Blackjack Strategy—the Little Extras

Every now and then when you are wandering around the casino floor of a brick and mortar casino somewhere you might notice some extra little blackjack house rules. Most players see addition house rules as a threat from the house: ‘Oh no! They are coming to take more of my money!’

Sure there are house rules that are aimed at taking your money faster. But they are often found in blackjack variations along with the side bets—which you should be staying away from, by the way.

What needs to be done when an out of the ordinary house rule is spotted is to check it out, see what it is and then think about whether it is to your benefit or theirs. If it is for theirs, keep walking. If it is for yours then sit down and play a few rounds.

One such rule is doubling down on three or more cards. It is not a common house rule, but every now and then it will pop up in casinos.

This house rules does not require a lot of thought as to whether it is good for you blackjack strategy or not.

In general, the double down play is in the player’s favor. For those players who do not do their blackjack strategy homework, doubling down at advantageous times will knock 1.6% off of the house edge. And that is only when you can double on your first two cards.

So logically it follows that if you can double on three or more cards that your opportunities to double down increase. So your odds of making more off the house increase because your opportunities increase.

Those extra opportunities to double down knock 0.2% off the house edge, which makes it a nice addition to your blackjack strategy. It does not knock as much off as a standard double down, but that is because there are not an excessive hands of three or more cards in which it is advantageous to double down on.

But I say that every little bit helps. Think about whether or not these extra house rules will help your blackjack strategy. If they do help, sit and play a few.

Blackjack Strategy: More Pair Splitting!

This is the last of the pair splitting post, I swear. But what would a mutli-part discussion on pair splitting blackjack strategy be without a post devoted to pairs of 8s? It would be incomplete, that is what. So here it is blackjack strategy meets a pair of 8s.

Unlike pairs of 5s and 10s, and like a pair of Aces, a pair of 8s should always be split.

Why do you not split a pair of 8s?

Let me ask you what is 8 + 8? The answer is 16. So a pair of 8s is the same thing as a hard 16. And we all know how much we hate that hand. Nothing worse than a stiff hand, and a hard 16 is the worst. It is not high enough to win with, and it is also too high to hit.

In my opinion a hard 16 is the worst hand to have in blackjack. The only way you can win with it is if the dealer busts because there are five totals that are higher than your 16, all of which the dealer can stand on.

If that alone is not enough to convince you not to split your pair of 8s, ask yourself which you would rather have: one 16 that does not have a decent shot at winning. Or would you rather have two hands that each start with 8?

You should have said two hands that start with 8. This is because, while the chances are not stellar, you do have a better chance of building a stronger hand by starting each hand with an 8 than you do of winning with a hard 16.

Splitting a pair of 8s is on a basic strategy chart, which is legal to use in brick and mortar casinos and in online blackjack. But you have to use it, to make it a part of your blackjack strategy, in order for it to be effective. That includes splitting a pair of 8s when it tells you to. And besides it is just good blackjack strategy to split 8s.

Blackjack Strategy: More on Pair Splitting…or Not Splitting

I was thinking some more about commonly made blackjack mistakes, and I got to thinking more about pair splitting and blackjack strategy. I know I mentioned how some pairs should be split and some should not, that is just how blackjack strategy is supposed to be.

Blackjack players just do not seem to apply any blackjack strategy to their game when it comes to pairs. They can usually be divided into two ways of dealing with pairs: they either split everything just for the sake of splitting a pair, or they play their pairs like hard hands. And both ways are wrong and not good blackjack strategy. Not to mention it hurts a player’s blackjack odds.

Some pairs are meant to be split and other are meant to not be split. Two pairs that are not meant to be split is a pair of 5s and a pair of 10s.

Do not get hung up on the fact that you have a pair. Look instead at what the hand total is. A pair of 5s totals in at 10, and a pair of 10s total in at 20. With either pair you are holding a hard 10 or a hard 20.

Both of those hands are good hands to have in blackjack.

A hard 10 is one of the hands that offers the most opportunities to double down. And we all know that doubling down will hit the house edge for 1.6% when done at advantageous times. The chance to win more and to hit the house edge should not be thrown away just to split a pair for the sake of splitting.

