How to Play with Soft Hands–Soft 17

Soft hands can be tricky to play with real success. It’s all because of that Ace. Some players will look for the easy way out when they have been dealt a soft hand.

Take, for example, being dealt a 6 and an Ace. Soft 17.

Many players will play this hand as they would a hard 17. That’s because they are so focused on that 17. And in some cases that’s an acceptable thing to do. But in many cases it isn’t the most advantageous play to make. ‘Isn’t the most advantageous’ as in you are going to lose more money in the long run if you always stand on soft 17.

Let’s go back to the basic principle of blackjack strategy, and that is assuming that the dealer’s hole card is worth ten. Once you assume that you can assume what the dealer’s total is versus what your total is.

Pretend that you have been dealt a soft 17 and the dealer has an upcard of either an 8, 9, 10 or Ace. If the dealer has any one of those for an upcard, and you assume that his hole card is a ten, then you need to play a defensive strategy.

And having a soft 17 gives you the ability to play defensively. You can turn that soft 17 into a hard seven and hit, which is what basic strategy tells you to do with a hard 7. This is giving your hand another chance at winning.

You can take even more advantage of a soft 17 by doubling down. It’s best to double down when the dealer is showing a 3, 4, 5 or 6. This is because the dealer has the best chances of busting against a soft 17, making you the winner.

You can use this blackjack strategy for a soft 17 both in casinos and online casinos.

Blackjack Strategy–Splitting Aces

As any good player with a good blackjack strategy knows, you always split Aces.

And you resplit too.

Every time that you split and resplit Aces you are increasing your odds by about 0.06%. Yes, I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but take what you can get. Every little bit helps right? Yes, it does. It’s these little tricks that increase your odds that you have a blackjack strategy.

Let’s say that you are dealt a pair of Aces. Don’t be hesitant to split them.

It used to be another blackjack house rule that you could only receive only one more draw card—similar to when you double down: you increase your bet, and receive only one more card. In most cases that has changed so that you can play out a split Ace as you would any other hand.

But what if you draw another Ace? Good blackjack strategy says to resplit.

Yes, you are making a third wager, but that is another hand that you have the possibility of winning. Don’t look at plays like double downs and splitting as instant losses. Look at them as a possibility.

If you are a card counter and the deck is counting positive, it is defiantly in your best interest to split and resplit—there are nines, tens and face cards in what remains of the deck. This makes your chance of making a hand total of 21 even better.

Imagine that you have a pair of Aces and you split. You are then dealt another Ace and resplit. That’s three hands that will be receiving cards from a deck that is rich in high cards. So make the extra bet and go with it.

Even if you aren’t a card counter, that 0.06% increase each time is worth the extra bet. So make sure that splitting Aces is a part of your blackjack strategy. It’s one more opportunity for you.

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.

21 Things to Avoid When Playing Blackjack—Part III

This will be the last in this little series. And while it seems most of these can be applied to land based casino blackjack, a fair amount of them can be applied to online blackjack as well.

While you aren’t dealing with other players online, there are player forums on non-casinos sites, and you will want to treat those posting as you would other players in a casino. Be snazzy and knowledgeable, but be respectful above all else.

That being said, here are the last seven:

