When to Use Insurance in Blackjack

I know I have always said to never take insurance when playing blackjack. And for the most part this is true. But there are a tiny number of times in which you do want to use insurance because you can turn it to your advantage.

Now the reason I normally do not say this is because the majority of blackjack players fall into one of two categories: always taking insurance and never taking insurance. And of the two, never taking insurance is safer for your bankroll and better for your odds.

But typically the majority of players do not find, remember and exploit the small times in which it can pay to take insurance.

But to begin to understand the finer points of exploiting insurance, we need to define exactly what insurance is and how it works.

Insurance is offered in blackjack when the dealer has an Ace showing. This is because he is definitely holding one of the two cards need for a natural blackjack. The two cards needed are an Ace and a 10 value card; of the two, the Ace is less populated in the deck, hence why insurance is offered when the dealer shows an Ace rather than a 10 value card.

Most blackjack players think that insurance is offered because the dealer stands a shot of having blackjack and that the player needs to protect—or insure—their wager so as not to lose it. Casinos want players to feel threatened and to take insurance.

But think for a moment what insurance is. Insurance is offered when the dealer has an Ace, meaning he has a shot at blackjack. That means that insurance is really a side bet on whether or not that hole card is worth 10 or not. If it does turn out to be a 10 the player collects on the insurance wager. But if it is not a 10 the player loses the insurance wager.

So keep in mind that insurance in blackjack is only a side bet on whether the dealer has 10 value card for a hole card or not. Now that we have that straight about insurance, next time we will discuss when those small number of times to take insurance are, and why you can.

How Go Casino Does Blackjack

Go Casino is one of the highest rated online casinos in the industry. It is certainly one of the most well-known Vegas Technology powered online casinos out there. But how does its blackjack stand up to its overall rating?

When a new player interested in blackjack comes to Go Casino and scopes out their blackjack offerings they will find Perfect Pairs Blackjack, Vegas Strip Blackjack, European Rules Blackjack and Progressive Blackjack.

I know, not a lot of choices here, but in truth Go’s online blackjack offerings are quite nice. For one thing they have Vegas Strip Blackjack, my preferred form of standard blackjack.

The thing I like most about Vegas Strip Blackjack is the fact that when the dealer has a 10 value card or and an Ace up he has to check to see if he has blackjack or not. In a game of blackjack that is not Vegas Strip and does not have a dealer checking for blackjack it costs your blackjack odds 0.11%. The other good thing about the odds in Vegas Strip is that all of its rules considered, it adds 0.37% to your blackjack odds.

Anyway, so Go Casino has Vegas Strip. Which is definitely good.

To help you make the most of your online blackjack playing, Go offers new players a Welcome Bonus worth up to $20,000.

This Welcome Bonus covers a new player’s first twenty deposits. The 1st, 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th deposits have 100% deposit match bonuses on them, while all of the other deposits have a 50% deposit match bonus on them. The first deposit is automatically applied to your player account, but all other deposits have redemption codes that have to be turned into the cashier before you play with the new deposit.

Combining the wagering power from the bonus money found in the Welcome Bonus with the odds found in Vegas Strip Blackjack, Go Casino has actually given online blackjack players a strong shot at winning some real money here. Just make sure you are using your online blackjack strategy so you get the most out of your bonus money.

Card Counting Tips: CSMs and RNGs

Well you have already had a basic explanation of how to begin card counting, but there are a few more things that you need to know before you reach your card counting glory.

There are also some blackjack games that you will want to avoid with card counting. Online blackjack and blackjack tables with Continuous Shuffle Machines. The reasons you want to avoid those blackjack games are very similar.

I will start with CSMs. CSMs are devices in which the cards from one round are fed into the device and the entire deck reshuffled before the next hand is dealt. Hence the continuous part.

This causes none of the cards that have been played to be discarded, and without discards there is nothing to count. Card counting is a way of keeping a loose running tab on the cards that have been played and removed from play under the remaining deck hits its reshuffle point. But since CSMs keep cards from being removed from play there is no point in trying to count them.

As for online blackjack, it is powered by a Random Number Generator. An RNG functions similarly to a CSM, but not exactly.

