Dealer’s Advantage in Blackjack

Dealers in blackjack have a built in advantage. There is no way around it either; it is just how the game is structured. In other words, no blackjack strategy can overcome this. And a lot of blackjack players do not always see how this built-in aspect gives the dealer a bit of an edge over the player in blackjack.

I am talking about how a dealer plays last in a round of blackjack. Do you see the advantage the dealer has? No? Well, here it is:

Players still lose even when the dealer busts.

In a round of blackjack, each player takes their turn. And if a player busts then he busts and he is out of the round. Then after everyone has played it is the dealer’s turn. We are going to say he busts in this particular round. So he loses and players who did not bust receive their payouts for beating the dealer. But the players who did bust do not get anything.

On the surface that is just how the game goes. But here is how the house benefits. When a player busts, the house gets the money regardless of whether the dealer busts or not. So no matter if the dealer wins or loses, if the player busts the money is the house’s. In other words, the house collects money for losing when the player does not collect so much as a single $1 chip if the dealer loses.

That is the long and the short of it. And it sucks to be the player because this is rule of blackjack—the dealer plays last, which allows players to bust ahead of him and the player forfeits their money if they lose. End of story. There is no strategy around this, except to not lose.

Dealing with Consecutive Blackjack Losses and Basic Strategy

Basic strategy is one of the few set-down blackjack strategies that casinos are pretty cool with allowing players to use. But there is a reason behind that. Casino staff will allow the myth to perpetuate that basic strategy guarantees wins. Then, after a few consecutive losses, they can watch as players toss aside their basic strategy cards and return to playing haphazardly without strategy.

I am going to say this: Basic strategy does not guarantee players a win every single time.

Read it. Understand it. Remember it.

Let me ask you something, what is the percentage of losing three hands in a row?

That answer is 14%. You have a 14% chance of losing three hands in a row, even when playing according to basic strategy. That is because basic strategy gives you the best statistical play for any given hand against any dealer up card.

But no hand and dealer up card combination is 100% in favor of the player, unless it is a natural blackjack but then there is no need to tell a player what to do then. And since no hand and dealer up card combination is 100% in the player’s favor, players have to expect to lose a few hands. It happens. Not even players who are skilled in card counting will win every single hand.

Even though you can expect to lose some hands when playing blackjack, it does not mean abandoning basic strategy. It is still your best blackjack took against the casino; playing it perfectly—meaning no deviation, players—can lower the house edge to 0.5%, giving it the best edge of all the casino games.

Why Hitting a Hard 12 Against a 2 or 3 is the Way to Go

Basic strategy is often abused. Players think they are adhering to it when they are not. And when you do not play basic strategy perfectly, the house edge cannot be lowered to 0.5%. Two of the most commonly misplayed scenarios are a hard 12 against a dealer 2 or 3.

Hard 12 is one of the stiff hands, meaning it is one of those hands with a high shot of losing but still has a shot at winning. In other words they are underdog hands. Basic strategy for those hands was calculated to give the play that would do the least amount of damage should the player lose. And, let’s face it, those hands do have a larger chance of losing than winning.

Most hard hands are played like this: if the dealer has a 6 or less, then stand; but if he has a 7 or greater, then go ahead and hit. The only stiff hand that is the exception to that rule is the hard 12; for that hand players are advised to hit against a dealer’s 2 or 3 rather than stand. This is because the average amount of money lost when hitting is less than average amount lost when standing. Check it out (figured from a $100 wager):

Average amount lost when hitting against a 2: $25
Average amount lost when standing against a 2: $29

Average amount lost when hitting against a 3: $23
Average amount lost when standing against a 3: $25

When put into money terms it is easy to understand. However, many blackjack players, experienced ones too, will stand against a 2 or 3. I think players make the mistake because all of the other stiff hands are advised to stand against a dealer 2 or 3; so they play a hard 12 in the same way even though a hard 12 is better off being hit against a 2 or 3. All it takes is sticking to what the basic strategy chart says. The good thing about basic strategy is it can be used in online casinos like Online Vegas without it being illegal or frowned upon by the online casino.

