Blackjack Games: Blackjack Switch

Oh goody! It is time for more talk about blackjack games and blackjack variations. This morning I have chosen Blackjack Switch as my variation to compare to good ol’ blackjack.

This blackjack variation can be found scattered throughout brick and mortar casinos, and it is beginning to show its face in some online casinos.

Switch works a little bit differently from other blackjack games. For one thing you are not playing one hand per round, you are playing two. There is no way out of this. If you want to play Switch then you have to play with two hands per round.

The reason players have two hands to play is because they can switch the top two cards.

In fact that is the first playing decision a player makes—to switch or not to switch. When it is time to play out his hand he can switch the top two cards of his hands. This has the benefit of giving players the opportunity to improve their hands.

Let’s say that you are playing Switch and you are dealt a 4/10 on one hand and a 10/6 on the second. When your turn to play comes you can switch the 10 from the first hand with the 6 from the second because they are the top two cards. Once the switch is made you then have a 4/6 and a 10/10, both of which are good hands as you can double down on the 4/6, and the 10/10 is a strong hand to stand on.

While that example is the ideal for what you want to happen in a round of Switch, it does not always happen that way. Sometimes switching the top two cards only improves one hand. Or maybe you only switch them for a shot at minimizing your losses.

But while switching your top two cards seems like an advantage—and it is—there are, like in any blackjack variation, some major down sides.

The most obvious is that if you are playing with two hands per round, you are wagering twice as much per round. On top of the extra wagering, blackjacks on pay even money in this game, which is a 2.27% hit to your blackjack odds.

And for extra fun the dealer does not bust at 22 like he would in any other blackjack game. Instead it becomes a push. So you are not losing money, but you certainly are not winning anything extra.

So once again we have another blackjack game—yet another variation—that on the surface seems like it could be advantageous but really is not. Like with Face Up 21, Switch should be played for very low stakes or just for fun if you are playing online.

Blackjack Games: Face Up 21

While blackjack is one of the most popular casino games both in online casinos and in brick and mortar casinos, sometimes you want something a little bit different. A little spice. A little variety. You like the game of blackjack but sometimes it just needs…something to shake the game up a bit. This is where blackjack variations came from.

Blackjack variations are still blackjack games, but they are blackjack games with a bit of a twist. In some form or another.

For the most part basic playing is the same and the objective is still the same: to beat the dealer without getting a hand total that tops 21. The spice, the twist, the variation comes in the form of some rule changes and a side bet.

Typically I am not a fan of blackjack games that are variations. This is because these variations have worse odds owing to changes in payout and the addition of side bets. By the way, a side bet is a second wager made on some aspect of the game; you can win the round of blackjack but lose a side bet and vice versa. Side bets are independent of the actual playing of a round of blackjack.

One such blackjack game that is a variation is Face Up 21. This variation can be found in brick and mortar casinos, but also in some online casinos as it is a fairly popular blackjack variation.

As for the game itself, all cards are dealt face up—including the dealer’s hole card. This revealed hole card is part of what makes this game such a draw. Players think that they have an edge on the dealer because his hole card is no secret.

But in truth the changes in the house rules on this game actually hurt your odds. And while seeing the dealer’s up card seems advantageous, it does not have an impact on your odds. It is just an illusion.

Now the house rule changes. In Face Up 21 all payouts are even money payouts, and this includes natural blackjacks; and pushes got to the dealer too. Your double down chances are limited to 9, 10 and 11. The even money payouts on blackjack knock 2.27% off your blackjack odds; and the limited double down knocks another 0.18% off your blackjack odds.

I understand that everyone needs a little variety from time to time, but when it comes to blackjack variations play should be limited to playing for fun in practice modes in online casinos. If you are playing blackjack games like Face Up 21 in brick and mortar casinos keep your wagers small to minimalize losses.

Blackjack Strategy: Pair Splitting on 10s

This morning I talked about a pair that, according to good blackjack strategy is never ever split: a pair of 5s. But there is one more pair that is never eve split either: a pair of 10s.

