Blackjack Strategy—Splitting 8s

Why do you split 8s? Why is it a standard in blackjack strategy to do so?

Look at what blackjack strategy is first. In the first place you have a strategy so that you can improve your odds of winning. But what do you do when you find yourself in a situation that you know you are most likely going to lose?

This is the other part of your blackjack strategy: finding the least costly way out of a non-winning situation.

Now let’s look at being dealt a pair of 8s and the dealer has an upcard that is a 9, 10, or Ace.

If you were to stand on a hard 16, you are then playing with a stiff hand and will most likely lose. Interesting side note: you will be dealt a stiff hand about 43% of the time; and we all know that it’s easiest to lose with those hands.

Thankfully you can split those 8s. A pessimistic person might say that this is unwise blackjack strategy because you’re probably going to lose anyway. And this is why we don’t listen to pessimistic people.

Think of splitting those 8s as a second chance for you on this round. You can build two new hands, each starting with an 8 card. Yes, you do have to double your bet.

And, yes, you could lose all of that, but this is blackjack, this is gambling—you are going to lose sometimes. The trick here is to try to lose the least amount of money to get out of this round and on to the next.

By splitting your 8s and creating two new hands, you have the possibility of turning what could have been a pretty good shot at losing into one in which you have the possibility of winning with one hand, maybe even both.

The point to remember about pair splitting strategy is that this move is in place, for those who know how to use it, to lose less and win more in the long run. By only hitting or standing you are limiting your strategy and your odds at blackjack.

You can use this strategy for online blackjack or when playing at a casino.

Adding More to Your Blackjack Strategy—Betting On Another Player’s Hand

Imagine making money off of another player’s hand. Can you do that? Yes, you can, it’s perfectly legal to do. And well worth adding to your blackjack strategy.

So why would you do this? Another player might have an advantage but not the nerve to up the wager to take full advantage of their hand. The good blackjack player that you are, remember your blackjack vows, you can’t let someone lose money to the house just because they’re a little nervous of putting out a few more chips. So you help them out.

Imagine that everyone’s betting the minimum of $20. The guy sitting next to you was just dealt a 7-4 against the dealer’s 10. Basic strategy for this set up is to double down. And the guy sitting next to you knows this, but you see him hesitating on putting out another $20. So instead of another $20, he put out only $10 and tries doubling for less.

This is where you become a blackjack hero. Step in, toss him $10 of your chips and tell him that you’ll go in with him on this hand. So now you’ve got money riding on your own hand that you can win from, and now you can win money off of your neighbor’s. For less than a full bet you can now win money from two hands.

The point of blackjack strategy is to take full advantage of the cards. And if you see another player who isn’t taking full advantage, get in on the action and take the part of the advantage that they aren’t willing to take. Make sure they’re okay with you betting on their hand first. The added benefit to betting on another player’s hand is that such strategy can also help lower the house edge by around 0.15%.

Another time to go in on another player’s hand is when another player has two 7s versus a dealer’s 6. He splits and gets another 7. He needs to split again, but he’s already put out an extra $20 already. Offer to cover the amount of the second split. This gets you in on the action, lowers the house edge and allows you both to take advantage of a money-making situation since 7s against a dealer’s 6 is a moneymaker.

So why add this to your blackjack strategy?

When you’re playing blackjack, it’s you versus the dealer, but there are other players against the dealer. And the dealer represents the casino. So why let the casino take more blackjack player money when they should be paying out to us. So help your fellow players out so that they can take full advantage of their hands, and let’s make those casinos payout some more.

A Little Something Extra for Your Basic Strategy

Basic strategy is already an awesome skill to have in your blackjack arsenal. But you can add to it, tweek at bit you might say.

Let’s look at this situation: you have just been dealt a 16 against a dealer’s 10.

Basic strategy dictates that you hit here. And for the most part that’s going to be the best thing for you to do for your overall blackjack game. But let’s look at the makeup of that 16 and think about tweeking how you play out this hand.

Your 16 could be made up of two cards, 10-6 or 9-7, or it could be made up with three cards, like a 4-5-7. And there’s a difference on how you play your hands depending on how your hand is constructed.

If your 16 is made up of three cards you are actually better off standing rather than hitting. The reason for this is because when you have three cards making up your 16, it means that you’re already holding smaller number cards. You would need more in order to stay below 21. And because you already have small cards in your hand, and you figure that other players have small cards as well, means that you don’t have very good odds of getting more.