You Busting vs. the Dealer Busting

I am not sure how many blackjack players out there think about this, but have you ever thought about what happens when you bust as opposed to when the dealer busts? If you have not, you just did. I am willing to bet on it.

A blackjack player busting has a different effect than when the dealer busts. And that difference is one of the contributing factors of how the house gets its edge in blackjack over your blackjack odds.

When a blackjack player busts, that is it, you are done. You have lost and you are out of the round and out the money you wagered on the round.

But when a dealer busts he is not losing a wager because he never had to make a wager. But even more of a kick in the pants to your blackjack odds is that if you bust and then the dealer busts, you still lose. This is a result of the fact that the dealer plays last. Imagine that he played first for a moment; say he busted—at that point everyone would win.

But because blackjack players play first there is the chance that a player will bust him or herself, thusly removing themselves from possibly benefiting if the dealer busts. The more players that are removed from the possibility of benefiting from the dealer losing, the more money the house makes. Hence, why players play first in blackjack. It has nothing to do with the house being polite and saying, “No, you play first.”

Unfortunately there is nothing for a player to do in terms of blackjack strategy to overcome this one. This is just how blackjack works. The only thing a blackjack player can do to overcome an odds-hitter like this is to bone up on the rest of their blackjack strategy and hit the house in other areas.

Some players who play in brick and mortar casinos teach themselves to count cards. Basic strategy is always a popular means of hitting the house’s edge over time because it gives the best statistical play for every hand, and will lower the house edge over time to 0.5%.

Some Blackjack Things Never Change

And what would be something about blackjack that does not ever change? Ever. One more ever just in case you missed it. And by never ever change I mean it is the same for blackjack in brick and mortar casinos, in online blackjack and in the mobile blackjack that is one the rise.

One such thing is insurance. Yes, insurance is the same. Not only does the rule not change, but a blackjack player’s strategy for insurance does not change no matter what format he or she is playing the game with.

Insurance is a bad bet all around mostly because it is a side bet on whether or not the dealer has a 10 for a hole card. The house makes you feel like you are making a big mistake when you do not take insurance, but the mistake lies in taking insurance. This is because there are less cards that have a value of 10 than there are cards with other values. This means that the odds of the card not being worth 10 are higher.

And speaking of side bets, they are another thing about blackjack that does not change no matter how you play it. Other than insurance, side bets are found in blackjack variations whose sole purpose is to take your money and drag your odds down.

Take Perfect Pairs for instance. Before the cards are dealt, players wager on whether or not their first to cards will be a pair or not. The problem with this is that there is no strategy that can help a player here. Being dealt a pair at the start is sheer luck and that is all.

Blackjack is a game of strategy, of skill. This is one casino game in which a player can shift the odds that are against them and lessen them. But playing in a blackjack variation with a side bet is the fastest way to turn the odds against you. And this holds true no matter where you are playing blackjack, be it in a casino, online or on your mobile device.

Clue to a Safe Place to Play Blackjack

The last couple of days I have been discussing things to not look for and things that you should look for in an online casino where you are thinking about playing online blackjack. You do want a safe place and a fair place to play online blackjack right?

Of course you do! Who would not? No one. But how can you even possibly know if an online casino is safe or fair? Sure you could ask their customer support staff, but I am pretty sure they are not going to say that their online casino is not a safe or fair place to play. Customer Support is likely to be a tad bit biased. But fear not, there is another unbiased way to tell.

There is an auditing body known as eCOGRA and they are the most well-regarded auditor of online casinos and online casino game software developers in the industry. They are also unbiased.

The group eCOGRA was formed back in 2003 when a group of online casinos—competitors to each other mind you—and decided that there needed to be some sort of body that would be unbiased and would serve as a guide for online casinos in terms of responsible gaming practices, unbiased dispute resolution, fair standards in their games, timely and fair payouts and a strong customer support team. And so eCOGRA was formed.

