Blackjack Strategy: Two Cards or More than Two?

After my post yesterday afternoon I started giving some thought to blackjack strategy in regards to a two card hand versus blackjack strategy for multi card hands. This came to me after discussing how a two card soft 18 is played that same as a three card soft 18. This lead to the aforementioned thinking.

Is there really a difference between a hand that is made up of two cards and a hand that is made up of more cards?

In some cases it does. Naturally a two card blackjack is worth more than a hand with three or more cards that totals to 21. And a pair can only be split in the first two cards; you cannot have a 4/8 and hit for another 8, and then split. Also, you generally can only double down on two cards. Some casinos will allow for doubling on three cards but it is not a common house rule; and online casinos only offer double downs on two cards.

But in most cases it does not matter if you have a hand total made up of two cards or a hand made up of more than two cards. Take a look.

Let’s say you have a hand made up of a 6/8. That is a hard 14. If the dealer has a 7 or higher you would stand according to basic strategy.

Now let’s say you have a hand that is made up of a 5/3, which is a total of 8. Again, the dealer is showing a 7 or higher, and you hit according to common sense and basic strategy. You receive a 6 for a total of 14. As you do not have an Ace this is still a hard 14 and it would be played like you would a two card hard 14—in this example it means that you would still hit.

See how this works? There is nothing on the basic strategy chart that says that the hard hands can only be made up of two cards. Often enough with smaller starting hands you have to hit before your hand at least once before it comes time to decide to hit or stand again.

The point is that to get the most out of your blackjack strategy you need to actually be familiar with your strategy. Basic strategy is easy to use if you play on auto pilot. But auto pilot is not the best way to play blackjack if you want to turn a profit.

Blackjack Strategy: Two Card Soft 18 and Multi Card Soft 18

There are some hands in blackjack that who’s basic strategy plays just cause our brains to revolt. Our brains get hung up on the numbers, are so focused on the numbers, that they miss the finer points. One such hand is a soft 18.

A soft 18 consists of a 7 and an Ace. Our brains see that 18 and want to stand. But they are missing the fact that this is one of those flexible hands that have a chance of building into a better hand simply by hitting it. You do not have to worry about busting because you can reduce that Ace from 11 to 1 if you need to

In fact you cannot bust if you hit a soft 18. An Ace, 2 or 3 will give you a hand total of 19, 20 or 21—all strong hands. Anything 4 or more will cause you to reduce the Ace and you have decent ground to build strong.

This is why basic strategy dictates the following plays based on dealer up cards:

Dealer 2: stand
Dealer 3-6: double down
Dealer 7 and 8: stand
Dealer 9, 10, Ace: hit

As you can see, you are receiving another card more often than not. The only times you stand are the times when the dealer is in a good chance to build a hand stronger than yours if you were to hit.

But the soft 18 confusion does not end here. There must be something about having an Ace in hand that makes it a harder hand to know how to play.

I have heard of players who are fine and well with a two card soft 18, but if they start with a two card 7, hit and receive an Ace, the confusion begins again. But the truth is that a two card soft 18 is no different than a three card soft 18. It is still a soft 18 and that Ace can still be reduced, and a 4/3 is still worth 7. So the same plays can be made.

Your blackjack strategy for a soft 18 does not differ from your blackjack strategy for a soft 18 made up of three cards. Or even from four cards. The whole point is that you have an Ace and some other cards that are worth 7. Every player needs to train themselves to see past the obvious hand total on the surface and look at what cards are making up that hand total.

Low on Money: Blackjack Betting Strategy

It happens from time to time. Okay, perhaps it happens more often nowadays with an economy that is not so great. Whether you might be a bit low on funds because of the economy or because you had to put new tires on your car, it does not mean that you have to give up your blackjack playing.

In fact you can work some low stakes options into your blackjack betting strategy just for those times when money is a bit harder come by.

First off, there is no blackjack rule that says you have to play the game at $25 per hand. There are a good many blackjack myths out there, but the correct playing minimum is not one of them.

If you are playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino look for the blackjack tables with the lowest table minimums. There is no shame in playing at them. Often people will play at them for fun, to save a few bucks or to keep their bankroll in check.

The only thing to watch out for on tables with low table minimums is the house rules. You do not want to play at a table that is offering an even money payout on a blackjack, or one that allows the dealer to hit on a soft 17 or any of the major house rules that hit your blackjack odds hard.

