Blackjack Odds on Busting: Who and How Often

Busting comes with one of two feelings in blackjack. Either you are quite pleased because the dealer busted, or you are none too pleased because you busted.

Your blackjack odds for busting is about once out of every six hands. That equates to around 16% of the time. And that is if you are a basic strategy blackjack player. If you do not play according to basic strategy, then shame on you and you will be busting more often. So go find a chart.

As for the dealer, the blackjack odds on him busting is twice out of every seven hands, which is around 28% of the time. But do not jump for joy just yet. Just because the dealer has busted does not mean that the house has lost.

This is where part of the house’s built in blackjack edge comes from. If the dealer busts it does not automatically mean that you win.

The dealer is the last to play out his hand for a reason, and it is not just to make it harder for players to figure out how to play out their hands because only the up card is visible. The reason the dealer plays last is because any player who busts before the dealer’s turn is out of the round.

By out I mean that should the dealer bust also, the player still loses. Players who bust first are already out of the game at that point and it means that there is definitely less money the house will have to shell out should the dealer bust. Let me show you.

Let’s say that you are playing at a full table, meaning seven players. Each of you is wagering $10. For this example I am going to say that no one at this table has been dealt a natural blackjack. This means that, without any natural blackjacks, the house stands to pay out $70 should all players win.

But four players bust during their turns. This is all before the dealer has played his hand out. So right before the dealer’s turn, the potential amount that the house has to pay out has been cut from $70 down to $30 should the dealer lose. And if he does lose the house does not have to pay any money to the four players who busted.

So even though your blackjack odds put you at a smaller chance of busting than the dealer, it does not mean that the house is at a disadvantage. That 16% in blackjack odds that has you busting are time when the house does not have to pay you.

Blackjack Odds: Face Up Games

Blackjack games, in general, come in two varieties. Forget house rules and blackjack variations for the moment. I am talking about run of the mill, general casino blackjack.

When you walk into a brick and mortar casino and amble your way over to the blackjack tables you will see two types of games right off the bat. In some games the players will be holding their cards and at other tables the players are not even touching their cards, let alone holding them.

What is the deal with this?

When only or two decks are being used the players will be allowed to hold the cards—but they can only use one hand. One hand with cards and the other nowhere near the hand holding the cards. These are known as face down blackjack games, and their rate of play is slower than face up games.

Face up games are blackjack games in which four or more decks are being used, and the cards are dealt from a show. In a face up game the players are not allowed to touch the cards at all. Think of it as hands-free blackjack.

The reason for this is that the dealer can quickly give the hand totals without the players taking time to do the math on their own. This also prevents players from marking cards or even switching them. It is all in your best interest is how the casinos present face up games.

However, blackjack dealers are quick with the cards, and the rate of play is sped up when playing in a face up game. This means that you are playing more rounds per hour, which means that you have an increased chance of losing more per hour.

Unfortunately the majority of blackjack games are played with four or more decks. And since there is nothing you can do about the odds you get from the increased rate of play at a face up table, the best you can do is look for a blackjack table with the most players. After all the more players there are, the more you the rate of play drops. And that means that your blackjack odds can go back up a little.

Changes in Blackjack in Nevada

Blackjack payout or a dancer, which would you pick?

It seems that while the older generation of blackjack players would like a nice table off to the side where they can concentrate on their strategies and the game, the younger generation of blackjack players seem to prefer other things.

Like dancers.

In the last several months party pits have begun to pop up in brick and mortar casinos around Nevada. In these party pits there can be found blackjack tables that are positioned so that they are facing towards a stage. And on such stages are dancers.

On the surface casinos may appear to be whining about the increased cost of employing dancers, but I do not believe that this is the true case that lies beneath the surface.

Because of the increased cost of dancers, casinos are having to decrease the amount of their blackjack payouts. This is one of the explanations for the recent increase in the 6-5 payouts that are replacing the standard 3-2 payouts.

The reason I do not think the casinos mind this increased cost of dancers is because they can use that as a mask to cover the reason behind decreasing the payout. Because we all know that casinos are always looking for a way to drag a little more money out of a player.

Think about it. Imagine a young man approaching the blackjack tables in one of these party pits. His eyes keep coming back to the dancers. He probably will not really read over the house rules on the felt, which means that he will miss the 6-5 payout on the felt. Those same dancers will also cause him to focus less on his strategy—if he remembers to use it at all—which will cause him to make errors in his playing, costing him even more money.