Now eCOGRA does not answer to any of the online casinos that had a hand in its formation, nor do they accept any sort of funds from those online casinos; this is important to maintain the unbiased standpoint and reputation that eCOGRA has.

When eCOGRA reviews a potential online casino for their approval, they will check the casino for the points mentioned above. They will also periodically check in and audit the online casinos that do have their approval. Of the hundreds of online casinos out there on the web, only 145 have the eCOGRA “Fair and Safe” approval seal, which is the most sought after seal in the industry.

Players who are looking for a secure place to play online blackjack should look at the bottom of the online casino’s main page for their seals. If they are approved and have met eCOGRA’s standards they will have the “Fair and Safe” eCOGRA seal.

The Never Bust Blackjack Strategy

This one is for the blackjack players amongst us who are wary of playing stiff hands. Stiff hands in blackjack are a hard 12, hard 13, hard 14, hard 15 and hard 16. These are some of the hardest hands to play in blackjack—underdog hands some call them, mostly because the player is at the disadvantage.

The disadvantage comes from the fact that these are hands in which hitting is more likely to cause a bust, and standing is nearly the same as conceding your wager to the dealer. So I can see how a good many blackjack players would groan at being dealt one.

A so-called blackjack strategy was started once upon a time that is generally referred to as the never bust strategy. According to this blackjack strategy, players do not hit a hard 12 or anything above it. Despite the fact that basic strategy will have players hitting any stiff hand from hard 12 to hard 16 if the dealer is showing a 7 or higher. And, yes, according to this so-called never bust strategy players are not going to bust.

But it comes at the cost of the hands that would have been won if the player had hit the hands facing a dealer’s 7 or higher. And that is definitely conceding your wagers to the dealer. If you were dealt a hard 12 against a dealer’s 7, basic strategy would advise you to hit. And in hitting you run the possibility of being dealt a 2 through 9—all which would not bust you. A 2 would give you a hard 14 and you would hit again, and a 9 would give you a 21, which is likely to beat the dealer.

The cards that would bust you—10, J, Q and K—are outnumbered by the number cards that would not bust you. So it is silly to stand, which is what the so-called blackjack strategy of never bust has you doing.

In not hitting when it statistically advantageous, players lose opportunities to take money from the house. And lost opportunities means the player’s blackjack odds go down and the house’s goes up. Normally a blackjack game played with basic strategy would result in a house edge of around 0.5%. Using the so-called never bust blackjack strategy is a game in which the house has a 3.91% edge. Which would you rather have, 0.5% or 3.91%? Stick with basic strategy.

Your Blackjack Losses and Wins

Today we are going to talk a little bit about using how to handle your wins and losses in regards to your blackjack bankroll. What do you do with your winnings once you get them?

I know your first response is to keep them, but stop and think for a moment. Do you really pocket your winnings? Most blackjack players do not. In fact, most casino patrons do not. They will turn around and immediately reinvest their winning in their bankroll.

And there is nothing wrong with this. However, it is counterproductive to making a profit in blackjack.

Let’s say you convert $100 into chips. You are also playing blackjack according to basic strategy. So under that strategy you should only lose on average $5 in an hour, give or take a bit. So you would think you’re then down to $95. But because you put your winnings back into your bankroll, you’re back at $100 if not higher.

The problem with this is that it puts you in the position to lose your winnings. If you are losing 5% per hour, having a bankroll of more than $100 means that you will then be losing more than $5 per hour.

The smartest course of action in regards to your bankroll when you are playing blackjack is to keep your winnings separate from your bankroll. This means that when you are paid your winnings, you pocket them or set them in a separate pile from your bankroll. This way at the end of the night you still have something to cash in. And in the worst case scenario, say you did lose all of your bankroll, you would still have something to show from your blackjack playing.

Blackjack Games Not to Play: MindPlay Tables

Part of being a savvy blackjack player is knowing strategy and how to play the game to squeeze the best odds out of a game. But another part of being a savvy blackjack player is knowing where to play and where not to play. I am not talking about specific casinos. I am talking about specific games of specific rules to avoid.

