Best Hands to Double Down On

Blackjack is usually played from a defensive position. You make your playing decisions based on what the dealer’s up card is. Think about it. When you’re looking at your basic strategy chart you are seeing what to do in the situation that the dealer is showing X card.

However, there are some instances when we blackjack players get to go on the offensive. And those times are when we are dealt a starting hand total of 9, 10 or 11.

When we have one of those three starting hand totals, usually our best move is to double down. And doubling down is an offensive stance. When you are doubling down you are telling the dealer that you have a better chance of out-drawing the dealer—that your hand is stronger than his.

Having a starting hand of 11 you have the most opportunities to double down. Basically it’s best to double down if the dealer is showing a 2 through 10. The only time you don’t is when the dealer has an Ace showing.

If you have 10, double down against a dealer’s 2 through 9. And if you have a 9, double down 3 through 6.

When you double down you only receive one more card. If that last card is a 10 you know have 19, 20 or 21—all of which are strong hands.

And because you doubled down on a hand in which you have a better chance of out drawing the dealer, you have a better chance of doubling your winnings.

If you can’t have a natural blackjack or a hard 20 or 19, an 11 would be the hand to wish for next.

Casinos Taking 6-5 Games Too Far

I’ve said it before. Any blackjack game that pays a 6-5 payout should be avoided.

Now I’m going to say it absolutely must be avoided.

Casinos are getting greedy and desperate it seems down in Vegas. Overall, the gaming revenue at Vegas casinos is declining. And like any smart business, owners and managers are looking for ways to try to boost revenue. And while I can understand this and condone the need to do something to increase a business’s revenue, I do not condone players being taken advantage of.

Several years ago the 6-5 payout blackjack game was introduced. Yes, the payout is terrible. It still is. And the same applies to the house edge. But the carrot that casinos dangled in front of us was that these 6-5 payout games were single deck games.

Now with the need for revenue, casinos are seeing how much more they can squeeze out of players. What have they done? They are now ‘offering’ 6-5 payouts on multi-deck games.

Why is this worse than a single deck 6-5 payout blackjack game?

For one thing the payout is still terrible, and you won’t make the money you could playing in a 3-2 payout game. For every $10 bet you would only win $12 instead of $15.

But the biggie is what changing the payout on a multi-deck game from 3-2 to 6-5 does to the house edge. Just by changing the payout to 6-5, the house edge just jumped by around 2%. Now, before basic strategy and card counting, most 3-2 blackjack games carry a house edge of 2% to 5%. A 6-5 blackjack game will carry a house edge ranging from 4% to 7%, making it worse than some slots games. This throws of the skill play for blackjack. Basic strategy will not be as effective here and it will take longer to play for the house edge to be lowered because you’re starting with a higher house edge.

Casinos will be watching to see if players take to these 6-5 multi-deck games. And if they see that players are still playing them, then we can expect that the 6-5 games will be sticking around, if not growing in number. Do yourself and all your fellow blackjack players a favor and avoid these games.

Robin Hood Blackjack Player Takes from Rich Casinos and Gives to the Poor

How many times have we been low on money and wished that someone, somewhere would help us? No, I’m not talking about your blackjack bankroll running low; I mean in life. Most of us have been there.

For Kurt and Megan Kegler, that time for them was when their toddler daughter developed a brain tumor. Treatment costs had accumulated and they were $35,000 in debt.

Then, out of the blue, they received a phone call from a blackjack player in Vegas calling himself Robin Hood 702. He told the couple that he was going to fly them first class to Vegas, where he would win the money they needed.

And sure enough, he did. He reportedly lost hundreds of thousands the first night he played, and you can imagine how the Keglers felt. Here was their chance at getting out of debt, and he was losing. But in the end, he won the much needed $35,000. He walked over to the couple and handed them the chips. And he won their money by playing blackjack.

It’s wonderful to see blackjack used for such an end. And that is Robin Hood’s aim: by playing blackjack, he intends to “take the dark side associated with gambling and use it for good.”

