Fighting for Blackjack Tables: Maryland’s Turn

Over the last couple of years we have see several states put forth legislation that would allow their slot parlors to expand with table games such as blackjack, poker and roulette; other bills have been for the allowing of new fully fledged brick and mortar casinos. Now Maryland is moving forward in their lawmakers scraping for blackjack tables.

The name of the bill that would give the state blackjack tables, poker tables and other table games is House Bill 331. House Bill 331 would allow the five establishments that already offer casino gambling in the form of slot machines the opportunity to apply for a gambling expansion in the form of table games.

Naturally the reason for the bill is to allow Maryland to generate more revenue and to allow their existing gambling facilities to compete with neighboring states who are now offering gambling establishments with both slot machines and table games. Delegate Frank Turner, who is the head supporter of House Bill 331, said, “It is a matter of staying competitive with other states around us.”

And he is right in saying so. Think about it: if you were looking to do some gambling in a brick and mortar casino, would you go to a slots parlor where your only playing options were slot machines, or would you make the drive to a brick and mortar casino with blackjack and poker as well as slot machines? The answer is simple. Americans desire variety, and even if they only wind up playing one kind of casino game, they will tend toward the option that gives them the most options.

Yesterday saw a lot of talk of gambling options for Maryland in the General Assembly. But it will take more than one meeting of the general assembly to determine whether or not to move forward in the table games expansion debate.

More Card Counting Advantages for Blackjack Players

Yesterday I talked about one of the ways that blackjack players come out on top in card counting when the deck is rich in high cards. While it is true that both the player’s chances and the dealer’s chances of being dealt a natural blackjack are increased when the deck is rich in high cards, the advantage belongs with the player because of the payout differences, which were discussed yesterday. But there is another advantage blackjack players have when the cards are rich in high cards.

That advantage is doubling down.

For starters, high cards or no high cards, this is a play that the dealer does not have in his arsenal no matter how much he might want them. Or how much the house may want them. The structure of blackjack gives those plays to the player.

Let’s look at the double down scenario. Let’s say you have been dealt a 9, 10 or 11. Through card counting you have discovered that the deck is rich in high cards. So the likelihood of you being dealt a high card on top of your 9, 10 or 11 to make a really strong hand is with you. So knowing that the odds are good for you to receive a high card it makes sense to double down. Heck, it makes sense to double down even if the cards are not rich in high cards, but it is especially profitable when the cards are rich in highs. There is a greater likelihood that you will turn a profit.

And on top of that the dealer in blackjack cannot double down. So that play is all yours.

Because the likelihood is greater the odds from card counting are increased for the player—just another reason why a deck rich in high cards favors the play more than the dealer.

How Card Counting Odds Work for the Blackjack Player

If you look at explanations of card counting and which cards favor whom, you might begin to wonder something: if high cards, such as 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces, favor the blackjack player then they also favor the dealer right?

Well, in truth, yes, they do favor the dealer too. Yes, it is just as likely that the dealer will be dealt a blackjack as you. But there are a few things built into the game of blackjack that, when combined with card counting, bring better odds for players when the remaining cards are rich in high cards. Today we are going to look at how payouts impact odds when the deck is rich in high cards.

Let’s say that you have been counting cards and the remaining deck is now rich in high cards. For right now we are going to say that the dealer is dealt a blackjack and you have not been dealt that pleasure. The dealer collects everyone’s wagers. For him this is an even money collection.

Now let’s say that you are the one who is dealt the blackjack and the dealer is on the losing end. As the recipient of a natural blackjack you get the special payout. And by special payout I mean the 3-2 payout instead of a 2-1 payout.

To compare the two, when the dealer is dealt a blackjack he only makes one chip for one. But the player wins three chips for every two that he wagered. It comes out to the player blackjack giving the player an extra chip that the dealer does not get.

What this means is that the odds from payout lie with the player. Blackjack Odds are based on opportunity to make money, to make a profit. And since the player would make more off of a blackjack than a dealer would, the odds from card counting and a remaining deck rich in high cards puts the odds with the blackjack player.

Being Dealt Two Aces in Blackjack

There is some debate among novice blackjack players about what happens when you are dealt two Aces. Some say split and some say stand for a hand total of 12. But if you were at the blackjack table, what would you do if you were dealt a pair of Aces?

There are two things for a blackjack player to do when being dealt two Aces straight off in a round: split and then smile because you know the house would rather you not have two Aces.

But back to the splitting part. Yes, the best statistical play is to split and start two hands with 11 apiece rather than working with only one hand that is essentially going to be played out as a hard 12. True you could hit a 12 made up of two Aces, but the odds on splitting are better than playing out two Aces in one hand.

The thing with splitting a pair of Aces is that you have two hands to work with on the blackjack table, and already having one card worth 11 is a good start to building not one, but two strong hands. Of all of the pairs that a blackjack player could split, Aces are the best to have.

