Blackjack Worth it in Pennsylvania

Build it and they will come. Or rather, add them and they will come.

There were many people in Pennsylvania that were either skeptical or downright opposed adding blackjack tables to the casinos found in their state. The objections and disbelief ranged from ‘Could that really give the state revenue?’ to ‘Gambling will corrupt our society and communities.’

But the table games were approved this past spring and were installed in nine brick and mortar casinos around Pennsylvania:

Harrah’s Chester Casino and Racetrack, Hollywood Casino Penn National, The Meadows Racetrack and Casino, Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Mount Airy Casino Resort, Parx Casino, Presque Isle Downs, Rivers Casino and Sands Casino Resort.

August was the first whole month in which all nine brick and mortar casinos had their blackjack and other table games open for business. While the table games were all installed in July, they were not all installed at the same time. So August is the first month in which revenue could be compared.

For the month of August those nine casinos brought in from the table games alone $34.6 million. Of that $34.6 million, $4.8 million will go to the state of Pennsylvania in taxes, while another $691,000 will to municipalities.

So that is $4.8 million that did not have to come out of citizens’ pockets in the form of raised taxes, so I would call the installation of blackjack, poker, roulette and craps tables a success.

Shawn McCloud, an analyst for Spectrum Gaming Group, agreed:

“It is an impressive start for Pennsylvania…Obviously, Pennsylvania is going to be a formidable competitor in the table games market.”

Here is the breakdown in revenue generated by the new blackjack and other table games:

Parx Casino: $6,338,617
Harrah’s Chester Casino and Racetrack: $5,918,137
Sands Casino Resort: $4,297,070
Rivers Casino: $4,162,280
Mohegan Sun: $3,533,765
Mount Airy Casino Resort: $3,360,361
Hollywood Casino Penn National: $2,658,762
The Meadows Racetrack and Casino: $2,395,124
Presque Isle Downs: $1,891,056

Double Down and Pair Splitting All in One

This morning I talked about a house rule to work into your blackjack strategy in which the house rule actually favors the player. Well, there is another one. This particular house rules allows players to double down after they have they have split a pair.

The step by step breakdown of how this house rule works goes like this:

First you have to be dealt a pair. You then choose to split that pair and up your wager accordingly. Let’s say that you split a pair of 8s—which you are supposed to be splitting no matter what. Once those two 8s have been broken into new hands they then receive new second cards. We are going to say that one of those 8s receives a 2, making it a hard 10 against a dealer’s 6.

According to basic strategy you would double down on a hard 10 against a dealer’s 6. Normally you would not be allowed to double down after splitting a pair. But if you are playing in a blackjack game that does allow for doubling after splitting this would be the time to do so.

Doubling after splitting at advantageous times can lower the house edge by 0.14%, which is a nice hit to their edge. This is because doubling after splitting allows you to win more money from the house than you would if you were not allowed to double after splitting. But you have to do so only when it is advantageous.

How do you know if it is advantageous to double after splitting?

It is surprisingly easy. After splitting and receiving your new second cards for each of your new hands, check those new hands against a basic strategy chart as if each hand were the first two cards you had been dealt at the beginning of the round.

Using the above example, when I wound up with a hard 10 after splitting, I would check how to play a hard 10 against a dealer’s up card of 6 just as if I had been dealt that hard 10 from the beginning of the round.

Because of the 0.14% hit to the house’s edge, doubling after splitting is a good play to add to your blackjack strategy.

Blackjack Strategy for Aces

Aces are the strongest cards in the game of blackjack. This is because of their ability to be counted as an 11 or a 1. That flexibility is what makes them the strongest card.

Not to mention the fact that they are essential to having a natural blackjack.

But Aces are also strong because of how they work with pairs.

I have discussed how, when dealt a pair of Aces, you need to split them. This is because it increases your blackjack odds because it increases your chances of making money.

But there is another house rule that further increases the flexibility of Aces. And in increase in flexibility further increases your blackjack odds.

