Types of Pair Splitting

Knowing when to split pairs is according to basic strategy is one thing. Knowing the difference between types of pair splits in blackjack is another. Sometimes you have to deviate from what basic strategy tells you to do. It all has to do with the type of pair splitting that is necessary.

Pair splitting happens no matter if you are playing regular blackjack or online blackjack. So you will have to eventually decide how to split a pair whether you are at a blackjack table or playing blackjack online.

There are four types of pair splitting in blackjack: Offensive, Aggressive, Defensive and Reckless.

I am going to show you how these types play into improving your blackjack odds. All of the money figures are based on a $10 wager

In the case of Offensive pair splitting you are starting with an average or potentially losing hand and improving your odds. An example of this would be if you were dealt a pair of 7s and the dealer is showing a 5. If you were to stand you could expect an average of a $3.30 loss. But if you split you have a net average of about $1.20. This taking a loss and turning it around, making it an offensive pair splitting.

With an aggressive split you are taking a good hand and pushing the limits on it. For this example we are going to say that you have been dealt a pair that you would probably normally stand on: a pair of 9s and the dealer has a 6 showing. You could expect a $2.80 profit on standing, but by splitting you could expect $4.40 in profit. That is taking a strong hand and pushing it for something more.

Defensive pair splitting is when you have a pair that you know you are probably going to lose with no matter what, and your play is to try to minimize the loss. Let’s say you have a pair of 3s against a 7, and you decide to hit; your expected loss would be $1.50. But if you were to split your expected loss would only be $0.70.

As for Reckless pair splits, those are pair splits done without any real reasoning behind them. They are made just for the sake of splitting. Do not do them.

Tomorrow I will cover which type of pair splitting strategy to use for each pair in blackjack. I do recommend practicing with pair splitting strategies. This does take some time, but the best place to practice is with some online blackjack in a free-play mode.

Playing for Charlies

Last week I wrote a post on a rule variation for blackjack that allowed for a Charlie. Charlie hands tip the odds in favor of the player in blackjack. So, right off, if you see a blackjack game that allows for automatic Charlie wins, sit down and play there.

Just a quick recap, in blackjack a Charlie is a hand with a certain number of cards whose total value is less than 21. If the Charlie rule is in place in the blackjack game you are playing, it will automatically win no matter what the dealer is holding and no matter what your Charlie’s total is as long as it is less than 21. There are three Charlie hands in blackjack: a Five Card, a Six Card and a Seven Card.

As I said, Charlie hands automatically win, which is why you want to play in those blackjack games. But because this rule allows for more opportunities to win, you need to make a few changes in your blackjack strategy since you are not just playing to get as close to 21 has possible—you are playing to win with a Charlie.

Charlie blackjack strategy can be broken down into five categories based on your hand total. These strategy rules can be used when playing towards any of the Charlie hands.

Keep in mind that in order to make your Charlie strategy effective you will have to refer to which strategy rule applies as you hit and your hand total goes up. For example, if you start with a 7 you would refer to how to play a 7; if you hit for a 6 and now have a total of 13, you would then refer to the strategy rule for 13.

If your starting hand total is between 4 and 11 you should hit. No matter what the dealer’s up card is.

When your hand total is or becomes 12 you will still hit unless the dealer is showing a 4, 5 or 6. When faced with those three cards you need to examine how many cards are in your hand before hitting or standing. If your 12 is made up of three or four cards you should hit. But if your 12 is only made up of two cards you should stand since you would risk busting before you make a Charlie.

Now we look at when you have a 13. Again, if you are only one or two cards away from a Charlie then hit. But if this is your starting total go ahead and stand. If you are only one card away from a Charlie when the dealer has a 4, 5 or 6 then hit. But if the dealer has a 7 or higher go ahead and hit.

Next up is when your hand total is 14, 15 or 16. If you are only one card away from a Charlie then you should hit, but only if you are one card away. Also hit if the dealer has a 7 or higher. But if your 16 is faced with a 4, 5 or 6 you should stand.

For all dealer up cards against your 17, 18, 19 or 20 you should stand since you are too close to busting. While you are playing for a Charlie hand you do not want to give up beating the dealer normally.

I know that this strategy is not laid out as nicely as basic strategy but it is not too difficult to work with. You might need to practice it a bit, say in a free-play mode at an online casino, to get a feel for playing with this strategy. But if you are playing for Charlies this can help you be ready when playing for them in a real blackjack game.

