On April 3rd Chinese artist and activist Ai WeiWei was arrested in China, and his current whereabouts are unknown. While there are the usual activists who are upset about WeiWei’s arrest, there is a surprising group of people who are very upset at the arrest and disappearance of WeiWei: US blackjack players.
This is because WeiWei was not only an artist and activist; he was also a first rate blackjack player. This is a guy who had full ‘comps’ at just about all of the Atlantic City casinos where he played a few days each week. He was so well regarded by the Atlantic City casinos that a limo was sent to his Lower East Side unfurnished apartment where he lived in the 1980s to pick him up and bring him to Atlantic City a few days a week.
Another show of how well regarded WeiWei was is the news several casino insiders who are considering putting together several blackjack and poker tournaments to raise money to lobby US lawmakers. What are they going to lobby for? That the government impose trade restrictions against China until WeiWei is released from Chinese prison, where he is assumed to be held. That is how well regarded WeiWei is among blackjack players—they are willing to put up trade restrictions against the largest country in the world for this man. Very touching. I mean that.
What made WeiWei so popular and well regarded among blackjack players? He was not a high rolling playing who kept to himself. Instead he was very open, talking with his fellow players and giving them tips and pointers on blackjack strategy.
One such blackjack player is Vinnie “Snake Eyes.” He recalls the time he met WeiWei: “I came here to Atlantic City now to unwind a bit at the blackjack table. It was here I met him some twenty five years ago. I was playing and losing bad, and then this Asian guy with a beard right out of the Kung Fu movies, playing next to me, starts telling me when to hit, split or stay. I don’t listen to nobody but every time I didn’t listen to him, I’d lose the hand. So I start listening. I was up a few grand that night. I always listened when he explained smart strategies. He is the best.”
It is actions and time such as that spent with blackjack players that made WeiWei such a popular man in the blackjack community. It is easy to see why blackjack players are so upset about his arrest and disappearance. Here’s to WeiWei and the blackjack community; I hope they get him released.
I have been thinking some about card counting of late? Does it impact the house edge, a blackjack player’s odds or both? And that question brought up the difference of strategies such as basic strategy in blackjack opposed to card counting. Are they the same or different?
I am inclined to think that there is a reason casinos are not fond of card counting. And I think it is because it increases both a player’s blackjack odds and still impacts the house edge.
Basic strategy impacts the house edge in that it gives players the best statistical play to make. That does not mean that a player is more likely to win the hand. It is just the play that makes the most of the cards that have been dealt or minimizes the damage when dealt bad cards. But there is still a roughly 44% chance of winning. The impact that basic strategy has on the house edge is due to money and profit. The best statistical play does not guarantee a win, but increases the odds of profitability; that is how it hits lowers the house edge.
But on the other hand, card counting hits the house edge because players have increased their chances of winning as well as their profitability. They know when the deck is rich in high cards and they take advantage of that by increasing their wagers. In that way the increase their profitability while increasing their chances of winning. And that is why casinos have such a problem with card counting and the fact that a skilled card counter can tilt the blackjack odds in favor of himself.
Who does not like extra money? I cannot think of a person that does not like extra money, especially when it comes to those who gamble online. Thankfully online casinos offer bonuses to their players to give their bankrolls—and profit chances—an increase. Some online casinos offer special online blackjack bonuses that are only available to, well, their online blackjack players.
Silver Oak is one such online casino. Naturally they would play on the whole blackjack theme with an online blackjack bonus. Players can pick up an extra 21% on their deposit match bonus. But which base bonus they receive is up to them and how much they deposit to their player account.
There are three levels to this bonus:
Players who deposit between $50 and $500 dollars can claim the 100% deposit bonus plus the 21% extra online blackjack bonus for a total bonus of 121%. Coupon code SILVIERBLACK1.
For players who deposit $501 up to $1,000 they can claim a 120% deposit bonus plus the 21% blackjack special bonus for a total bonus of 141%. Coupon code SILVERBLACK2.
And then for the players who deposit more than $1,001 can claim a deposit bonus of 140% plus the 21%. That brings their total online blackjack bonus to 161%. Coupon code SILVERBLACK3.
And that, my dear online blackjack players, is Silver Oak’s Blackjack Special.
Naturally there are terms and conditions for claiming this deposit and withdrawing against it. Players who wish to claim the Blackjack Special must have made at least one deposit prior to the deposit they wish to claim the Blackjack Special on. Players must also meet the 30x wager requirement before making a withdrawal. But the good news is that the Blackjack Special can be claimed year round.