Nobody knows who this man is. But the casino managers call him a whale. That would be someone who wins and loses large amounts of money and doesn’t panic over it. Robin Hood has said in interviews that he has been through his own financial hardships and rough spots in his life. And he wants to give back and help out. He’s helped a woman in Charleston and he offered to sponsor a holiday for the crew that was attacked by Somali pirates.

And he wants to help others in need.

Robin Hood as created his own website where individuals can tell their stories. He will then choose another family to win money for from the casinos. The only “requirement” is that an individual’s or family’s financial need cannot be more than $50,000.

Casinos Pouting About Card Counting Players

If you follow gambling news then you’ve probably already heard of this Thomas P. Donovan and the Grand Victoria Casino. If you haven’t, let me give you a quick recap:

In 2006 the Grand Victoria threw Donovan out of their casino in Rising Sun, Indiana for card counting. He sued and lost. So he went to the Indiana Court of Appeals where he won, the appeals court saying that it wasn’t a good enough reason to kick Donovan out.

This comes down to casinos not liking card counters. Online casino operators are thankful that they don’t have to deal with this issue since you can’t count card online. But for land based casinos this, according to them, is a major thorn in their sides. Why? Because they might lose.

Oh my, oh my, a casino might lose a fraction of their money to a player.

And that, blackjack fans, is the problem. Casinos basically expect players to walk in the door and give over their money; they also expect that they shouldn’t have to pay them back…except for the occasional big win that looks good for business and will draw players.

If we wanted to give our money away without the chance of any monetary return, we could just as easily donate our money to the church. The reason this is gambling is because we are putting our money out there on the chance that we can win money back. It’s a chance. A gamble.

And casinos need to except that their business is a gamble. If you’re going to go into business where players are putting their money on the line, then they need to except that they will have to pay players who win.

While most of the games in casinos are games of chance, blackjack is a game of skill. Like with any game, players are going to try to find a strategy, try to win. This is the case with card counting. All card counting is is a strategy that blackjack players use to try to even up the odds.

Casinos start with the edge already. And they think that it’s unfair for players to use mental processes, such as remembering what cards have been played out of the decks and calculating an approximate chance that they’ll hit for a high card—card counting. They feel that it’s unfair for players to try to do something to win.

If that’s how they feel, they should be lobbying for a ban on mental processes or, if they’re that afraid of losing to players, then they should stick to slots, roulette and keno, and stop fussing about card counting blackjack players.

Super Fun 21 Isn’t That Fun for Blackjack Players

Attention blackjack players: avoid Super Fun 21, also known as just Super21.

There, now that my warning is out there, I’ll share with you why it’s in your best interest—and your bankroll’s interest—to stay away from this game. And this applies to all blackjack players, online and regular casino players.

Let’s take a look at what they’re offering.

Casinos will try to lure you in to play this blackjack variation by telling you it’s a single deck game. That should have great odds. But, wait it gets better.

Super 21 rules allow you to double down on any number of cards. Great, blackjack player odds just got better. I know you just can’t believe that. But, wait, there’s more.

Yes, more. You can surrender after doubling down if you like. I know, the odds just keep getting better and better.

Have you ever heard that phrase, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is?’

Guess what? That applies to Super Fun 21, or Super 21 if you’d rather call it that.

Traditional blackjack, online or not, pays out 3-2 for a natural blackjack. In Super Fun 21, the payout for a natural blackjack is even money. Yes, even money. There is one natural blackjack that pays more but it must be made up of diamonds. All other natural blackjacks receive even money.

This even money payout not only wipes out the advantages from this variation’s player-favorable rules, it actually increases the house edge…an 85% increase actually. That translates in a raise of 0.95% on top of their 2% to 5%.

Does sound like much fun anymore does it, blackjack players?