Easiest Way to Lower the House Edge

While blackjack is a game of skill, meaning that the players have a say in how they can play out their hands, that skill requires practice. Or the use of a strategy. In most cases such skills and strategies require time and effort and energy. But everyone will try to find the easiest and fastest way to lower the house edge. Such is the way I guess. It is a something for nothing mentality. And in blackjack, that mentality can be met.

Basic strategy is the fastest and easiest way to lower the house edge. And not only can a blackjack player lower the house edge easily, they can lower it significantly.

Blackjack usually starts out with a house edge of 2% to 5% depending on what the house rules are at a particular table or a particular online blackjack game. Basic strategy can lower the house edge to 0.5% without too much effort.

All basic strategy is is a chart with every player starting hand running down the left. Ever dealer up card runs across the top. Where each lien intersects is the best statistical play for that player starting hand versus that dealer up card. All you have to do as a blackjack player is make that play. It really is that easy. All of the math and calculations and testing have already been done.

While the basic strategy chart has the best statistical play it does not mean you will win every single hand in a game of blackjack. However, it will allow you to win more often and, most importantly, lower the house edge to 0.5%

Will New Jersey have Online Blackjack?

Even if the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) now in effect California and Florida have been looking into making online gambling legal within their states for state residents. They are looking into it mostly as another source of income, which is much needed.

But while California has been going round and round in talks with tribes in their state, and Florida has been going back and forth with the Seminoles, New Jersey has snuck in under the radar.

On Thursday a bill, proposed by Senator Ray Lesniak, that would regulate online gambling within the state for New Jersey residents passed a committee vote 3-1. With the bill passed it can now go to the entire Senate for discussion and hopefully a vote that will allow for online gambling in New Jersey.

The way the bill works is to allow licensed casinos the ability to create sites online that allow for gambling online. Casinos must be licensed because without that license, according to federal law, they would not be allowed to offer online gambling. But since casinos in Atlantic City are licensed…well, you see where I am going with this.

Should this bill be passed into law, New Jersey would be the first state in the U.S. to have regulated online gambling. It is estimated that this could bring in $45 to $55 million in revenue. It could also give new life to the casinos in Atlantic City who have been struggling along the last couple of years. These casinos could be looking at around $250 million in new revenue by having regulated online gambling from their casinos.

As for the residents of New Jersey, they would be the first U.S. citizens to legally be allowed to gamble online. This means that online blackjack could very well be a reality for fans of blackjack in New Jersey.

Rules to Improve Your Blackjack Odds

The better your blackjack odds are, the better your chances of taking home some extra money. Thankfully blackjack is one such game that you can do this with.

Blackjack is a casino game in which the odds are not set in stone, like how they are with a slots game. Tables and online blackjack games can have different rules that can either help improve your blackjack odds or hurt them. Naturally, you want to look for the rules that will improve your blackjack odds.

But do you know what house rules to be on the lookout for to improve your blackjack odds?

One of the best rules to look for is blackjacks that pay 2-1. This rule can increase your blackjack odds by 2.27%. With a 3-2 payout you would be paid $15 for a blackjack on a $10 wager. But your winnings for a blackjack at a 2-1 table is $20. You are being paid more for you blackjack and that hits the house harder.

Another good house rule to be on the lookout for is an automatic win for a Five Card Charlie. A Five Card Charlie is a hand of five cards whose total value is still less than 21. If you are playing at a table that allows a Five Card Charlie to beat anything the dealer has—a natural blackjack included—your blackjack odds can increase by 1.64%.

There is another 2-1 payout offered on some blackjacks: a 2-1 payout on suited blackjacks. At a table with this rule, a normal blackjack will receive a 3-2 payout, while a suited blackjack receives a 2-1 payout. A suited blackjack means one made up of an Ace and a 10 value card of the same suit: both clubs, both spades, both diamonds or both hearts. A 2-1 payout on a suited blackjack can increase your blackjack odds by 0.57%

So while you are out cruising the casino floor or the online casinos, keep an eye out for these rules. And if you find a game that has even one of them, jump and start playing so that you can take advantage of the increase to your blackjack odds.

Charlie!

I know that I have said that I am not much for blackjack variations. For me side bets that hurt a player’s blackjack odds just do not seem like a good idea. But I have found a blackjack variation with a rule that can increase a player’s blackjack odds without the nasty side bet.