Another hand you can apply this strategy to is a starting total of 12 versus a dealer who has a 4 up. Normally you would stand here, according to basic strategy. But what you need to consider is what your 12 is made up of. Most combinations of 12 (9-3, 8-4, 7-5) are fine for standing; they’re made up of low or neutral value cards, which increases your chances of busting if you hit.

But if your 12 is made up of 10-2 then you’re better off hitting. The only cards that can bust you are ten value cards. Everything else will just raise your total, possibly putting you near 21.

What you need to take from this posting is that while basic strategy is still the best way to play, to advance your blackjack strategy and finer tune your odds, consider the makeup of a stiff hand and how it reflects on the remaining deck.

If card counting is already a part of your blackjack strategy, you will already know whether the deck is rich in highs or lows. Take that into consideration when you are dealt a stiff hand. Look at the cards you have versus the cards that have already been played. At that point you can decide whether you should hit or stand.

Card Counting and Insurance

Okay, in my last post I pretty much spelled put why taking in Insurance is not a good thing to do. In fact, I showed you how you will lose money if you take insurance.

Now I’m going to tell you when it’s okay to take insurance.

No, this is not a contradictory post. I will not take back what I said in my last post either.

However, there are times when taking insurance can be a smart thing to do. And this applies to players who count cards.

First, let’s look at two of the winning situations.

Let’s say you are playing at a $10 table. You’ve made your bet, and have received your cards. And you have been dealt a natural blackjack. But the dealer’s up card is an Ace. You are, of course, offered insurance. In this instance, you take it. And here’s why:

You have been counting the deck as the rounds have progressed. You know that the deck is rich in ten value cards. The chances of the dealer having blackjack are also pretty good considering the deck is ten card rich. So you take insurance.

Now one of two things can happen. You already have your blackjack, so don’t worry about your hand.

The dealer’s hole card could be a ten value card. You both have blackjack. You win the insurance bet because the dealer does have a natural—remember, taking insurance is just another name for a side bet on whether or not the dealer has blackjack. Since he does, you win the 2-1 payout: $10. But since you both have hands of equivalent value, the actual round is a push, so your original bet is returned to you. You’ve made a net gain of $10.

The other outcome could be that the dealer doesn’t have blackjack. You lose the insurance bet, but you collect $15 on the 3-2 payout of having a natural blackjack. Again, your net gain is $10.

The lesson here is that it can be advantageous to take insurance. But the only time to do so when you have met two criteria:

You’ve been counting cards and know that the deck is rich in ten value cards, and you have been dealt a natural blackjack. It is recommended that you only take insurance when you’ve met those two criteria.

Still, on the whole, insurance is not a good bet, unless you have that natural blackjack and are facing a ten value rich deck.

The Mystery that is Insurance in Blackjack

When playing blackjack online or in a casino, at some point in time you have most likely been offered insurance. There are a lot of notions out there as to whether insurance is a good bet or a waste. So which is it? Or is it both?

First, let’s take a look at what insurance is.

The way that it is explained to you, is that an insurance bet is to protect you from losing all your money in case the dealer has a natural blackjack. Insurance is only offered when the dealer’s up card is an Ace—one of the cards that is required to have a natural. The reason insurance is offered on Aces and not on ten value cards is because Aces are smaller in number than the ten value cards and less likely to appear.

Now, insurance is really a side bet on whether or not the dealer’s hole card is a ten value card. You are making a 2-1 bet on what that card is. If it is a ten value then you get the 2-1 payout. And if the hole card isn’t worth 10 then you lose your insurance bet.

When looking at all the outcomes of making an insurance bet, you will find that there are three winning situations, two losing and one push. You will win money if you and the dealer both have naturals, if you have blackjack and the dealer doesn’t, and if neither of you have blackjack and you win the hand. You lose if neither of you have blackjack and you lose the hand, and if neither of you have naturals and you tie the hand. The only push outcome happens when you don’t have blackjack and the dealer does.

So three winning chances and one push versus two loses sounds pretty good right?

Wrong.

Let’s look at this from a statistical point of view, because, let’s face it, we are dealing with numbers and probability. Let’s say we’re talking about an infinite shoe, and since most tables use six to eight decks and online casinos have RNGs, we might as well think of them as infinite. With that number of decks or an RNG, there is a nine-to-four odds against the hole card being worth 10; this is because for every four ten value cards there are nine others.

Now we’ll combine math with statistics. Let’s say that in one year you make a $5 insurance bet 1300 times (considering how often a dealer has an Ace up card that’s a lot of blackjack). Going off of the nine-to-four statistic, you’d win 400 times and lose 900 times.

