Playing Blackjack in an Online Casino

Blackjack is an old casino game. It can be traced back to France in the 1700’s. That is not to say that it is French—after all there is Spanish 21, which is a very similar card game with obvious Spanish roots—but the 1700’s was the first record of blackjack in a casino.

Anyway. Times have changed and players are no longer limited to playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino. Instead they can stay at home and play from their home computer. Or from their office at work if they feel risqué enough to do so.

And while online blackjack has many similarities with blackjack played in a brick and mortar casino, the two are not identical.

One, the feeling of being just you and the dealer is emphasized in that you are the only player at the virtual table. This is not like some online poker rooms in which you will be playing with a few real people from somewhere on this planet. Online blackjack is just you and the game.

Two, some types of blackjack strategy cannot be used in online blackjack. Namely card counting. Card counting requires cards to be discarded. This does not happen in online blackjack thanks to the RNG, which pulls cards and starting hands from all possibilities, creating in effect no discards.

But there are some other differences.

Three, you do not have to worry about whether you are playing at the right table with a minimum wager you are comfortable with. Online blackjack starts at $1 and most will go up to $200 per table. But the player is the one who choose how much he wagers within that range. So if you only want to wager $1 per hand, you go right ahead.

Four, you do not have to feel like you are on the spot or judged by other players that you are making the wrong play. Online blackjack can make you feel more confident in your playing without the pressure of other players telling you how to play your hand or that you played it wrong or that you took the dealer’s bust card (which is a myth anyway).

Online blackjack comes with good things and some that are more inconvenient. But on the whole I think it is a good way to play, especially if you are new to blackjack and are just branching out into playing for real money. Playing blackjack online keeps your confidence intact while allowing new players to become accustomed to playing with real money at smaller amounts than can be typically found in a brick and mortar casino.

Introducing Blackjack Strategy to New Players

After you have learned how to play blackjack and have taken some time to practice and become familiar with the feel of the game and are comfortable playing, it is time to introduce blackjack strategy into your game.

New blackjack players should be very thankful. Blackjack offers one of the easiest to use strategies that also happens to be the most effective. This is called basic strategy. And it is so basic to use that even players that are brand new to the game can use it and be successful with it.

Basic strategy’s most common form is a chart. This makes it easy for players to take it along to the casinos. And basic strategy is legal to use in casinos, so take a chart with you to play with.

What this chart gives you is the best statistical play for every single hand in the game against any dealer up card: hard hands, soft hands and pairs. All the player needs to do is look at where the row of their starting hand intersects with the column of the dealer’s up card. Where the two intersect is the best statistical play for that situation. All the player needs to do is make that play. It is that easy.

If players play every one of their hands according to basic strategy they can lower the house edge to 0.5%, which is the lowest house edge of the casino games.

So if basic strategy is that easy to use and if it lowers the house edge so much, how could it possibly be legal to use in casinos?

Basic strategy has a misplaced idea attached to it that it will beat the house and allow players to win every hand. Casinos are more than happy to allow players to believe this; in fact, there are some casinos that will give out basic strategy charts. What happens is a player will lose a few rounds and toss the chart away, going back to playing without strategy. Playing without strategy is where casinos can make their money.

Other players will only play according to basic strategy part of the time. And it is only effective if every hand is played according to it.

As a result not every player is successful with basic strategy. So in order to lower the house edge to 0.5% you must play every hand according to it. Thankfully basic strategy makes it easy for a new player to not only play an effective game and lower the house edge, but it also teaches them more about the game, especially if study the chart and think on why each play is what it is.

Basic strategy allows new players to have an impact on their odds at an early stage in their learning of blackjack. Now the only thing left is to practice using basic strategy.

How to Practice Blackjack

This morning I discussed how a new comer to the game could learn how to play blackjack. But once you learn the objective, rules and flow of the game what do you do then?

The next step is to practice playing blackjack. Thankfully we live in the Time of the Internet and the Time of the Online Casino, so this is not a daunting as it would have been, say, fifteen years ago. All you need to is find an online casino that you like and play.