A pair of 10s could be literally two 10 cards. Or it could be two face cards, not necessarily the same two face cards, meaning a pair could be a Queen and a Jack. Or a pair of 10s could be a 10 card and a face card. The whole point to the pair is that the two cards have the same value.

There are two mistakes that happen when a blackjack player uses some misguided blackjack strategy and splits a pair of 10s. Either he is ill-informed or he is just all caught up in being dealt a pair and cannot resist splitting it.

Mistake number one is that the split is made with the idea that the player can then double down on each of those 10s. First off, not all blackjack games allow for doubling after splitting. This rule is typically found at blackjack tables in casinos and not found at all in online blackjack.

The problem with this strategy, aside from the instances in which doubling after splitting is not allowed, is that the player is giving up a strong hand for something weaker. True, starting a hand with 10 is not too bad of a building block. But it is weaker when compared to an unsplit pair of 10s.

The other mistake that the player forgets about doubling after splitting, and is intent on trying to build two strong hands. But, again, the player is giving up strong blackjack ground for weaker ground.

The reason why you do not split a pair of 10s is right in front of the player’s face: 10 plus 10 equals 20. And in blackjack the only hands that the dealer could beat you with is if he winds up with a natural blackjack or hits to 21.

A hard 20 is one of the strongest hands in blackjack. It is good blackjack strategy to hang on to that hard 20 and stand. It is simply wasteful to throw away that strength just for the sake of splitting a pair.

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.

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.

The Epic Tale of Progressive Betting in Blackjack Strategy—Part II

Where did we leave our players in our tale of progressive betting for blackjack strategy?

We left our Player A and Player B—our tortoise and hare—at the blackjack table. Both players had each won four rounds. Player A had won $40 as a result, while Player B had won $100 as a result of his progressive betting.

Clearly Player B is feeling quite relaxed and enjoying his blackjack playing. And he is probably feeling pretty confident that his progressive betting strategy will put him ahead in blackjack—unlike poor Player A who is flat betting.

See how it is reminiscent of the Tortoise and the Hare?

With the $40 compared to the $100, progressive betting has the edge. Not unlike the hare’s edge over the tortoise.

Now we are going to take our players for a little up and down playing. The next four rounds go like this: win, loss, win, loss. For Player A, he will be wagering $10 each time. Player B’s wagers will look like this: $10, win and increase to $20, lose and drop back to $10, win and increase to $20, and lose.

When you break the math down you can see that Player A will break even. He will have won $20 and lost $20 overall, and his bankroll be exactly where he started.

But Player B, well that is a different story. He won $10 in the first round, then increased his wager to $20 and lost. He then dropped back down to $10 and won. So he then increases his blackjack wager back up to $20, but he loses that round too. So in rounds one and three he won $20, but in rounds two and four he lost $40, which gives us a net loss of $20.

This is the moment when the hare realizes that he has goofed off far too long in the race and that the tortoise is ahead him, heading for the finish line.

As for you, you are beginning to see the down side of using a progressive betting system as a part of your blackjack strategy. But how will the story end for Player A and Player B? Check back tomorrow to find out!

The Epic Tale of Progressive Betting in Blackjack Strategy—Part I

It is not uncommon to see players using a progressive betting strategy when at the blackjack tables. They seem content with their system but I am not sure they are aware that a progressive betting system just does not pay off in the long run in blackjack. And how you bet is a big part of your blackjack strategy since your aim in blackjack is to make money.

Like usual let’s take a look at an example and compare flat betting in a game of blackjack to using a betting system in the same game of blackjack.

In this example players A and B are playing at a $10 minimum table and both start out betting $10. Player A is our flat bettor and player B is our progressive bettor.

Both players have played four rounds of blackjack. This could be online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino. It does not matter where it is being played considering the effect of both bettering strategies will work the same in both types of blackjack.

