Kentucky Looking to Say ‘Yay’ to Online Gambling—Sort of

In what seems to be a positive trend for United States’ gambling, Kentucky is now joining the list of states looking at gambling as a resource to help pull their state out of the recession. Kind of.

Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear is seeking to right his state’s budget, which is $850 million short for the next two fiscal years. Beshear is already speaking as if the revenue from legalizing and regulating interstate gambling will be a definite thing. He’s treating it like it’s the only option available for Kentucky. According to him, the $850 million he would have to cut from other spending would be reduced to $78 million in cuts.

Beshear has been quoted as saying, “[Gambling revenue] will provide a reliable source of income we can use year after year after year to make investments in the institutions and people of this state, to strengthen our efforts to emerge from this recession not shell-shocked and shattered, but ambitious and able.”

Pretty words from a man who is very opposed to online gambling and online casinos—this would include online blackjack. Beshear believes online casinos are “leaches to the state.”

But he’s perfectly okay with gambling face to face. Apparently, playing blackjack in a Kentucky sanctioned casino would be very different from playing in an online casino that is regulated by Kentucky.

Perhaps Beshear should reexamine his stance on online casinos and online gambling like New Jersey and Florida are doing. If it’s revenue for his state that he’s seeking surely he can see the benefit that online gambling being regulated in Kentucky could have for his state.

By regulating face to face gambling within the borders of Kentucky, Beshear would only be making money off of Kentucky residents. But if he were to work with the state’s Legislature to regulate online gambling within Kentucky the potential to reach out and pull in more revenue will increase. Online casinos make playing your favorites, like our favorite blackjack, more accessible. The more accessible it is, the more people will play it.

So perhaps Kentucky should be looking in the direction that New Jersey and Florida are.

Blackjack vs. Video Blackjack

I write this after reading a news piece on how the Florida Legislature pretty much shut down the Seminoles’ deal for keeping their blackjack tables. On a side note, it’s possible that the “cease and desist” order could come from the National Indian Gaming Commission within a month for at least three of the seven Seminole casinos. Although, the NIGC hasn’t made the move to shut the tables down yet.

But near the end of the article was an interesting development on the Seminoles part. They are now apparently examining the virtual or video blackjack games found in South Florida racetracks.

These video blackjack games are what caught my eye. The way these games work, players are seated around a TV monitor where they play out their moves on a touch screen in front of them. So the dealer, the cards and the chips are all virtual, but the rules and how the game is played is the same as any ordinary blackjack game.

Now to me this sounds a lot like a mashed together version of a blackjack table and online blackjack.

The Seminoles feel that this is close enough to blackjack that it would give them legal rights to keep their tables. The Seminoles can have any game that is offered in the state. And if these video blackjack games in South Florida are judged to be close enough, it gives the Seminoles what they need. However the president of one of the South Florida casinos says that these video blackjack games are nothing more than a slot machine.

A slot machine? Last I heard a slot machine has reels, virtual or otherwise, that spin. Players win by chance if a combination comes up on said reels. Blackjack has no reels. And if players are playing a game in which the objective is to beat the dealer without going over 21, then I believe it’s blackjack.

According to the South Florida casino president, his video blackjack games aren’t blackjack because they have no live dealer and the cards and chips are electronic. But what is online blackjack then? That’s all electronic, and the last time I checked they still call that blackjack.

So really what is defines a blackjack game? A live dealer? Then what are we playing online?

It seems more that this president was on the side of the legislature and feels threatened by the Seminoles. Why else call a video blackjack game a slot machine?

I believe blackjack should be defined by the game itself, regardless of how it’s played. If the objective is to beat the dealer without going over 21 it’s blackjack.

Attn: New Jersey Blackjack Fans!

Recently Pennsylvania’s State Government approved table games for their casinos and resorts. This happened mostly because of a large hole in the State’s budget that needed to be filled badly. Very badly. But not only would allowing table games, such as blackjack, to be allowed in casinos and resorts provide income for Pennsylvania through taxes, it will also be a boost for the State’s economy.