And a hard 20 is one of the strongest hands in blackjack! The only way the dealer can beat that hand is to have a natural blackjack or to hit to 21. So your chances of winning are a lot stronger with a pair of 10s than if you were to split them.

The point is that pair should not be played like hard hands or split just for the sake of splitting. The best thing for a player to do is grab a basic strategy chart and use that for their blackjack strategy. It will tell players what pairs to split when.

Blackjack Strategy: Splitting Aces

To go along with the stories of mistakes made while playing blackjack, I will talk about another one this afternoon: splitting Aces. Similar to how soft hands are often misplayed, pairs are often misplayed, although soft hands are more often played wrong than pairs. A lack of blackjack strategy is involved here.

And while players do not seem willing to embrace the aspect that makes a soft hand soft, players will fall into one of two camps in regards to splitting pairs: split them all or split none of them.

And neither blackjack camp is correct.

Good blackjack strategy has players not splitting some pairs and splitting others. One of those pairs that, according to good blackjack strategy, should be split all of the time is a pair of Aces.

Think about it. If you value both Aces at 11 it gives you a hand total of 22, which is stupid and an instant bust. And valuing them both at 1 seems rather silly. We are left to value one card at 11 and one at 1, which is a hand total of 12. Uh oh, you now have a hard 12, one of the infamous stiff hands. What is a blackjack player to do?

Split those Aces!

It does not matter what the dealer’s up card is, a pair of Aces is always split–your blackjack odds are better overall to do so.

Splitting a pair of Aces gives you two hands that both start at 11, which is solid ground to stand on to build two strong hands. In fact there is not a single card that you can draw that would bust you; a card worth 2 through 10 would give you a total of 13 through 21. If you were to receive another Ace you could split again if house rules allowed you to, or would be left with a 12—which is no worse than how you started.

When thinking about your blackjack strategy ask yourself which you would rather have: a single hard 12 or two hands that start at 11? When considering blackjack strategy the answer should be simple. Split, split, split.

Blackjack Strategy: Soft Hands

Soft hands seem to be the most misunderstood hands in blackjack. It does not matter if they are playing online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino. A soft hand is dealt, and players’ blackjack strategy goes blank; and they seem to hesitate before playing it out as if it were a hard hand.

Hard hands are not soft hands. Their blackjack strategy is different. This is why when you look at a basic strategy chart soft hands have their own section. It is there for a reason, people.

Soft hands offer a flexibility that hard hands only wish they had. Perhaps that flexibility is what confuses players, throws them since there is more of a variable in what could happen.

Want to see an example?

Imagine that you are dealt a soft 15. This means you are starting the round with a 4 and that dreaded, yet misunderstood Ace. This hand could be played as a 15 or a 5, and it will always start out as a 15. Players need to remember that with that Ace they still have the option of dropping down to 5 in case their hit card would bust their 15.

There is no reason not to hit a soft 15. And if you do not you stand a high chance of losing. Remember this is not a hard 15. This is not a stiff hand. If your hit card is, says, a 7, you will not bust. Sure, if you were holding a hard 15 you would bust. But this is a soft 15 and that 7 is not going to bust you since you can drop that 15 down to 5, leaving you with a hard 12.

Okay, you might end up with a stiff hand if you hit, but you are not worse off hitting a soft 15 than you would be if you stood on that soft 15.

The blackjack strategy for soft hands is about having the flexibility for soft hands. It gives you the ability to hit and end up no worse off than you were when you started. In the case of that soft 15, hitting and getting a 6 would most likely win the round for you.

The point of the blackjack strategy is having that extra chance to do something with your hand that hard hands cannot do. Do not waste it.

Gambling Addiction Signs

True to what I mentioned this morning, I will talk about gambling addiction.

While I honestly believe that the majority of gambling patrons can handle their money and their gambling responsibly, there are those who cannot, and it is important to be able to recognize if you or someone you know has a problem.

