Counting 10s and Insurance

In the last couple of posts we have pieced together that card counting can help us with insurance. We all understand that card counting will allow us to know when the remaining cards contain more high cards than low. So what does this have to do with turning insurance to our benefit?

High cards include 10s. And insurance is a side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is worth 10 or not. Now put two and two together—it is a hard 4. No, I am kidding. Bad blackjack joke. If the, when counting cards, you find that a significant number of low cards have been played and the remaining deck is rich in high cards it means that the chances of the dealer’s hole card being worth 10 are increased.

This means that it is not a good time to take insurance.

Now keep in mind that I am not an insurance advocate for blackjack. It is a side bet and I am steadfastly against side bets. But if you are dead set on taking insurance and are playing in a brick and mortar casino where you can count cards, do not take insurance when the remaining deck is rich in high cards. This means that if you are going to risk the side bet—I mean, insure your hand—you only want to do it when the remaining cards are rich in low cards.

Unfortunately card counting cannot be used in online blackjack because of that RNG, but you can use card counting to turn insurance a bit in your favor. You know now that you can use card counting to know if the chances are increased for the dealer to have a card worth 10 for a hole card when the remaining deck is running rich in high cards.

Now you can take that knowledge and choose to wager on the hole card or not when offered insurance. For example, if you have a hard hand and the dealer has an Ace up and you have counted the card and figured that the remaining deck is rich in high cards—meaning the dealer’s chances of having a 10 for a hole card are increased—taking insurance might not be a bad thing; you know you have a weak hand and that the remaining cards favor the dealer in this case.

That is how knowing how the richness of the remaining deck can help you to decide whether taking insurance at the blackjack table might benefit you.

Built in Blackjack Boost

Players often are not aware that the rules of blackjack give them a built boost to their odds. Seriously, it really is there. But in order to turn your blackjack odds and actually benefit from this little boost you have to not be afraid to use it.

I am talking about doubling down. This popular blackjack term gives rise to visions of daring blackjack players doubling their wagers for a one-card shot at beating the dealer. And really that is all that a double down is—a player doubling the amount of their wager and only receiving one more card. This play is often treated as the blackjack equivalent to going all-in in a game of poker after a battle of raises. However, doubling down is not as daring as a poker all-in—mostly because you are not putting all of your money on the line. But doubling your wager just feels more daring.

But because doubling down gives you the opportunity to win twice as much as you normally would in a single round of blackjack, it increases your blackjack odds. In fact, of all the plays that you can make, doubling down is the one that can increase your odds the most.

Doubling down at the right opportunities can increase your blackjack odds by 1.6%

The key is knowing when those opportunities are. And even that is not as hard as it sounds. All you need is a basic strategy chart. That chart will tell you when the best statistical times to double down are—usually with the hard hands 9, 10 and 11 against certain dealer up cards.

Making double downs at those opportune times is one of the best built in boosts a player has to their blackjack odds.

Blackjack Gimmick to Beat Online Games to Watch Out For

Not every new player is savvy in finding help when they are first learning how to play blackjack and learning a blackjack strategy. There are plenty of gimmicks and scams out there aimed at duping new players out of their money in exchange for some supposed uber tip on how to beat the house.

Such is the case with a recent eBook that I heard of that does not have an author.

That right there, no named author, is the first indicator that there is something fishy about this eBook claiming to give players the secret to beating multiple online blackjack games. Never trust someone who is giving beat the house advice and who will not identify themselves.

By the way, my name is Lucy and I came by my blackjack knowledge the old fashioned way—meaning that I read a lot of professional blackjack players’ books, practiced a lot and have done a lot of research while following the writings of gambling experts. In other words I learned and now feel compelled to help other blackjack players—which is why I will tell you that there is no legal way to beat online blackjack.