There is one more thing with a splitting a pair of dealt Aces that novice blackjack players wonder about: if the pair of Aces is split and a card valued at 10 is dealt to both Aces, do you have two blackjacks or only two hands each worth 21?

As much as I would love to tell you that you are receiving two 3-2 payouts, a blackjack is only considered to be one if the very first two cards dealt add up to 21. Receiving a two hand totals worth 21 on a pair of split Aces does not count as a natural blackjack, either of them.

So now we all have an understanding to split a pair of Aces when dealt one, and that two hands of 21 from a split pair of Aces does not mean two 3-2 payouts will happen.

Blackjack vs. Tournament Blackjack

If you think that playing in a blackjack tournament is no different than playing blackjack on any night of the week at a casino, you would be wrong. Tournament blackjack has some other considerations for one reason: you are playing to beat the other players.

I know, that sounds like it goes against all things blackjack, against the core concept of blackjack. And I can see how you would think that. Blackjack is the casino game in which you are playing one on one against the dealer; you could not give a fig about the other players because what they do has no impact on you and your game. You always hope that the dealer loses since you profit from beating him.

In tournament blackjack you are playing against the other players for a shot at the grand prize. Yes, there is a dealer and yes, you have to beat him in order to win chips. But at the end of the tournament it is the player with the most chips who wins even if you won more individual hands than he did.

That is the core point behind tournament blackjack: you have to beat the dealer to wind up with more chips than everyone else in the tournament. It is here that how the other players play out their hands and how they wager becomes important, so you had better give a fig.

Strategy for tournament blackjack will vary from some from the strategy you use in ordinary blackjack. This is because an increased skill level is necessary for you to beat both the dealer and the other players in the tournament. Tomorrow we will look a little more closely at some basic strategy points for tournament blackjack.

Seminole Blackjack Under Threat

Here we go again down in Florida. The Seminoles have had their exclusivity to blackjack for less than a year, and already it is being threatened. Although this time the threat is not coming from the pari-mutuels backed with Florida lawmakers.

Not this time. In fact, the pari-mutuels are on the same side as the Seminoles this time.

The threat to the Seminole’s blackjack is coming from a proposed bill that would bring, not three like it was originally thought to be, but five destination resort casinos to Florida. And in order for them to be fully fledged casinos they would need the table game spectrum including blackjack and Vegas style slot machines. And the Seminoles have a five year exclusivity on blackjack and a twenty year exclusivity on the slot machines.

Destination resort casinos would most certainly undermine the Seminole compact; and if that were to happen, the tribe would not have to continue to pay the increments that would give Florida $1 billion over five years.

“If the legislature wants to allow in new entities, it will have to decide if it is a good tradeoff. Are they going to make enough to make up for the assured payments from the tribe,” said Seminole tribal spokesman Gary Bitner.

The bill, proposed by Senator Dennis Jones and Senator Maria Sachs, would have casino groups applying for gaming license and applying for state approval to be one of the five chosen. Like the money from the Seminoles, the refundable licensing fee and nonrefundable application fee would go mostly into the state’s general fund.

I do think that most of the state will not be in favor of bringing in five casinos. There is Florida’s reputation as a family vacation spot to be considered. Former state representative Dick Batchelor said, “You give up so much of the reputation you have built up, which I do not think can be replaced with the money make.”

Between the guaranteed money from the Seminoles as they pay for their blackjack and with Florida’s reputation to be considered, I do not think the bill will do through. However I have no doubt that Jones and Sachs will fight for its approval.

Billionth Hand of Online Blackjack Dealt

This past Friday saw a truly historic moment in online blackjack. The one billionth hand of online blackjack was dealt at Bodog. While there are many online casinos out there, each of who have dealt thousands and millions of hand of blackjack, not one had reached the one billionth mark at any of their online blackjack tables. Bodog was the first online casino to deal that many hands.

Naturally there was a special prize for that lucky online blackjack player. He or she had the choice of either a billionaire vacation trip to Fiji’s exclusive Turtle Island, or an expenses paid trip to Monaco to watch the Grand Prix from their own private boat. Both are truly incredible options.

But awesome prize to the lucky player who dealt the one billionth hand of online blackjack aside, there is a more industry related high point to this milestone.

Considering that federal level lawmakers, well at least the conservative base is, against legalizing and regulating online gambling and are trying to stop Americans from gambling online, this should show them that online gambling is here to stay and that it would be wiser to regulate this form of entertainment and generate revenue rather than sticking their heads in the sand like a bunch of ostriches.

“If I can’t see it, it will go away!”

Think about it for a moment. Sure, online blackjack is popular. But online poker surpasses even online blackjack. It would be silly to think otherwise. And if an online casino has finally hit its one billionth hand of online blackjack, imagine how many more hands of online poker and how many other online casinos have hit that milestone for online poker. Simply silly for the conservative base to think that online blackjack, online poker or online gambling will fade away or disappear from the American horizon.