For example, if you are faced with a $5 that offers even money on blackjacks or a $10 table with regular house rules, you will want to play at the $10. Part of playing low stakes blackjack is playing smart. Playing at a table with blackjack odds eating rules you will lose more money faster, thus defeating the purpose of having a low stakes portion to your blackjack betting strategy.

Thankfully playing low stakes in online blackjack is a bit simpler. For one thing the house rules are pretty standard, meaning you are not going to find a standard game of blackjack with funky rules like an even money payout on blackjack or a dealer hitting on soft 17. The blackjack variations will have those, but you know to avoid those.

So all that is left when playing low stakes online blackjack is to control your wagering—wager the lowest amount possible. Many online blackjack games offer several wagering options ranging from $1 up to $100 per hand. Obviously if you want to go with some low stakes online blackjack, your strategy should be to make $1 wagers.

The point of working some low stakes options into your blackjack betting strategy is so that you can still enjoy the game when your bankroll is on the low side.

Blackjack Myths Afternoon Special

So this morning I covered the blackjack myth about the objective of the game. Now it is time for another blackjack myth discussion simply because it is Friday the 13th and something about today calls for myths, beliefs and superstitions.

Another blackjack myth that is common is the myth that the player at third base can make or break the dealer.

Third base, for those who are new and joining us, is the seventh seat at a blackjack table. Thankfully this blackjack myth does not pop up in online blackjack as it only abounds when there is a table, more players and someone in that seventh seat. Online blackjack is played one on one with the dealer so there is no seventh seat to worry about.

Under this blackjack myth it is believed that the third base player can make or break the dealer, meaning that he controls whether the dealer busts or not.

But it happens nonetheless that the third base player will hit and then the dealer will win, and his fellow players carry on that third base took the dealer’s bust card—that third base should have stood regardless of what play he needed to make. Or if third base stands and the dealer hits to a strong hand, then it is third base’s fault for not taking one of those cards the dealer needed.

The problem with this myth is that the third base player does not know what the dealer’s hole card is, and so cannot divine what play the dealer could possibly make. Also the third base player does not know what the next card in the deck is.

Since third base has no idea what card is next, nor what play the dealer will make, there is no way for third base to knowingly influence the dealer.

All you can do if you find yourself seated at the seventh seat of a blackjack table is to play your hand according to your blackjack strategy and not listen if other players complain about how you play. In all honesty they probably are not perfect blackjack players either. So disregard the third base myth and do not be afraid of sitting at third base. Also, do not complain to the third base player if you are sitting in one of the other seats.

Blackjack Myths Special

In honor of today being Friday the 13th, I am going to talk about blackjack myths today.

First I am going to start with the most basic and most common blackjack myth: the objective of blackjack is to get a hand total of 21. It does not matter whether we are talking about online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, players (novices for sure) of both types seem to think that this is the objective.

However, they would be slightly mistaken. And when it comes to casino games it does not do to be mistaken in what their objectives are.

To set us on the right track, the true objective of blackjack is to beat the dealer without getting a hand total that goes over 21.

The reason you want to know the true objective of blackjack is that it can have an impact on your blackjack strategy. If you operate under the idea that all you have to do is get 21 and that the dealer’s hand is of no concern, you will probably hit a lot more and see no purpose to double down or split pairs.

Now if you were playing with the goal of beating the dealer you would be taking his cards and his playing choices into mind. Let’s compare!

If you had a hard 14 and the dealer had a 6 and were only trying to play to 21 you would probably hit. But since you are really trying to beat the dealer you would stand and give the dealer a chance at busting himself. If he busts himself then you win.

You see the difference between the two objectives, yes? Good. It is important to pay with correct blackjack objective in mind as it can have an impact on your blackjack strategy.

Happy Friday the 13th! Good luck when playing today!

Blackjack Origins

Every now and then it is good to take a step back and appreciate where something came from. Like a birthday—you celebrate where you came from once a year.

This is not a birthday post for blackjack, but more of an appreciation. Kind of like when you go to a museum or paid attention in history class to a lesson that you liked. Not everyone knows where blackjack game from, what its history is. Studying a casino game is one thing, but true appreciation comes from knowing the game. And that includes its history. So today we are going to take a look at the history of blackjack.

