pull up an online casino and play in their fun modes for free. Playing in the fun modes does not require any money on your part. You only pay money at an online casino when you choose to deposit money to your player account. Otherwise you can choose to play for fun when you log in.

The benefit here is that you are getting to practice your blackjack skills without putting any money at risk. This way you’re working on your game and saving your bankroll for real playing.

Betting Systems Are a No!

At times betting systems will tempt blackjack players from time to time. They just seem so easy to use and to turn a profit with. But there is a major problem with betting systems and blackjack.

First, a betting system is a method of choosing how to bet each round of blackjack. These systems dictate to players when to raise and lower their bets. These betting systems are progressive in nature and that is what is inherently wrong with them.

You can see the progressive nature of a betting strategy by looking at one of the two most commonly used betting systems: the Martingale method. Players that use the Martingale system will double their bet when they lose a round. So if you lost a $10 wager, you would wager $20 on the next; if you lost that round you would wager $40 on the next. This doubling continues until the player wins a round, and then returns to their original betting amount.

The reason this progressive idea of betting in blackjack is a bad idea can be attributed to the nature of a round of blackjack. Each round in blackjack is independent of the last one. This means that there’s no way to tell when you will lose or win—like how some players think that if you lose, say, seven rounds you’ll win the next.

You have a 43.5% chance of winning a round of blackjack. And if you lost that round, you still have a 43.5% chance of winning the next. And 43.5% on the next. You see how this works?

Because a blackjack player’s chance of winning doesn’t change from one round to the next, it makes a betting system useless. This is because betting systems are based on the idea that a player’s odds of winning will vary from round to round. And a player’s chances of winning in blackjack are set at 43.5%.

Even though a betting strategy is necessary to fill out and complete your blackjack strategy, a betting system is not a worthy substitute for a betting strategy. Betting systems like the Martingale could actually drain your bankroll since they can’t guarantee you a win and a return of the money you lost.

It’s tempting from time to time to use a betting system, especially in a game of online blackjack where card counting can’t be used. But keeping in mind that you could lose more of your bankroll than what you could make using one of those systems.

A Different Light on Stiff Hands

I hate stiff hands. You probably hate stiff hands. Any blackjack player worth their chips hates stiff hands. It doesn’t matter whether you play blackjack online or in a casino, stiff hands happen. Online blackjack, while there are some differences from regular casino, doesn’t differ in terms of being dealt a stiff hand.

On average blackjack players can expect to be dealt a stiff hand 43% of the time they play. While that’s still less than half of the time, it’s still a relatively high percentage. And it always feels higher when you’re actually playing.

What makes stiff hands so unappealing are their lack of flexibility and their lack of winning potential. If you’re dealt a hard 15 against a dealer’s 5 you know that if you stand you have a pretty good shot of losing the round. You also know that if you were to hit you would most likely bust.

But there’s another way to look at stiff hands, a way that might put your mind at ease a bit about standing or hitting with a stiff hand. And it has to do with the dealer’s chances of busting.

Let’s go back to the example I used a bit ago, the hard 15 against the dealer’s 5. When a dealer is showing a 5 he has about a 42% chance of busting. Same applies if he was showing a 6. Those two cards are the two that the dealer has the greatest chance of busting with.

The cards that the dealer has the greatest chances of busting with are 2 through 6. And wouldn’t you know it—it’s against those up cards that basic strategy recommends standing against. This is because if the dealer stands a higher chance of busting it makes sense for the player to stand. The dealer busts, player wins.

The dealer has less of a chance of busting with a 7 through an Ace showing. Again look at what basic strategy is telling you: to hit your stiff hand against those up cards. The theory behind this is that if you stand you have a very good shot of losing, so go ahead and hit and see if you get lucky with a low card. It’s one of things in which you give it your best shot.

Keep in mind when you’re playing blackjack, be it online blackjack or blackjack in a casino, that there is a reason and statistical calculation behind the recommended play. Bearing that in mind and thinking on the reasons for a play can help y

Seminole Compact Done and Signed

Happy Cinco de Mayo for blackjack in Florida!

Florida Governor Charlie Crist signed the state’s compact with the Seminole tribe, bringing the compact into law. The compact was signed by the House of Representatives and the Florida Senate within the last couple of weeks. Getting those two bodies to sign a compact was the hard part. Once they had signed it many considered the compact done because Crist was already in favor of the Seminoles. But as of this morning it’s now official.