Spanish 21 vs. Blackjack

Think Spanish 21 is not all the different from standard blackjack? You would be a tad on the wrong side.

They have different names for a reason. And while I would take blackjack over Spanish 21 any day, Spanish 21 can make for a nice break now and again. It is certainly a better blackjack variation to play with compared to others out there. I am talking to you, Perfect Pairs.

But like with any variation, it pays to learn some about a new game before diving in. That is unless you feel like losing more money than you plan on. Same goes for Spanish 21.

To begin with, Spanish 21 does not have as many cards in play. The 10 cards have been removed from the deck. Rest assured that the face cards, still worth 10, are in the playing deck; only the cards with 10 printed on them are not to be found.

Now this removal of 10 cards does impact your odds a bit. In traditional blackjack high cards, the 10s, Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces, are the cards that favor the player. So removing twenty four cards from a six deck shoe is going to impact your odds. This would have a similar effect to a shady dealer removing any ten value cards from a deck.

So right from the start you have to play Spanish 21 knowing that the odds are stacked higher against you since none of the low cards, 2s, 3s, and 4s, that favor the dealer have been removed. True there are some payouts that offer better than average odds, but those do not happen every hand while the card removal does. Keep that in mind.

Also do not go in with the idea that what basic strategy does for standard blackjack will do the same in game of Spanish 21. Because of the removal of the 10 cards, basic strategy is thrown off. Because of such differences in deck makeup and the subsequent throwing off of normal blackjack strategy, playing Spanish 21 with any degree of seriousness requires study of the game.

No Online Blackjack for New Jersey…Yet

Sorry to all you New Jersey online blackjack players. Seems your governor is not inclined to allow you to play blackjack online to benefit your own state. Because that is what online blackjack would have done—New Jersey residents would have had the opportunity to play at sites that would have been partnered with the brick and mortar casinos in Atlantic City, who in turn would have been able to pay the state more in taxes, which would have in turn filled in some holes in the New Jersey budget, paying for programs.

But that is not going to be happening.

At least not for a little while yet. When Governor Chris Christie vetoed the intrastate bill that would have given residents the choice to play casino games online legally, he vetoed it as a conditional veto, meaning that legislators could do some work on the bill based on notes made by Christie.

Christie’s biggest note was that the bill, as it is now, would have hit the state sanctioned monopoly that Atlantic City has on gambling. The monopoly exists because such a large portion of New Jersey’s revenue comes from Atlantic City. If gambling, online or otherwise, were to be established outside of Atlantic City, it would draw revenue from the casinos and thusly from New Jersey. As the intrastate gambling bill is right now, it would take a state constitutional referendum to keep the monopoly in place concerning online gambling.

Christie’s words on the matter: “Nothing contained in the legislation would prohibit commercial establishments…from offering Internet gambling opportunities in order to attract patrons or customers.”

At this point in time, the bill to allow New Jersey residents to play online blackjack and other online casino games is going back to legislators to see what changes can be made in order to get Christie’s signature.

Seminole Blackjack a Success in its First Year

When I say first year, I do not mean its first year since Florida legislatures began squabbling with the Seminoles over the exclusivity and where the revenue from the blackjack expansion would go. I am talking about the first full year since the Seminoles installed their blackjack tables and threw open the doors, so to speak, to the new blackjack tables.

Since then the Seminoles have pulled in $2 billion, which they owe to the new blackjack tables and the traffic and subsequent profit from patrons playing other games when taking a break from blackjack.

Furthermore, since the gambling expansion that brought them blackjack, the Seminoles made the list in the 2011 Indian Gaming Industry Report as the fourth richest state when it came to tribal gaming. The State of Florida, home to the Seminole Tribe, came in at $2 billion. The richest state in tribal gambling was California at $7.7 billion. After California came Oklahoma at $3.1 billion and Connecticut at $2.2 billion.

It is my opinion that Florida could easily surpass Connecticut in the next year now that the squabbling between the Seminoles and Florida legislatures over the compact struck between the Seminoles and former governor Charlie Crist in 2007.

But seeing that $2 billion profit had to make state lawmakers happy that they did come to an agreement with the Seminoles and allowed them to keep blackjack in five of their seven brick and mortar casinos. After all the state profits from tribal gaming. Over the next five years the Seminoles are to pay $1 billion to Florida: $150 million in years one and two, $233 million in years three and four, and $234 in year five. However if 10% of the tribe’s profit is more than $233 million from year three and on, then the state gets the 10% since it is more than the $233 million.

Come on, you Florida legislatures who did not want the Seminoles to have blackjack, smile a little. I bet you are since you got your way, and the blackjack money will be going into the general fund.