When an online blackjack game is created, its RNG is programmed with every possible outcome, such as all possible starting hands and dealer up card combinations. When a player clicks Deal, the RNG pulls from all possible starting hands and dealer up card combinations. This has an effect like a CSM because no cards are ever ‘discarded,’ it is possible for any of them to show up in the next rounds.

Because cards are not effectively discarded in a blackjack game with CSMs or RNGs card counting becomes useless in those games. It is best to stick with a standard game of blackjack in a brick and mortar casino—one without a CSM.

Card Counting Not as Hard as it Seems

I am not joking. Card counting really is not a hard blackjack strategy skill to learn. It takes time, practice and patience to master, but the basic skill is not hard.

If you can add and subtract 1 then you can count cards. Many novice card counters will start out with the Hi Lo counting system. It is the most basic and teaches novice counters the basics that will allow them to move up to more advanced counting systems in the future.

The Hi Lo system starts out by assigning counting values to the cards, either a +1, a 0 or a -1 like so:

Cards 2 through 6 are assigned and counted as +1
Cards 7 through 9 are assigned and counted as 0
Cards 10 through Ace are assigned and counted as -1

Players then count the cards on the table with their appropriate counting values, adding 1 and subtracting 1 where necessary. It is as simple as gong around the table adding and subtracting what counting values the other players, you and the dealer have.

So what do you do with this running total that you have?

Well it depends on what the cards you have counted add up to. If the running total in your head is in the positive by +3 or more it is a good indicator that a good many low cards have been played, hence the higher positive count. A positive count means that the remaining deck is rich in high cards—the cards that favor the player and increase your chances of being dealt a natural blackjack.

Now if the opposite is going on and you have a running count of -3 or more it indicates that more high cards have been played and passed out of the game. At this point the remaining deck is rich in low cards which favor the dealer, and it is time to reduce your wager.

This afternoon I will go over some card counting tips to help you make even more of a success out of card counting in your blackjack strategy arsenal.

Blackjack Games: Pontoon

Of late I have mentioned Pontoon a fair bit. But I have realized that I have never really explained Pontoon.

Pontoon is a blackjack version that is said to hail from England, although it seems to crop up most from Australia. But then Australia was essentially founded by England so there you go.

Pontoon is played with four to eight decks, with the 10s removed from each deck. So the only cards worth 10 in game are the face cards. This has the same effect as removing cards from deck in regular blackjack—it favors the house of course. And while, yes, the dealer can hit a soft 17, there are other rules that give odds back to the player.

For starters, a player natural blackjack or 21 wins automatically. One of my favorite rules.

As for the rest of those rules, players are allowed to double after splitting a pair, but players can only double on 9s, 10s and 11s; doubling down on a soft hand forces the Ace to be counted as 1 regardless of what the double down card is.

You could say that both types of surrender—early and late—are found in Pontoon. Players can make a late surrender if the dealer is showing a face card or an Ace. If the player wishes to surrender, the dealer will place a ‘surrender’ disc on top of that player’s chips; just like in a late surrender in a regular game of blackjack, the player will lose their wager if the dealer winds up with a blackjack.

The effective early surrender in also known as a double down rescue because the player can only make an early surrender after they have doubled down. If the player chooses to do this he gives up gives up an amount equal to his original wager. In other words, half of the wager is still lost, but it is half of the doubled wager.

There are also some special little payouts or bonuses on certain hands:

Five card 21 = 3-2 payout
Six card 21 = 2-1 payout
Seven or more card 21 = 3-1 payout
6-7-8 or 7-7-7 mixed suit = 3-2 payout
6-7-8 or 7-7-7 same suit = 2-1 payout
6-7-8 or 7-7-7 spades = 3-1 payout

Those bonuses are only paid as long as the dealer has not doubled down. If the dealer has doubled he receives the regular payout.

A suited 7-7-7 when the dealer has a 7 up has a different bonus payout based on the amount of the player’s wager:

$5-$24 wager = $1,000
$15 or more wager = $5,000

Do those payouts have you already green with envy? That is just fine because the other players at the table receive a $50 Envy Bonus when a player receives a suited 7-7-7, dealer 7 up bonus payout.