It’s taken the better part of the last few years, since 2007 in fact, to get the Seminoles and Florida’s legislature to agree on the compact terms. And it was to the benefit of the state to work something out as it would have not been good to be on bad terms with a sovereign nation within their own state lines.

With this compact the Seminoles, who originally were aiming at exclusive blackjack in all seven of their casinos, will have their sought-after exclusivity on blackjack, but will only be allowed to have blackjack in only five of their casinos: three in Broward County, one in Immokalee and one in Tampa. The exclusivity will last for five years, at which point the Seminoles and the legislature will go head-to-head again to determine the exclusivity of blackjack in Florida…again.

Also with this compact the Seminoles will have a twenty year exclusivity on Vegas style slots games.

So what is the cost for all this exclusivity? The Seminoles will be paying the state of Florida $1.5 billion over five years. Each yearly payment will cover the blackjack and the Vegas style slots. But if the state allows pari-mutuels or any other group blackjack in less than five years, or Vegas style slots in less than twenty years, the respective portion of the Seminoles’ payment will cease while they continue to pay for the exclusivity on the other.

Originally the money from the Seminoles was to be allotted for education, but the legislature wouldn’t agree to that. They wanted the money to go into Florida’s general fund. While Crist was sad to see the money go elsewhere, as are the parents of the state’s children, an agreement needed to be reached. Florida needs the money too badly.

So it’s in Florida’s interest to let the Seminoles do their thing for the next five years and twenty years. Crist was a happy man indeed to have succeeded in helping to work out an agreement between the legislature and the Seminoles.

Do You Know When the Dealer Will Bust?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly when the dealer will bust? It could make the difference in how you play out your hand in a game of blackjack, maybe make you less hesitant to double down or split a pair if you knew the dealer was going to bust.

Some players believe there are such things as dealer bust cards, meaning that the dealer will bust if he’s showing that card. Don’t believe this. There is no single card that is a red flag for busting. Unfortunately there is no precise way of knowing when the dealer will bust.

But there are cards that he is more likely to bust with. While these don’t guarantee a bust, knowing that you have a better chance can still impact your own playing confidence. Let’s take a look at the percentage of busting for each up card:

2-35%
3-37%
4-40%
5-42%
6-42%
7-26%
8-24%
9-23%
10-23%
Ace-17%

Just looking at that list you can see that the dealer has the highest chance of busting in blackjack when he is showing a 5 or 6, with 4 not all that much further behind those two. This applies to both regular casino blackjack and online blackjack as well. The game is still has the same rules whether it’s played on a computer or not.

How does knowing this impact your own blackjack game?

Take a moment to pull up a basic strategy chart. We’re going to look at the most obvious reasoning: stiff hands. What do you notice about the recommended plays for stiff hands, particularly a hard 13 through a hard 16?

You will notice that basic strategy advises that you stand against a 2 through 6, but to hit against a 7 through Ace.

Now look at the dealer’s bust percentages for 2 through 6. You will see that he has the highest chances of busting in blackjack with those up cards. This is why it is recommended that you stand. You yourself have a pretty good shot of busting so you don’t want to hit. But against the cards that the dealer has a greater chance of busting you stand because you are hoping that he’ll bust.

You can see how the reasoning can be applied to the plays for stiff hands when compared to the chances of the dealer busting. Take your basic strategy chart and keep looking at how the plays that are recommended do have a correlation to the dealer’s chances of busting.

Keep this reasoning in mind while playing blackjack, and it will further enforce how valuable basic strategy is to your blackjack strategy.

Economy Hits Colorado Blackjack

It seems that overall numbers are down in terms of revenue in the casino industry. This is probably in part to a down economy in America and also to the increase in popularity of online gambling. But like any good business, the casinos are finding ways to strike back and try to boost their money intake. Unfortunately this will have to come from players.

This can be seen in Colorado where it’s been approved to allow casinos to lower the payout on their blackjack games from 3-2 down to the infamous 6-5. This went into effect on April 30th.

The lowering of the payout is at the casinos’ discretions though, and they aren’t unreasonable. They do know that blackjack players are not idiots and are aware that 6-5 payouts aren’t good for their player odds. This puts Colorado casino operators in a bit of a hard place: lower the payout and risk losing players to other casinos that don’t lower the payout, or keep the payout where it is and hope that they will make enough in revenue from blackjack for the decision to be profitable.