Financial Secrecy
When a person with a person has an addiction to gambling they will often become secretive about their finances. They will often insist on overseeing household finances by themselves, not because they feel that they can manage them better, but because it gives them direct access to money. They might also want to hide just how much money they have gambled.

Compulsive Gambling
Those with an addiction to gambling will often find it had to walk away when they have lost their allotted bankroll. Even though their gambling money is gone, they will often look for other sources of money. These could come in the form of credit cards, using money allotted for something else such as living expenses, or they could even steal it.

This need to find another source of money comes from the drive to win back the money they just lost. Winning back lost money is at the source of compulsive gambling. Addicted gamblers try to find more money to wager with to win back the money they already lost, and in the process lose that next batch of money.

Unnecessary Gambling
This happens when you do not have money to gamble but feel the urge to and do so anyway, finding money in the aforementioned sources. This is when gambling sits in an addicted player’s mind and is their constant companion. It builds into an urge that some addicts will fight while others do not, and it still leads to the casino or online casino.

If you notice these signs about you and your gambling habits, or if someone you know exhibits these signs, it is a good indicator that they have an addiction to gambling.

If you notice these signs about yourself, seek help. If you notice these signs in a friend or loved one, talk to them about their gambling, but be prepared to have your concern met harshly—addicts do not always like to admit that they have a problem.

However hard it is to admit that a person has a gambling addiction, it must be acknowledge so that help can be sought.

Online Blackjack News: Player Jailed in Ireland

How far will you go to play online blackjack? Seems some blackjack players will go to great lengths, but a lot of people cease calling them players and call them addicts.

Such is the case with Eamonn McGirr that I saw in my online blackjack news this morning. McGirr has been ordered to serve twenty months in prison and another twelve months on probation for his online blackjack and online gambling addiction.

Why prison? Are they that harsh about gambling in Ireland?

No, they are not as long as you are playing and gambling responsibly. That means not embezzling your employer for the U.S. equivalent of $500,000 over two years.

But the embezzled $500,000 is not all that McGirr has stacked up, although the embezzled money is his only illegal action. Everything else is just pure debt—and I do mean debt: overdrafts on his two bank accounts, a loan for the U.S, equivalent of $6,400 from a credit union, and finally maxing out five credit cards. All on gambling.

I have two responses to this: one about something the judge said and another on online gambling in general.

The judge of the McGirr case was concerned about how a person could gamble away such enormous amounts of money without being checked, and that online gambling companies should take a “look at how they did business.”

First off, it is not the online casinos’ fault that the man got himself jailed. They are a business. They are there to make money. If this judge is saying that online casinos should be called to task because players gamble away too much, then what about all of the designer fashions and expensive electronics and cars that people will put themselves into debt for?

If the judge’s concern is people being wooed into spending more than they reasonably should because of how a company advertises and does business, then all the companies that lure people into racking up debt on credit cards should be put out of business. Shame on them for offering products that cost more than what we are paid. Let’s go back to farming and trading chickens and wearing loincloths—perhaps that is living within our means.

Then there is my response to online gambling. Obviously not every single player puts themselves into debt to play online blackjack and other online casino games.

But there are players who do become addicted to online gambling, and it can be a very serious problem. As McGirr showed us it is possible to hide the problem until someone else catches on that a friend or loved one is addicted. Sometimes the player him or herself knows they are addicted.

This afternoon I will talk about addiction to online gambling.

For Your Blackjack Strategy and Your Odds—the Double Down

No, I am not talking about that so-called sandwich. A friend of mine tried it once and could not eat for two days his stomach was so upset.

I am talking about the double down play that players can make in blackjack. This handy little play packs quite a punch against the house. And we all know that when the house’s edge is hit, the player’s blackjack odds go up. So it is important to include doubling down in your blackjack strategy.

Doubling down is when a player doubles his original wager and only receives one more card before standing.

As you can probably tell, this is not a play that you make any old time in blackjack. It is a play that must be used at advantageous times. And this is where strategy comes in.

It is well-known that one of the best tools for blackjack strategy is basic strategy. This little chart will tell players when the most advantageous times to double down are. Doubling down when it is not advantageous is a quick way to lose money since your wager, once you have doubled down, is twice what you started with.

