Blackjack Odds of Winning

Time to test your blackjack knowledge:

What are the blackjack odds of winning if you ignore the ties?

The answer is 48%.

Pushes, also known as ties, will happen around 9% of the time. But excluding those pushes, your odds of winning are 48% of the time with you and 52% of the time against you. And this is if you are playing according to basic strategy.

You might be wondering how you could possibly make money on this game if you are odds on to lose more often than you would win.

Remember that the 48% of the time you are expected to win is all wins, including the wins you have with natural blackjacks. When you win with a natural blackjack you receive a 3-2 payout instead of a 1-1 payout like you would with a standard win.

So say you are wagering $10 and you win the round, you would receive $10. But if you were to win with a natural blackjack you would win $15. The times that you win with a natural blackjack puts a little more in your bankroll.

Another occasion in which you make more money than the standard 1-1 is when you double down. The payout for a successful double down is 2-1. Again, say you were wagering $10 per hand of blackjack, doubled down and won, you would receive $20 instead of $10.

While there is nothing extra blackjack strategy-wise that you can do to increase your odds of winning with a natural blackjack, when you double down is in your hands.

Doubling down is a good play to make money in blackjack. But it is also a fast way to lose money. The key to making the most of this blackjack play is to know when the most advantageous time to double down are, and that knowing comes from a basic strategy chart. A basic strategy chart gives the best times to double down when your cards and the dealer’s up card provide you with a good shot of winning the round.

So it is possible to make money with your blackjack odds only giving you a 48% chance of winning. The key is in making the most of the hands you are dealt, using your blackjack strategy.

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.

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.

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.

Blackjack Strategy: Two Card Soft 18 and Multi Card Soft 18

There are some hands in blackjack that who’s basic strategy plays just cause our brains to revolt. Our brains get hung up on the numbers, are so focused on the numbers, that they miss the finer points. One such hand is a soft 18.

A soft 18 consists of a 7 and an Ace. Our brains see that 18 and want to stand. But they are missing the fact that this is one of those flexible hands that have a chance of building into a better hand simply by hitting it. You do not have to worry about busting because you can reduce that Ace from 11 to 1 if you need to

In fact you cannot bust if you hit a soft 18. An Ace, 2 or 3 will give you a hand total of 19, 20 or 21—all strong hands. Anything 4 or more will cause you to reduce the Ace and you have decent ground to build strong.

This is why basic strategy dictates the following plays based on dealer up cards:

Dealer 2: stand
Dealer 3-6: double down
Dealer 7 and 8: stand
Dealer 9, 10, Ace: hit

As you can see, you are receiving another card more often than not. The only times you stand are the times when the dealer is in a good chance to build a hand stronger than yours if you were to hit.

But the soft 18 confusion does not end here. There must be something about having an Ace in hand that makes it a harder hand to know how to play.

I have heard of players who are fine and well with a two card soft 18, but if they start with a two card 7, hit and receive an Ace, the confusion begins again. But the truth is that a two card soft 18 is no different than a three card soft 18. It is still a soft 18 and that Ace can still be reduced, and a 4/3 is still worth 7. So the same plays can be made.

Your blackjack strategy for a soft 18 does not differ from your blackjack strategy for a soft 18 made up of three cards. Or even from four cards. The whole point is that you have an Ace and some other cards that are worth 7. Every player needs to train themselves to see past the obvious hand total on the surface and look at what cards are making up that hand total.

Blackjack Myths Special

In honor of today being Friday the 13th, I am going to talk about blackjack myths today.

First I am going to start with the most basic and most common blackjack myth: the objective of blackjack is to get a hand total of 21. It does not matter whether we are talking about online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, players (novices for sure) of both types seem to think that this is the objective.

However, they would be slightly mistaken. And when it comes to casino games it does not do to be mistaken in what their objectives are.

To set us on the right track, the true objective of blackjack is to beat the dealer without getting a hand total that goes over 21.

The reason you want to know the true objective of blackjack is that it can have an impact on your blackjack strategy. If you operate under the idea that all you have to do is get 21 and that the dealer’s hand is of no concern, you will probably hit a lot more and see no purpose to double down or split pairs.