Translate that into money now. Winning a $5 insurance would give you $10. So if you won 400 times you would have made $4,000. For every time you lost a $5 insurance bet you would lose that $5. So losing 900 insurance bets means that you have lost $4,500. Add $4,000 and a negative $4,500 and you are left with a loss of $500.

And that is why, for the most part, you do not take insurance in both online blackjack and land based blackjack.

However, if you’re a card counter, there is an instance when taking insurance can be profitable.

Keep an eye open for Card Counting and Insurance.

Even Money is a Drain

We have all at one point or another been offered even money.

Even money is only offered under certain conditions. First, you have to have been dealt a natural 21. Second, the dealer’s up card must be an Ace. At that point the dealer will offer you even money.

Even money means that you are betting the same amount that you stand to lose. For example, an even money bet is when you are betting $10 to potentially win $10.

Under the circumstances that even money is offered, you can pretty much think of it as a type of “insurance” bet. With your natural and his Ace up card he will offer you even money. What this even money does is give you an immediate one to one payout.

Normally when you and the dealer both have naturals it’s a push and you win nothing, but you lose nothing also. Even money gets you a one to one payout.

But if you do this you’re sacrificing the additional 50% payout that you would bet if the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack.

So while even money might feel a bit safer you will in fact lose more money in the long run than if you avoided even money. How much are you losing? About 4% of your profit potential.

My advice is to not take even money. True you’re thinking that you’re giving up that one to one payout, but you’re not really gaining anything. Let’s say the dealer also has a natural blackjack and you have to push—you haven’t lost any money! Your profit potential hasn’t been hurt.

Since you aren’t standing to lose any money, even if you come face to face with a dealer’s natural, go ahead and decline the even money. If you have a higher hand value than the dealer or the dealer busts, you will win the three to two payout. And if the dealer has a natural too, so what? You haven’t lost any money.

Misplayed Blackjack Hands—Part III

Last round of misplayed blackjack hands…for now. Who knows, I may discover some more that need light dumped on them.

You’ve heard me say this before, and here it is—basic strategy is the best thing you can do for yourself. So stick with it. You want the best odds, yes? Yes. And they don’t get much better than 0.5%. But that’ll only happen if you stick with The Chart. So do it.

11 vs. a dealer’s 10

As any good blackjack player knows it’s a pretty good idea to double down on an 11. And most of the time it’s easy to do—“Excuse me, sir, doubling down here, thank you.”

But for some reason there are more nerves involved with doubling down against a dealer’s 10. This is like standing on a stiff hand. It doesn’t feel good and your brain is trying to say that doubling down just isn’t the smart thing to do. You usually figure that the dealer’s hole card is a 10, so that would give him a pat 20.

But check this out: the dealer actually has less of a chance of making 20 than you do of making 20 or 21.

And to top this off look at it this way: if you hit you’ll win 56% of the time on one bet. But when you double you have two betting units out there, and you’ll win 54% of the time. So when your brain starts sowing seeds of doubt ask yourself which you’d rather have: win $5 56% of the time or $10 54% of the time.

The bottom line is that The Chart offers you the best chances of winning, and that’s not something to turn your nose up at. I know that it can be hard to go against what your brain is telling you. So perhaps the thing to do is work your brain around to understanding that basic strategy is your best chance at winning in the long run.

Misplayed Blackjack Hands—Part II

And on we go for another round of how to play some commonly misplayed blackjack hands.

Remember that the best thing that you can do for yourself and your odds is to stick with basic strategy. Even when your brain is saying, “No! No! No, don’t do that! It just feels so wrong!” Don’t listen to your brain. Of teach your brain to say, “Just follow the basic strategy chart.”

This will benefit you in the long run. You can lower the house edge from 2%-5% down to 0.5%. But. It only works when you play perfect basic strategy.

12 vs. a dealer’s 2

Now this is one of those blackjack hands that makes you grind your teeth and wish you were playing poker so that you could fold. In your mind, you just know that if you hit you’ll wind up with a 10 and bust. And busting with a 22 is the worst feeling, because you were this close to making it.

But stop a moment. Let’s look at this.

Think about the cards. And when you do you’ll see that you have a better chance of not busting than of busting. The only cards that can bust you are 10-value cards. Everything else—Ace through 9—will not bust you. And there are more of those cards than there are of 10-value cards. It actually comes down to a nine in thirteen chance of not busting. So take the risk, and hit.

Ace,7 vs. a dealer’s 9

How many of you have stood on this hand?