While Pontoon is not my favorite form of blackjack, it is by far one of the best variations out there—surpasses Perfect Pairs and those in the side bet camp at any rate. I will always say to stick with good old standard blackjack—why mess with a good thing after all?

Online Blackjack at Aladdin’s Gold

Time to explore some online blackjack offerings out there in the get wide world of online casinos. Today we are going to be visiting the mystical, yet slightly cartoon-y Aladdin’s Gold. Do not worry, there is nothing Disney about this online casino.

Players will find a moderate offering of online blackjack games at Aladdin’s Gold, including some blackjack variations. So a little bit of everything in terms of blackjack choices, but you know my thoughts on some blackjack variations. Thankfully Aladdin’s Gold does offer a free play mode as a part of their Real Time Gaming software.

So about those blackjack games. Players will find at Aladdin’s Gold Blackjack, Pontoon, Perfect Pairs, Face Up 21, Match Play 21 and Super 21.

Of all of those Blackjack and Pontoon are safe to play for real money on, but the other variations are the type of variations that I warn against. You know, the ones with the side bets that drop your blackjack odds faster than a giant iron anchor and will run you through your bankroll faster than you intended. But that is just how those variations are; it is nothing against Aladdin’s Gold—they cannot help the rules that make the variations what they are.

Like any good online casino, Aladdin’s Gold does indeed offer players new to their virtual halls a Welcome Bonus. And what the Welcome Bonus it is.

This is one Welcome Bonus that I have not seen the equal of. Rather than putting a limit on how many of a new player’s first deposits will receive bonuses, Aladdin’s Gold offers players seven days off bonuses.

Yes, new players have seven days of unlimited bonus offers. All they need to do is click on the bonus they want each time they make a deposit. There are also no maximum cashout restrictions, other than bonus money. None of the bonus money can be cashed out. But there is no limit on how much of your winnings from the bonus money you can cashout.

However there is one big restriction on the wagering with bonus money: some games are off limits. Those games would be Baccarat, Craps, Roulette and Sic Bo. But that is fine because you are there to play online blackjack anyway. But you should know that just in case you want a break from blackjack for a bit. Playing anyone of the restricted games will cause your bonus money and your winnings from bonus money to become void.

Despite the moderate blackjack offerings, the Welcome Bonus gives players a lot of opportunity to make some real money from playing online blackjack at [insert_php]echo $casino2name;[/insert_php]. No lamp rubbing required.

Blackjack Dealer Convicted in Shuffle Scam

Unfortunately is it not uncommon in casino games, especially games such as blackjack in which cards can be tracked to some extent, for scams to happen. Typically it is a player who is trying to cheat the casino without help from the inside. But back 2008 a scam ring slipped a blackjack dealer into twenty seven different casinos to do his part in the scam by the Tran Organization.

The blackjack dealer, Mike Waseleski, was convicted this past Wednesday for his part in the blackjack casino scam, in which he helped to steal more than $1 million from twenty seven casinos from around the country. Waseleski has yet to be sentenced but he could face up to a maximum of five years in prison, $250,000 in fines and restitution payments to the victim.

But Waseleski was not operating alone. Forty other members of the Tran Organization scam have pleaded guilty, including the ringleader of the Tran Organization, Phuong Quoc Truong. Truong was been sentenced to seventy months in prison, and ordered to pay $2.8 million in fines and $5.7 million in restitution for his conspiracy to conduct a racketeering enterprise operation.

The scam would begin with a member of the Tran Organization playing blackjack at the table that Waseleski would be serving as the dealer at. The scam member would then signal to Waseleski to perform what is called a false shuffle. A false shuffle would create slugs, which are groups of unshuffled cards, in the deck. Members of the scam would then use high tech devices to track the order of the cards. With the slugs and the tracking devices, the scam member posing as a player would know the order of the cards, and then place higher wagers intended to win more money from the casino.

I like hearing that the Tran Organization is being sentenced on the harsh side. Cases such as these enforce an image that casinos and casino games like blackjack and poker are all things of ill repute. It never pays to cheat, and to see this blackjack scam ring convicted and put away and off the casino floors is good news indeed to blackjack players.

Remote Live Dealer Blackjack

I recently heard of yet another take on live dealer blackjack online. And this latest take I am not a fan of.