Initially casino operators have overall seemed to be leaning on leaving their existing multi-deck blackjack tables at the 3-2 payout. But their single deck games will most likely be converted over to the 6-5 payout. Also a possible switch to the 6-5 payouts are the blackjack variation table. This would include games such as Double Exposure Blackjack and Super Fun 21.

While I’m not a fan of blackjack variations that feature side bets, I’m kind of sad to see them lose their 3-2 payouts. Such variations already are taking more money from players, giving players worse odds because of the stronger house edge. But giving these games a 6-5 payout makes them almost not worth it—more money being lost in side bets and then a lower payout for blackjack on top of it.

My advice for blackjack players who are visiting the Colorado casinos is to stick to the multi-deck games and bring along their basic strategy charts. Those tables along with basic strategy are a player’s best shot at making some money on blackjack. Just make sure you stick with tables that payout 3-2 and avoid any with a 6-5 payout.

Blackjack Side Bets and Variations

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about blackjack variations. I think the last one I talked about was a newer variation called Streak. But I’m not going to talk about that one right now. Instead I’m going to talk about a fairly common blackjack variation that is pretty common in online casinos: Super 21. This snake in the grass is also known as Super Fun 21.

While it’s a pretty common offering online Super Fun 21 online, it didn’t originate online. It of course came from a regular casino. This blackjack variation was supposed to be played with one deck. But with the programming and RNG to maintain randomness in online games, the benefit of a single deck game is taken away.

In a casino, a single deck game offers good odds as long as it has a 3-2 payout. Most don’t, including Super Fun 21. But at least a card count could still count the cards and manage his betting strategy despite there being no 3-2 payout.

But card counting can’t be done online. So the benefit of a single deck game is ruined. You might was well play the game with eight. And because of the RNG there is no way to tell for certain that the game is being played with a single deck online.

Now I already mentioned that Super Fun 21 doesn’t have a 3-2 payout. So what does it have? 6-5? Nope. In this blackjack variation the payout for being dealt a natural 21 will only give you an even money payout which is terrible for your blackjack odds.

This blackjack variation does give a couple of concessions to the players though. Players are allowed to double down on any number cards, not just the first two they are dealt. Players can also surrender after doubling, which would normally offer some pretty decent odds for the blackjack player.

But that even money payout wipes away all benefit found in those concessions. An even money payout raises the house edge 0.95%. So since we’re not in a 3-2 game—which would have a starting house edge of 5.45%–Super Fun 21 has a starting house edge of 8.75%. Granted this is before applying strategy, but the odds are still dismal to begin with.

The changes made in a blackjack variation are almost never to a player’s advantage, and are usually designed for those who like their blackjack to be riskier. But these variations are designed to pull more money from the blackjack players. Seeing how common it is online is disturbing, and it should be avoided by any blackjack player who doesn’t want to throw their money away.

Double Down for the Win!

Doubling down is one of my favorite plays in blackjack. Anytime I have a hand that I can double down on I do it. It’s exciting. I love doubling down so much that those hands that should be doubled down on were the first ones I memorized off of the basic strategy chart.

So why do I like doubling down so much?

Let’s start with what it does money-wise for a blackjack player. Let’s say that I’ve wagered $10 on a hand, and I’m dealt a hard 10 against a dealer’s 7. This is one of the hands that basic strategy says to double down on. So I’ll lay out another $10 and get only one more card, which turns out to be a 9, giving me a hard 19. The dealer winds up busting. And I receive a payout of $40 rather than the $20 I would have received if I hadn’t doubled down.

And that is the money beauty of doubling down in blackjack—you can make twice the payout in one hand. Normally $40 would have to be won off of two hands. But doubling down allows you to make money a little faster.

Not to mean what doubling down does to the housed edge. And that is the other beautiful aspect of doubling down in blackjack.

Doubling down is the blackjack play that has the biggest hit to the house’s edge. And we all know that the more that we can hit the house edge, the better our own blackjack odds are. So what does double down do to the house edge? It reduces it by 1.6%. And that’s a big hit to them and why you need to be doubling down whenever basic strategy advises it.

But there’s one more good aspect to doubling down: it can be used in regular casino blackjack and in online blackjack. The most advantageous times to double down doesn’t change just because you’re playing blackjack online. So that better payout and 1.6% to the house edge will still apply when playing online. Having that versatility can help when going back and forth between regular casino blackjack and online blackjack.