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.

Fantasy Blackjack App Closest to Online Blackjack

Finally we come to the end of the mobile blackjack app discussion. Over the course of this week I have discussed what mobile blackjack apps from brought us and how they have evolved. Recently what is likely to be the next push forward in blackjack mobile apps has been released, and it beings yet another element of online blackjack with it.

It is a single app found in the Apple app store called Fantasy Blackjack. This little app, created by the Palms Casino Resort in conjuncture with app developer Sevryn Mobile, allows players in a league to choose which blackjack game they play in. This app does not limit players to only one type of blackjack with one set of rules. Having other options is the element that the makes this latest app the closest to a real online blackjack experience.

Players can download the app and invite other friends of theirs who also have an iPhone to play in their league. The initiating player is known as the commissioner and he or she gets to set season details which include the length of the season. Anyone can be a commissioner, which is how the league grows.

But what is more is that players in a league can declare themselves a dealer. In a real game of blackjack the dealer sets the rules of the game, rules such as the circumstances for pair splitting and double downs as well as how many decks are used. In Fantasy Blackjack, anyone can be a dealer. The games they create are posted and players can browse the available and choose which ones they want to play in.

Because of the ability to create blackjack games and choose which games to play in, not to mention the ability to have a winner designated at the end of a season, brings the feeling of playing casino blackjack or online blackjack even more so to the mobile blackjack apps.

Score Based Blackjack

So yesterday was the introduction of the first generation of blackjack mobile apps. And while it was really great to be able to play blackjack on the go without having to log into an online casino through your phone’s browser, there was one thing about these mobile blackjack apps that was a tad bothersome: they were lonely.

They did not allow for interaction between you and other players. Sure blackjack is a one-on-one card game anyway. But when you were sitting at the table you could at least see how well—or not so well—the other players were doing. There was something you could compare yourself to. And these first generation of mobile blackjack apps just did not allow you to compare how you were doing.

So then along came the second generation of mobile blackjack apps. Honestly they were not much different from the first ones, the game play was still the same and you were still playing with play money, but there is one major difference: you can compare yourself to others. More specifically you can compare your blackjack scores to your friends who also have the app.

At this point mobile blackjack stopped feeling so lonely. Players could ‘connect’ to their friends through comparing their scores. This brings the feel of blackjack more to the surface. The entire principle of the app—beyond the basic game of course—is centered on players’ scores and comparing them, challenging players to

And while these second generation mobile blackjack apps are not bad, there has recently surfaced a new kind of blackjack mobile app that puts even more aspects of the game in the player’s hands. How so? I will give you a small taste of tomorrow’s topic—it brings even more of the casino feeling to blackjack to the app and to your hands with more options for your blackjack playing.

Where Blackjack Apps Come From

Back on Monday I began my discussion of mobile blackjack apps. Our mobile devices are a big part of our life; they go with us just about everywhere with us, although some people even take their mobile devices into the bathroom with them. And I was going to discuss the story of the mobile blackjack app, but then New Jersey did its thing and the Assembly voted ‘yes’ to regulating online gambling in their state, and I could not pass that up.

Anyway. With mobile devices advancing in technology to give us the smartphones, such as the iPhone and Blackberry, it is only natural that explosion of mobile apps would happen. And among those mobile apps are those made for blackjack. Mobile blackjack apps allow those who have to take their blackjack on the go in a new way that does not require them to be a part of an online casino.

The most basic in mobile blackjack apps was the beginning. Such apps simply allowed the user to play with play money. This kind of free play app allowed those who were new to the game to become familiar with it without risking money.

Such an app also allows fans of blackjack who are already in the know about the game to enjoy it wherever they—and their mobile device—may be. This can be good just for entertainment but also for trying out new blackjack strategies and practice old ones.

But this first generation of blackjack mobile apps only allowed for one-on-one play. Granted that is how blackjack is played, you versus the dealer and the other players at the table do not have an impact on your hand. But there just seemed like there was something so lonely about a blackjack app. Maybe it is the notion that mobile devices are supposed to connect us more, but regardless of the reason, the first round of blackjack apps were lonely. At least I thought so.

