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.

Two Types of Surrender in Blackjack

Since we discussed surrender as a part of your blackjack strategy this morning, I figured it might be beneficial to go over the two types of surrender that you are bound to come across: late surrender and early surrender.

The basic concept of surrender is to exit the round at the cost of half of your wager.

Late surrender is the variety that only allows you to bow out of the round after the dealer has checked to see if he has blackjack. This is the surrender variety that has the smaller impact on the house edge because the dealer is allowed to check first. And if he does have a natural blackjack, guess what—you just lost. Oh, and if he does have a natural blackjack naturally you lose your option to surrender.

Because there is still the potential that you would not be able to exit the round late surrender only knocks 0.08% off of the house edge.

Now we move on to early surrender. I do not know of a blackjack player who does not like early surrender best. Early surrender allows a blackjack player to exit the round before the dealer checks to see if they have a natural blackjack or not. By the time the dealer does check for a natural blackjack you are long gone from the round. Well, you still might be at the table, but that particular round is over for you. The dealer having a natural blackjack is a mote point for the player in this instance.

Because early surrender allows you an out regardless of whether of whether the dealer has a natural blackjack or not, it has a greater impact on the house edge: 0.6% off.

The next time that you are in a casino look for a table that allows for surrender, preferably one with early surrender although I will say it is not common to find. The important point is to use surrender in your blackjack strategy when it is to your advantage: you have a hard 15 and the dealer has a 10, or you have a hard 16 and the dealer has a 9, 10 or Ace.

Once More with Feeling: Basic Strategy!

Everyday blackjack wins new players. These new players may come to the game in a brick and mortar casino, or perhaps they have tried it out in a game of online blackjack. But chances are they have heard that this is the casino game in which they could possible beat the house. Or at the very least that this is the game with the smallest house edge.

And while it is true that blackjack can have the lowest house edge, it does not happen automatically.

Be it online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, the game will start out with a house edge of 2% to 5%. This depends on what house rules are in effect.

But that house edge can be brought down to as low as 0.5%. How does this happen?

Actually it is quite easy to manage. All a player needs to do is play blackjack according to basic strategy. This is accomplished by checking your basic strategy chart to see what play is recommended. And then make that play.

That is all there it to it. Playing blackjack according to basic strategy lowers the house edge to 0.5% over time when every play is made according to what basic strategy says.

Basic strategy comes in the form of a chart with all player hands running down one side and all of the dealer’s up cards running across the top. When it is your turn to play, find your hand and the dealer’s up card; where those two lines intersect is the best play.

And that is the key: basic strategy is the best statistical play for every hand in blackjack. While you will not win every single hand, you win more hands than if you were to play without it.

And that is often the biggest mistake of players who are brand new to blackjack—they play on guess work.

Basic strategy can be used in casinos—they will let you bring a little chart with you and use it at the tables. It can also be used with online blackjack, so the benefits of this blackjack strategy can be used anywhere. It can also be used by anyone since it does not take much effort to make it work.

In fact your best odds for blackjack, be in online blackjack or blackjack in a casino, are with basic strategy since it is so effective against the house edge. And there is that factor that it is so easy to use!

What Would Make Up the Best Blackjack Game?

While we all enjoy our blackjack games, be it blackjack in a brick and mortar casino or blackjack online, we all will imagine from time to time what would be our perfect blackjack game. Granted, we do not expect to ever actually find our perfect game of blackjack, but every now and then we will all sigh and let our minds wander to this perfect game and imagine the fun and the winnings.

So what would my perfect game of blackjack be? Well, naturally it has all kinds of player favorable rules.

For starters I would have natural blackjacks paying 2-1 instead of 3-2. While a 3-2 payout is awesome, a 2-1 payout will not only pay more but it will also increase a player’s blackjack odds by 2.27%.

What else?

I would have double downs on any first two cards, not just 10s and 11s. That right there would increase a player’s blackjack odds by 0.23%. And while we are on the subject of double downs, I would also allow for double downs after splitting a pair. That little move adds a nice 0.15% to the blackjack odds of a player.

Moving on to the subject of pair splitting, my perfect game of blackjack would allow resplitting on any pairs, which adds 0.03% to their player odds. Not a lot but any rule that gives a blackjack player more options is a good thing—except side bets, there would be no side bets in this perfect game of blackjack.