Now back to this eBook I found. The author who refuses to name him or herself claims to have worked at several online casino game software developing companies in the last few years. The list included Microgaming, Cryptologic and six other names plus the requisite “and more,” thus claiming that the number of software developers he or she worked for outnumbers their total number of years working for all developers combined. In short, he or she has a high turnover rate in the industry, which is not something I trust as it shows to me that this person does have the endurance to keep a job—why should I trust him or her to have the patience to learn the intricacies of a game?

But not only does this mysterious author claim to be revealing the secret to beating online blackjack, he or she is claiming to be revealing the secret in regards to multiple online blackjack games—one for each of the developers he or she worked less than a year apiece at.

But on top of all of the fishy feelings coming from this illusive author’s claims, there is the underlying fact that online blackjack cannot be completely beat. Yes, with basic strategy players can bring down the house edge of online blackjack to less than half of a percent; combining that with opportune double downs and split pairs you can make a profit from online blackjack.

But without an idea of how the cards are flowing, you cannot anticipate how to bet and therefore cannot overcome that last half of a percent—which is what card counting is for, and I have already explained more than once why card counting is not possible in online blackjack.

The safest thing for you and your money is to not trust those who are selling secrets to beating the game. Your money—and your time—will be better spent on the words of professional blackjack players who put their names on their books and on the words and advice of gambling experts.

Luck or Unlucky Seventh Seat in Blackjack

Since we seem to be on a blackjack myth kick today, why not go for another one? After all it pays to know what really impacts your blackjack odds, and what is nonsense. Nonsense, while it does not impact your odds really, can impact the quality of your blackjack game.

And why would you want to negatively impact your blackjack game? Why take fun out of it?

There is no good reason to remove fun from a game you enjoy. And believing myths that are not real does exactly that. Take for example the myth that the seventh chair at a blackjack table can make or break the dealer’s hand.

The seventh chair at a blackjack table is the seat on the dealer’s right hand. It is the last seat to receive cards and the last player to play before the dealer plays out his hand. It is because the seventh seat is the last to play that it is believed that the seventh player can impact the dealer.

Unfortunately this myth has a negative feeling behind it. If the seventh seat player takes a card and the dealer wins, the other players say the seventh took the dealer’s bust card. Or if the seventh seat does not take a card and the dealer wins, other players will accuse the seventh seat of not sacrificing his hand by taking the dealer’s winning card and allowing the other players to win.

In other words, the seventh seat myth perpetuates a sort of ‘damned if you do, damned if you do not’ feeling. Such a feeling makes playing in the seventh seat a more stressful position. And stress kills everything.

But the truth is that the seventh seat does not have such a hold over the dealer. Do you really think the house would allow a player to have the ability to make or break their dealer? No.

And what if the blackjack table is not full and no one is sitting in the seventh seat? Then what? Or what if you are the only person playing at a blackjack table—will you say it is your own fault for making or breaking the dealer? I did not think so.

Now you can see the absurdity to this blackjack myth. There is no way to tell if a face down card will make or break the dealer. What you need to know is that you cannot make or break the dealer in case you do find yourself faced with either taking the seventh seat at a blackjack table or sitting out a bunch of rounds until someone else leaves. Just sit down and do not listen if anyone tries to tell you that you took or did not take the dealer’s card.

And if another blackjack player does try to tell you that, you tell them that they took your card so what were you supposed to do?

One More Reason the House has the Edge in Blackjack

There are several reasons why the house has the edge in blackjack. Mostly it comes from the rules and structure of the game, such as the dealer playing last. But there is one more teeny tiny principle that is often over looked when it comes to blackjack: the house’s money.

Yes, the house has money too. Where else do you think the money the dealer hands you when you win comes from? The dealer brings the house’s money to the blackjack table on behalf of the casino, and plays with the casino’s money.

The edge the house gains from its bankroll is the result of a couple of things involving said bankroll.

For one thing, the house has a lot more money to play with than you do. This enables it to keep playing and holding out longer than players can. It leads to a principle known as Gambler’s Ruin. It is the idea that a person will keep gambling until he or she has run out of money; and they will because the house can keep playing for a heck of a lot longer since there is more money in their back pocket.