Sometimes casinos will allow for players to resplit Aces. This means that you are dealt a pair of Aces in your first two cards, you split them, then at least one of those new hands receives another Ace forming a second pair of Aces.

A fair number of casinos will not allow players to resplit such a second hand, and you would be stuck with a soft 12.

However there are times when the house rules are changed a bit, and players are allowed to resplit Aces. This house rule takes 0.06% away from the house’s edge because it increases your chances of winning and decreases their chances of taking your money.

While 0.06% is not a huge hit to the house’s edge, some is better than none. Blackjack strategy is about increasing your chances of winning which increases your blackjack odds. So even though resplitting Aces is not a huge decrease it is still a decrease. On top of that a second pair of Aces is not a common happening which is another reason for the low hit to the house’s edge.

But it should still be worked into your blackjack strategy for the hit it does to the house’s edge.

Blackjack Payouts and Blackjack Odds

Have you ever thought about the payouts you receive in a game of blackjack?

Oh I am sure you have thought about it in terms of money. You know not to play in a game of blackjack if the payout for a natural is 6-5 because it means you will receive less money.

But have you thought about blackjack payouts in terms?

Probably not.

Another reason not to play in a 6-5 payout blackjack game is what that payout does to your blackjack odds. That so-called payout takes 1.39% off of your blackjack odds. In fact, the only payout worse than a 6-5 is an even money—that knocks 2.27% off.

The reason for the hit to the odds is because a smaller payout is an opportunity to make less when winning. Blackjack odds are based on opportunities for the player to make money. If a house rule or payout provides the player with an opportunity to make more than the standard amount given simply for beating the dealer, then that house rule or payout increases the player’s odd.

On the other hand if the house rule or payout takes away from the opportunity to make money, that house rule or payout decrease the player’s chances.

So is there are a few payouts that decrease a player’s blackjack odds—not to mention money. Are they are payouts that increase the player’s odds?

There is. A 2-1 payout for a natural blackjack increases a player’s blackjack odds and money.

For a 3-2 payout a player receives $1.50 for every dollar that they wager. For a 2-1 payout a player receives $2 for every dollar wagered. It does not sound like much but in terms of a standard $10 wager, you would receive $20 instead of $15.

As for odds, a 2-1 payout increases a player’s blackjack odds by 2.27%, which is quite a nice increase.

So if you can find a game with a 2-1 payout play in that game since that blackjack payout will increase your blackjack odds.

Blackjack Strategy—the Little Extras

Every now and then when you are wandering around the casino floor of a brick and mortar casino somewhere you might notice some extra little blackjack house rules. Most players see addition house rules as a threat from the house: ‘Oh no! They are coming to take more of my money!’

Sure there are house rules that are aimed at taking your money faster. But they are often found in blackjack variations along with the side bets—which you should be staying away from, by the way.

What needs to be done when an out of the ordinary house rule is spotted is to check it out, see what it is and then think about whether it is to your benefit or theirs. If it is for theirs, keep walking. If it is for yours then sit down and play a few rounds.

One such rule is doubling down on three or more cards. It is not a common house rule, but every now and then it will pop up in casinos.

This house rules does not require a lot of thought as to whether it is good for you blackjack strategy or not.

In general, the double down play is in the player’s favor. For those players who do not do their blackjack strategy homework, doubling down at advantageous times will knock 1.6% off of the house edge. And that is only when you can double on your first two cards.

So logically it follows that if you can double on three or more cards that your opportunities to double down increase. So your odds of making more off the house increase because your opportunities increase.

Those extra opportunities to double down knock 0.2% off the house edge, which makes it a nice addition to your blackjack strategy. It does not knock as much off as a standard double down, but that is because there are not an excessive hands of three or more cards in which it is advantageous to double down on.

But I say that every little bit helps. Think about whether or not these extra house rules will help your blackjack strategy. If they do help, sit and play a few.

Blackjack Strategy: More Pair Splitting!