And I would allow for early surrender on any first two cards. That gives a nice 0.62% boost to your blackjack odds.

As for rules that apply to the dealer, he would have to stand on soft 17. I would not have any off that hitting a soft 17 nonsense. Taking away the dealer’s ability to hit a soft 17 takes away the negative 0.2% to your player odds.

Finally to top of this perfect game, the number of decks these rules would be played out on: a single deck. Just like in the good old days of blackjack before casinos started getting greedy and wanting to make the game harder.

Adding all the player favorable advantages here together gives the player 0.835% odds. Just those rules alone but the game’s odds in your favor. You would not even need card counting at this point. While I would not win every single hand in this game, I would certainly be pulling in more in winnings than I would in a typical blackjack game. And this is all before using basic strategy too.

Unfortunately, the chances of me finding such a game of blackjack, be it an online blackjack game or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, are not all that great. But I can dream, right?

Different Payouts Effect Blackjack Odds

Not all blackjack players are aware that how the rate of a payout can affect their blackjack odds. In some cases the effect on one’s blackjack odds is quite significant.

In most cases you will not find anything other than a 3-2 payout for online blackjack. The only exceptions to this are blackjack variations. These variations often carry even money, or 1-1, payouts in their games. But in normal blackjack games online the payout is 3-2.

Players need to be more watchful in the brick and mortar casinos. Payouts are not always posted and many players do not bother to ask, only finding out too late that they are playing at a table that does not pay 3-2.

It is important to check or to ask what the payout is before beginning to play. Not only does payout affect your money, it also affects your blackjack odds.

This is because you odds are based on your opportunity to profit from a round of blackjack. House rules can decrease these opportunities, therefore decreasing your odds, but often these are less than 0.2%. Not that you should disregard house rules that decrease your odds, but changes in payout can be even more substantial.

Players have heard of blackjack games that are offering a 6-5 payout, but there are some that are starting to pop up that are offering 7-5 payouts. Even though 7-5 is a little better than 6-5, neither one is going to do you any favors in terms of your blackjack odds.

A game with a 7-5 payout reduces your blackjack odds by 0.45% right off the bat. Just because you would be receiving less money. And those 6-5 payout games, those reduce your odds by 1.39%, which is a pretty big jump.

If you were playing with basic strategy and started in with the house having a 2% house edge, the house edge could be reduced to 0.5%. But if the payout is 6-5, then you just went to 1.89% odds in the house’s favor. You would be almost back were you started.

And those blackjack variations, like Super 21, with the even money, 1-1 payouts? Just that 1-1 payout takes 2.27% of your odds away from you and gives it to the house.

Always make sure you check what the blackjack payout is before sitting down to a game. You do not want to lower your blackjack odds simply by not checking to make sure you are playing in a 3-2 payout game. When going to play blackjack always look for 3-2 payout games.

Word on the Dealer Hitting Soft 17

In most blackjack games the dealer stands on all 17’s. Doesn’t matter if it’s a hard 17 or a soft 17. However, there are some casinos whose house rules allow one or two or most of their dealer’s to hit a soft 17.

For players this is a good thing and a bad thing.

On the surface, a dealer having to hit a soft 17 looks pretty good. Just the total of 17 sounds high enough to bust. But you have to remember that Ace. The dealer, just like any blackjack player, can reduce that 11 to a 1.

Luckily for blackjack players a dealer will still most likely bust a soft 17. Reducing the Ace to 1 does help them to save their hand, but they are still sitting high enough that they still have a good shot of busting. For example, a soft 17 is made up of an Ace/6. The dealer hits and receives an 8. They have to reduce that Ace, so their new hand total is a hard 15. The dealer has to hit again that is a 7 or higher will bust him. Overall the dealer has more of a shot of busting with a soft 17 than when he has to stand.

You can see how the chances of busting are higher.

However, because the Ace can be reduced, the dealer still has a shot of not busting. When the dealer doesn’t bust he has a greater chance of having a final hand total that is more than 17. Because of this the house edge goes up in favor of the house to the tune of 0.2%. And that’s a pretty good chunk.

Because the house edge of a game that allows the dealer to hit on a soft 17 is 0.2% higher than a normal blackjack game, players tend to avoid these games.