This variation does not have an actual name like Switch or Perfect Pairs. This blackjack variation is only a variation because of the addition of the Charlie rule. Otherwise the game is the same. See, no side bets.

A Charlie in blackjack is when a player is dealt a certain number of cards and still has a hand total of less than 21. When a play has the right number of cards for a Charlie, he automatically wins no matter what the dealer has. You can see why I like this variation.

There is a Five Card Charlie, a Six Card Charlie and a Seven Card Charlie. And each one is simple to understand. A Five Card Charlie is made up of five cards whose hand total is less than 21.

Playing in a blackjack game that acknowledges Charlies can increase your blackjack odds. A Seven Card Charlie will lower the house edge by 0.01%, while a Six Card Charlie will lower the house edge by 0.16%. But the Five Card Charlie is the best one. It will lower the house edge by 1.46%.

Unfortunately not every casino offers blackjack games that will allow a Charlie hand to win. The best that you can do is check around in the casinos near you to see who allows Charlies and when they do.

This is one blackjack variation that I can get into since it can increase my odds and take away from the house edge. If you find a blackjack table that allows for Charlie hands to have an automatic win, then you need to sit down and play a few rounds.

Doubling Down on Soft Hands

Soft hands can be surprisingly hard to play in blackjack. I know, the name does not make these hands sound all that bad. But in blackjack having an Ace dealt to you at the beginning of a round can be a good thing and a bad thing.

The good thing about an Ace in blackjack is that you have the ability to change the value of that Ace if you need to. Aces start out with a value of 11 in blackjack. But if the player hits too high, that Ace can be reduced to a 1 to save the hand from busting. Think of it as having a second chance for your hand.

On the other hand, that ability to reduce can make it difficult to know how to play your hand. If you have a hard 14 versus a dealer’s 3 you would stand. But if that was a soft 14 against a dealer’s 3 you would hit. See what I mean? That Ace can make things a little trickier.

This also applies to knowing when to double down on a soft hand. And you want to double down every chance you get. It is one of the most advantages plays that a blackjack player has in his arsenal of plays. Doubling down when it is most advantageous hits the house’s edge for 1.6%. That is a big hit to them and you need to be hitting them like that when you can.

This does not mean doubling down on every hand or even on every soft hand. There is a simple little rule that you can add to your blackjack strategy tool bag: the rule of 9.

The way the rule of 9 works is simple. Take the value of the card in your hand that is not the Ace, then add that value to the value of the dealer’s up card. If the total is 9 or more you should double down. And if the total of your non-Ace card and the dealer’s up card is less than 9 you should hit.

Let’s say you have an Ace/6 against a dealer’s 4. Adding 6 and 4 together gives you 10; and since that passes the minimum of 9, you should double down on that ace/6 you are holding. But if you had an Ace/4 against a dealer’s 3, the 4 and 3 would only total 7; in that case you would hit since 7 is less than 9.

See, it is an easy rule to use. And you can use it for blackjack online just as easily as blackjack played in a brick and mortar casino.

Adding the rule of 9 to your blackjack strategy arsenal can help improve your strategy, make it stronger. With a stronger blackjack strategy—especially for doubling down—you can improve your blackjack odds.

Basic Strategy or Instinct

Basic Strategy is the single easiest blackjack strategy tool that can be used. Basic strategy can be used for blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, and also for online blackjack. This is because it is based on the basic rules of the game, making it a versatile blackjack strategy tool.

However, this does make it ineffective for variations with different house rules, such as Spanish 21 and Pontoon. It can be used in variations in which the game play is the same as regular blackjack with the variation coming from a side bets. But you should not be playing side bet variations anyway.

What makes basic strategy the easiest blackjack strategy tool? It is because the hard work has already been done. All you have to do is find out what play is the best recommended for the hand you have been dealt against whatever the dealer’s up card is.

I know, this seems really simple. So why should you be practicing a strategy in which all you do is make the play the chart recommends?

Playing according to basic strategy is not as easy as it might appear. This is because sometimes the most recommended play is one in which you have to double down or split a pair, which means putting more money on the table. Or you might have to stand when you would rather hit or split.

Because your instinct might be telling you something different than what the basic strategy chart is telling you, it can make it hard to make the play on the chart.

Basic strategy can lower the house edge in regular blackjack and blackjack online to about 0.5%. But this can only happen when you play every single hand according to what the chart says. This means that you will have to put extra money on the table or stand when you do not want to stand.

