Online Blackjack vs. the World Cup

Seems like the entire world stage is being devoted to the World Cup. This is especially true in the world of online gambling, where so much news is being taken up by the FIFA World Cup. So it is more World Cup news than online casino news.

However the world of online blackjack will go on. And that is one of the things that I like about online blackjack. It never seems to really change. Sure variations and side bets will pop up and then eventually be replaced by other variations but the core of the game will always be there.

It is one aspect of online blackjack that players like: the game never changes. A hit is always one more card and stiff hands will always make you groan. But it is a constant in the world of casino games.

The good news for players this means that strategy never really changes. And that allows us to practice, practice, practice. The better we are the better our blackjack skills are and the better our shot at winning becomes.

If blackjack changes less and less then online blackjack changes even less. House rules can and do change from time to time but this does not happen in online blackjack. This allows players to become even better acquainted with the game and their strategy, zeroing in on strategy, such as basic strategy, that really gives them a very good shot at lowering the house edge.

So while the world is absorbed in the World Cup frenzy players have the comfort and calm of online blackjack.

And by the way, with people more focused on the World Cup they are in front of their computer less which causes participation in tournaments to drop somewhat. So now is also a good time to check out some online blackjack tournaments.

And go, Spain!

iPad Blackjack Apps

Seems that so much is finding its way into being Apple applications for various i-whatevers. And blackjack is no exception. While the two blackjack apps that are out there now are not apps designed to make the game online blackjack, they certainly allow players to take blackjack on the road with them.

The two blackjack apps that are available to those with iPads do not allow for play with other players. These apps are similar to online blackjack games except that players are not online and the graphics are more on the simple side.

The two apps for the iPad are called Blackjack for iPad and Blackjack HD. Blackjack for iPad was created by Haolan Qin and Blackjack HD was created by MobilityWare.

There really is not too much of a difference between the two apps. Both have players starting out with $1,000 that they can add to by winning or lose by playing poorly. Thankfully both apps allow for learning, which means that they both have an Advice button.

So what makes them different from each other? Blackjack HD offers players another dimension of play. At a real blackjack table hand gestured are used to communicate to the dealer what play you would like to make. In the Blackjack HD app players can tape the screen twice to hit or swipe a finger horizontally to tell the game they wish to stand.

So what does Blackjack for iPad offer that Blackjack HD does not? Players can change the number of decks being used in Blackjack for iPad. Also to simulate differences in house rules, the insurance and surrender abilities can be turned off which allows players to practice playing with different house rules. Although I have yet to hear of a casino, online or otherwise, that does not allow for insurance considering that they make money on insurance. I suppose it is the thought that counts on the part of Blackjack for iPad.

While both of these iPad apps allow for taking blackjack on the go, I would still only recommend them for practice. They are able to simulate a game well enough to allow for practice but they still are not up to the standards of a game in a brick and mortar casino or online blackjack.

A Hard Hand vs. a Dealer 9, 10 or Ace

Do you know what the best play in blackjack to make when you have a hard 15 or hard 16 versus a dealer’s 9, 10 or Ace? The answer might not be exactly what you think it is.

The instances in a game of blackjack that I am talking about are when you have a hard 15 versus a dealer’s 10 or a hard 16 against a dealer’s 9, 10 or Ace by the way.

Your first answer would be to stand. And in some blackjack games that would be the best statistical play to make. But in other blackjack games there is a better statistical play and it comes in two varieties: late and early surrender.

Late surrender is the more common of the two, but that is because it only hits the house edge for 0.08%. When it comes to late surrender, it is a play in which the player gives up half of his wager to exit the round only after the dealer has checked for blackjack. Players must decide to make a late surrender before they make any other plays; once a player decides to hit or stand the option to make a late surrender is gone.

The other type of surrender is early surrender. This differs from late surrender in that in an early surrender the player can give up half of their wager before the dealer checks for blackjack. Early surrender allows the player to get out of that particular round even if the dealer does have a natural blackjack. And because that aspect early surrender lowers the house edge by 0.6%. And that 0.6% hit is why early surrender is seen less often in blackjack games.

But surrender should only be used in blackjack if you have a hard 15 against a dealer’s 10 or a hard 16 against a dealer’s 9, 10 or Ace. Those are the four best times to surrender since a blackjack player’s chances of winning are the lowest then.

If you can find a game that allows for late surrender go for it, and if you can find a game of blackjack that allows for early surrender—even better!

Blackjack Variations: Double Exposure

Double Exposure is one of those seemingly deceptive blackjack variations. It sounds pretty good for a player but in the end there are always rules that eat away at the player’s blackjack odds. And the thing with this blackjack variation is that it can be found in online blackjack and in brick and mortar casinos.

So what makes Double Exposure so deceptive when it comes to blackjack variations? The main in-your-face rule of Double exposure is that all cards are dealt face up, including the dealer’s hole card. So there are no surprises here. Yes, it does add to the player’s blackjack odds by 8.80% but there are other rules that lessen its impact.