There is also the matter of the wager. When playing blackjack you must place a wager at the beginning of a round in order to play. The dealer, ergo the house, does not have to place this wager. So when they lose they lose a round they are not losing a wager. When a player loses he must give up his wager. The house does not put forth any money to risk

So it is not just because of the structure of blackjack and its rules that gives it its edge. The house edge in blackjack can come about as a result of the casino’s bankroll and it is an idea that players typically do not think of. So remember that while your bankroll is limited, the casino’s is not and that they can hold that over your head, so to speak.

Figuring How Blackjack Rules Effect Odds

Math is not the most favored aspect of a casino game. I can completely understand this—math was not my favorite subject in school years ago. But thankfully the math involved with blackjack is not that hard.

Yes, I know, I said the M-word in relation to blackjack. But it is true and it the aspect of the game that players tend to ignore. But there is math in blackjack—and I am not talking about card counting or adding up your hand total—and it is not as difficult as you might think.

In fact the math that I am talking about for blackjack, it does not even really involve you having to mess with numbers in your head. All it really needs for you to do is to apply math reasoning. I am talking about blackjack rules and how they affect your blackjack odds.

Your blackjack odds are about your opportunity to make money from playing blackjack. When your odds are up it means that there are more opportunities to make a profit from the game. And likewise, when your odds are down it means you have less opportunities to make money.

So how do you figure out if the rules are good for your odds without carrying around a calculator? Because we all know that calculators are not ‘in’ this season in regards to casino attire.

Look at the house rules. Then think about whether they benefit you or not. If they benefit you, then good. If they give you less room to work your blackjack magic, then bad.

For example, players can only double down on 9s and 10s. If you are familiar with basic strategy then you know that the most opportunities to double down happen when the player has a hard 11. Obviously if you cannot double on a hard 11 it means your opportunities have been cut back, which brings your odds down.

Or if you are not familiar with basic strategy—and shame on you if you are not, and you should get familiar with it—think about it this way: doubling only on 9s and 10s means that you cannot double on anything else, and you know there are more hands in blackjack that are NOT 9s or 10s. The math reasoning there is that 9s and 10s are the minority of the hands in blackjack that you could be dealt. And since being allowed to double down on a couple of hands as opposed to the majority of hands, it stands to math reason that only being allowed to double on two hands is bad for your blackjack odds when compared to a table that let’s you double on more hands.

The point is that it does not take a calculator to figure out if a rule is good for your blackjack odds or not. You can figure if a rule is good for your blackjack odds or not just by using some math reasoning.

6-5 Blackjack Payouts and the House Edge

I hate having my hand forced. It is just a really rotten feeling, playing a variation of blackjack that is far from ideal to me.

Such is how I feel when the only blackjack tables available are ones offering a 6-5 payout on a natural blackjack. If I were playing blackjack online I could find a different online casino to play at. If I were playing in Vegas I could simply walk to another casino. But when you are trapped in an environment with no other options, like when you are on a cruise ship for example, and the only payout ratio available is that nasty 6-5 you will find yourself pressed with a choice: to play and accept a poor house edge or to not play at all.

I know, it is a tough call. On one hand you really like to play blackjack. And when stuck on a giant boat with limited gaming options, 6-5 is the only option. But a 6-5 game of blackjack is, to me at least, just not an acceptable option because of the house edge.

A 6-5 payout for a natural blackjack is 1.45%. And that is taking basic strategy into account.

In a 3-2 blackjack game the house edge, again considering basic strategy, is 0.5%. So you have a 1.4% difference that favors the house. And that is one house edge that I will not play with. You can probably guess at this point that I do not play blackjack when on a cruise ship that only offers me 6-5 blackjack payouts.

That is what I mean by a facing down a forced hand. And you thought staring down a hard 16 with a dealer’s 5 was tough.