No, I didn’t think so. Super Fun 21, masquerading as Super 21 at times, should be avoided by all blackjack players, online and in casinos, for its even money payouts and increased house edge.

How to Play with Soft Hands–Soft 17

Soft hands can be tricky to play with real success. It’s all because of that Ace. Some players will look for the easy way out when they have been dealt a soft hand.

Take, for example, being dealt a 6 and an Ace. Soft 17.

Many players will play this hand as they would a hard 17. That’s because they are so focused on that 17. And in some cases that’s an acceptable thing to do. But in many cases it isn’t the most advantageous play to make. ‘Isn’t the most advantageous’ as in you are going to lose more money in the long run if you always stand on soft 17.

Let’s go back to the basic principle of blackjack strategy, and that is assuming that the dealer’s hole card is worth ten. Once you assume that you can assume what the dealer’s total is versus what your total is.

Pretend that you have been dealt a soft 17 and the dealer has an upcard of either an 8, 9, 10 or Ace. If the dealer has any one of those for an upcard, and you assume that his hole card is a ten, then you need to play a defensive strategy.

And having a soft 17 gives you the ability to play defensively. You can turn that soft 17 into a hard seven and hit, which is what basic strategy tells you to do with a hard 7. This is giving your hand another chance at winning.

You can take even more advantage of a soft 17 by doubling down. It’s best to double down when the dealer is showing a 3, 4, 5 or 6. This is because the dealer has the best chances of busting against a soft 17, making you the winner.

You can use this blackjack strategy for a soft 17 both in casinos and online casinos.

Blackjack Strategy—Splitting 8s

Why do you split 8s? Why is it a standard in blackjack strategy to do so?

Look at what blackjack strategy is first. In the first place you have a strategy so that you can improve your odds of winning. But what do you do when you find yourself in a situation that you know you are most likely going to lose?

This is the other part of your blackjack strategy: finding the least costly way out of a non-winning situation.

Now let’s look at being dealt a pair of 8s and the dealer has an upcard that is a 9, 10, or Ace.

If you were to stand on a hard 16, you are then playing with a stiff hand and will most likely lose. Interesting side note: you will be dealt a stiff hand about 43% of the time; and we all know that it’s easiest to lose with those hands.

Thankfully you can split those 8s. A pessimistic person might say that this is unwise blackjack strategy because you’re probably going to lose anyway. And this is why we don’t listen to pessimistic people.

Think of splitting those 8s as a second chance for you on this round. You can build two new hands, each starting with an 8 card. Yes, you do have to double your bet.

And, yes, you could lose all of that, but this is blackjack, this is gambling—you are going to lose sometimes. The trick here is to try to lose the least amount of money to get out of this round and on to the next.

By splitting your 8s and creating two new hands, you have the possibility of turning what could have been a pretty good shot at losing into one in which you have the possibility of winning with one hand, maybe even both.

The point to remember about pair splitting strategy is that this move is in place, for those who know how to use it, to lose less and win more in the long run. By only hitting or standing you are limiting your strategy and your odds at blackjack.

You can use this strategy for online blackjack or when playing at a casino.

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.

21 Things to Avoid When Playing Blackjack—Part II

While the first seven tips from my last blog are a good place to start if you’re looking to improve your overall blackjack experience, there is more. Yes, I said more.

Think about the images you have of dressed-up players and how snazzy they look. If you look at movies and those images hard enough, you can see that there are subtle things that they do. These are the unspoken rules. If you are looking to have that snazzy casino feel about you, then start incorporating these things into how you play blackjack.