That being said, there is one specific blackjack game that I recently heard of that I feel compelled to tell of. In fact, this is more a type of blackjack table than a blackjack variation’s rules. The type of table is called a MindPlay table.

A MindPlay table is a specifically built table with a purpose. That purpose is to track the cards and chips on the table; it is programmed to determine a player’s skill level, track wagers, count the deck and how long a player has played at that table. MindPlay tables use specifically marked decks; they are not marked where a player can see the marks of course, but they are indeed marked.

Play at a MindPlay begins with the dealer removing the decks from the shuffle machine and placing them in a sort of well in the table to the right of the dealer. Once in this well-like space, an optical device then scans the deck, counting the marks, and creating an order of the cards. The cards are then dealt and played in that order.

Once play has begun the MindPlay program counts the cards as they are played, similar to how a blackjack player counts cards. When the MindPlay device’s count reaches a certain number, the dealer is ordered to reinsert the cards into the shuffler and then reinsert them into the well-like space for scanning. This counting and pre-programmed command to reshuffle is in place so that players will not be able to squeeze an advantage out of the decks through card counting.

But the optical device of a MindPlay table does more. It can track how much a player is betting, calculate their average bet and how long a player has been playing at that table. This information can be used by pit bosses when it comes to comps for players. A player can ask the pit boss for a comp, telling him or her that they have wagered this much in this much time at that blackjack table over there; the pit boss can then check the program in the MindPlay table to see if what the player says is true or not. Casinos like this feature because it will allow them better—and tighter—control on comping players.

But comping aside, the scanning and tracking of the order of the deck and the increased odds it gives players is enough to give blackjack players a reason to avoid MindPlay tables. It seems though that casinos are saying that it is not okay for players to count cards, but it is okay for them to count and track the cards.

So, blackjack players, this is one type of blackjack table to avoid. Unfortunately these tables are not labeled with signs or the like; you will not see a ‘MindPlay Blackjack’ sign sitting on the felt. The giveaway is the black well-like device in the table on the dealer’s right—in other words, near the third base position. If you see that well-like device it is highly likely that the blackjack table is a MindPlay table. Avoid it, and encourage other players to avoid it.

Difference Between Blackjack and 21 Games

Perhaps on the surface there is no discernable difference between blackjack and 21 games. But obviously there is. Or I would not be about to tell you about the differences now would I?

So, yes, there is a difference between blackjack and 21 games. Actually there are only two differences, but they are very glaring when you stop to think about them. In fact, once you know them you can never un-know them and they will be forever in your mind’s eye.

Ready? Here we go.

Think about blackjack for a moment. Only blackjack. The very basic game that you first learned when you decided that you wanted to make money from a casino game. You know that you wager on one hand. You know that the only plays you have are to hit, stand, double down, split a pair or surrender. You also know that a ‘blackjack’ is made up in the first two cards you are dealt: a card with a value of 10 and an Ace. You also know that you are given a 3-2 payout for being fortunate enough to be dealt 21 in your first two cards—the price tag on luck for the casino.

That is blackjack at its very essence. And that is the only blackjack game. Ever.

Everything else is a game of 21.

Think about it. There are some games out there that have many of the same rules, but you are not paid 3-2 for a natural blackjack. You might get a 6-5 or a 7-5 pay out on a natural blackjack. And this is a problem because you are not getting the traditional payout on a two-card 21. And since the entire point of blackjack is to be dealt a natural and receive a 3-2 payout, changing the payout ratio changes the game.

Hence any change to the payout for a two-card 21, otherwise known as blackjack, a natural or a natural blackjack, is a change to the very essence of the game of blackjack. And changing the essence of a game makes it not that game anymore. In this case, changing the essence of blackjack no longer makes it a game of blackjack and it must be called a game of 21.

And that, folks, is only one difference between blackjack and a game of 21.