Blackjack Strategy: Can Insurance Help Me?

Recently I was asked a question in regards to blackjack strategy and insurance. The young man in question plays blackjack online, and had heard that insurance can sometimes be advantageous for the player. He wanted to know if this were true or not.

In a way, yes, it is true. But! But it cannot be used for online blackjack.

In order to make insurance work for you in terms of blackjack strategy you need to be a card counter. And I do not just mean that you have just started counting cards in the casino. You need to be a strong card counter.

Real quick let’s take a moment to review what insurance really is. Insurance is offered when the dealer has an Ace showing. The player can then make a second wager for half the amount of his original wager so that if the hole card is a 10 he will receive a payout that is equivalent to his original wager, but he will lose his original wager.

It sounds like this in not a bad idea, but players who take insurance will lose more money in the long run simply because they are wagering more money when they take insurance. Because insurance is really a side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is worth 10 or not.

So if the player stands to lose more money in the long run, how can there ever be a time when taking insurance is advantageous to the player?

There are only two occasions when taking insurance could be advantageous: when you are holding a 20 or a natural blackjack AND you have been counting the cards and know that the deck is rich in high cards.

True the dealer could wind up with blackjack, but the net gain is the same. Take a look.

You are making $10 wagers. You have a natural blackjack and take insurance. If the dealer does have a natural blackjack too, then you push and hang on to your $10, but you also collect on the $5 insurance wager, picking up $10.

If the dealer does not have a natural blackjack, you lose the $5 insurance wager, but win $15 from having a natural blackjack. Subtract the lost $5 from the $15 you won, and your net gain is still the same: $10.

But taking insurance under these conditions can only happen when the deck is rich in high cards, and the only way to tell that is to be skilled at card counting. And because this little blackjack strategy trick requires card counting it means that it cannot be used for online blackjack since card counting cannot be down in online blackjack.

But this insurance trick is still a fun additive to your blackjack strategy—a bit of a sneaky way to take a play meant to take a player’s money and turn it around.

Strategy for Online Blackjack: Rate of Play

When it comes to playing online blackjack, there are some differences between blackjack that is played online and blackjack that is played in a brick and mortar casino. Those differences can have an impact on your blackjack strategy.

One of the biggest differences comes down to players. When you are playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, you could be playing with up to six other players. But when you are playing blackjack online it is a one on one game between you and the dealer. While this does not seem like a big deal, it actually is.

The more players there are in a round of blackjack the longer it takes to play out. If you are playing at a full table, the average number of hands per hour is around 55. But if you are playing one on one with the dealer you will go through about 220 hands in a single hour.

Granted, that is a big difference, but what does that have to do with strategy for online blackjack?

Well, blackjack strategy is about making the most of advantageous situations and minimizing your losses in disadvantageous ones. Since the house will almost always have an edge, you will lose money over the course of that hour.

We are going to say that you are a basic strategy player who plays $25 per hand. With basic strategy you have lowered the house edge to 0.5%, meaning that you will lose around $0.12 per hand.

If you were playing at a full table you would only lose on average $7 per hour. But if you were playing one on one, like you would be playing in online blackjack, you would lose around $28 per hour. That is quite the difference.

Unfortunately there is no way to add more players to your game when playing online blackjack. So you need to find something to your strategy to slow your rate of play, or how many hands you play per hour.

There is no magic strategy tool for this. This is a player controlled strategy, meaning you are in control of how many rounds are played per hour. Give yourself a time limit—play for 15 minutes and then take a break for a set number of minutes. Or give yourself a set number of rounds to play in an hour; when you have played that many, stop until the next hour arrives.

Or you could be like me and donate blood. It takes a few days to recover, for your body to restore the missing blood, so you run a little bit slower. Donating blood has the benefit of saving someone’s life and helping your online blackjack strategy at little bit.

But I would still play for a set number of rounds, or for a set amount of time before taking a break. After all you can only donate so much blood so often.

Blackjack Strategy for Hard Hands

Name one of the worst hands to be dealt in a game of blackjack.

If you named one of the stiff hands then you have chosen wisely.