Next door neighbor New Jersey, known for its famed gambling center Atlantic City, seems to pull those interested in gambling out of Pennsylvania. Now by having table games of their own, Pennsylvania hopes to keep their citizens gambling in-state. They also hope to pull citizens of New Jersey and New York over the state line with games like blackjack and poker. Pennsylvania is hoping that residents of New Jersey and New York will see a place to play their favorite table games and not have to make the drive to Atlantic City. In other words, Pennsylvania is trying to offer convenience in hopes of boosting their income.

But with a reputation of not being one to mess with, New Jersey isn’t going into the night quietly. Queue that “Anything you can do, I can do better” song please. New Jersey is now looking at legalizing online sports betting using an account system to take wagers over the phone or internet. But it doesn’t look like this will be limited to sports betting.

New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak is working with the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association on a bill to make most forms of online gambling legal for citizens of New Jersey. That would include blackjack. Lesniak is looking to go for all of it to compete with Pennsylvania.

Get ready for some serious online gambling competition from these two in the months to come.

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part VIII

Today we’re going to talk about another aspect of being dealt a pair of Aces, and a player favorable blackjack rule that has to do with them.

We’re familiar with what happens when we split a pair of Aces. It’s almost like doubling down. We double our original bet and then we only get one more card to each of our new hands.

I think the reason for this is because casinos see us with an Ace for each hand and they think we’re already halfway to 21, why allow a player to have more than one card per hand? They think that we don’t need the ability to hit for more than one more card. We’re not doubling down here—we’re splitting! And you notice this only applies to splitting Aces of course.

It seems casinos are forever trying to find ways to lower our chances and raise their own. That Ace means we are halfway to 21. The only cards that we can hope for to give us a strong hand is an 8, 9 or 10. Casinos put blackjack players in a hard spot with this rule—only one more card when splitting Aces.

But there are some casinos who have a sense of reason, and allow blackjack players to hit for more cards after splitting their Aces like we can do with any other pair.

Casinos that have this player favorable blackjack rule in place don’t feel the need to try to put players at a disadvantage. They know that they have the edge. And while card counters who used basic strategy can overcome the house edge, they also know that most blackjack players aren’t that dedicated. They don’t feel threatened. So they allow us this rule, this ability to draw more cards after splitting Aces, and it lowers their edge by 0.14%. Another decent rule to look for in a blackjack game.

Tribal Casinos vs. Online Casinos

It is well known that Congressman Barney Frank is at the head of trying to make online casinos and online gambling legal in the United States. He is trying to put through the U.S. Congress HR 2267, Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act.

Basically Frank is trying to make it legal for us to wager on casinos games, such as blackjack, within the U.S. It would also allow the U.S. Federal Government to regulate and tax online gambling. And if online casinos became established within the U.S., it would allow the Federal Government to tax those online casinos.

It would be more revenue for the U.S., who could use the money.

Enter the tribal casinos.

Tribal casinos are some of the most prominent land based casino organizations in the U.S. And they are, of course, against Frank and his bill to legalize online gambling and online casinos within the U.S. No, it’s not because they’re suddenly against gambling. Just online gambling.

Daniel Tucker is the recently re-elected chairman of the leading organization of tribal gaming. And he is quoted as saying that Frank and his bill are “the greatest threat to Indian gaming in 20 years.”

This could be attributed to the fact that playing in online casinos can be done in your home, without any travel. Online casinos make playing your favorite casino games, like blackjack, more convenient. And therein lies the threat that has the tribal casinos up in arms.

Tucker feels that online casinos are a threat because they “will transfer billions of dollars from Indian Reservations.”

From Indian Reservations.

You can see where their concern lies. And while I have nothing against the tribal casinos—they offer quite a nice place to play in—it seems that they aren’t liking the idea of facing their first real competition. They could face other land based casinos with their own land based casinos. But how can they compete with the convenience offered by online casinos. And rather than put their heads together and try to find a way to compete, they would rather challenge a bill that could generate some much needed revenue for the U.S.

