Natural Ways in Blackjack Strategy to Reduce the House Edge

When playing blackjack, players who desire to be savvy blackjack players will work and work to build a blackjack strategy that they can use to reduce the house edge and increase their own blackjack odds. This is true across the board of blackjack players. Those who play in brick and mortar casinos seek to beat the house, just like online blackjack players. It is one of the similarities between the two formats.

The desire to be a savvy blackjack player will take players on a quest from one of the internet to the other. They will closely examine strategy methods of others and tear about blackjack betting strategies. For players who play in brick and mortar casinos, they will practice and practice at card counting.

But for all of this work and studying, many blackjack players overlook a very effective way of reducing the house edge that is built in to the very basics of the game: double down.

Doubling down hits the house edge for 1.6%. When you consider that other plays only knock off fractions of a single percent, a hit of 1.6% is quite large.

When a player doubles down, he has the chance of winning twice the amount off of the house that he normally would on that particular hand. Because blackjack odds are about money, the opportunities that give the player a chance to take more money from the house are the ones that increase blackjack odds the most.

So why are blackjack players hesitant to double down and why do others disregard it entirely?

The answer is simple. They are afraid to put more money on the line. And with an attitude like that, a blackjack player might as well be handing over a portion of their bankroll.

And it is not like players are left with no way of knowing when the best chances to double down are. Basic strategy tells players when the most opportune times to double down are, which further decreases chances of loss and increases chances of winning.

With that knowledge in hand and knowing just how much damage doubling down can do to the house’s edge, it is most unwise to ignore doubling down. And that is exactly why any savvy blackjack player will not ignore the ‘natural’ means of increasing their blackjack odds, and will not forget doubling down in their blackjack strategy.

Blackjack Strategy: Two Cards or More than Two?

After my post yesterday afternoon I started giving some thought to blackjack strategy in regards to a two card hand versus blackjack strategy for multi card hands. This came to me after discussing how a two card soft 18 is played that same as a three card soft 18. This lead to the aforementioned thinking.

Is there really a difference between a hand that is made up of two cards and a hand that is made up of more cards?

In some cases it does. Naturally a two card blackjack is worth more than a hand with three or more cards that totals to 21. And a pair can only be split in the first two cards; you cannot have a 4/8 and hit for another 8, and then split. Also, you generally can only double down on two cards. Some casinos will allow for doubling on three cards but it is not a common house rule; and online casinos only offer double downs on two cards.

But in most cases it does not matter if you have a hand total made up of two cards or a hand made up of more than two cards. Take a look.

Let’s say you have a hand made up of a 6/8. That is a hard 14. If the dealer has a 7 or higher you would stand according to basic strategy.

Now let’s say you have a hand that is made up of a 5/3, which is a total of 8. Again, the dealer is showing a 7 or higher, and you hit according to common sense and basic strategy. You receive a 6 for a total of 14. As you do not have an Ace this is still a hard 14 and it would be played like you would a two card hard 14—in this example it means that you would still hit.

See how this works? There is nothing on the basic strategy chart that says that the hard hands can only be made up of two cards. Often enough with smaller starting hands you have to hit before your hand at least once before it comes time to decide to hit or stand again.

The point is that to get the most out of your blackjack strategy you need to actually be familiar with your strategy. Basic strategy is easy to use if you play on auto pilot. But auto pilot is not the best way to play blackjack if you want to turn a profit.

Blackjack Strategy: Two Card Soft 18 and Multi Card Soft 18

There are some hands in blackjack that who’s basic strategy plays just cause our brains to revolt. Our brains get hung up on the numbers, are so focused on the numbers, that they miss the finer points. One such hand is a soft 18.

A soft 18 consists of a 7 and an Ace. Our brains see that 18 and want to stand. But they are missing the fact that this is one of those flexible hands that have a chance of building into a better hand simply by hitting it. You do not have to worry about busting because you can reduce that Ace from 11 to 1 if you need to

In fact you cannot bust if you hit a soft 18. An Ace, 2 or 3 will give you a hand total of 19, 20 or 21—all strong hands. Anything 4 or more will cause you to reduce the Ace and you have decent ground to build strong.