Okay, let me expound on that. When I say play I do not mean depositing money. The majority of reputable online casinos have two ways of playing. One way is the most commonly known way, and that is to create a player account, deposit money to said player account and play online blackjack for real money. The other, lesser known way is to create a player account and play in the Play for Fun mode.

Online casinos do offer free play versions of their software, and the most commonly played casino games can be found in these free play versions. Thankfully blackjack is a popular casino game and it can be found in free play modes.

Online casinos offer free play modes for a few reasons. One, they allow potential real money players to try out their casino software. Two, it allows established real money players a way to try out new games to see if they like them. And three, free play modes are available so that players new or experienced can practice their game and their strategies.

Yes, practicing does not end once you are familiar with the game. Blackjack, if you intend to be good at it and especially if you intend to make money with it, requires continual practice to always be sharp in how to use your strategy. So once you have read the basics, your next step is practice so that you become used to the actual flow of a blackjack game. Tomorrow we will look at introducing strategy to new players.

How to Learn How to Play Blackjack

I have extolled the virtues of blackjack—how it is one of the easiest casino games to play (the only thing easier is slots and I am not going there today) and how it offers the easiest yet most effective strategy. But what I have never touched about is how to learn how to play blackjack. Because you cannot very well play if you do not know how to learn.

First you need to learn what the basic rules are, like what the objective is—the true blackjack objective I might add—and what the basic plays are: hit, stand, double down and splitting a pair. Hitting is when you take another card to increase your hand total; standing is when you do not want any more cards; double down is when you double your wager and receive only one more card; and splitting a pair is, again, when you double your wager and split the two cards with the same value into new hands.

You also need to know how a round of blackjack is played. First players make their wagers. Then the dealer deals two cards to each player; those two cards are your starting hand and they, along with the dealer’s up card, will determine how you play out the round.

After all of the players have their cards the dealer then deals himself one card face up—the up card—and one card face down—the hole card. Starting with the player on far right, if you are playing in a brick and mortar casino, each player will take their turn to play out their hands attempting to beat the dealer without going over 21.

Once the last player has made played out his hand, it is the dealer’s turn to play out his hand. House rules will dictate how he plays. For example, he has to stand on a hand of 17. So even if, as an individual, he wanted to hit, he could not. He also cannot double down or split a pair—those are advantages left to players. He also has to hit the hard hands that players usually stand on.

When the dealer reaches a total that he has to stand on or busts payouts are made to players who have won and wagers collected from players who lost. Unlike in poker, it is possible for more than one player to win a round. While seven players might be sitting at the table, blackjack really is a player-versus-the-dealer kind of game. What the other players do and whether they win or not has no impact on your own hand, especially know that third base has no impact on you despite what you might read or hear.

Reading up on the game and its rules and flow are how you learn to play blackjack. It is important to know the basics before sitting down at a blackjack table. Knowing how to play blackjack, its rules and flow of a round, helps you to play better and keep from losing more money than you would if you came to the blackjack table unprepared.

Good Blackjack Variations vs. Bad Blackjack Variations

I hear now and again that some players want to know what a good blackjack variation is and what are bad ones. There are some rules of thumb in helping players discern which variations are bad and which ones are not.

The primary indicator of a good blackjack variation is one that does not use side bets as the center point of the game. Yes, I know, that knocks the majority of blackjack variations out of consideration.

But think about it a moment—we know that insurance is a bad idea since it causes the player to lose more money over time than if the player had not taken insurance. And we also know that insurance is a cleverly named and present side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is worth 10 or not. So if that side bet is a bad idea, then why are all of the rest okay?

Because they are not okay. Side bets are never okay. Remember that.

So a good blackjack variation does not have side bets, which means that bad variations do have side bets. We will compare two blackjack variations so that you can see.

Blackjack Switch is played with two pairs per play in which the players can switch their second cards in order to increase the strength of their hands.

