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.

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.

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.

Blackjack Players Forced Into Hiding

As we all know games of chance are illegal in the US. But around the country—or at least in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and South Carolina—courts are ruling that poker is a game of skill rather than a game of chance. So what does this have to do with blackjack?

Everything! If poker can be deemed a game of skill, so can blackjack.

Let’s look at this. Poker is being considered a game of skill because it takes skill in knowing when and how to play the cards you’ve been dealt. It’s not like slots—put a coin in, push a button and cross your fingers. In poker you choose to keep your cards or to hit. A poker player isn’t stuck with the cards he was dealt with no decisions at his disposal.

And if poker was a game of chance then everyone would have an equal opportunity to win. And in poker that just isn’t the case. Let’s say that you get five people together to play. If poker was a game of chance then each one would win ten percent of the time. But realistically a skill hierarchy will form, with the most skilled player winning a greater percent of the time than the others.

So what does this have to do with blackjack? Blackjack is also a game of skill, and its players shouldn’t have to hide or feel unwelcome in a casino. Of course, an online casino can’t tell the difference in players since each player is playing a Random Number Generator (RNG), which makes online casinos a nice home for blackjack players. But the point is that blackjack players should feel just as welcome in a land based casino as any other player.

Blackjack is a game of skill because you as a player have a decision to make in how to play your hand. Do you stand? Or do you hit? Should you double down or not? If blackjack was a game of chance you would be dealt your cards and that would be the end of it. But it’s not.

So like the example of sitting a five people down to play poker, let’s change the game to blackjack. If blackjack were a game of chance, then like the example above, each player would statistically win ten percent of the time. But as we all know, through mastery of basic strategy and card counting, a skill hierarchy will develop in this playing group as well.

So why should poker only be ruled as a game of skill and not blackjack? It could only be that poker is a better known game. But blackjack should be recognized as such too. It is by far a game of skill.

What determines the difference between a game of skill and a game of chance? It’s in how the game is played. If a player can do nothing to alter his odds then it’s a game of chance. But if the player can alter his odds through strategy or practiced methods then it’s a game of skill.

Skilled blackjack players shouldn’t have to skulk around casinos feeling that as soon as they sit down the pit boss’s eyes will be on him. The casino will make their money without a doubt. They have slots, craps, roulette and more to bring in their money. And not every single blackjack player is going to beat the casino. Some don’t even play with basic strategy, let alone card count. A skilled player shouldn’t be rewarded for being skilled by being unwelcome to play the game. And besides, casinos should remember that even professional blackjack player isn’t going to win every single hand.