I know that Captain Jack Sparrow liked to blame things on the French. But in this case blaming the French for blackjack is a nice thing indeed.

While blackjack has a bit of a murky past—seems no one really kept track of things like we do today—but the most agree that blackjack originated in France from a couple of other card games: Chemin de Fer and French Ferme.

Wherever and however it actually came about, we do know that I was showing up in French casinos in the 1700s. At least that is when it was first documented as being somewhere. In the French casinos it was then called Vingt et Un, which is French for 21.

At some point 21 crossed the Atlantic and made it to the United States in the 1800s as that is when it was first document as being played here. In the western U.S. gambling—and blackjack—was legal between the 1850s and 1910.

In 1910 casino games and gambling were declared felonies. But in 1931 Nevada had a change of heart and made gambling and casino games legal again. And that is when blackjack began to reign as one of the most popular casino games.

The 1980s brought blackjack to Atlantic City. And it has continued to spread from there. Twenty states now have legalized gambling with more doing so as they are drawn to the money that could be made from taxes to fill in their budget holes. In addition there are seventy Native American casinos spread out around the United States as well.

Blackjack has come a long way since it first showed up in French casinos in the 1700s.

Blackjack Games: Blackjack Switch

Oh goody! It is time for more talk about blackjack games and blackjack variations. This morning I have chosen Blackjack Switch as my variation to compare to good ol’ blackjack.

This blackjack variation can be found scattered throughout brick and mortar casinos, and it is beginning to show its face in some online casinos.

Switch works a little bit differently from other blackjack games. For one thing you are not playing one hand per round, you are playing two. There is no way out of this. If you want to play Switch then you have to play with two hands per round.

The reason players have two hands to play is because they can switch the top two cards.

In fact that is the first playing decision a player makes—to switch or not to switch. When it is time to play out his hand he can switch the top two cards of his hands. This has the benefit of giving players the opportunity to improve their hands.

Let’s say that you are playing Switch and you are dealt a 4/10 on one hand and a 10/6 on the second. When your turn to play comes you can switch the 10 from the first hand with the 6 from the second because they are the top two cards. Once the switch is made you then have a 4/6 and a 10/10, both of which are good hands as you can double down on the 4/6, and the 10/10 is a strong hand to stand on.

While that example is the ideal for what you want to happen in a round of Switch, it does not always happen that way. Sometimes switching the top two cards only improves one hand. Or maybe you only switch them for a shot at minimizing your losses.

But while switching your top two cards seems like an advantage—and it is—there are, like in any blackjack variation, some major down sides.

The most obvious is that if you are playing with two hands per round, you are wagering twice as much per round. On top of the extra wagering, blackjacks on pay even money in this game, which is a 2.27% hit to your blackjack odds.

And for extra fun the dealer does not bust at 22 like he would in any other blackjack game. Instead it becomes a push. So you are not losing money, but you certainly are not winning anything extra.

So once again we have another blackjack game—yet another variation—that on the surface seems like it could be advantageous but really is not. Like with Face Up 21, Switch should be played for very low stakes or just for fun if you are playing online.

Golden Nugget’s New Online Blackjack

Seems that everyone is hoping on the social media band wagon.

Yesterday I talked about how Golden Nugget launched their very own Facebook game called Golden Nugget Vegas Casino with the help of Last Legion.

In this Facebook game players manage their own casino. They can install blackjack tables, slot machines and more. The y work to expand their casino offerings and their casinos themselves by ‘harvesting’ the profits of their chosen casino games.

But this is not just a ‘farming’ Facebook game. Golden Nugget has not gone to the trouble of creating a Facebook game simply for the enjoyment of Facebook members. Golden Nugget is trying to expand their brand name and increase awareness of their casino—both the brick and mortar casino and the online casino.

“The goal is to reach new eyeballs and get the brand in front of more people,” said Amy Chasey who is the Vice President of Marketing at Golden Nugget.

But building and managing your own casino is not where the real brand awareness is being plastered. Players can visit the casinos of their friends and play their favorite casino games with play money. In a way this is another form of playing blackjack online.

After clicking on a game, say the blackjack table, that you want to play online in your friend’s casino, the screen changes to a format similar to that of a regular online blackjack game. With the words ‘Golden Nugget’ splashed across the table of course.

In short, it is just another way of playing online blackjack. For free.