Now if you were playing with the goal of beating the dealer you would be taking his cards and his playing choices into mind. Let’s compare!

If you had a hard 14 and the dealer had a 6 and were only trying to play to 21 you would probably hit. But since you are really trying to beat the dealer you would stand and give the dealer a chance at busting himself. If he busts himself then you win.

You see the difference between the two objectives, yes? Good. It is important to pay with correct blackjack objective in mind as it can have an impact on your blackjack strategy.

Happy Friday the 13th! Good luck when playing today!

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 for Splitting 9s—Part III

Yesterday I discussed splitting a pair of 9s and how your blackjack strategy should go. Despite the hand total on a pair of 9s being 18, this is still a pair that you will want to split. When faced with a dealer’s up card of 2 through 6 or an 8 was covered yesterday. In those cases you split because the dealer can beat your 18 with three of the five hand totals he could hit to.

See that last line? The reason behind why you are splitting a pair of 9s against those dealer up cards? That is one of the points behind blackjack strategy. It is all well and fine to memorize and then automatically turn out the best play. But understanding why you are making that play is key to mastering your blackjack strategy, and allowing for further blackjack strategy finesses, such as card counting.

Now when you are facing a dealer’s up card of 9 I could simply tell you that you split your pair of 9s there too and be done with it. But since you are interested in mastering your blackjack strategy I am going to tell you why you are splitting those 9s.

Yes, you split a pair of 9s against a dealer’s 9 to improve your standing in that round, but it is just a little harder since the dealer has a 9 too. And there are a few cards that can help you, depending on house rules of course.

If you are dealt a 10 or Ace on one of your split 9s you just bettered your original hand to have a 19 or 20. So you can increase your chances of winning there. And you have a five out of thirteen shot of being dealt one of those cards.

You also have a one in thirteen chance of being dealt a 2, which would give you a hand total of 11. And you of course know that with an 11 your next move in blackjack strategy is to double down.

Finally if you are dealt another 9 you can split again if the house rules allow you to do so. And if they do not you are no worse off than you were when you started. So being dealt a 9 is another one out of thirteen.

So off all the cards that improve your hand or cause your hand total to break even there are seven out of thirteen chances. That leaves six cards that could potentially worsen your hand. But notice that by splitting you have a slight edge in doing so: seven cards can improve your hand while 6 will worsen it.

Now you can see why you need to split a pair of 9s when facing down a dealer’s 9—you have a slight edge in improving your hand. And either improving your hand or minimalizing your losses is desired end result of blackjack strategy.

Blackjack Strategy for Splitting 9s—Part II

This morning I began talking about blackjack strategy for when you are dealt a pair of 9s. As you might recall I left off by saying that when holding a pair of 9s when the dealer is showing a 2 through 6 or an 8, the best play to make is to split.

While an 18 is a strong there are three hands that the dealer can hit to with one of those up cards and still beat the player. Three out of the five possible hands I should say. And the last time I checked, that was more than 50%, which puts the player at the disadvantage. So that leaves splitting those 9s.

If you are playing in a game of blackjack that allows for doubling after splitting then you gain a little on your blackjack odds: a 0.15% to your odds in fact. And here is why:

Once you split you have two hands that are starting at 9, which is a nice strong card to start with. Let’s say that your next card is a 2, which gives you an 11. You can double down on that 11 and further increase your chances of turning a profit.

Or if you are playing in a game that allows for resplitting and are dealt another 9 you can split again. Sure you have three hands open at that point, but they all have strong starting points. And resplitting adds another 0.08% to your blackjack odds.

What else can you do with that 9? Well, if you are dealt an Ace, it gives you a hand total of 20. And that is a good hand to stand on. A 10 or a face card will also put you in a nice spot with a hard 19.

Now I have not talked about blackjack strategy when you are holding a pair of 9s and the dealer is also holding a 9. The reasoning there for your blackjack strategy is a little bit different. Whereas splitting against a dealer’s 2 through 6 or an 8 works to help improve your chances of a net gain, splitting against a dealer’s 9 is meant more to reduce your net losses. But I will talk more about that one tomorrow morning.