One advantage that tribal casinos have over online casinos is that they offer a whole experience. While online casinos’ gaming software can try to replicate the lights and sounds of a casino, it’s still not the same as being in a real casino.

Good News for Pennsylvania Blackjack Players

Blackjack players in Pennsylvania have cause to celebrate.

After months and months of debate, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted last night to approve table games. The racinos and slots-only casinos already in the state will be allowed to expand their offerings with the sorts of table games that can be found in Vegas—including blackjack.

Tuesday night saw the Pennsylvania Senate approving the bill. And Pennsylvania State Governor Ed Rendell has already said he would sign.

The good news coming from this bill isn’t limited to giving Pennsylvania blackjack fans a place to play; it is also good news for the state itself.

The revenue from this bill—expected to about $250 million—will fill in the gap in the state’s budget for this fiscal year. It will also prevent around 1,000 state employees from losing their jobs. And there will be jobs, an estimated 10,000, to come since the casinos and racinos will have to have employees to man their new table games—calling blackjack dealers!

Larger casinos in Pennsylvania will have to pay a licensing fee of $16.5 million. The smaller resort casinos will only have to pay $7.5 million. But the casinos will also have to pay a percentage in state taxes as well. For the first two years, it is a 14% tax which will drop when those first two years are up to 12%. But there is also a 2% local tax which will remain in effect.

It is predicted that in the next 18 months $320 million in revenue will be generated—and that is much needed in that state.

It could take up to another six months before blackjack and other table games are installed while licensing and regulations are sorted out, new employees trained and the tables actually installed.

With this sort of increase in state revenue and in job creation, it’s a wonder other states with casinos don’t take another look at gambling as a source of money for their states. And why the federal government should consider licensing and regulating online gambling for revenue too.

But within six months, blackjack players in or neat Pennsylvania will have a place to play without having to travel to Atlantic City or Vegas.

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part I

Blackjack rules aren’t the same from casino to casino. I’m sure most casinos are happy if you believe this, but it’s not the truth.

The rules of the game can sometimes vary from casino to casino. Some rules will be casino favorable while others are favorable to the players. Some casinos try to give themselves an edge business-wise by offering players blackjack games with rules that favor the players.

Over the next few blogs posts I’ll cover what some of these player favorable rules are and why you want to play in games with these rules.

Single Deck Games
The first type of game for you to look for is a single deck game. When blackjack was first played in casinos it was played with only one deck. Over time the casinos figured out that they could increase their edge if they had each game played with more decks of cards. And that’s how we got to the six and eight deck games we have today. These multi-deck games give the house an increased edge by 0.5%.

But the single deck game has never died out. Over the last few years, casinos have begun offering single deck games to compete with their neighbors. But you would have to know that a single deck offers better player odds than a multi-deck game. The casinos that are not offering single deck games are hoping that players will remain ignorant and assume the there’s no difference between the two types of games.

But the one thing you want to watch out for when looking at single deck games are the ones that offer a 6-5 payout. The 6-5 payout actually cancels out the player favorable odds from the single deck game; in fact, the 6-5 payout actually increases the house edge.

When looking for a blackjack game, keep an eye open for single deck games, just not those with 6-5 payouts.

Keep an eye open for Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part II

Plus One, Minus One—Card Counting Explained Part II

Well now that you know that the basic aspect of card counting is only adding one or subtracting one.

But what is the point of card counting and what does it do to your blackjack strategy?

While basic strategy, when played perfectly, can lower the house edge to 0.5%, card counting can even out the blackjack odds and even give you the edge. How does that work?

The whole reason to card count is to know whether the remainder of the unplayed deck is rich in high cards or low cards. High cards are 10s, face cards and Aces. Low cards are 2 through 6.

When you are counting and you count goes positive it tells you that more small value cards were played and have been discarded. And because more small value cards have been played, it reasons to say that the unplayed cards have more high cards.

