Blackjack Odds of Winning and Losing

What makes blackjack one of the most popular casino games out there?

Simply put, it is the myth that blackjack is the one casino game in which the player can gain the edge and beat the house.

Truthfully that can happen. But it does not happen just from sitting down at the blackjack table or by logging in to your favorite online casino to play a few rounds. To beat the house at blackjack you must study the game, its rules and its strategies. It takes practice. And it also takes card counting.

So truth be told, online blackjack cannot be beat because a player cannot count cards. This is because the game functions similarly to a blackjack table with a CSM in a brick and mortar casino. A CSM is a Continuous Shuffle Machine, and it prevents any cards from being discarded because at the end of a round all the just-used cards are put in the little machine, the entire deck reshuffled and then the next round dealt.

So you must be playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino—at a table without a CSM I might add—so that you can count cards. You also need to be playing according to basic strategy. Basic strategy drops the house edge to 0.5%. A skilled and practiced card counter can overcome the remaining 0.5% that is against them and then begin to tip the odds up to 1% in their favor.

So, yes, blackjack is a beatable casino game.

However, the majority of blackjack players will not spend the time to gain the necessary skill in card counting that is needed to overcome that last bit of the house’s edge. And still many others will not play according to basic strategy.

And while casinos to not want to seem like they are handing out money for free, they do not seem to mind the continued myth that blackjack is the beatable casino game. For them, it draws more and more new blackjack players that they wind up taking money from.

Even knowing that, players who want to become skilled at blackjack should still work and practice their blackjack strategy. Strategy is meant to improve blackjack odds. So even if you do not beat the house, you will lose less money with a sound blackjack strategy than if you did not have a blackjack strategy.

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.

Strategy for Online Blackjack: Rate of Play

When it comes to playing online blackjack, there are some differences between blackjack that is played online and blackjack that is played in a brick and mortar casino. Those differences can have an impact on your blackjack strategy.

One of the biggest differences comes down to players. When you are playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, you could be playing with up to six other players. But when you are playing blackjack online it is a one on one game between you and the dealer. While this does not seem like a big deal, it actually is.

The more players there are in a round of blackjack the longer it takes to play out. If you are playing at a full table, the average number of hands per hour is around 55. But if you are playing one on one with the dealer you will go through about 220 hands in a single hour.

Granted, that is a big difference, but what does that have to do with strategy for online blackjack?

Well, blackjack strategy is about making the most of advantageous situations and minimizing your losses in disadvantageous ones. Since the house will almost always have an edge, you will lose money over the course of that hour.

We are going to say that you are a basic strategy player who plays $25 per hand. With basic strategy you have lowered the house edge to 0.5%, meaning that you will lose around $0.12 per hand.

If you were playing at a full table you would only lose on average $7 per hour. But if you were playing one on one, like you would be playing in online blackjack, you would lose around $28 per hour. That is quite the difference.

Unfortunately there is no way to add more players to your game when playing online blackjack. So you need to find something to your strategy to slow your rate of play, or how many hands you play per hour.

There is no magic strategy tool for this. This is a player controlled strategy, meaning you are in control of how many rounds are played per hour. Give yourself a time limit—play for 15 minutes and then take a break for a set number of minutes. Or give yourself a set number of rounds to play in an hour; when you have played that many, stop until the next hour arrives.

Or you could be like me and donate blood. It takes a few days to recover, for your body to restore the missing blood, so you run a little bit slower. Donating blood has the benefit of saving someone’s life and helping your online blackjack strategy at little bit.

But I would still play for a set number of rounds, or for a set amount of time before taking a break. After all you can only donate so much blood so often.

Creating the Perfect Blackjack Card Counting Skill

Like any amazing dish, what goes in definitely comes out. The better quality the ingredients are the better the food. Also like good food, some things take time to make.

How does this relate to blackjack? Card counting. It relates to card counting.

This is one blackjack skill that can have a big impact on a player’s blackjack strategy, and therefore on a player’s blackjack odds. Similar to good food, card counting is a quality skill that requires time. The more time and practice that a player puts into to their card counting the better the skill is.

So what can a blackjack player do to cultivate their card counting skills?

First off take the time to practice. Equate practicing card counting to not rushing through the preparations on a nice dinner you are making. The practice required for any good skill requires time.

A skill is not developed instantaneously. Be prepared to spend a good many hours counting your way through card decks. And that is the best way to practice when you are still learning the skill—count your way through card decks.

Practicing you counting skill is like following a recipe. Go step by step.

Learn the ‘rules’ of the card counting system that you want to become skilled at. Then start out by slowly counting your way through a single deck out loud. Once you can count through the deck quickly and without pauses, begin counting silently in your head until you can count silently without pauses. Then begin adding decks repeating those first two steps. Once you have a few decks down to where you can count silently in your head without pauses, throw in some distractions—music, the TV, or maybe both at the same time. This prepares you for card counting in a noisy casino.

We have covered time and steps, now on to quality.