This is why basic strategy dictates the following plays based on dealer up cards:

Dealer 2: stand
Dealer 3-6: double down
Dealer 7 and 8: stand
Dealer 9, 10, Ace: hit

As you can see, you are receiving another card more often than not. The only times you stand are the times when the dealer is in a good chance to build a hand stronger than yours if you were to hit.

But the soft 18 confusion does not end here. There must be something about having an Ace in hand that makes it a harder hand to know how to play.

I have heard of players who are fine and well with a two card soft 18, but if they start with a two card 7, hit and receive an Ace, the confusion begins again. But the truth is that a two card soft 18 is no different than a three card soft 18. It is still a soft 18 and that Ace can still be reduced, and a 4/3 is still worth 7. So the same plays can be made.

Your blackjack strategy for a soft 18 does not differ from your blackjack strategy for a soft 18 made up of three cards. Or even from four cards. The whole point is that you have an Ace and some other cards that are worth 7. Every player needs to train themselves to see past the obvious hand total on the surface and look at what cards are making up that hand total.

Blackjack Strategy: Playing to 21

When new players think of blackjack, they think the objective of the game is to get their hand total up to 21. To play to 21 in other words. However this is a bit of a misconception. Sure, 21 is the magic number in blackjack but it is not the objective.

The true objective of blackjack—any blackjack game, be it blackjack online or black in a brick and mortar casino—is to beat the dealer without getting a hand total that goes over 21.

The difference between playing to 21 and beating the dealer is a little bit different. If you were playing to 21 there would be no need for a dealer’s hand. There would then be no dealer up cards, and blackjack would not be the dealer versus player game that we know it to be. If playing to 21 were the sole objective and we did not have a dealer we would be playing against other players, and then we would descend into poker. And if I wanted to play poker I would go play poker and not blackjack.

But this is blackjack and we have a dealer and we play to beat that dealer.

This means that your blackjack strategy is based on getting the best odds. The best odds in the long run mean that you will win more from the house. That means paying attention to the game and making the play that brings you the best blackjack odds. Sometimes that means doubling down or splitting pairs, or maybe not splitting pairs, or maybe standing here and there.

The whole point of a blackjack strategy is to know how to make the best play and take the most advantage of the current hand in your attempt to beat the dealer.

The best tool for this blackjack strategy is a basic strategy chart. This is why new blackjack players are first pointed in the direction of basic strategy once they learn the basic playing rules of the game.

Paying attention to your blackjack strategy and why you make a certain play using basic strategy helps to teach new players the whys of the game, and why blackjack’s objective is not playing to 21.

Blackjack Strategy: Pair Splitting on 8s

We began discussing this morning the pairs that the smart blackjack player will always split, starting with Aces. But there is one more pair that it is in a player’s blackjack strategy to always split: a pair of 8s.

Thankfully a pair of 8s does not require a lot of description. It is two cards with an 8 on each card. There. That is a pair of 8s.

I have noticed that blackjack players who are novices tend to swing from one side to the far other side. In terms of pair splitting strategy this means that they will start out by splitting every pair because it is a pair and it can be split.

So when they learn that pairs of 5s and 10s should never, ever be split they take that to heart and apply it to all pairs, becoming unwilling to split a thing.

Thankfully they will soon learn that Aces and 8s are two pairs that need to be split.

So on to a pair of 8s. First, do the math. Adding up 8 and 8 gives you a hard 16, which is the worst stiff hand that you could be dealt in the whole game. It is too high to hit effectively—although I know you are playing by basic strategy and hitting it against a dealer’s 7 through Ace. But it is always just a little too low when standing.

It is an underdog hand that just never seems to come out on top as often as you want it to. Your only real hope of winning with a hard 16 is that the dealer will bust. And onlinecasinosuite is agreeable with this.

So let me ask you this: knowing how awful a hard 16 is to play with and that you have better chances of losing with it, why would you not split a pair of 8s as a pair of 8s unsplit is a hard 16.

While starting a hand with an 8 is not the strongest ground you can stand on, you stand a better fighting chance with an 8 than you do with a hard 16.

So work it into your blackjack strategy that while not splitting is good, some splitting is necessary. And splitting a pair of 8s should definitely be in your blackjack strategy as a pair to split.