If you do, stop. Right now, stop. That Ace gives you flexibility. If you hit and the value of the hit card is too high, where you would normally bust on a hard 18, you can always reduce the value of that Ace down to 1.

Blackjack is about being flexible. So be flexible.

Doing so will give you a 9 out of 20 chance at winning. When you stand on a soft 18, you only have an 8 out of 20 chances at winning. Take advantage of that flexibility and hit.

Keep an eye out for Misplayed Blackjack Hands Part III.

Misplayed Blackjack Hands—Part I

I see it often enough that I can’t avoid commenting on it anymore. I feel so frustrated when I see players—both new and old misplaying a hand. Deviating from basic strategy. And I feel so bad for them.

But on the other hand, I can understand. Sometimes the right play just seems so wrong to our brains. But you will be better off sticking with basic strategy.

Let’s take a look at a couple of those hands.

Pair of 8s vs. a dealer’s 10

Basic strategy says to split here. And so you should. I know, it’s hard. But two hands of eight are a much better place to start than a hard 16. Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re going to play this as a hard sixteen—and I know you most certainly are not going to play that hand as a hard 16—basic strategy says to hit.

And you stand a greater chance of busting a hard 16 than two hands that start with an 8. Do both have a chance of busting? Sure they do. But this is blackjack not solitaire. Yes, you are going to lose hands—that’s part of playing at a casino.

In the long run, the 8s will lose less money than a hard sixteen will. So. Take a deep breath and split those 8s!

So while we’re on the topic of hard 16s…

16 vs. a dealer’s 7

You know what’s funny?

You will have a player who will hit a hard 16 (a real hard 16, not a pair of 8s that someone isn’t splitting when they should be) against a dealer’s 10, but will not hit against a dealer’s 7. Why? Both have a high risk of busting. However, hitting against a dealer’s 7 has a smaller loser percentage than hitting against a dealer’s 10: 40% as compared to 52%.

Man up and hit!

Blackjack is not a game in which you can guarantee yourself that you will win every hand. Get that notion out of your head. And while you’re at it, get rid of the notion that you don’t have to risk. Sometimes in this game you have to risk in order to win.

And really it may not statistically be a risk, but it just feels like it because your brain is telling you that the right move is the wrong one. Tell your brain to shut up, and stick with basic strategy. Get it in your head that there is risk in casino games and gambling, and that you must stick with basic strategy—it’s your best chance of winning.

Keep an eye open for Misplayed Blackjack Hands—Part II

Sweet Sixteen

I find a lot of people are not quite sure what to do when they are dealt a sixteen in blackjack, be it a hard sixteen or a soft sixteen. I can kind of understand this. We all know to stand on hard seventeen and to hit on a soft seventeen. But sixteen…

A soft sixteen is easy to deal with. You hit with that one. Unless you can double down. If doubling down is allowed then double down when the dealer’s up card is a 4, 5 or 6. You can always reduce the total of your hand if you draw what would normally be a bust card.

Let’s say that you have a soft sixteen, and you draw a 6 or higher. Normally you would bust, but with a soft sixteen you can change the value of the Ace from eleven to one. So say you draw an 8. That would normally give you a hand of 24. But you can bring that Ace down to 1 to make your hand worth 14. Depending on what the dealer’s up card is, you can either stand or hit. Hitting on a soft hand is almost like having a second chance. And that applies to both land based casino blackjack and online blackjack.

But a hard sixteen, that one is harder to deal with it seems. And I agree that it can be tough especially if you’ve been on a winning streak with blackjack. You get dealt that hard sixteen and in your head you go ‘Oh, no.’ Because you want to keep on winning. And it’s so close to seventeen and standing that you just want to stand. But you know you shouldn’t because basic strategy says hit. But if you hit you feel that there’s a good chance that you will bust. What should you do?

As hard as it is, and as much as you want to stand, you need to follow basic strategy. In blackjack basic strategy gives you the best possible statistical chance in the game. Remember that it doesn’t guarantee a win for every hand, but it does lower the house edge over time. So this might be one of the hands you lose, but it doesn’t mean that you will walk away a loser overall. Just stick with basic strategy.

And it’s not all dark in the tunnel that is a hard sixteen. You don’t stand on every single hard sixteen. You only stand on a hard sixteen if the dealer’s up card is a 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. If the dealer’s up card is a 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King or Ace by all means, hit!

So while a hard sixteen can be a bit hard to swallow, always follow your basic strategy chart. Always keep it in the back of your mind that it holds the best statistical plays for you, and that following it can lower the house edge in blackjack to 0.5%.