All I Want for Christmas is a Blackjack App!

Christmas is upon us, blackjack players! For us this does not really mean much in all honesty. Online casinos do gear up for the holidays with exciting promotions, but those promotions and tournaments are heavily weighted for online slots play. And since I prefer to play a casino game I can actually make money off of, I will stick with blackjack. Guess this means I will have to give up hope of an online casino Christmas.

Or perhaps not.

Studies have shown that there is a spike in time spent on casino game mobile apps in the month of December, with a particularly high amount of usage on Christmas Day. And what did the researchers conclude as possible reasons for this?

Bad TV for one thing. There is nothing on except reruns of regular shows and more reruns of the same Christmas movies that have been aired year after year. Rather than watch the same show again and again, year after year players are turning more and more to their mobile devices.

There is a definite increase overall—not just turning Christmas—in the use of mobile casino games such as blackjack apps. And what can I say—people are on the go more and more and their phones are going with them. Much easier to carry a cell phone and play a few rounds of blackjack while waiting for a plane than to haul out the trusty laptop, boot up, log on and then play.

So it is not surprising that people are using mobile casino and blackjack apps to keep themselves amused during the holidays, especially when taking into consideration researchers other reason for increased mobile game usage: taking a break from family.

The holidays bring family together. And while this is a good thing, it can also try people’s patience when they are not normally used to being around Auntie Muriel for extended periods of time. So if they need a break they can duck out of the room, play few rounds of blackjack, get their head on straight again and then return to the fireside with the rest of the family.

And you will be glad to know that of the mobile gaming apps blackjack apps are one of the most popular. I simply attribute this to blackjack being a game in which you can beat the dealer in, and if you are lucky enough to be able to play 32Red’s mobile casino app for real money, you can actually make a few bucks in escaping from Auntie Muriel. Lucky UK players!

Even though I am not a UK player, I will still take my mobile blackjack app over an online slots tournament any day—including Christmas!

Figuring How Blackjack Rules Effect Odds

Math is not the most favored aspect of a casino game. I can completely understand this—math was not my favorite subject in school years ago. But thankfully the math involved with blackjack is not that hard.

Yes, I know, I said the M-word in relation to blackjack. But it is true and it the aspect of the game that players tend to ignore. But there is math in blackjack—and I am not talking about card counting or adding up your hand total—and it is not as difficult as you might think.

In fact the math that I am talking about for blackjack, it does not even really involve you having to mess with numbers in your head. All it really needs for you to do is to apply math reasoning. I am talking about blackjack rules and how they affect your blackjack odds.

Your blackjack odds are about your opportunity to make money from playing blackjack. When your odds are up it means that there are more opportunities to make a profit from the game. And likewise, when your odds are down it means you have less opportunities to make money.

So how do you figure out if the rules are good for your odds without carrying around a calculator? Because we all know that calculators are not ‘in’ this season in regards to casino attire.

Look at the house rules. Then think about whether they benefit you or not. If they benefit you, then good. If they give you less room to work your blackjack magic, then bad.

For example, players can only double down on 9s and 10s. If you are familiar with basic strategy then you know that the most opportunities to double down happen when the player has a hard 11. Obviously if you cannot double on a hard 11 it means your opportunities have been cut back, which brings your odds down.

Or if you are not familiar with basic strategy—and shame on you if you are not, and you should get familiar with it—think about it this way: doubling only on 9s and 10s means that you cannot double on anything else, and you know there are more hands in blackjack that are NOT 9s or 10s. The math reasoning there is that 9s and 10s are the minority of the hands in blackjack that you could be dealt. And since being allowed to double down on a couple of hands as opposed to the majority of hands, it stands to math reason that only being allowed to double on two hands is bad for your blackjack odds when compared to a table that let’s you double on more hands.

The point is that it does not take a calculator to figure out if a rule is good for your blackjack odds or not. You can figure if a rule is good for your blackjack odds or not just by using some math reasoning.

Card Counting Basics for Blackjack—Part II

Now that we have discussed the legality of card counting, we can move on to other basics about blackjack—no need to worry about being arrested for card counting now.

Now we will go over where card counting can and cannot be used.

If you want to use card counting and are dead set on using it, you will need to make a trip to a brick and mortar casino because card counting will not work with online blackjack.

I have no doubt that you have heard the rumor that card counting only works when you know how many decks are being used, and that it makes card counting possible for the online blackjack games that do tell players how many decks are being used.

This is not accurate.

Knowing the number of decks in play does not have any impact on the success of your card counting abilities—regardless of whether you play blackjack online or in a brick and mortar casino.

What does make a brick and mortar casino necessary is that cards are discarded from play. In online blackjack, cards are never discarded; the Random Number Generator (RNG) pulls from all possibilities when ‘dealing’ cards in the game. Say for example you were just dealt a 4 of spades and a 2 of clubs. In a game of blackjack in a casino, those cards would be removed from play. Granted, with multiple decks there is a chance those exact cards could show up again.

But the point is that two low cards would have been removed from play, which increases the ratio of high cards left to be played.

That is the who purpose of card counting—to give players an idea of whether the remaining cards are rich in high cards or low cards. Knowing this helps them to choose how to wager on their rounds. And since any cards could be dealt in online blackjack, card counting is ineffective. If cards are not removed from play, who can you tell if the remainder of the deck is rich in high or low cards regardless of the number of decks in play?

You cannot, and that is the whole reason why card counting cannot be used with online blackjack. Knowing the facts about card counting can pay off in that avoiding the rumors about card counting that could interfere with the effectiveness of the skill. And interfering with the effectiveness can interfere with the success of the skill.