In four rounds player A has wagered and won, brining in a total of $40. Player B has also won all four rounds but because he has wagered $10, $20, $30 and then $40, he has won $100.

In this instance the point goes to the player B and his progressive betting system.

This example shows us why players tend to resort to progressive betting systems when playing blackjack. They see it as an easy way to win money and make a profit when playing blackjack. Not to mention faster.

Do you recall the tale of the tortoise and the hare? The hare assumed that because he was the naturally faster animal he would win the race; he goofed off and played around with confidence. He figured he had the better method.

Check back and find out what happened to player B and his progressive blackjack betting system, and which player is the hare and which is the tortoise when it comes to blackjack.

True Odds in Insurance

When it comes to odds in casino games, many are actually quite accurate, or true. I know, surprising considering how the casino like to take money. However, at least in most games the odds are true. One of the exceptions though is an insurance bet in blackjack.

First off, what are true odds?

True odds are quite simple. Odds are true when they are even with the payout. Meaning the payout has to be the same as the odds of landing that payout. Take roulette for example. In a game of roulette there are thirty six numbers. If you were to make a wager on one of those numbers and won that round you would receive a 36-1 payout. And that matches the odds of landing one number, which is naturally thirty six to one.

Now let’s take a look at insurance in blackjack.

If you were to win an insurance wager you would receive a 2-1 payout. However true odds on insurance are not two to one.

As an example we are going to assume that you are not holding any ten value cards; obviously the dealer has an Ace and you do not know what his other card is. We are going to look a single deck game to make the math easier to see.

In a single deck game there are sixteen ten value cards, which means that there are thirty three cards that have other values. This means that there is a 33-16 chance of the dealer having a card worth 10 for his hole card. Reduce 33-16 and you have 2.0625 to 1.

And that means that you should be paid $2.06 for every $1 of your insurance bet. On a $10 insurance bet you should be paid a total of $20.63. Instead you receive $20. Since you do not receive $20.63 the odds on an insurance bet are not fair, which further makes insurance a bad bet in blackjack.

Oh, and the amount that you should be paid goes up the larger your insurance wager is. So the larger your insurance bet is in blackjack, the more unbalanced the odds are.

Another Name for Insurance

Insurance has an alias, did you know that?

I am willing to bet that you are a smart blackjack player, be you an online blackjack player or one who plays in a brick and mortar casino. You most likely know what the alias of Insurance is.

Well this deceptive little choice that gives edge to the house also goes by the name of Even Money. And you will only be offered a shot at even money when you have been dealt a natural blackjack and the dealer has an Ace showing.

And that is exactly how the dealer will put it to you, making even money sound like something special that you have earned for being dealt a blackjack.

The truth of the matter is that even money does not earn you anything since you are actually giving part of your odds over to the house if you accept.

You know you are offered insurance when the dealer has an Ace showing, but with a natural blackjack you really do not need to insure it. So the casinos thought they would be smart and offer players the same thing with a different name. Hence even money.

Even money is when you receive a 1-1 payout. And that is exactly what you get if you accept even money. They want to scare you into taking a 1-1 payout so that there will be no risk to the house to pay you a 3-2 payout should the dealer not have a natural blackjack.

And that is the trouble with even money—players accept a lower payout and reduce their own blackjack odds when the dealer may not even have a blackjack. He is showing an Ace while you have one of the ten value cards he needs in his hand. That is already one shot at a blackjack that he does not have.

Just because the dealer is showing an Ace does not mean he has a blackjack. That is what you have to remember. Being scared and accepting even money only hurts you in the long run. Remember your blackjack odds increase as your opportunities to make money increase; and they decrease when your opportunities decrease.

So if you accept a payout that reduces your chance of making money, you are reducing you blackjack odds as well.

The point is to know what even money is and what it does to your odds so that you know why to decline even money. Even if the dealer has blackjack too you will only have to push, which is not as bad for you odds. Do not be afraid of a dealer’s Ace. Just decline even money and hold out—you just might get that 3-2 payout.