This is the last of the pair splitting post, I swear. But what would a mutli-part discussion on pair splitting blackjack strategy be without a post devoted to pairs of 8s? It would be incomplete, that is what. So here it is blackjack strategy meets a pair of 8s.

Unlike pairs of 5s and 10s, and like a pair of Aces, a pair of 8s should always be split.

Why do you not split a pair of 8s?

Let me ask you what is 8 + 8? The answer is 16. So a pair of 8s is the same thing as a hard 16. And we all know how much we hate that hand. Nothing worse than a stiff hand, and a hard 16 is the worst. It is not high enough to win with, and it is also too high to hit.

In my opinion a hard 16 is the worst hand to have in blackjack. The only way you can win with it is if the dealer busts because there are five totals that are higher than your 16, all of which the dealer can stand on.

If that alone is not enough to convince you not to split your pair of 8s, ask yourself which you would rather have: one 16 that does not have a decent shot at winning. Or would you rather have two hands that each start with 8?

You should have said two hands that start with 8. This is because, while the chances are not stellar, you do have a better chance of building a stronger hand by starting each hand with an 8 than you do of winning with a hard 16.

Splitting a pair of 8s is on a basic strategy chart, which is legal to use in brick and mortar casinos and in online blackjack. But you have to use it, to make it a part of your blackjack strategy, in order for it to be effective. That includes splitting a pair of 8s when it tells you to. And besides it is just good blackjack strategy to split 8s.

Blackjack Strategy: More on Pair Splitting…or Not Splitting

I was thinking some more about commonly made blackjack mistakes, and I got to thinking more about pair splitting and blackjack strategy. I know I mentioned how some pairs should be split and some should not, that is just how blackjack strategy is supposed to be.

Blackjack players just do not seem to apply any blackjack strategy to their game when it comes to pairs. They can usually be divided into two ways of dealing with pairs: they either split everything just for the sake of splitting a pair, or they play their pairs like hard hands. And both ways are wrong and not good blackjack strategy. Not to mention it hurts a player’s blackjack odds.

Some pairs are meant to be split and other are meant to not be split. Two pairs that are not meant to be split is a pair of 5s and a pair of 10s.

Do not get hung up on the fact that you have a pair. Look instead at what the hand total is. A pair of 5s totals in at 10, and a pair of 10s total in at 20. With either pair you are holding a hard 10 or a hard 20.

Both of those hands are good hands to have in blackjack.

A hard 10 is one of the hands that offers the most opportunities to double down. And we all know that doubling down will hit the house edge for 1.6% when done at advantageous times. The chance to win more and to hit the house edge should not be thrown away just to split a pair for the sake of splitting.

And a hard 20 is one of the strongest hands in blackjack! The only way the dealer can beat that hand is to have a natural blackjack or to hit to 21. So your chances of winning are a lot stronger with a pair of 10s than if you were to split them.

The point is that pair should not be played like hard hands or split just for the sake of splitting. The best thing for a player to do is grab a basic strategy chart and use that for their blackjack strategy. It will tell players what pairs to split when.

Blackjack Strategy: Splitting Aces

To go along with the stories of mistakes made while playing blackjack, I will talk about another one this afternoon: splitting Aces. Similar to how soft hands are often misplayed, pairs are often misplayed, although soft hands are more often played wrong than pairs. A lack of blackjack strategy is involved here.

And while players do not seem willing to embrace the aspect that makes a soft hand soft, players will fall into one of two camps in regards to splitting pairs: split them all or split none of them.

And neither blackjack camp is correct.

Good blackjack strategy has players not splitting some pairs and splitting others. One of those pairs that, according to good blackjack strategy, should be split all of the time is a pair of Aces.

Think about it. If you value both Aces at 11 it gives you a hand total of 22, which is stupid and an instant bust. And valuing them both at 1 seems rather silly. We are left to value one card at 11 and one at 1, which is a hand total of 12. Uh oh, you now have a hard 12, one of the infamous stiff hands. What is a blackjack player to do?