Your card is positive because you have counted more low cards. Your count is based on the cards that have been played so that you can get an idea of what is still left to play. A positive count means more low cards have been played, and that the remaining deck has a higher ratio of high cards left. A negative count means that more high cards have been played, leaving more low cards left to be played.

This is where card counting affects the betting portion of your betting strategy. When your blackjack count is positive, reasoning that the remaining deck is rich in high cards, you want to increase your bet. With a remaining deck rich in high cards you stand a better chance of being dealt a high hand value or even a natural blackjack.

Conversely, when you blackjack count goes negative you know that more high cards have been played and the remaining deck is rich in low cards. At this point it will be easier to hit to bust than to be dealt a strong hand. When your count goes negative you will want to decrease you bets.

Think of it this way: when you count is positive you need to add to your bets, whereas if your count is negative you need to decrease your bets. Make your betting action reflect the positive or negativness of your count.

Plus One, Minus One—Card Counting Explained

There are many myths associated with card counting and blackjack. Some are associated with cad counting in casinos. Others are associated with learning this blackjack strategy:

You have to have a photographic memory.
You can’t count into a six deck shoe.
You have to be highly intelligent to count.

The truth is that these are all false.

You do not have to have a photographic memory.
You can count into a six deck shoe.
You don’t have to be highly intelligent to count.

Basic card counting is a simple skill to learn. It does take a lot of practice to get to the point that you don’t alert casino employees that you’re counting. But first you have to learn. And so many players are intimidated by this skill—perhaps after hearing of the legendary MIT blackjack team or seeing Dustin Hoffman in ‘Rain Man.’

About those two: 1. The MIT students were not operating as individuals, hence ‘team,’ and 2. Dustin Hoffman was playing an autistic man whose mind didn’t operate like yours and mine does. Because of those and other media representations, cad counting has taken on this reputation as a difficult skill to learn.

But don’t worry. There are many seasoned blackjack players out there. Think about it, if this skill could only be used by a handful of blackjack players casinos wouldn’t feel threatened by it.

The point is that card counting is as easy as elementary arithmetic.

Card counters assign values, sometimes called tags, to cards. In the most basic and easiest system to learn, tags are assigned as such: 2-6 are plus 1, 7-9 are neutral and have no value, and 10-Ace are minus 1.

Now for the basic math:

You have been dealt a 6 and a 4. Both of those are plus 1, so you add +1 to +1 to equal +2. You hit and are dealt a 10. A 10 has a tag of -1. Add that to your +2 to equal +1. It looks like this:

6, 4 and 10 becomes +1, +1, -1 = +1

It’s like the basic adding and subtracting of positive and negative numbers you did in elementary school. Card counting is that easy. You simply add or subtract the tags of your cards, other players’ cards and the dealer’s cards.

But then what do you do?

Keep an eye out for Plus One, Minus One—Card Counting Explained Part II

How to Learn Basic Strategy

Basic strategy is an awesome tool for blackjack players. Playing it perfectly can lower the house edge from 2-5% to 0.5%. But you must play it perfectly for the house edge to come down.

Playing perfect basic strategy means playing every single one of your hands according to what the chart says. No deviating no matter what your brain is telling you. And while it is perfectly legal to carry a basic strategy chart with you into a casino or use one online, the quality of your blackjack games can improve if you can play without the chart.

There are a few ways that you can learn basic strategy so that you don’t have to carry a chart around.

You can practice playing at online casinos in their free play mode. Just keep playing, trying to remember what play you’re supposed to make without looking at the chart. The repetitive nature of learning this way will allow you to learn while playing. This method tends to take longer.

Another method is to sit down and study the chart. Try memorizing a line a day. It’s even recommended to make flash cards. Put the dealer’s up card versus a player’s hand on one side; on the back side write down what the correct play is. Keep running through the flash cards until you can name the correct play to make without hesitation. Every so often take a blank sheet of paper and recreate the entire basic strategy chart—see how much of the chart you have memorized. Keep recreating the chart until you have the entire thing right.

Having the basic strategy chart memorized will help speed up the game when you play. You will also know that you are making the best play possible when at the blackjack table or online.