Perfect Pairs Blackjack is played with a normal hand but has players placing a wager on whether or not their first two cards will be a pair or not.

Based on the simple method of determining a good blackjack variation above, it is easy to see that Blackjack Switch is the variation of choice between the two. Players have no control on whether they will be dealt a pair or not. Whereas in Switch players still have an impact on the outcome of the round after taking into consideration the hook that makes Switch what it is.

So what have we learned? We have learned that side bets are bad and that whether or not a blackjack variation has one is how we should determine if a blackjack variation is good or bad.

Automated Blackjack Tables

I have been doing some more thinking about those automated blackjack tables that PokerTek has created. My mind keeps coming back to the idea that PokerTek believes that these automated blackjack tables will increase the social interaction between players at the table.

The whole reason for their belief in increased social interaction is because of the main screen. This central, main screen will have players all looking at the same place on the table. Players then use the controls in front of them to choose how to play out their hands, kind of like how you click on the appropriate button in a game of online blackjack.

But here is the thing that keeps tripping my mind. Blackjack is a one-on-one game, just you and the dealer. The other players’ plays do not impact your own game against the dealer. It is not like poker in where what the other players do matters. And it is not a social game for the most part. Sure, some people will talk at the table but it is not like craps where everyone is all excited and jumping around and all talking at once. At least that is how craps seems to me.

While I am sure that PokerTek has good intentions—meaning, they are trying to create a unique product and drive their business—I do not think that they can really change the essence of blackjack. And while I have no doubt that players will still play at automated blackjack tables, I doubt those players are going to have more “social interaction” than players at regular blackjack tables. It is just in the nature of blackjack—it is a one-on-one kind of game—and no automated blackjack tables are going to change that.

New Play for Real Blackjack App

Spin3 has developed yet another blackjack app for the Apple App Store. The app itself is tied to an online casino, in this case 32Red. Because of that tie, this new blackjack play for real mobile app can only be used by iPhone, iPad and iPod users in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Which is kind of a bummer for those of us that are not in the United Kingdom or Ireland.

The app, though tied to 32Red, is found through the Apple App Store. Once the player has downloaded the app, he or she is free to play what essentially amounts to online blackjack from their phone. And this is not just an ordinary app blackjack in which you are playing with pretend money. Because of that tie to a real online casino, players can play for real money on their iPhone or other Apple device.

This is another step forward that further merges online gambling with the world of mobile interaction, which is a combination that IGT has already looked into, what with their merger of their WagerWorks and Million-2-1 subsidiaries.

Honestly it does not surprise me that online casinos are working with mobile app developers to bring their casino platforms to mobile users. As it stands most online gambling takes place in the home. But people are on the go more and more, and with that comes even more reliance on mobile technology. And that is what is causing savvy online casino operators to turn to trying to put their platforms into a mobile format.

Why not playing online blackjack on your iPhone while waiting for your flight to arrive?

Right now this Spin3 created mobile play for real blackjack app is only available to players with 32Red accounts. But there are intentions of spreading the play for real blackjack app to other mobile casinos who are clients of Spin3.

New Blackjack Game for Nintendo DSi

I was not a big video game kid when I was young. I did not play a lot of video games but I do remember playing Super Mario Brothers on my Super Nintendo—even a little Mortal Kombat. But Nintendo has come a long way since I was young. Now Nintendo’s big gaming devices are the Wii console and the portable DSi. And it is for the DSi that a new blackjack game has been released, making yet another way for blackjack players to play on the go.

The Nintendo DSi is a small gaming device that is highly portable. Similar to an iPhone, owners of the DSi can download games to their DSi using DSi Points. Naturally DSi points are acquired with real money.

Digital Leisure Inc. has created a game for the DSi called 21: Blackjack, available for 200 DSi Points.

I have to say that I am rather pleased with this game, and I do wish that iPhone app developers would create a blackjack app with the features that this little blackjack game gem has.