Casinos lean on the fear players have of losing their money to keep them from doubling down. But players need to take a deep breath, swallow the fear and double down when strategy calls for it to happen. Otherwise players will not knock 1.6% off of the house’s edge.

Did I forget to mention that earlier? I did? Well, it is true, doubling down when it is advantageous hits the house’s edge for 1.6%.

That is a fairly big hit to their edge, which means that players make a gain to their blackjack odds because they are gaining money. And not just the regular amount won off of a normal hand; players win twice the amount of their double down wager. In fact, it is the extra amount won that makes for such a hit to the house’s edge.

Because of the gain in blackjack odds and in money, players need to add doubling down to their blackjack strategy—but only when it is advantageous.

Microgaming Creates New Online Blackjack Tournaments

Microgaming is known as one of the industry leaders when it comes to online gaming software. They are constantly creating new games and revamping their older games to improve them.

To be honest there is not a lot that can be done to online blackjack games. The game itself does not change. It is not like a slots game that allows for the same type of game to be repackaged in a new colorful package. Online blackjack is online blackjack.

But that does not stop Microgaming from working with this game to give it something new to entire old and new players alike. This time Microgaming has revamped their online blackjack tournaments. There are now four types of online blackjack tournaments for players to play in at Microgaming powered online casinos:

One-Shot:
The name says it all on this one. Players must play their best as they have only one chance to get the highest score. There are no add-ons or rebuys for this tournament either. It is literally a one shot chance to get the highest score and win.

Extender:
This type of online blackjack tournament will allow players add-ons and rebuys as the point is to play again and again to build their scores. As always, the highest score wins. These tournaments will have long time periods to play out to encourage players to play more and more.

Reloader:
This one is a sort of combination of one-shot and extender. Players have one shot to get as high a score as they can, and there are no add-ons or rebuys. But if a player is not satisfied with their score they can play again starting their score over at 0 to try for a higher score.

Survivor:
This is an elimination type of tournament. At the end of each round a number of the players are eliminated from the tournament. This happens at the end of each round until the last round in which the player with the highest score ends.

When Microgaming makes changes to their games, be it new games or revamping an older game, they usually hit their mark and delight players at Microgaming powered online casinos. The new online blackjack tournaments are sure to be a hit.

Good and Bad Blackjack Tips: Card Counting Online

When looking at online casinos many of them have little sections on their sites with information about their casino games and casino games in general. Not always, but fairly often casinos will actually give players tips on how to play, say, blackjack and tips for blackjack strategy.

Now what is funny to me is that there are some players out there who blindly follow those tips on how to play blackjack and for blackjack strategy. Stop and think about that. You want to follow the tips on how to play better—as in win money—from the online casino—which wants to take your money? Yeah, that is what I thought too.

So I went out to see what some of these tips are. Some of it was as I expected and other times I was surprised. There are actually online casinos out there that will offer genuinely good blackjack playing tips.

Here is some of what I found and some blackjack tips about what I what I found.

I did find online casinos that encouraged players to use card counting. This is very dubious to me. Card counting is very much frowned upon in brick and mortar casinos. So first off why would an online casino encourage players to use it in online blackjack?

The answer is simple. Because card counting is ineffective in online blackjack. Because of the game’s RNG no card is ever discarded and all are still in the deck, so to speak since we are talking about a virtual game. On top of that, again because of the RNG, it is like all of the cards are shuffled before each round because the RNG randomly pulls a combination for the beginning of each round.

So online casinos will encourage card counting for online blackjack because it will not actually work and it actually can hurt a player’s online blackjack odds by trying to use it. Players could increase their wagers, thinking that they are getting the jump on the house and a run of high cards, when there are not any discards to back up that run.

Really all this so called blackjack tip is doing is encouraging players to use a blackjack strategy that does not work online in order to create erratic betting, which causes a gain in money for the online casino. So understand card counting does not work online, even if the online casino’s tips say it does.

Oh, and think twice about an online casino that is encouraging you to use card counting when playing online blackjack.