The key aspect of basic strategy is that the chart has the best statistical play for every hand against every dealer up card. While you will not win every single hand, you will win more when you make the best statistical play rather than the play that your instinct wants.

In order to make yourself comfortable with ignoring your instinct in blackjack you need to practice using the chart. The more that you have to make a play that goes against your instinct and the more hands you win with basics strategy—even if you are only practicing with play money—the more comfortable your mind will be with abiding by basic strategy.

Blackjack is a game of skill. And skills require practice. While the basic strategy chart is a tool, the use of that chart is a skill. The better you are at sticking to that chart the better your basic strategy skill will be.

Also, the more familiar you are with basic strategy the better you will understand the how’s and why’s of the game. Understanding those why’s and how’s is what makes a player ready to work with more advanced blackjack strategies because the nuances of the game are understood—and advanced strategies are based on those nuances.

So take the time and practice working with basic strategy. Open yourself up towards working on a lower house edge and being a more skilled blackjack player.

European Blackjack vs. Blackjack

For the most part blackjack is a pretty standard casino game. There are not a lot of ways to vary blackjack. And that is probably why most of the blackjack variations you run across in online casinos and in brick and mortar casinos are based on side bets, while the actual game is played the same as always.

However. There are a small number of blackjack variations which are true variations, meaning that some rules are different. European Blackjack is one such variation.

European Blackjack is not a variation based on a side bet. There are two rules in this game that make it different than regular blackjack. And these differences in rules are not to the player’s advantage either.

First off players can only double down when the first two cards total 9, 10 or 11 in European Blackjack. Because double downs are highly advantageous to players, this rule does impact a player’s blackjack odds. When a player can double down on any hand it increases the player’s blackjack odds by 0.23%. But when players are limited to only doubling down on 9, 10 and 11 it takes 0.09% off of the player’s odds.

Next up in the differences between European Blackjack is that there is no surrender. Surrender is bowing out of the hand at the cost of half your wager. It is used when your chances of losing the round are very high; so rather than losing your entire wager, you only lose half your wager.

Late surrender gives players an added 0.08% to their blackjack odds, while early surrender takes 0.6% off of the house edge. In European Blackjack, players lose that added 0.08% and the house is not hit with that 0.6%. So not having the option to surrender hurts the player’s blackjack odds. Again.

And those two are the two biggest hits against a player’s blackjack odds. Overall the house gets to add 0.62% to its edge thanks to all the house favorable rules.

I would only recommend playing European Blackjack only for low stakes or for a break from regular blackjack. But I do not like that 0.62% added to the house edge, especially for regular playing. If you want to play European something in the casino or in an online casino stick with European Roulette.

UIGEA Implemented Today

Well, it is the beginning of June. And that means that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) is now in effect.

But really do not expect things to change for those who play in online casinos and gamble online. The actual implementation and action of UIGEA does not rest on the shoulders of those of us who play blackjack online, or slots online, or poker or any other online casino game. That is correct. The UIGEA does not actually focus enforcement on the players.

Rather the enforcement and implementation rests in the hands of financial institutions, such as banks and credit card companies. Under UIGEA banks and credit card companies are the ones responsible for stopping all transactions to and from online casinos.

And that is why those who play online casino games will probably not be as affected by the UIGEA as they might think. See, online casinos are on the clever side. They use coding so that banks and credit card companies will not recognize that the funds to or from an online casino will not be recognized.

The UIGEA says, in short, that banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions cannot knowingly process transactions to or from online casinos. But if, thanks to the coding used by online casinos, banks and credit card companies do not recognize that the transactions are going to and from online casinos then they will not be able to stop them. And because they are not knowingly processing the transactions, it makes them ‘not guilty.’

Take MasterCard for instance. A few months ago MasterCard quit processing transactions in which players were trying use their cards to make deposits to an online casino. However, players are still able to make deposits to their playing accounts. This is because MasterCard does not know that these transactions are to an online casino because of the coding online casinos are using.

So I am not saying that the UIGEA does not change anything, we will certainly see its impact, the UIGEA will probably not have the effect that lawmakers had intended.

So we can all hope that Rep. Barney Frank will succeed in passing his bill on regulating online gambling. If his bill passes then the UIGEA will be over turned. But we will have to wait as he is waiting. And analysts believe that Frank will now hold off on trying to overturn the UIGEA in hopes that voters will become upset with the UIGEA and vote in against the Republicans in November. Until then it seems that we will have to watch ourselves with our online gambling.