The other rules in Double Exposure Blackjack are that the dealer wins all ties except on a tie with a natural blackjack—that becomes a push. And a player’s blackjack only plays even money. In other words you are only receiving a 1-1 payout for the best hand in this game. And players can only split pairs once. It breaks down in odds like this:

House wins ties: -9%
Blackjack pays even money: -2.27%
Only split once: -0.10%

So let’s add that up and we have a negative hit to our blackjack odds of 11.37%. That is a very hard hit to a player’s blackjack odds. And this is exactly why I do not like blackjack variations. They try to trick players, luring them in with one or two really great rules and then hitting them hard with sneaky rules. Although the house winning all ties should be a dead giveaway not play this blackjack variation. In fact when it comes to casino games and their variations, the variations should probably be avoided.

So while having all of the dealer’s cards showing can add 8.80% to your blackjack odds, this variation’s other rules not only take it away, but they hit you for -2.57%. So you gain nothing and lose even more.

Alternate Blackjack Wins

Have you ever heard of a suited blackjack? Or what about a player 21 winning? No?

Both are a couple of different ways in which players can win a little extra. And we all know that when it comes to increased profit opportunities it also means our odds in blackjack are higher. This is because ever chance a player gets to make more in a game of blackjack the house stands to lose more. And when the house stands to lose more our blackjack odds go up.

So what are these two alternate ways of winning in blackjack?

One of them is a suited blackjack. This is a blackjack made of a Jack, Queen, King or 10 paired with an Ace of the same suit. So, for example, a Jack of Spades and an Ace of Spades would be a suited blackjack, but a Jack of Clubs and an Ace of Spades would not be suited.

Generally in a game of blackjack that pays out for a suited blackjack, a regular blackjack would pay 3-2 and a suited blackjack would pay 2-1. So say you are wagering $10. If you won with a regular blackjack you would win $15, and if you won with a suited blackjack you would receive $20. So how you are making more money, and more money means better blackjack odds…to the tune of a 0.57% boost.

Another alternative way of winning in blackjack and increasing your blackjack odds is in a game in which a player’s hand that totals 21 automatically winning. This means that is you hit your hand to exactly 21 you would win. This boosts your blackjack odds by 0.54%

Why Blackjack Should Be Considered a Game of Skill

I read recently how a Dutch court ruled that poker is to now be considered a game of skill. This is a result of the defense in a court case arguing that because of tactics, experience and psychology poker is a game of skill.

This made me think of blackjack and how it should be considered a game of skill as well. I think of it as such, but the rest of the world should think of blackjack as a game of skill as well.

Why is blackjack a game of skill?

For starters players who use blackjack strategy can change their odds in blackjack. The easiest example is how a player who uses basic strategy can reduce the house edge to 0.5%. A player who does not use a form of strategy cannot lower the house edge and will more often than not increase the odds against them.

For players who practice their blackjack strategies and skills their ability to manipulate the odds increases in their favor. For this example I want you to look at card counting.

While card counting cannot be used in online blackjack, it does have an impact on blackjack played in a brick and mortar casino. And the more a player practices his car counting the better their skill at it is and the better they can take advantage of the cards they are counting; they acquire a better skill at knowing when to raise and lower their bets.

When a blackjack player combines their skills at basic strategy and at card counting they can bring the house edge to 0 if not tilt the edge in their favor.

Now you tell me how that can be done in a game of chance like slots or roulette? It is not possible in those games because the player does not have any impact on the outcome of a round. Whereas in blackjack the player is choosing how to play his hand—meaning he has a say in the outcome of his hand in the round. He can choose to hit or stand.

It is those playing options and the application of a practiced strategy and practiced skills that allow the player to have an impact on the outcome. And the more a player practices his skills the more controlled his impact is on the outcome of a round.

Because a player in blackjack can have an impact and because practicing and refining skills results in a positive impact on a player’s blackjack odds, it means that blackjack is a game of skill.

House Rules for New PA Tables

Part of the fun of getting new blackjack tables in Pennsylvania is waiting to see what the house is going to set their rules at: are they going to screw me or are they going to be decent and give me a fair shot at winning?

Thankfully the Pennsylvania blackjack tables have been set with some pretty decent house rules. How good? The Pennsylvania blackjack tables will have more player-friendly house rules than two thirds of the tables in Vegas.

So what is in store for players at these blackjack tables?

For starters I am pleased to say that they will be paying 3-2 for natural blackjack. There will be none of that 6-5 stuff in Pennsylvania!

Another good rule: dealers will have to stand on soft 17s. So that is 0.22% that the house will not have.

Double downs will not be limited to only hard 10s or hard 11s. Any two cards can be doubled down on.

Also having to do with double downs, players will be allowed to double down after splitting a pair.

And to top off all of those player friendly house rules blackjack players will be allowed to make late surrenders. So make sure you have a basic strategy chart that tells you when to surrender. This way you will only lose half of your wager rather than all of it.

In total these house rules will result in a house edge of less than 0.4% for those who use basic strategy—and who stick to basic strategy.

It seems that Pennsylvania might evolve into a new blackjack destination with rules like these. Who knows, we just might have the new in place to play blackjack at.