No, the casinos are making more money from their dancers than they are letting one thanks to the distraction they provide. What I do not get is why any blackjack player would want the distraction. The idea is to play your best and to try to lower the house edge as best as possible. Why willingly throw money away to watch a dancer? I thought the point was to try to make money on blackjack.

Blackjack and Insurance—How Does it Work Again?

I am going to call the basic rules and plays of blackjack Blackjack 101. This includes the objective, hitting and standing. Double downs and splitting pairs goes into Blackjack 102. Then there is the leap into Blackjack 103, better known as ‘first discovering basic strategy.’

But once a new player gets Blackjack 103 under their belts they begin to move into the murkier waters. Bring on Blackjack 104: Casino Tricks and Insurance.

When a novice blackjack player first encounters insurance they are usually a bit confused. Here they are trying to bet the house and the house is offering them a way to save their bet in case the dealer has a natural blackjack. Is that not oh so considerate of them?

But even then the little warning bells go off in the player’s mind: Why is the house trying to help me when they want me to lose?

The truth is quite simple. The house is helping you. They are helping you to turn your money over to them faster.

And really that is all it is. Think first about what insurance is. The dealer has an Ace showing, the less common of the two cards necessary for a natural blackjack. He then offers you insurance just in case he does have a natural blackjack, which means that hole card needs to be a 10. In all reality you are placing a side wager on whether that hole card is a 10 or not.

Insurance is a side bet made for half the amount of your original wager. If you have bet $10 on the round, insurance would be $5 for you. You are wagering more money on a round than is ordinary.

So rather than standing to lose $10 in a round, you could lose $15. And it is possible to lose both bets. Let’s say that you have a hard 19 and the dealer has an Ace. You take insurance and the hole card is a 9, giving the dealer a soft 20 that he can stand on. His 20 beats your 19, and since the hole card was not a 10, you lose the insurance bet too.

What novice blackjack players have to understand is that insurance does not offer them any true benefits, and that it is best not to take insurance when playing blackjack.

Blackjack Strategy: Can Insurance Help Me?

Recently I was asked a question in regards to blackjack strategy and insurance. The young man in question plays blackjack online, and had heard that insurance can sometimes be advantageous for the player. He wanted to know if this were true or not.

In a way, yes, it is true. But! But it cannot be used for online blackjack.

In order to make insurance work for you in terms of blackjack strategy you need to be a card counter. And I do not just mean that you have just started counting cards in the casino. You need to be a strong card counter.

Real quick let’s take a moment to review what insurance really is. Insurance is offered when the dealer has an Ace showing. The player can then make a second wager for half the amount of his original wager so that if the hole card is a 10 he will receive a payout that is equivalent to his original wager, but he will lose his original wager.

It sounds like this in not a bad idea, but players who take insurance will lose more money in the long run simply because they are wagering more money when they take insurance. Because insurance is really a side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is worth 10 or not.

So if the player stands to lose more money in the long run, how can there ever be a time when taking insurance is advantageous to the player?

There are only two occasions when taking insurance could be advantageous: when you are holding a 20 or a natural blackjack AND you have been counting the cards and know that the deck is rich in high cards.

True the dealer could wind up with blackjack, but the net gain is the same. Take a look.

You are making $10 wagers. You have a natural blackjack and take insurance. If the dealer does have a natural blackjack too, then you push and hang on to your $10, but you also collect on the $5 insurance wager, picking up $10.

If the dealer does not have a natural blackjack, you lose the $5 insurance wager, but win $15 from having a natural blackjack. Subtract the lost $5 from the $15 you won, and your net gain is still the same: $10.

But taking insurance under these conditions can only happen when the deck is rich in high cards, and the only way to tell that is to be skilled at card counting. And because this little blackjack strategy trick requires card counting it means that it cannot be used for online blackjack since card counting cannot be down in online blackjack.

But this insurance trick is still a fun additive to your blackjack strategy—a bit of a sneaky way to take a play meant to take a player’s money and turn it around.

Blackjack Fun Fact Friday

I have declared that today shall be Fun Fact Friday. There will be no arguing with me on this either.

But I promise to stick to blackjack facts.

To kick off this Fun Fact Friday I am going to start off with when blackjack first came to the United States.