Split those Aces!

It does not matter what the dealer’s up card is, a pair of Aces is always split–your blackjack odds are better overall to do so.

Splitting a pair of Aces gives you two hands that both start at 11, which is solid ground to stand on to build two strong hands. In fact there is not a single card that you can draw that would bust you; a card worth 2 through 10 would give you a total of 13 through 21. If you were to receive another Ace you could split again if house rules allowed you to, or would be left with a 12—which is no worse than how you started.

When thinking about your blackjack strategy ask yourself which you would rather have: a single hard 12 or two hands that start at 11? When considering blackjack strategy the answer should be simple. Split, split, split.

Blackjack Strategy: Soft Hands

Soft hands seem to be the most misunderstood hands in blackjack. It does not matter if they are playing online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino. A soft hand is dealt, and players’ blackjack strategy goes blank; and they seem to hesitate before playing it out as if it were a hard hand.

Hard hands are not soft hands. Their blackjack strategy is different. This is why when you look at a basic strategy chart soft hands have their own section. It is there for a reason, people.

Soft hands offer a flexibility that hard hands only wish they had. Perhaps that flexibility is what confuses players, throws them since there is more of a variable in what could happen.

Want to see an example?

Imagine that you are dealt a soft 15. This means you are starting the round with a 4 and that dreaded, yet misunderstood Ace. This hand could be played as a 15 or a 5, and it will always start out as a 15. Players need to remember that with that Ace they still have the option of dropping down to 5 in case their hit card would bust their 15.

There is no reason not to hit a soft 15. And if you do not you stand a high chance of losing. Remember this is not a hard 15. This is not a stiff hand. If your hit card is, says, a 7, you will not bust. Sure, if you were holding a hard 15 you would bust. But this is a soft 15 and that 7 is not going to bust you since you can drop that 15 down to 5, leaving you with a hard 12.

Okay, you might end up with a stiff hand if you hit, but you are not worse off hitting a soft 15 than you would be if you stood on that soft 15.

The blackjack strategy for soft hands is about having the flexibility for soft hands. It gives you the ability to hit and end up no worse off than you were when you started. In the case of that soft 15, hitting and getting a 6 would most likely win the round for you.

The point of the blackjack strategy is having that extra chance to do something with your hand that hard hands cannot do. Do not waste it.

Gambling Addiction Signs

True to what I mentioned this morning, I will talk about gambling addiction.

While I honestly believe that the majority of gambling patrons can handle their money and their gambling responsibly, there are those who cannot, and it is important to be able to recognize if you or someone you know has a problem.

Financial Secrecy
When a person with a person has an addiction to gambling they will often become secretive about their finances. They will often insist on overseeing household finances by themselves, not because they feel that they can manage them better, but because it gives them direct access to money. They might also want to hide just how much money they have gambled.

Compulsive Gambling
Those with an addiction to gambling will often find it had to walk away when they have lost their allotted bankroll. Even though their gambling money is gone, they will often look for other sources of money. These could come in the form of credit cards, using money allotted for something else such as living expenses, or they could even steal it.

This need to find another source of money comes from the drive to win back the money they just lost. Winning back lost money is at the source of compulsive gambling. Addicted gamblers try to find more money to wager with to win back the money they already lost, and in the process lose that next batch of money.

Unnecessary Gambling
This happens when you do not have money to gamble but feel the urge to and do so anyway, finding money in the aforementioned sources. This is when gambling sits in an addicted player’s mind and is their constant companion. It builds into an urge that some addicts will fight while others do not, and it still leads to the casino or online casino.

If you notice these signs about you and your gambling habits, or if someone you know exhibits these signs, it is a good indicator that they have an addiction to gambling.

If you notice these signs about yourself, seek help. If you notice these signs in a friend or loved one, talk to them about their gambling, but be prepared to have your concern met harshly—addicts do not always like to admit that they have a problem.

However hard it is to admit that a person has a gambling addiction, it must be acknowledge so that help can be sought.