  1. Do not use a progressive betting system. Remember past postings? The ones in which I said there is no way to predict what cards will be dealt? The odds of each round are independent of each other. There is no law or rule that says that if you lose X number of hands, you will win the next. A progressive betting system relies on the idea that you will win again…eventually. But there is no telling when, and how much money you’ll have bet, that win will come.
  2. Are you a regular blackjack player? These people are there to help you. Casino hosts are the links between you and the casino. They want you to be happy and help you with whatever you need—in fact, they seem reluctant to say no if it means that you’ll keep playing. Now this doesn’t mean that you have to follow every single suggestion they give you. If you’re a blackjack player and don’t want to play keno, then don’t play keno if they suggest it. But it pays to make friends with them—they give out comps.
  3. And speaking of comps, never be rude when asking for a comp. Rudeness never pays off. Comps are not rights, they are rewards for playing. So ask what the casino’s rules for comps are first, play to them, and then ask nicely once you’ve met some requirements.
  4. Get comps you need to get rated, don’t avoid it. Easiest way to get rated is to see your casino host and ask. You do want your comps, right?
  5. A sign of a good player is tipping the dealer. No, it’s not required of you, but think of it this way: they are providing you with a service just like how a waiter would. And you tip a waiter, right? So you should be tipping your dealers too. Also think of it this way: floor supervisors also approve comps, and when they see their dealers being treated nicely they’re more inclined to be give you comps.
  6. Never play a 6-5 game. The payout is smaller over time. On top of what is actually a worse payout, the odds increase with this payout version by as much as seven times. Without basic strategy, the odds are 2-5%. With a 6-5 game the odds become 14-35%. Always avoid 6-5 payout games.
  7. Lastly, never play at a table with a Continuous Shuffling Machine (CSM). A regular shuffling machine is fine. But a CSM is bad news. This is because the used cards are shuffled back in to the deck between each round. Online players, this is the land-based version of the RNG. And it makes card counting impossible since the cards that have just been played are added back into the deck.

And there you have it, 21 things to avoid. Work these into playing, even those that can be applied online, and see how much better your overall blackjack experience is.

21 Things to Avoid When Playing Blackjack—Part II

While the first seven tips from my last blog are a good place to start if you’re looking to improve your overall blackjack experience, there is more. Yes, I said more.

Think about the images you have of dressed-up players and how snazzy they look. If you look at movies and those images hard enough, you can see that there are subtle things that they do. These are the unspoken rules. If you are looking to have that snazzy casino feel about you, then start incorporating these things into how you play blackjack.

  1. One of the biggest things you can do to lower your standing with fellow players is to not use basic strategy. No joke here. Basic strategy is considered the correct way to play. It’s seen as foolish to now play by this strategy. It’s legal to use in casinos, both online and land based, and it’s the best statistical chances for every hand.
  2. This next one is merely a matter of form—remember that snazzy casino player image? Stack your chips from highest denomination to lowest chip. The dealer can then add up the total amount of your bet easily.
  3. You’ve heard about players who get upset when a new player sits down mid-shoe and starts playing? There are two things about sitting down at a table mid-shoe. 1. In some casinos it’s forbidden and a sign is posted saying so. 2. If it is allowed, respect the other players already playing and wait to start playing at that table.
  4. Advice on playing two or more spots at one table: in most casinos you will have to bet double the minimum on each hand that you play. Be aware of that before you spread to more hands. If you aren’t sure whether you have to bet double on each hand, then ask the dealer. And also, when playing more than one spot at a table, finish one hand before you even look at the next.
  5. If you’re the lucky player who gets to insert the cut card, be aware that the majority of casinos require the cut card to go at least a half-deck from either end. Just know this and remember it. If you don’t place it more than half-deck in you will get a rebuke from the dealer and have to cut again. It holds up the game and can make you appear to be a novice in front of other players.
  6. This one is a pretty big one in terms of respect for your fellow players: do not ever tell another player how to play his hand. If he asks then go ahead and give your advice. But if they don’t ask, don’t say anything—let them think and learn for themselves. Would you like it if you had a table full of people telling you how to play?
  7. Now, the last one for this post is a very big deal. If you don’t follow this unwritten rule, you will find the consequences could be more than you want. Never, ever, at all under any circumstances take your bad luck out on fellow players or the dealer. This is considered extremely bad form and very bad blackjack manners. And it will make other players think very little of you.

There. You now have seven more etiquette tips to work into your blackjack playing style. So start working them in and see how much more your gaming experience improves.