Blackjack Makes Brushing Up on Your Math Skills Fun

For most people math ends when we get out of school, be it high school or college. Other than basic adding, subtracting and multiplying we do not really use much math. And with all these nifty apps for mobile devices we almost never do basic math anymore. But blackjack can help you brush up on your math and make it fun at the same time in two ways.

First there is the basic math that is inherent with blackjack—you have to add up your cards for your hand total. Now I do not know about you, but I find the idea of adding up numbers on a sheet of paper less interesting and less fun than when adding up cards in a hand of blackjack.

But the big aspect of blackjack that can help you brush up on your math skills is card counting. Card counting uses the addition of positive and negative numbers. For example you could be adding a -1 to 3, which gives you 2.

Sure you might be saying that the above example looks easy but imagine that you cannot see the actual positive and negative numbers, and that you have to do all the math instantly in your head as soon as you see the cards and without giving away to anyone else that you are doing the math in your head.

Now you see where the challenge and the fun comes in to using blackjack as a fun way to brush up on your math skills. Not to mention you will be gaining a blackjack strategy skill in card counting that you can use to help lower, if not beat, the house edge.

How to Practice Blackjack

This morning I discussed how a new comer to the game could learn how to play blackjack. But once you learn the objective, rules and flow of the game what do you do then?

The next step is to practice playing blackjack. Thankfully we live in the Time of the Internet and the Time of the Online Casino, so this is not a daunting as it would have been, say, fifteen years ago. All you need to is find an online casino that you like and play.

Okay, let me expound on that. When I say play I do not mean depositing money. The majority of reputable online casinos have two ways of playing. One way is the most commonly known way, and that is to create a player account, deposit money to said player account and play online blackjack for real money. The other, lesser known way is to create a player account and play in the Play for Fun mode.

Online casinos do offer free play versions of their software, and the most commonly played casino games can be found in these free play versions. Thankfully blackjack is a popular casino game and it can be found in free play modes.

Online casinos offer free play modes for a few reasons. One, they allow potential real money players to try out their casino software. Two, it allows established real money players a way to try out new games to see if they like them. And three, free play modes are available so that players new or experienced can practice their game and their strategies.

Yes, practicing does not end once you are familiar with the game. Blackjack, if you intend to be good at it and especially if you intend to make money with it, requires continual practice to always be sharp in how to use your strategy. So once you have read the basics, your next step is practice so that you become used to the actual flow of a blackjack game. Tomorrow we will look at introducing strategy to new players.

Good Blackjack Variations vs. Bad Blackjack Variations

I hear now and again that some players want to know what a good blackjack variation is and what are bad ones. There are some rules of thumb in helping players discern which variations are bad and which ones are not.

The primary indicator of a good blackjack variation is one that does not use side bets as the center point of the game. Yes, I know, that knocks the majority of blackjack variations out of consideration.

But think about it a moment—we know that insurance is a bad idea since it causes the player to lose more money over time than if the player had not taken insurance. And we also know that insurance is a cleverly named and present side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is worth 10 or not. So if that side bet is a bad idea, then why are all of the rest okay?

Because they are not okay. Side bets are never okay. Remember that.

So a good blackjack variation does not have side bets, which means that bad variations do have side bets. We will compare two blackjack variations so that you can see.

Blackjack Switch is played with two pairs per play in which the players can switch their second cards in order to increase the strength of their hands.

Perfect Pairs Blackjack is played with a normal hand but has players placing a wager on whether or not their first two cards will be a pair or not.

Based on the simple method of determining a good blackjack variation above, it is easy to see that Blackjack Switch is the variation of choice between the two. Players have no control on whether they will be dealt a pair or not. Whereas in Switch players still have an impact on the outcome of the round after taking into consideration the hook that makes Switch what it is.

So what have we learned? We have learned that side bets are bad and that whether or not a blackjack variation has one is how we should determine if a blackjack variation is good or bad.