This is not only a good electronic blackjack game to play, it is also an incredible strategy learning tool. Unlike most other blackjack games, 21: Blackjack will allow players to change the number of decks they are playing with; change the payouts; splitting options; and even some of the house rules like whether or not the dealer can hit on a soft 17.

Having the ability to change the rules can allow the player to see what it is like to play in, say, a single deck game with a 6-5 payout. Sure, you can always read about why 6-5 games are bad for your odds, but with 21: Blackjack players can actually experience it without losing real money.

This little DSi game not only allows players to play in different blackjack scenarios, but it also tracks players’ stats as well. Players can see their win to loss ratio, and how many blackjacks they have been dealt, and more.

This electronic blackjack game would be perfect if it were available as a mobile app. While DSis are popular, they are not as numerous as mobile devices like iPhones, meaning this blackjack game will have limited exposure. And DSis are not as easy to tote around. If only such a blackjack game could be a mobile app.

What is Blackjack Basic Strategy?

This morning I started in on how it is time to go back to the basics of blackjack. Basics are important. Think of them as the foundation for your blackjack strategy. And basic strategy should be the basis of all of your blackjack strategy.

Also this morning I talked about basic strategy. I said that it was only effective in lowering the house edge to 0.5% if you played it perfectly. But I never said why.

Basic strategy is usually shown in a chart. All of the dealer’s up card run across the top, each one assigned to a column. And all of the player’s possible starting hands run down the left hand side, one hand assigned to each row.

At the beginning of a round, you would find the row with your starting hand and the column with the dealer’s up card. Where the row and column meet the best statistical play will be shown.

Note that I said ‘best statistical play.’ This does not mean that you will win the round from using that play. What it means is that play has the best chance of causing you to win the round. But it is not a guarantee.

That, by the way, is why casinos are just fine with players using basic strategy. There is a belief that basic strategy will allow the player to win every round. Casinos do not discourage this belief, and players will often toss away their basic strategy charts and go back to playing blackjack based on whims.

But if you make the best statistical play for each round, over time you can drop the house’s edge to that wonderful 0.5%. And a decrease in the house’s edge is an increase to your own blackjack odds. And making the best statistical play is playing exactly how the basic strategy chart tells you to.

Basic strategy is not going to win every single round for you, but it will cause you to win more rounds. And winning more rounds in blackjack is exactly what a player wants. So winning more rounds with the best mathematically calculated plays is exactly why you want to play basic strategy perfectly.

Basics for Blackjack Strategy

Between the news, the blackjack apps and my thoughts on blackjack misconceptions, I have been rather neglectful of blackjack strategy. And we cannot have that now can we?

I figured the best way to jump back into blackjack strategy was to look at the basics again. Even experienced blackjack players should go back and look at the basics. For one thing it never hurts to see where you came from. Who knows, maybe you forgot something. And keeping firm on the basics helps to keep your more advanced strategies solid.

In other life, as I like to put it, I worked in retail and a lot of our training was “Back to Basics.” So either they could not think of any new sales strategies or there really is something to looking back to basic skills. I am putting my money on the latter—it just sounds smarter.

When it comes to the basics for blackjack strategy, the place to start is always with basic strategy. I know, I know, I can hear you saying, “Basic strategy? Again? Really?”

Yes, really.

No blackjack player worth their chips can afford to turn their noses up at such an easy to use strategy that also happens to be one of the most effective in the game. In fact, basic strategy is the single most effective strategy out of all the strategies available to casino games.

Playing perfect basic strategy can lower the house edge to 0.5%, making blackjack the casino game with the lowest house edge. And this strategy is legal to use in casinos and online casinos. You can sit at the table with your little basic strategy chart out playing according to it and not get slapped on the wrist—or worse—by the pit boss.

But that is the beauty about looking back at basics—they can remind us of what the basics of blackjack strategy can do for you and what it continues to do for you.

Oh, and by perfect basic strategy I mean that you have to play every single round according to what the basic strategy chart says. So if it says to double down, you had better double down.