Stiff Hands are some of the worst hands to be dealt, and not just statistically speaking or in terms of blackjack strategy. They are a bummer to moral too. You know as soon as you see those two cards tallying up to 12, 13, 14, 15 or 16 you just have this sinking feeling.

Those are, by the way, the stiff hands, hard 12 through 17.

And there is also a feeling that your blackjack strategy cannot help you when you are facing down a stiff hand.

Unfortunately you can look to being dealt a stiff hand around 43% of the time when you are playing. This percentage applies to both blackjack played in a brick and mortar casino and to blackjack online. Both games at their core are the same.

On that note you are lucky as your blackjack strategy will not vary regardless of where you are playing blackjack.

What makes blackjack strategy for stiff hands seem so ineffective is that you know that you still are the underdog and that your chances of losing are still pretty high. Blackjack players are used to turning to their blackjack strategies to make their odds at winning better. But that is not the sole purpose of blackjack strategy.

That other part of blackjack strategy is minimizing your losses, and it goes hand in hand with playing out stiff hands. It is true that even with a strategy tool are great as basic strategy that you are still the favorite to lose as unfortunate as that sounds.

Knowing that you are the underdog, what you want to do with your blackjack strategy is to minimize your losses. I know, this sounds easier said than done, but that is how players must look at it.

As a rule of thumb, and according to basic strategy, the best thing for you to do if you find yourself with a hard 13 through hard 17 is to stand if the dealer is showing a 2 through 6 and hit if the dealer is showing a 7 through Ace. Now, with a hard 12 you will want to hit if the dealer has a 2, 3 or 7 through Ace, and stand if he has a 4 through 6.

When your first two cards reveal a stiff hand, switch your mind to thinking that you must now minimize your losses. Once you have that in mind, next focus on how your blackjack strategy says to handle the stiff hand you have been dealt.

Blackjack Fun Fact Friday—Part II

Fridays are fun days. So I am going to continue with this being Fun Fact Friday. Again, I will take no arguments.

Do you remember a few posts ago when I wrote about the history of blackjack? Well, if not a quick recap: blackjack is, as of right now, credited as coming from France, showing up in casinos there in the 1700s. End of recap.

However the Italians had a game similar to Vingt et Un, the French name for 21, which was the original name for blackjack. The Italian version of the game is called Seven and a Half. French and Italian blackjack aficionados still argue over which country should be credited as being the first to have blackjack.

And to further throw a wrench into that debate is Napoleon. In documentation of Napoleon’s life it was discovered that Napoleon was a big fan of blackjack. So it could be argued that, being that Napoleon was French, that he picked up blackjack from growing up in France.

However, Napoleon spent time a good chunk of his time in exile playing blackjack. He was exiled on the island known as Elba. The Italian island I might add. So it could be argues that he picked it up in Italy.

So we are left with a point in each country’s corner as to who can lay claim as to where blackjack came from.

Now, much to the annoyance of the French and the Italians, the Spanish can lay a claim to being the source of blackjack. After all they do have their own version of the game: Spanish 21. But thankfully the Spanish seem to be more laid back about the debate and are happy to just enjoy the game.

Regardless of where blackjack originally came from, it made its way to the United States in the 1800s. And after a ban in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, has been enjoying its popularity since 1939 when Nevada made blackjack legal.

Blackjack Fun Fact Friday

I have declared that today shall be Fun Fact Friday. There will be no arguing with me on this either.

But I promise to stick to blackjack facts.

To kick off this Fun Fact Friday I am going to start off with when blackjack first came to the United States.

Yes, we all know that it is one of the most popular casino games. Multiple tables can be found in brick and mortar casinos across the country, and more casinos are moving to legalize blackjack in their states so that they too can jump on the blackjack band wagon.

But it was not always this way for blackjack.

When this favored casino game first game ashore in the United States in the 1800s it was not popular. After all it was an unheard of card game, and with all the gentlemen in the clubs in the city and the cowboys out west hooked on poker, there was not a lot of space for a new card game.

In an effort to make blackjack more appealing, casino owners began adding rules and side bets. Some of the surviving side bets have no become the blackjack variations we have today. And while many professional blackjack players today do not advocate side bets, in the 1800s that was how the casinos lured in players.