Do not cheat yourself when practicing. This means no cutting corners. If you really cannot count through one deck silently without pauses, do not move on to multiple decks yet. If you cut corners you are not developing the skill completely and that could leave you vulnerable.

Vulnerable to what? Well, let’s say a pit boss who finds out you are counting cards and has your thrown out of the casino.

Just keep in mind when you are working on your card counting or any other skill in your blackjack strategy arsenal that you need to devote the time and quality necessary to developing the skill. Follow the steps and give yourself time. Or you might have a scary pit boss breathing down your neck.

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 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

Every now and then we are dealt what can seem like a strong hand, but in reality it is deceptively strong. I say deceptively strong because while in ordinary blackjack strategy, meaning ordinary hard hands, their hand totals would be fine. But what if they are not ordinary hard hands?

Okay, enough with the mystique. I am talking about those rascally hands that either have Aces or are made up of a pair. In particular I am talking about a certain pair: a pair of 9s.

I know when I have discussed pair splitting blackjack strategy that I have said to pay attention to what the hand total is and to not only focus on the joyous fact that you are holding a pair. In the case of a pair of 9s the hand total is 18. If you were playing this hand out like you would an ordinary hard hand you know that you would stand on an 18. But this is not an ordinary hard 18.

This is a pair of 9s, and because it is not ordinary you want to play it out in the most advantageous way. This means that if the dealer has a 2 through 6 or an 8 that you want to split that pair of 9s.

Let’s compare shall we?

If you were to stand on a pair of 9s against those dealer up cards you would yield a profit over a large number of rounds. In other words you would need to play a lot of rounds and be dealt a lot of pairs of 9s in order to make that 18 profit. This is because of there are only five totals the dealer can hit to that would not bust him, and three of those five beat your 18. The odds on standing on a pair of 9s against a 2 through 6 or an 8 are not with you.

So what strategy options do you have left? You can hit, which is very not smart in terms of blackjack strategy, or you can split. And splitting is the way to go.

Check back this afternoon for the whys in splitting a pair of 9s. After all, your blackjack strategy is not just about knowing what play to make, but about knowing why you are making it.

Blackjack Strategy: Playing to 21

When new players think of blackjack, they think the objective of the game is to get their hand total up to 21. To play to 21 in other words. However this is a bit of a misconception. Sure, 21 is the magic number in blackjack but it is not the objective.

The true objective of blackjack—any blackjack game, be it blackjack online or black in a brick and mortar casino—is to beat the dealer without getting a hand total that goes over 21.

The difference between playing to 21 and beating the dealer is a little bit different. If you were playing to 21 there would be no need for a dealer’s hand. There would then be no dealer up cards, and blackjack would not be the dealer versus player game that we know it to be. If playing to 21 were the sole objective and we did not have a dealer we would be playing against other players, and then we would descend into poker. And if I wanted to play poker I would go play poker and not blackjack.

But this is blackjack and we have a dealer and we play to beat that dealer.

This means that your blackjack strategy is based on getting the best odds. The best odds in the long run mean that you will win more from the house. That means paying attention to the game and making the play that brings you the best blackjack odds. Sometimes that means doubling down or splitting pairs, or maybe not splitting pairs, or maybe standing here and there.

The whole point of a blackjack strategy is to know how to make the best play and take the most advantage of the current hand in your attempt to beat the dealer.

The best tool for this blackjack strategy is a basic strategy chart. This is why new blackjack players are first pointed in the direction of basic strategy once they learn the basic playing rules of the game.

Paying attention to your blackjack strategy and why you make a certain play using basic strategy helps to teach new players the whys of the game, and why blackjack’s objective is not playing to 21.

Free Online Blackjack

Sometimes you are in the mood to play blackjack, but you either do not have the extra money in the bank account or you just do not feel like wagering any money. If you played blackjack in a brick and mortar casino you would be out of luck. But if you play blackjack online there is a way to get it for free.

And who would not want some free blackjack?

Thankfully online casinos understand that players sometimes just want to play, and unlike their brick and mortar counterparts, many online casinos will offer a free play or play for fun version of their games.

If the online casino that you play online blackjack at offers a free play mode, it is easy to access. The free play modes can be accessed regards of whether you play with the casino software downloaded on your computer or whether you play in the flash version.

To get your free blackjack on, sign in to your player account. The next screen that pops up should be one that asks if you want to play for free or play for real. Simply click on play for free and you will be all set to go.

Online blackjack players are at an advantage with free blackjack online.

Not every single online casino game is offered in free play modes. But thanks to blackjack being one of the most popular online casino games, just about every free play mode will offer it. Unlike slots—not every single slots game makes it to the free play mode.

Free blackjack allows players to practice their strategies and practice playing without putting any money on the line. This is another perk as you would not have this option in a brick and mortar casino.

Clearly free online blackjack allows players advantages that brick and mortar casinos just cannot offer. So take some time and enjoy blackjack or practice your blackjack strategy without worrying about money.