Keep an eye open for “21 Things to Avoid When Playing Blackjack—Part III

21 Things to Avoid When Playing Blackjack—Part I

Recently I came across some blackjack tips that can help to not only improve your game, but to also make the gaming experience more enjoyable. Some of these tips can be applied to both land based casinos and online casinos; others might only apply to land based.

Take the wisdom from this, blackjack players.

  1. Don’t play with your chips once the cards are dealt. If you do, the dealer and casino staff might think that you’re padding your bet. Besides, it makes you look like you’re nervous, like you’re not sure how to play or that you’re trying to be sneaky. Or the dealer could think you were dealt an awesome hand, and are trying to increase your bet on the sly. Best bet—fingers off the chips.
  2. Cash is not to connect your hand with the dealer’s. In other words, don’t hand money to the dealer directly. You can lay it out on the table outside of your betting space, then tell the dealer what denomination you want your chips in. This is to protect both you and the dealer so that the transaction is caught by a camera. If there are questions later as to how a cash-to-chips exchange happened, the casino can review the video.
  3. Do NOT tell the dealer that you want a ‘hit.’ For one thing, the casino cameras need to see what play you are making—they can’t pick up what you say. Hand gestures are readable on the video. And second, your meaning might be misconstrued to mean something else.
  4. Face up cards are not for touching. In games with four or more decks in play, the cards are dealt face up. Since face up cards can’t be touched, sneaky players can’t add or remove cards. This protects you from cheaters. A “hands free” game will also speed up the game, allowing for you to play more.
  5. No setting things on the table. Ladies, this includes you and your purses. Purses belong on your lap. Leave your wallets and such in your pockets. If you have bags that are not purses, place them next to you or by your feet. You can have a drink on the table in the drink holders, but nothing else. This protects your property from being out in the open where someone could take it. It also keeps cheaters from using non-necessary objects on the table to help them cheat. And, it helps to keep the table from being damaged by drinks not being where they’re supposed to be.
  6. No holding the cards with both hands. They aren’t that big or that heavy. You don’t need to use both hands. This is just etiquette—one hand please.
  7. Cards do not belong in your lap. Keep them on the table or in one hand where the dealer can see them. Cards must remain in full view of the dealer. This prevents you from being accused of cheating.

Start working with these while out and about in the casinos this holiday season.

And keep an eye open for “21 Things to Avoid When Playing Blackjack—Part II

How to play effective blackjack

What’s the difference between playing blackjack and playing effective blackjack? It’s simple answer, one you may have even come across here and there. But in the lure of flashing lights and bright colors perhaps the answer was forgotten. The best way to play effective blackjack is practice.

Yes, I said practice. By now you’ve read about basic strategy and card counting, and you’re psyched that this is the game you can win. Blackjack will make you money. But in order to make that money you have to play blackjack effectively.

To do so means practice. You know there’s a basic strategy chart for blackjack—in fact, there’s two charts for: one for soft hands and one for hard hands. But are you really going to take those to the table with you?

Imagine you sit down with six other people, probably seasoned players. You’re dealt your cards. The dealer has a 7 and you have a hard 16. The first three people make their decisions. It’s your turn. What do you do? You whip out your blackjack charts. The other six people sigh—they’re playing with a beginner. One or two of them offer you advice. Maybe someone else mutters how the game is being held up. You get flustered. You stand. Next player’s turn. You take a peek at your chart. Oops, you should’ve hit. Not effective play.

How to avoid that? Play effectively! Practice first! Study the basic strategy charts, focus on hard hands first. Then visit an online casino, one that will let you play free blackjack online (most reputable sites have this option). Leave the chart face down on your desk. Try to remember what it advises. Play your hand, then check your chart, see if you played effectively. This way you aren’t faced with slowing down the game and upsetting other players—after all you’re in your own home, nobody can see you. Keep practicing until you don’t need check the chart to see if you played effectively—you know you did. This is how practice makes for playing an effective blackjack game.