Side bets are one of the evils of blackjack—both blackjack online and blackjack in a brick and mortar casino. It does not matter where you play blackjack, if you are playing with side bets you are going to lose more money. Check it out:
Perfect Pairs. For all intents and purposes this is played exactly like regular blackjack except for one minor detail: players make a separate, side bet on that they will be dealt a pair in their first two cards. If you are dealt a pair of twos then congrats, you win the wager; and if you are not dealt a pair in your first two cards you lose the wager. That is it, end of story.
The problem with this is that side bets are against the nature of blackjack. Blackjack is a game of skill in which players can use strategy—strategy they can practice and improve upon for better results—to improve their edge against the house. But with side bets there is no strategy possible that can improve the odds of being dealt a pair in your first two cards.
Side bets are simply a bad bet.
Let’s look at this side bet example a bit closer. The house edge on blackjack prior to strategy is 4-5%. In a game of Perfect Pairs that house edge increases by 1.76% up to 6.76%. Now you can apply something as simple as basic strategy to the game portion of blackjack and drop the house edge to 0.5% if you stick to basic strategy and do not deviate. But if you are in playing Perfect Pairs, the lowest you can bring the house edge down to is 2.26%.
And that is only one blackjack variation with a side bet. But use this example as guidance when thinking about playing in a blackjack game with a side bet, and take this away with you: do not play with side bets.
Okay, so I went a little nuts yesterday over Panamanian Blackjack. But really it is the best variation of blackjack that I have seen to date. A software developer needs to pick up that game and make it into an online format so that we can all have Panamanian Online Blackjack. But there is one thing that I did not talk about in yesterday’s post was about payouts.
Payouts are a big reason why I do not like the majority of online blackjack variations. That and side bets, but that is a whole other discussion.
The traditional payout of a natural or two card blackjack is 3-2. Meaning you are being paid $3 for every $2 that you wager. And standard online blackjack games do offer a 3-2 payout. But those online blackjack variations! Most of them are offering an even money or 1-1 payout.
The problem with even money payout on a blackjack is that you are not getting nearly the amount of money that you should be getting for you blackjack. Not to mention what it does to your edge. Even money payouts knock 2.27% off of your edge and gives it back to the house.
House edge is about how much you can expect to lose on a wager. So if you are playing in an even money paying online blackjack variation, you can expect to lose an extra 2.27%. So if you were wagering $10, that’s another $2.27 you can expect to lose just from playing in an even money paying online blackjack variation. That is on top of the standard 4-5% house edge per strategy.
And that is a big reason why I do not like online blackjack variations. So seeing a variation, even if it is not online yet, that does not stiff players with an even money payout made me excited.
I have heard tell of a new blackjack variation. Well, it is one that I was not originally familiar with, but know that I know about it and have looked into it, this is probably the best blackjack variation I have seen to date. They need to get this into an online blackjack format so that more people can play it!
Where do I start on the player favorable rules? There are so many to choose from!
Well for starters if a player doubles or splits a pair on their hand and the dealer is dealt a natural blackjack, the player only loses the amount of the original wager, not the doubled amount. Panamanian Blackjack just improves the reasons for doubling down and splitting pairs—the risk factor of losing more money in a single round is gone. But this is especially good for doubling down: players can only lose their original wager but can win a payout off of the doubled amount.
And speaking of doubling down, players can double on ANY first two cards. They can also double on any three card totals of 9, 10 or 11. Players can also double down after splitting. The double down possibilities in Panamanian Blackjack are sky-high compared to those in a normal game of blackjack.
Oh and splitting pairs, since we already mentioned it—players can split any pair, no limitations, to form up to four hands. Panamanian Blackjack just keeps getting better and better.
Early surrender is allowed. This is when a player can give up half of his wager and exit the round before making any plays and before the dealer checks for blackjack. This is essentially the folding of blackjack, but it is better than the poker equivalent because only half the wager is given up whereas in poker the entire wager is lost.
Now there does have to be some rules that are not player friendly otherwise the game would not have any challenge and the casinos might was well just hand money over. In Panamanian Blackjack the dealer hits a soft 17 and does not take a hole card. Those two increase the house edge 0.22% and 0.11% respectively.
But when you compare the player favorable rules in Panamanian Blackjack to the dealer friendly ones, there really is no contest. Panamanian Blackjack has got to be the best blackjack variation I have heard of yet. The house edge on it when using basic strategy is 0.14%. That is outstanding.
While blackjack may have started out a single deck card game years and years ago, it has evolved since those days into a mere shadow of its former self. The odds have changed and so have so has its payout.
Which is why I shook my head and laughed when I read an article written by someone who obviously knew nothing about blackjack. According to them the best thing about single deck blackjack and their best reason for choosing a single deck game was because you got to hold the cards and could literally slap down a blackjack on the table.