  1. One of the biggest things you can do to lower your standing with fellow players is to not use basic strategy. No joke here. Basic strategy is considered the correct way to play. It’s seen as foolish to now play by this strategy. It’s legal to use in casinos, both online and land based, and it’s the best statistical chances for every hand.
  2. This next one is merely a matter of form—remember that snazzy casino player image? Stack your chips from highest denomination to lowest chip. The dealer can then add up the total amount of your bet easily.
  3. You’ve heard about players who get upset when a new player sits down mid-shoe and starts playing? There are two things about sitting down at a table mid-shoe. 1. In some casinos it’s forbidden and a sign is posted saying so. 2. If it is allowed, respect the other players already playing and wait to start playing at that table.
  4. Advice on playing two or more spots at one table: in most casinos you will have to bet double the minimum on each hand that you play. Be aware of that before you spread to more hands. If you aren’t sure whether you have to bet double on each hand, then ask the dealer. And also, when playing more than one spot at a table, finish one hand before you even look at the next.
  5. If you’re the lucky player who gets to insert the cut card, be aware that the majority of casinos require the cut card to go at least a half-deck from either end. Just know this and remember it. If you don’t place it more than half-deck in you will get a rebuke from the dealer and have to cut again. It holds up the game and can make you appear to be a novice in front of other players.
  6. This one is a pretty big one in terms of respect for your fellow players: do not ever tell another player how to play his hand. If he asks then go ahead and give your advice. But if they don’t ask, don’t say anything—let them think and learn for themselves. Would you like it if you had a table full of people telling you how to play?
  7. Now, the last one for this post is a very big deal. If you don’t follow this unwritten rule, you will find the consequences could be more than you want. Never, ever, at all under any circumstances take your bad luck out on fellow players or the dealer. This is considered extremely bad form and very bad blackjack manners. And it will make other players think very little of you.

There. You now have seven more etiquette tips to work into your blackjack playing style. So start working them in and see how much more your gaming experience improves.

Keep an eye open for “21 Things to Avoid When Playing Blackjack—Part III

21 Things to Avoid When Playing Blackjack—Part I

Recently I came across some blackjack tips that can help to not only improve your game, but to also make the gaming experience more enjoyable. Some of these tips can be applied to both land based casinos and online casinos; others might only apply to land based.

Take the wisdom from this, blackjack players.

  1. Don’t play with your chips once the cards are dealt. If you do, the dealer and casino staff might think that you’re padding your bet. Besides, it makes you look like you’re nervous, like you’re not sure how to play or that you’re trying to be sneaky. Or the dealer could think you were dealt an awesome hand, and are trying to increase your bet on the sly. Best bet—fingers off the chips.
  2. Cash is not to connect your hand with the dealer’s. In other words, don’t hand money to the dealer directly. You can lay it out on the table outside of your betting space, then tell the dealer what denomination you want your chips in. This is to protect both you and the dealer so that the transaction is caught by a camera. If there are questions later as to how a cash-to-chips exchange happened, the casino can review the video.
  3. Do NOT tell the dealer that you want a ‘hit.’ For one thing, the casino cameras need to see what play you are making—they can’t pick up what you say. Hand gestures are readable on the video. And second, your meaning might be misconstrued to mean something else.
  4. Face up cards are not for touching. In games with four or more decks in play, the cards are dealt face up. Since face up cards can’t be touched, sneaky players can’t add or remove cards. This protects you from cheaters. A “hands free” game will also speed up the game, allowing for you to play more.
  5. No setting things on the table. Ladies, this includes you and your purses. Purses belong on your lap. Leave your wallets and such in your pockets. If you have bags that are not purses, place them next to you or by your feet. You can have a drink on the table in the drink holders, but nothing else. This protects your property from being out in the open where someone could take it. It also keeps cheaters from using non-necessary objects on the table to help them cheat. And, it helps to keep the table from being damaged by drinks not being where they’re supposed to be.
  6. No holding the cards with both hands. They aren’t that big or that heavy. You don’t need to use both hands. This is just etiquette—one hand please.
  7. Cards do not belong in your lap. Keep them on the table or in one hand where the dealer can see them. Cards must remain in full view of the dealer. This prevents you from being accused of cheating.

Start working with these while out and about in the casinos this holiday season.

And keep an eye open for “21 Things to Avoid When Playing Blackjack—Part II