But then came the next round of mobile blackjack apps, and these tried to make these blackjack apps more like online blackjack and less lonely. Did they succeed? Find out my thoughts tomorrow on the next round of mobile blackjack apps.

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?

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.

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!

Atlantic City Online Blackjack

I can understand creating an online blackjack variation named for Atlantic City. After Las Vegas it is the biggest city in the United States for casinos. And we do have an online blackjack variation called Vegas Strip Blackjack, named so for Las Vegas. So I suppose Atlantic City Blackjack does not surprise me now that it has shown up in the online casino world: Atlantic City Blackjack has recently been released by Cyrptologic to some of their partner online casinos.

Now while I am not a fan of blackjack variations, I will admit that Vegas Strip Blackjack is not too bad of a variation. This comes from the fact that the dealer will peek to see if he has blackjack when he has a ten-value card or Ace showing; this increases your blackjack odds since not peeking increases the house’s edge.

There are other rules to Vegas Strip Blackjack that I like, but we need to move on to Atlantic City Blackjack and why it cannot hold a candle to Vegas Strip.

Right off the bat, the first issue with Atlantic City Blackjack is the payout offered for natural blackjacks. It is only offering a 6-5 payout for a natural. This is a problem as it hits your blackjack odds for 1.39%. But the game tries to make it up to you by offering a 2-1 payout for any suited natural blackjacks, meaning that the natural must be made up of a ten-value card and an Ace of the same suit.

Yes, a 2-1 payout on a suited blackjack does offer a boost to your odds: 0.57%. But this is a poor step in trying to make up it up to players for losing so much in odds from the 6-5 payout. There is still a 0.82% difference in odds that does not favor the player.

Most players are uninformed as to just how much payout can affect their blackjack odds. I will talk about that this afternoon. But for now it is best to stay away from Atlantic City Blackjack. It is a shame that Atlantic City has to be associated with this online blackjack game.

What Makes Vegas Strip Blackjack Good

I will admit it. I am a fan of Vegas Strip Blackjack. For those of you that are just now getting into blackjack, this is not some drinking version of blackjack in which you get to take your clothes off. Clothes stay on. Vegas Strip Blackjack is actually one of the most common types of blackjack out there, and it can be found in a great many brick and mortar casinos and in the majority of online casinos.

While the majority of the rules are the same, Vegas strip does have some variations to its rules.

For starters it uses only four decks. While this is not as good as a single deck game, it is a better than the more common six and eight deck blackjack games. Playing with only four decks adds 0.06% to your blackjack odds.

Another good rule is that the dealer must stand on all 17s—including all soft 17s. This saves you from losing 0.22% from your blackjack odds, which is a fairly significant save in odds.

Players can double down on any two cards as opposed to only being able to double down only on 10s and 11s. This opens up the ability to double on some of those hard 9s and soft hands according to your basic strategy chart, and it add 0.23% to your blackjack odds.

And speaking of doubling down, players can double down after splitting; so add another 0.08% to your blackjack odds.

As for splitting, players can split up to three times for a total of four hands, which saves you a loss of 0.10%. Players can also split Aces once, but this saves an odds loss of 0.18%.

Two other rules include a split Ace with a 10 value card is not a blackjack, which is standard. And unlike 10 value cards, like a starting hand of a Queen and 10, can be split.

But one of the best rules is that the dealer will peek to see if he has blackjack if he is showing a ten card or an Ace. I know on the surface this does not seem fair, but it actually save you some money.

Imagine that the dealer has a 10 showing and you have a hard 11. Basic strategy says to double down and so you do, reaching a hand total of 18. The dealer then reveals his hole card to be an Ace; he has a natural and that trumps your doubled down hard 18 causing you to lose twice the amount you normally would have.

In a game of blackjack in which the dealer does not peek on a 10 card or an Ace it hits your blackjack odds for 0.11%.

When you add it all up, Vegas Strip Blackjack adds 0.37% to your blackjack odds and saves you from losing 0.61%. All in all, I think those are some pretty good reasons to seek out Vegas Strip Blackjack in a casino or to play it in an online casino like Go Casino. This is one variation of blackjack that I can be on board with.

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.