Blackjack Strategy: Pair Splitting

Like any game of skill, blackjack requires strategy. Any good game of skill worth the trip to an online gambling site requires good strategy. The most commonly used strategy tool in both online blackjack and blackjack played in a brick and mortar casino is basic strategy.

Basic strategy comes in the form of a chart with player hands running down the left hand side and all of the dealer up cards running across the top. When using basic strategy you find your hand and run it across the line until it intersects with the line of the card the dealer is showing. The play at the intersection is the best statistical play for you to make.

But if you look at a basic strategy chart you notice that it is somewhat divided into three sections based on the player’s hand. These sections would be the hard hands, the soft hands and the pairs. This is because each of these types of hands are played differently. Soft hands are played differently because of the Aces in them, and pairs are, well, pairs.

We are going to look specifically at one pair today: the pair of 5s.

One of the most common pair playing mistakes made is splitting a pair simply because it is a pair. It is the thing to do with a pair, right?

Not exactly. In some cases splitting is the right thing to do. But not always. In the case of a pair of 5s in a game of blackjack you do not split them. With all but two dealer up cards you double down. The only time you do not double down is when you are facing a dealer’s 10 or Ace.

So why the double down? Adding 5 and 5 together gives you 10. And if you compare the hard 10 line of a basic strategy chart to the pair of 5s line you will see that they are identical.

Do you know what happens when you double down? You are taking 1.6% off of the dealer’s edge. Simply because you have the upper hand and stand to make quite a tidy sum off of him if you win with a double down. And starting with a 10, be it a hard 10 or a pair of 5s, is a good place to start when doubling down in blackjack. Ten is halfway to 21.

It is important to not only follow your strategy when playing blackjack, it is important to understand why you are making the plays you are making. Such is the case with the strategy behind not splitting a pair of 5s.

Online Blackjack Strategy to Win More Money

The whole point of having a strategy for online blackjack is to win more. And winning more means more money. There is one play in online blackjack that can increase your profit faster. It should also be a big part of your online blackjack strategy as well.

Doubling down is one of the basic plays in blackjack. It is when you double the amount of your original wager and only receive one more card. If you win the round you win double the amount you would have normally won because you doubled your original wager.

It has the same potential of winning a round as two rounds of blackjack. In effect, if you double down at the right moments (read: play according to basic strategy) you can earn twice as much money as you normally would. That is what makes doubling down such a strong play in online blackjack.

If you can double down when it is most advantageous (again, read: play according to basic strategy) you can reduce the houses edge by 1.6%. This is all because you are winning twice as much money in one hand as you normally would.

Let’s take a look at the math. You are playing online blackjack and are wagering $10 per round (flat betting, another good online blackjack strategy). At the beginning of a new round you are dealt a hard 10 against a dealer’s 7.

According to basic strategy, you should double down here. And you do. You increase your wager from $10 up to $20. In this case we will say that you are dealt a 10, giving you a hard 20. The dealer only makes it to a hard 18. You win. But because you wagered $20 you receive a payout of $40.

If you had not doubled down and still won, you would have only won $20. Instead you made $40, which is a nice increase to your bankroll.

But you can see how doubling down helps you to increase you profit from online blackjack as long as it is used correctly in your blackjack strategy.

Most Important Card in Blackjack Strategy

We know what this card is. You see it all of the time when playing blackjack. But you might not think that this particular card packs the punch that it does in terms of blackjack strategy. Or maybe you do and you just do not realize it.

There is one card in all of blackjack, be it casino blackjack, online blackjack, Spanish 21, Pontoon, etc, that all blackjack strategy is based on. Players act upon this card and they may not even be fully conscious that they are doing so. To them they are just going with their strategy.

But strategy has to be based on something even blackjack strategy.

In the case of blackjack strategy the most important card, the card that all of your strategy is based on is the dealer’s up card.

Before you say anything stop and think about that idea for a moment. When you are looking over your basic strategy chart you have to see what play is recommended for your hand based on the dealer’s up card. The play is not always the same. The up card impacts everything.

If you are still skeptical pull out a basic strategy chart and look at one of the stiff hands. Let’s focus on Hard 12. You will notice that the play changes depending on what the dealer’s up card is. If the dealer is holding a 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10 or Ace you are told to hit; and if the dealer is showing a 4 through 6 you are told to stand.

The play changes even though your hand does not.