Really? That is your reason for opting for single deck blackjack?
Well, buddy, you can enjoy that slapping and card holding but there are some things about single deck blackjack that will make a seasoned blackjack player who knows the truth about modern single deck games are more likely to seek out a multi deck game. And here is why:
Single deck blackjack games will, nine times out of ten, will offer a 6-5 payout as opposed to the good ol’ 3-2 payout for a natural blackjack. And that 6-5 payout is a pretty hefty hit to a player’s blackjack odds. Just playing in a game of blackjack with a 6-5 payout on a natural drives the house’s edge up by 1.39%.
Remember, yesterday I talked about what the house edge really is and how it is a reflection on a player’s expected loss on a wager. So let’s say that the game you are playing in is a single deck game with a house edge of 5%, meaning you can expect to lose 5% of your wager. Playing in a blackjack game with a 6-5 payout will increase the house edge to 6.39%. And that is the truth about single deck blackjack.
Just sitting down and allowing yourself to be tempted into playing in a single deck game will increase the amount of your wager that you can expect to lose on average. Why would you do that to yourself?
House edge is often misinterpreted when it comes to casino games, including blackjack. More often than not players assume that house edge in blackjack has all to do with their chances of winning or losing a round, when really it does not.
House edge in blackjack has nothing to do with your odds of winning or losing a round. Or even how you will fair in terms of winning or losing for a playing streak. It has to do with money. And when it comes down to gambling when is it ever about anything other than money.
The house edge of a game is about the amount of a wager you can expect the house to keep. The house edge in some casino games is fixed. However it is not fixed in blackjack. Players can use strategy in blackjack to lower the house edge.
Now stop and think about that for a moment. Let’s go with the average house edge for blackjack: 5%. That means that you can expect the house to keep 5% of your wager. But using strategy can impact the house edge. Going along with our example so far, you can use basic strategy and over time lower the house edge to 0.5%. That means the house will only be keeping half a percent of your wager as opposed to 5% of your wager.
House edge is about money. Strategy in blackjack such as basic strategy is designed to increase how much you win and decrease the amount you lose. Through minimizing losses and increasing how much you win the house edge is impacted and ideally lowered. But remember that house edge is about money, not odds of winning or losing a hand.
The last we heard from PokerTek was that they were in some financial trouble. Seems limiting their business to only poker just was not cutting it. Thus the expansion began. PokerTek now boosts what it is calling its ProCore system. Mainly it is being presented as an automated blackjack table, called BlackjackPro, although the table’s computer is programmed with six other games.
These blackjack tables with other games seem to be doing very well for PokerTek. Two months ago saw the installation of the first two BlackjackPro tables with the ProCore system. The success is so good that the company is making some additions:
“BlackjackPro has performed beyond our expectation since the initial installation in February and player feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We have developed an additional casino game which was rolled out for the first time this month. The expansion of blackjack and the addition of new game content represent important steps in our strategic growth plans,” said PokerTek’s president, James Crawford.
What that means is that PokerTek is doing much better since it spread its product base from only poker tables to automated blackjack tables and then some; it also means that sales and interest is good enough for PokerTek to feel that it is coming out of danger. April alone has seen the installation of four more ProCore tables with the BlackjackPro game software. This brings the total amount of ProCore tables with BlackjackPro to six.
The additional game content was added to the four tables that were installed this month. Now I do hope that the first two tables receive the new game content as it would be rather unfair for them to be the two automated blackjack tables that generated the hype and projected success which caused the new game content to be developed, and then not receive it.
International gaming big wigs have met and it has been decided to change the very way the game is played. I am not talking about a variation here—I am talking about the basic rules of standard blackjack. This change will filter down through to the various blackjack variations, yes; the change in rules is not in itself to be a variation.
For starters, and this is a biggie, the objective is no longer to beat the dealer without going over 21. Now players cannot go over 20. That is right. The objective is to now beat the dealer without going over 20. This will completely change blackjack strategies, especially basic strategy. But on the upside there will no longer be any doubt on how to play a pair of 10s—do not split.
Now for the other change made to the basics of blackjack.
When taking insurance players must place their index finger on the tip of their nose. This is to enable the dealer to better remember and recognize which players have taken insurance. Blackjack can be a fast-paced casino game, and dealers are human and can make mistakes. Casinos wish to cut down on those mistakes hence the finger on the nose rule.
Personally I think the finger on the nose is a good new rule for blackjack. It will let us all know who is enough of a booby to take insurance in blackjack when we all know that it is a play that is meant to favor the house. And furthermore—okay this was all a joke. Happy April Fool’s Day!