Card Counting Basics for Blackjack—Part I

Card counting is one of the most coveted blackjack strategy skills in the game. It is easy to play according to basic strategy—all you do is look off of the chart and make the recommended play. I am not saying that basic strategy should be dispensed with in favor of card counting. Actually both are necessary.

Basic strategy can get you within 0.5% of the house’s edge over you. But card counting can make up that half of a percent and even tilt the edge in your favor.

But such a skill as card counting does not come as easily as basic strategy. It requires practice and patience to learn. That practice can make the difference between gaining that slight edge over the house and being caught and subsequently kicked out of the casino.

Because of its known potential to beat the house edge, card counting has built up a reputation, some of which is true and some of which is not. Part of using such a strategy skill in blackjack is to know what is true and what is rumor.

One of the biggest is that card counting is illegal. This is not true exactly.

There is now law that says that card counting is against the law. However, casinos are private businesses. This means that they can choose who they want to do business with, and by that I mean they can refuse to allow players to play as playing is considered a business transaction between a player and the casino. It is on these grounds that casinos can have a card counting player banned from the blackjack tables or removed from the casino.

This is why you want to practice your card counting skill regularly—you do not want to get caught counting. You must be able to count quickly and quietly in your head without any outward signs that you are doing so, and all in the midst of the lights and sounds that make a casino what it is.

That is the first most basic thing you need to know about card counting—the actual legal stand point on the highly acclaimed blackjack strategy skill. You need to know that it is not illegal but that there is the risk of being removed from the casino if you are caught counting. Knowing this helps enforce the need for practice and it also imparts the seriousness with which casinos regard card counting blackjack players.

Florida Blackjack Boat

North Charleston, South Carolina is not the only city to put blackjack port. Jacksonville, Florida has launched its own casino boat to offer some player favorable blackjack.

Jacks or Better is the name of the boat and it sails out of the Mayport area of Jacksonville five days per week: Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The boat sails twice on each of those days with ticket prices ranging from $13 to $18 for each trip; ticket price includes port tax, parking, boarding and nonalcoholic drinks. While the boat is dark on Mondays and Tuesdays it is possible for it to be chartered.

As for the blackjack, Jacks or Better has put together an admirable offering.

Standard blackjack is offered with a 3-2 payout ratio on natural blackjacks. Other player favorable rules include the dealer standing on soft 17s and double downs on any two cards; players can also split aces once and are allowed to double down on any splits except for Aces.

In addition to standard blackjack with some decent rules, Blackjack Switch is also offered on the Jacks or Better boat. I have to say that Blackjack Switch is probably one of the best blackjack variations I have seen yet.

Once passengers are on board, Jacks or Better will say out into international waters where it is not held back by United States restrictions on gambling. And since this is the water-based equivalent to a brick and mortar casino, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) cannot touch it. So if you are looking for a break from online gambling restrictions, check for blackjack boats in your area if you happen to not be in Florida.

6-5 Blackjack Payouts and the House Edge

I hate having my hand forced. It is just a really rotten feeling, playing a variation of blackjack that is far from ideal to me.

Such is how I feel when the only blackjack tables available are ones offering a 6-5 payout on a natural blackjack. If I were playing blackjack online I could find a different online casino to play at. If I were playing in Vegas I could simply walk to another casino. But when you are trapped in an environment with no other options, like when you are on a cruise ship for example, and the only payout ratio available is that nasty 6-5 you will find yourself pressed with a choice: to play and accept a poor house edge or to not play at all.

I know, it is a tough call. On one hand you really like to play blackjack. And when stuck on a giant boat with limited gaming options, 6-5 is the only option. But a 6-5 game of blackjack is, to me at least, just not an acceptable option because of the house edge.

A 6-5 payout for a natural blackjack is 1.45%. And that is taking basic strategy into account.

In a 3-2 blackjack game the house edge, again considering basic strategy, is 0.5%. So you have a 1.4% difference that favors the house. And that is one house edge that I will not play with. You can probably guess at this point that I do not play blackjack when on a cruise ship that only offers me 6-5 blackjack payouts.

That is what I mean by a facing down a forced hand. And you thought staring down a hard 16 with a dealer’s 5 was tough.

What are your Odds of Winning in Blackjack?

Do you know? Are you sure you know?

Yes, blackjack offers some good odds when compared to other casino games. But really, what are your chances of winning?

Excluding pushes (the times that you and the dealer have the same total), you have a 48% shot of winning while the dealer has a 52% shot of beating you.

Realistically those are high odds for players. And they are much better than what you odds would be of winning roulette or slots. But, yes, the house still has the edge. Even when you are using basic strategy.

Depending on what house rules are in play, the house will start out with a 2% to 5% edge over you. But playing all of your hands—hard hands, soft hands and pairs—according to basic strategy can lower the house edge to 0.5%. And that by far the lowest house edge of any of the casino games.

But, even with basic strategy the house still has the edge. This is because more than a single deck is used in blackjack nowadays. Also because you are playing only knowing one of the dealer’s cards. Granted in a face down game the dealer will not know your hand, but you still do not know what he has in the hole, and that is where the house’s edge comes in.

The dealer knows what cards you have. Even in a face down game your cards are all turned over by the time the dealer’s turn comes. He plays last and that is where the edge comes from. And unfortunately there is no way around this portion of the house’s edge. It is like you are playing halfway blind.

And because you are playing halfway blind it is all the more important to learn and use some blackjack strategy. Even if you only use basic strategy, 0.5% is better than the 2% to 5% range that blackjack has without it. Basic strategy can always help your blackjack odds. And increasing your blackjack odds helps you to win more money.