You can then wager $5, $25 or $100 per hand. The blackjack online in this casino Facebook game has standard house rules. But I am willing to wager that despite the fact that you are playing with fake money, the payout percentage is not all that great. Even playing with basic strategy you will find that you lose more often than you win. There is almost a feeling that the hands you normally win in ordinary online blackjack, you lose in this game.

Thankfully you are only playing with play money in this game. Golden Nugget has not created a real money option for their new game…yet.

Lastly, the avatars are a bit scary as they have big heads and kind of resemble those Bratz Dolls. But you do not see them while you are playing blackjack as the table fills the window.

Blackjack Games: Face Up 21

While blackjack is one of the most popular casino games both in online casinos and in brick and mortar casinos, sometimes you want something a little bit different. A little spice. A little variety. You like the game of blackjack but sometimes it just needs…something to shake the game up a bit. This is where blackjack variations came from.

Blackjack variations are still blackjack games, but they are blackjack games with a bit of a twist. In some form or another.

For the most part basic playing is the same and the objective is still the same: to beat the dealer without getting a hand total that tops 21. The spice, the twist, the variation comes in the form of some rule changes and a side bet.

Typically I am not a fan of blackjack games that are variations. This is because these variations have worse odds owing to changes in payout and the addition of side bets. By the way, a side bet is a second wager made on some aspect of the game; you can win the round of blackjack but lose a side bet and vice versa. Side bets are independent of the actual playing of a round of blackjack.

One such blackjack game that is a variation is Face Up 21. This variation can be found in brick and mortar casinos, but also in some online casinos as it is a fairly popular blackjack variation.

As for the game itself, all cards are dealt face up—including the dealer’s hole card. This revealed hole card is part of what makes this game such a draw. Players think that they have an edge on the dealer because his hole card is no secret.

But in truth the changes in the house rules on this game actually hurt your odds. And while seeing the dealer’s up card seems advantageous, it does not have an impact on your odds. It is just an illusion.

Now the house rule changes. In Face Up 21 all payouts are even money payouts, and this includes natural blackjacks; and pushes got to the dealer too. Your double down chances are limited to 9, 10 and 11. The even money payouts on blackjack knock 2.27% off your blackjack odds; and the limited double down knocks another 0.18% off your blackjack odds.

I understand that everyone needs a little variety from time to time, but when it comes to blackjack variations play should be limited to playing for fun in practice modes in online casinos. If you are playing blackjack games like Face Up 21 in brick and mortar casinos keep your wagers small to minimalize losses.

Blackjack and Casinos Meet Online in Facebook

Ever heard of Casinoville? Sounds a lot like that Farmville that is so popular on Facebook. If you like your blackjack and ever wondered what it would be like to own your own casino then this Facebook game is right up your alley.

Okay, I was half joking. There is no Facebook online game called Casinoville…although with all of the Ville online games on Facebook I am surprise there is not a Casinoville yet.

However if you want to get your blackjack and casino owning fun on there is a Facebook online game for you.

Last Legion has created and released a Facebook game called Golden Nugget Vegas Casino. In this Facebook game players can build their very own casino to manage. Online. Yes, I know, you would be online building a brick and mortar casino to play in online. This is kind of like one of those mirror in a mirror things.

But not only do players of Golden Nugget get to build and manage their own casinos—like those Ville Facebook games—they can play in them too. You can play blackjack, video poker and roulette. To win chips to do more things to your casino.

It seems the chips are the key to the game. Players can play in their own casino for chips, or they can visit their friends’ casinos and play there for chips.

Part of managing your own casino in this game is to draw in non-player patrons and win their money off of them. Talk about the shoe being on the other foot. But if you get bored of playing the house you can always roam the floor of your own casino and play blackjack all you want.

And unlike all of those Ville games, Golden Nugget is played entirely with fake money—those chips I spoke of. The chips are in game money that do not cost a single penny of your real money. So Last Legion and Golden Nugget are not angling for your cash…for now.

CEO of Last Legion, Seth Gearson, says, “It’s pretty satisfying to actually generate in-game money in a way other than the classic social game format.” Translation: You do not have to harvest crops to earn money—you merely win it off of your friends…which is in the true spirit of gambling.

I suppose you could think of it as a garage game of blackjack in which you take your friends chips. Only this is all on Facebook where you can make a cute little casino avatar of yourself.

Oh, and since this is your own casino you can have all of the blackjack tables you want.