Most often when you hear about live dealer online blackjack it involves players signing in and watching a real dealer being filmed live and broadcasted over the internet. She deals cards which then show up on your screen and you make your plays; she then plays out her hand.

While I do not think the synergy of this kind of live dealer online blackjack has reached a point to be in good form—bugs still need to be worked out of the execution of this kind of live dealer online blackjack—it still beats this new kind of live dealer online blackjack. Mostly because you can still actively play.

This new take on live dealer online blackjack does not allow players to actively play. And that is my problem with it.

In this new form players watch a filmed dealer live as she deals cards to real players in real brick and mortar casinos. Players watching the feed from at home on their computers can then make wagers on the outcomes of players’ hands. And they receive payouts based on whether the hand they wagered on won or not.

And that is all they do—place wagers on hands that they do not have control of the outcome of. It is like taking blackjack and turning it into a slots game—making wagers on a game that, as a player, you have no way to influence the outcome of.

Blackjack is not meant to be a casino game that players cannot influence, hence the strategies for it. It is just a detriment to the game, to my thinking, to only allow these online ‘players’ to only be able to wager on the outcome of a hand they have no influence on. This hands-off kind of take on online live dealer blackjack is the opposite of what blackjack should be.

Built in Blackjack Boost

Players often are not aware that the rules of blackjack give them a built boost to their odds. Seriously, it really is there. But in order to turn your blackjack odds and actually benefit from this little boost you have to not be afraid to use it.

I am talking about doubling down. This popular blackjack term gives rise to visions of daring blackjack players doubling their wagers for a one-card shot at beating the dealer. And really that is all that a double down is—a player doubling the amount of their wager and only receiving one more card. This play is often treated as the blackjack equivalent to going all-in in a game of poker after a battle of raises. However, doubling down is not as daring as a poker all-in—mostly because you are not putting all of your money on the line. But doubling your wager just feels more daring.

But because doubling down gives you the opportunity to win twice as much as you normally would in a single round of blackjack, it increases your blackjack odds. In fact, of all the plays that you can make, doubling down is the one that can increase your odds the most.

Doubling down at the right opportunities can increase your blackjack odds by 1.6%

The key is knowing when those opportunities are. And even that is not as hard as it sounds. All you need is a basic strategy chart. That chart will tell you when the best statistical times to double down are—usually with the hard hands 9, 10 and 11 against certain dealer up cards.

Making double downs at those opportune times is one of the best built in boosts a player has to their blackjack odds.

Blackjack at Rushmore

I thought that this afternoon we would visit the online casino, Rushmore. Rushmore is one of quiet hot spots to play online blackjack at. I say quiet because they conduct themselves in a quiet and efficient manner—no loud, noisy, messy online blackjack here!

But that is not all there is to Rushmore and their Real Time Gaming powered online blackjack. They offer players an array of blackjack variations to choose from, instead of only offering standard casino blackjack. Rushmore’s list of online blackjack games include Blackjack, of course, Face Up 21, Blackjack Perfect Pairs, European Blackjack, Match Play 21, Pontoon and Super 21.

While some blackjack variations are not on my preferred list, I was quite happy to see that Rushmore is offering Pontoon as it is not a common blackjack variation offered in online casinos. It is definitely worth taking for a spin in Rushmore’s free play mode, after all, why turn up your nose at trying the English version of blackjack when you can play it for free?

Also for the enjoyment of online blackjack players is Rushmore’s Double Down bonus. This is a Welcome Bonus aimed at blackjack players. New online blackjack players to Rushmore can take advantage of their 200% deposit match bonus worth up to $1,000.

Only first deposits made with a credit card, gift card or UseMyWallet are eligible for the Double Down bonus. Players must turn in the redemption code after making their first deposit before doing any wagering.

Before a player can make any withdrawals on winnings from the bonus they must first wager 20x the combined amount of the deposit and the bonus amount. Once the wager requirement is met, players can then withdraw their deposit and any winnings from the bonus; the bonus money itself cannot be withdrawn.

Rushmore offers players a realistic bonus in their Double Down bonus to play their variety of online blackjack games—everything from basic blackjack to the variations—great and not so great—are available for play. And I do recommend playing a few rounds of Pontoon—give it a try!