How Good is that 17 Really?

A natural blackjack is not the only thing that a player is hoping for when they sit down. Each player is hoping that if they cannot be dealt a natural blackjack that they will receive a 20. Or a 19. Or an 18. Or at least a 17—come one, Dealer, at least a 17!

And for the most part the average blackjack player is quite satisfied with a hard 17, be it one that they were dealt or one that they have hit to. Either way they feel like they have crossed That Line so that they feel safe.

A hard 17 gives players the feeling that they have a pretty decent shot of beating the dealer. That is why if you are playing in a brick and mortar casino and you watch the other players at the blackjack table you can see them release a little breath at having at least that hard 17. And if you are playing online blackjack watch yourself—and I will wager that you will feel more relaxed when you have that hard 17 on your screen.

However, that hard 17 can be a little on the deceiving side. It feels safe because it is the minimum hand to have that you just cannot hit. You know that if you hit that you will bust. So because it is a fairly high hand and you should not hit it, it feels like you have a shot of winning.

But let me ask you this—half of the time you should not hit a hard 16. So why does a hard 17 feel safer than a hard 16? Is it because you stand on it no matter what and you only stand on a 16 half of the time? Keep this thought in mind.

Here is the truth about our beloved hard 17: you will lose more money in the long run and there is nothing you can do about it.

You cannot hit a hard 17 so there is nothing you can do strategy-wise about not losing more over time. However there is a little bit of a silver lining in this.

When you have that hard 17 in your hand and the dealer is showing a 6. The dealer has a 42% chance of busting with that 6, which makes your chances of winning with that 17 greater.

I am not saying that a hard 17 is a bad hand to want. You should just keep in your best odds for your hard 17 are against a hard 6. And you had better stand then. Because you really have no choice—hit a hard 17 and you should just hand your money over. Stand and cross your fingers—strategy-wise you have done your best.

A Little Effort Goes a Long Way

When I was a child my mother told me nothing comes for free in life. And really? The same could be said about your profits from casino games.

It seems the easier a casino game is, be it a casino game online or in a brick and mortar casino, the worse the odds are. This should tell you something.

Let’s take a look:

Slots: 2% to 15% depending on what the manufacturer has set its payout percentage at
Roulette: 2.70% for European and 5.26% for American

Those are two of the easiest types of casino games that can be found. Now we are going to look at the house edge on blackjack: 0.5% after basic strategy.

Compared to the 2% and up on slots and roulette, blackjack seems like quit a nice game to turn a profit on. But it is not as simple to work as slots or roulette. Meaning you have to do more than push “Spin” or choose a few numbers and watch the ball spin.

In order to make blackjack profitable you do need to use a strategy. Thankfully a novice blackjack player can grab a basic strategy chart and drop the house edge down to that 0.5%. They can do this because a basic strategy chart has the best statistical play for every hand against any dealer’s up card. All the player needs to do is make that play.

So really we should be moving blackjack onto that list of easy casino games. In fact, I think it is easier to play with a basic strategy chart than without one. Not only does basic strategy give you a play, it gives you the best play.

Okay, okay so with blackjack and basic strategy you have to check your hand against the chart to find out what the best play is. And, yes, that is a little more work than pushing ‘Spin’ or watching a ball fly around a wheel. But considering what checking that chart can do for you and how it can increase your profitability, that little bit of work is very much worth the effort.

Another thing my mother always told me: a little work never killed anyone.

Seminole Compact Takes Effect

It is July 1st and that means one thing for the Seminole Tribe. Well, okay, it means two things but as a blackjack player I am really only concerned about one of those things.

The Seminole compact that took a Tolkien amount of time to be agreed upon is now in effect. This means that blackjack tables are now legal in five of the seven Seminole casinos. Of those five brick and mortar casinos, three are located in Broward County, one in Immokalee and the fifth casino can be found in Tampa.

The debate on whether the Seminoles would be allowed to have blackjack tables had been an ongoing since 2007 when Governor Charlie Crist signed a compact with them that would allow them blackjack at all seven of their casinos. State legislature quickly said that was not legal.

Ever since the blackjack tables were alternately called legal and illegal. This past May the Seminoles, Crist and state legislatures finally came to an agreement: the Seminoles would be allowed exclusivity on blackjack with five casinos being allowed the tables. The Seminoles will also have a twenty year exclusivity on Vegas style slot machines. In exchange the Seminoles will be playing $1.5 million over five years.

Now if the deal is broken by pari-mutuels being allowed blackjack in less than five years or Vegas style slot machines in less than twenty years, the respective portion of the Seminoles’ payment to the state will cease.

Naturally the pari-mutuels were not pleased. As a result they will have higher limit poker tables, later hours of operation and some breaks when it comes to the taxes they are paying to the state.

This is definitely a good day in terms of casino news. So Florida blackjack players go celebrate the Seminoles’ success by playing a few rounds at one of the five casinos. Not a Floridian? Pack your bags, visit Disney and then hope over to Tampa and enjoy the blackjack!