In fact, that is how blackjack got its name. The game originated in France and was called Vingt et Un, which is French for 21. When the game came ashore in the 1800s it was simply called 21.

But through the various side bets and special payouts offered 21 was renamed blackjack. This is because one of the special payouts was a 10-1 payout given if the two card 21 was made up of the Ace of Spades and the Jack of Spades or the Jack of Clubs. Hence blackjack.

The 10-1 payout has long since been retired, but the name blackjack has stuck. Even when the special payouts and side bets became blackjack variations and the game was returned to what we know it is now, the name was stuck and blackjack’s rise to popularity was set.

Creating the Perfect Blackjack Card Counting Skill

Like any amazing dish, what goes in definitely comes out. The better quality the ingredients are the better the food. Also like good food, some things take time to make.

How does this relate to blackjack? Card counting. It relates to card counting.

This is one blackjack skill that can have a big impact on a player’s blackjack strategy, and therefore on a player’s blackjack odds. Similar to good food, card counting is a quality skill that requires time. The more time and practice that a player puts into to their card counting the better the skill is.

So what can a blackjack player do to cultivate their card counting skills?

First off take the time to practice. Equate practicing card counting to not rushing through the preparations on a nice dinner you are making. The practice required for any good skill requires time.

A skill is not developed instantaneously. Be prepared to spend a good many hours counting your way through card decks. And that is the best way to practice when you are still learning the skill—count your way through card decks.

Practicing you counting skill is like following a recipe. Go step by step.

Learn the ‘rules’ of the card counting system that you want to become skilled at. Then start out by slowly counting your way through a single deck out loud. Once you can count through the deck quickly and without pauses, begin counting silently in your head until you can count silently without pauses. Then begin adding decks repeating those first two steps. Once you have a few decks down to where you can count silently in your head without pauses, throw in some distractions—music, the TV, or maybe both at the same time. This prepares you for card counting in a noisy casino.

We have covered time and steps, now on to quality.

Do not cheat yourself when practicing. This means no cutting corners. If you really cannot count through one deck silently without pauses, do not move on to multiple decks yet. If you cut corners you are not developing the skill completely and that could leave you vulnerable.

Vulnerable to what? Well, let’s say a pit boss who finds out you are counting cards and has your thrown out of the casino.

Just keep in mind when you are working on your card counting or any other skill in your blackjack strategy arsenal that you need to devote the time and quality necessary to developing the skill. Follow the steps and give yourself time. Or you might have a scary pit boss breathing down your neck.

Insurance and Blackjack Strategy—Some Things Do Not Mix

Have you ever tried to combine oil and water in the same container? It does not work so well does it? Sure, you can shake the container up again and again, but the oil and water will always separate. This is nature’s way of telling you that those two do not go together.

The same can be said about mixing insurance with blackjack strategy.

You might try mixing your blackjack strategy up a bit to take insurance, but the two will always separate. Insurance just does not feel right when playing blackjack. And so the two should always be separate.

The reason for this is you know that insurance is not your friend. It does not help your blackjack odds. For one thing you are putting out money to guard your money. Just say that out loud: Insurance is putting out money to guard your money. Does not sound right does it? That is because it is not right.

More often than not casinos and online casinos will collect either your original wager or your insurance wager. So you are losing money no matter what. If you won the round but lost your insurance wager, you lost money you did not have to.

Oh, and insurance and a natural blackjack—that is a big mistake. See, when you have a natural blackjack and the dealer has an Ace showing he will not offer you insurance. Instead he will offer you even money—which is just another way of losing money. Only this time you are losing it in your payout.

Insurance even money payouts are 1-1 payouts rather than the standard 3-2 payouts. And that hits your blackjack odds for 2.27%.

The point here is that if insurance is so bad for your blackjack odds, why mix it in to your blackjack strategy—which is supposed to increase your odds. Why do something to decrease your odds when you are trying to increase them? Insurance just seems so counterproductive to a strong blackjack strategy.

Natural Ways in Blackjack Strategy to Reduce the House Edge

When playing blackjack, players who desire to be savvy blackjack players will work and work to build a blackjack strategy that they can use to reduce the house edge and increase their own blackjack odds. This is true across the board of blackjack players. Those who play in brick and mortar casinos seek to beat the house, just like online blackjack players. It is one of the similarities between the two formats.