Yes, we all know that it is one of the most popular casino games. Multiple tables can be found in brick and mortar casinos across the country, and more casinos are moving to legalize blackjack in their states so that they too can jump on the blackjack band wagon.

But it was not always this way for blackjack.

When this favored casino game first game ashore in the United States in the 1800s it was not popular. After all it was an unheard of card game, and with all the gentlemen in the clubs in the city and the cowboys out west hooked on poker, there was not a lot of space for a new card game.

In an effort to make blackjack more appealing, casino owners began adding rules and side bets. Some of the surviving side bets have no become the blackjack variations we have today. And while many professional blackjack players today do not advocate side bets, in the 1800s that was how the casinos lured in players.

In fact, that is how blackjack got its name. The game originated in France and was called Vingt et Un, which is French for 21. When the game came ashore in the 1800s it was simply called 21.

But through the various side bets and special payouts offered 21 was renamed blackjack. This is because one of the special payouts was a 10-1 payout given if the two card 21 was made up of the Ace of Spades and the Jack of Spades or the Jack of Clubs. Hence blackjack.

The 10-1 payout has long since been retired, but the name blackjack has stuck. Even when the special payouts and side bets became blackjack variations and the game was returned to what we know it is now, the name was stuck and blackjack’s rise to popularity was set.

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.

One More Time with Feeling: Online Blackjack and Card Counting

We have been down this road before. However, blackjack is one of the most popular casino games out there; and when it comes to card games, its popularity is second only to poker. But let’s face it—blackjack is easier to a play than poker. And the same applies to online blackjack.

And being one of the most popular online casino games for obvious reasons, it is no surprise that new players find their way to online blackjack.

What they might not know is that, while being highly similar, there are some difference between online blackjack and blackjack in a brick and mortar casino. The general house rules are the same, and most part of blackjack strategy will cross over. But there is a big one that does not cross over. And players who are new to online blackjack should be aware of it.

Card counting does not work in online blackjack.

Yes, there is a reason. There are no discarded cards in online blackjack. This is because of the Random Number Generator that runs the game.

When a game of online blackjack is first created by the developers, every possible two player cards and dealer up card combination is programmed into the game’s RNG. This means that it is pulling from all of the cards so to speak. As soon as a player clicks Deal, the RNG will select a two card and dealer up card combination.

Because the RNG pulls from all possibilities it means that no cards are ever discarded. This can be compare to playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino at a table with a Continuous Shuffle Machine (CSM). And blackjack players know that card counting is impossible with a CSM.

So when players come to play blackjack online they should know not to try to count cards.

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.

Low on Money: Blackjack Betting Strategy

It happens from time to time. Okay, perhaps it happens more often nowadays with an economy that is not so great. Whether you might be a bit low on funds because of the economy or because you had to put new tires on your car, it does not mean that you have to give up your blackjack playing.

In fact you can work some low stakes options into your blackjack betting strategy just for those times when money is a bit harder come by.

First off, there is no blackjack rule that says you have to play the game at $25 per hand. There are a good many blackjack myths out there, but the correct playing minimum is not one of them.

If you are playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino look for the blackjack tables with the lowest table minimums. There is no shame in playing at them. Often people will play at them for fun, to save a few bucks or to keep their bankroll in check.

The only thing to watch out for on tables with low table minimums is the house rules. You do not want to play at a table that is offering an even money payout on a blackjack, or one that allows the dealer to hit on a soft 17 or any of the major house rules that hit your blackjack odds hard.

For example, if you are faced with a $5 that offers even money on blackjacks or a $10 table with regular house rules, you will want to play at the $10. Part of playing low stakes blackjack is playing smart. Playing at a table with blackjack odds eating rules you will lose more money faster, thus defeating the purpose of having a low stakes portion to your blackjack betting strategy.

Thankfully playing low stakes in online blackjack is a bit simpler. For one thing the house rules are pretty standard, meaning you are not going to find a standard game of blackjack with funky rules like an even money payout on blackjack or a dealer hitting on soft 17. The blackjack variations will have those, but you know to avoid those.

So all that is left when playing low stakes online blackjack is to control your wagering—wager the lowest amount possible. Many online blackjack games offer several wagering options ranging from $1 up to $100 per hand. Obviously if you want to go with some low stakes online blackjack, your strategy should be to make $1 wagers.

The point of working some low stakes options into your blackjack betting strategy is so that you can still enjoy the game when your bankroll is on the low side.