If the dealer’s up card were not all that important you would merely have a list of plays based on your hand, such as ‘If you have a hard 12 then hit,’ regardless of what the dealer’s up card is. But the truth is that we have a chart that tells us what play to make depending on what the dealer’s up card is.

Even if you were playing without basic strategy you would still be basing you play on the dealer’s up hand and how close he is to 21. The dealer’s up card is that influential in blackjack strategy.

Attracting New Players to Play Blackjack

Blackjack is a well established casino game. The reason for this is because this is an easy to learn casino game, and it has the reputation of being beatable. But along with these positives about blackjack new players are not as easy to come by as you might think.

Casinos of late seem to be focused on their bottom lines. It is all about bringing in the money. Especially with the economy being in that state it is. As a result some pretty awful house rules have sprung up and table minimums have been raised.

Nowadays you walk into a casino and mind the blackjack minimum on a game in which the dealer can hit soft 17 is $25. No new player or a person who is thinking of learning the game will pony up $25 to learn to play. Those would be some very expensive lessons.

But all those high rollers who are out at the blackjack tables are not going to be around forever. Eventually the house rules will get to the point of ridiculousness that those blackjack players hop over to online casinos to play—which would be a boon to the United States if lawmakers remove their personal feelings about gambling, put the needs of the country first and legalize online gambling.

Or the high rolling blackjack players will keep playing until they die. But since the younger new players were too intimidated by high table minimums and shoddy house rules to learn how to play blackjack, there will be no one to replace the high rollers who have gone to the great blackjack table in the sky.

What are some of the things that casinos could do to make it a little easier for new blackjack players to learn the game? Here is a list:

Offer blackjack lessons. In the evening. Most people work during the day so obviously they cannot make a morning blackjack class. Blackjack class is not an acceptable reason to call out of work. Evening blackjack lessons would allow for more new blackjack players to learn the game.

Put a learners’ table out on the floor. Designate it as a special table with either funny money or a very low minimum so that new blackjack players feel comfortable in making the wagers necessary to get the playing experience they need to move up to higher table limits.

These tables should have a friendly dealer who conducts the rounds at a slower pace and answers questions about blackjack rules. The point here is to let players learn how to play the game, not try to squeeze money out of them. If the casinos really desire to squeeze money out of players, wait until they know how to play the game and are comfortable playing with higher limits.

And will someone get these new blackjack players some basic strategy cards please!

Casinos seem to believe that blackjack is beatable and that they should not encourage new players out of fear that they will lose money to blackjack players. However, few players have the drive and discipline to put in the effort to truly beat the game. Casinos will still make their money off of blackjack players.

The Epic Tale of Progressive Betting in Blackjack Strategy—The End

Throughout yesterday we followed two blackjack players—Player A and Player B—through a few rounds at the blackjack table. Or it could be both of them playing blackjack online. Whether they are playing blackjack online or in a casino does not matter since the effect of progressive betting is the same no matter where you play.

After all, you still stand to win around 42% of the time and lose the other 58% regardless of whether you prefer to sit at a blackjack table or play online.

And that brings us to the conclusion of our tortoise and the hare version of blackjack and progressive betting.

We learned that in Part I that Player A and Player B both won four rounds, leaving Player A with a gain of $40 and Player B with a gain of $100. This shows that a progressive betting system can be profitable in blackjack.

However.

In Part II we learned, with a win-loss-win-loss streak that Player A broke even; he won $20 and lost $20 in those four rounds. But Player B, because of the progressions of his betting system, wound up with a net loss of $20.

Looking at Player B we see that while his progressive betting system pulls in money on a winning streak, he stands to lose what he gains and then some if he does not hit a winning streak.

And playing without a winning streak is a more realistic approach to blackjack considering that, like I said above, you stand to lose around 58% of the time in blackjack. Knowing that you stand a greater chance of losing, even if you are using basic strategy, means that your chances of hitting a winning streak are not high. And without several winning streaks and not a lot of losing, the profitability from using a progressive betting system will not payout in the long run.

While it will take longer and might not be as thrilling, flat betting is the safer and more enduring way to earn a profit in blackjack, your best odds at making money in other words. Which makes Player B our tortoise and Player A, with his snazzy betting system, the hare of blackjack.