The desire to be a savvy blackjack player will take players on a quest from one of the internet to the other. They will closely examine strategy methods of others and tear about blackjack betting strategies. For players who play in brick and mortar casinos, they will practice and practice at card counting.

But for all of this work and studying, many blackjack players overlook a very effective way of reducing the house edge that is built in to the very basics of the game: double down.

Doubling down hits the house edge for 1.6%. When you consider that other plays only knock off fractions of a single percent, a hit of 1.6% is quite large.

When a player doubles down, he has the chance of winning twice the amount off of the house that he normally would on that particular hand. Because blackjack odds are about money, the opportunities that give the player a chance to take more money from the house are the ones that increase blackjack odds the most.

So why are blackjack players hesitant to double down and why do others disregard it entirely?

The answer is simple. They are afraid to put more money on the line. And with an attitude like that, a blackjack player might as well be handing over a portion of their bankroll.

And it is not like players are left with no way of knowing when the best chances to double down are. Basic strategy tells players when the most opportune times to double down are, which further decreases chances of loss and increases chances of winning.

With that knowledge in hand and knowing just how much damage doubling down can do to the house’s edge, it is most unwise to ignore doubling down. And that is exactly why any savvy blackjack player will not ignore the ‘natural’ means of increasing their blackjack odds, and will not forget doubling down in their blackjack strategy.

Florida Casino to Open $5 Blackjack Tables…Finally

For as long as there has been blackjack in the state of Florida, $5 blackjack tables have not been a common find. But then we are talking pre-legal, compact approved blackjack within the state. Now that there is a compact between the Seminole tribe and the state of Florida giving the Seminoles a five year exclusivity to blackjack, the layout of the blackjack landscape is changing. For the better.

This coming Friday, August 20th, the first twenty four hour, seven days per week $5 blackjack tables will open at the Seminole Casino Hollywood.

The Seminole Casino Hollywood is not a new casino. It has been around for the last thirty years. But this is the first big event for this casino in several years. And it is all thanks to the exclusivity on blackjack that the Seminoles now enjoy, which went into effect this past July.

The opening of the new twenty four hour, seven days per week $5 blackjack tables will begin with speeches made by Seminole Gaming CEO, Jim Allen. There will also be speeches made by Seminole leaders. Once the speeches are done with, Seminole Casino Hollywood General Manager Adrian Fox will then say the magic words to get the gambling underway: “Guests place your bets.”

And speaking of guests there are several notable VIPs of the eighty four that will be present to break in the new blackjack tables this coming Friday. Among them is former NFL star Zach Thomas, Jimmie Walker and Alfonso Ribeiro, as well as other local media personalities. And naturally Seminole Tribal Council members will also be at the tables to play the first hand at these twelve new $5 blackjack tables.

One More Time with Feeling: Online Blackjack and Card Counting

We have been down this road before. However, blackjack is one of the most popular casino games out there; and when it comes to card games, its popularity is second only to poker. But let’s face it—blackjack is easier to a play than poker. And the same applies to online blackjack.

And being one of the most popular online casino games for obvious reasons, it is no surprise that new players find their way to online blackjack.

What they might not know is that, while being highly similar, there are some difference between online blackjack and blackjack in a brick and mortar casino. The general house rules are the same, and most part of blackjack strategy will cross over. But there is a big one that does not cross over. And players who are new to online blackjack should be aware of it.

Card counting does not work in online blackjack.

Yes, there is a reason. There are no discarded cards in online blackjack. This is because of the Random Number Generator that runs the game.

When a game of online blackjack is first created by the developers, every possible two player cards and dealer up card combination is programmed into the game’s RNG. This means that it is pulling from all of the cards so to speak. As soon as a player clicks Deal, the RNG will select a two card and dealer up card combination.

Because the RNG pulls from all possibilities it means that no cards are ever discarded. This can be compare to playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino at a table with a Continuous Shuffle Machine (CSM). And blackjack players know that card counting is impossible with a CSM.

So when players come to play blackjack online they should know not to try to count cards.