That Soft 17

Want to know about a bad house rule?

Here’s one: the dealer can hit on soft 17.

Generally speaking, dealers have to stand on 17s. This would also include a soft 17.

However, there are some casinos out there—and some online versions of blackjack as well—that will allow a dealer to hi a soft 17. This gives the house an additional two tenths of a percent to their edge.

We all know that playing perfect basic strategy can lower the house edge to around 0.5%. We know that the casinos know this too. They’re very aware of basic strategy and what it can do. So it’s not all that surprising that they would try to make a low blow to increase their edge even if only a little bit.

This is what hitting on a soft 17 does for them.

Like for blackjack players, hitting on a soft hand can give it a second chance at becoming a strong hand. When the cards are running thick with low cards, the dealer is in a prime position to hit that soft 17 and potentially make a stronger hand.

It’s not enough that the house has the edge, even with basic strategy. Oh, no, they’re going to try to increase their edge in any way that they can. Hence a dealer hitting on a soft 17.

Hitting a soft 17 is a low blow because, while hitting a soft 17 isn’t a huge increase, it’s enough to be annoying—like a light slap in the face. It’s like that guy in a debate who doesn’t have any good points to argue against you with so he calls you a name instead.

A dealer hitting a soft 17 is one of those new rules that casinos are using to “freshen up” a strong classic casino game. Blackjack doesn’t need any freshening up, and that’s a sorry excuse to try to fool players into allowing the house more of an edge.

Only play in blackjack games in which the dealer must stand on all 17s.

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part VI

After a bit of a break we’re now going to return to the player favorable blackjack rules.

Have you ever been in a game and the round hasn’t played out the way you would have liked it to? You just wish that you could’ve backed out of the round somehow.

If you were playing in a game that allows for late surrender then you could have.

Late surrender allows you to quit the round after seeing the dealer’s hole card for the cost of half of your wager. Let’s say you had bet $20 and then decided to make a late surrender. You would only lose $10 rather than the whole $20.

The only time you can’t make a late surrender is if the dealer turns out to have a natural blackjack. Automatic loss then.

But late surrender can come in handy for the approximate 43% of the time that you are dealt a stiff hand. If you’re dealt a stiff hand, make your play, and then feel that you don’t have a decent shot at winning after the dealer’s hole card is revealed, you can still surrender. This comes in handy with stiff hands because you tend lose more of those hands than win. Late surrender will help to minimalize your losses in those cases.

And because of that advantage you have in being able to bow out of the round, the house edge is lowered by 0.08%. But you must play it correctly. And that means abiding by basic strategy.

A good basic strategy chart will tell you when to surrender if the option is available. Most charts will tell you that the best time to surrender is when you have a hard 15 and are facing a dealer up card of 10. The other best times to make a late surrender is when you have a hard sixteen and the dealer’s up card is a 9, 10 or an Ace.

Keep an eye open for Player Favorable Blackjack Rules–Part VII

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part V

Yes! There are more player favorable blackjack rules for you to be on the hunt for. While the 2-1 payout is probably the best thing to look for in a blackjack game, it is not a common sight in casinos. But you can look for the other player favorable rules discussed in this series. While these other rules don’t lower the house edge as much as the 2-1 payout does, every little bit helps.

When building your blackjack strategy, it is important to know what rules of the game are good for you and which ones are good for casinos. This is a more passive portion of your strategy as opposed to learning a skill like basic strategy or card counting. The point of strategy is to work your opponent down through using their weaknesses combined with skill. Think of player favorable rules as their weaknesses and basic strategy and card counting as skills you learn.

That being said, the next blackjack player favorable rule for you to know to use in your overall strategy is doubling down on three or more cards.

We’re all used to doubling down on the two initial cards we are dealt. We also know that hand totals of 9, 10 and 11 are the best times to do this.

And while this is still the most common blackjack practice in regards to doubling down, there are some casinos now that are doing something different with their doubling down rules: they are allowing players to double down after hitting for more cards.

Let’s say that you are dealt a 2 and 3 for an initial total of 5. You would of course hit. Let’s say that you drew a 5 for a new total of 10. And the dealer’s up card is a 6.

With a hand total of 10 you would want to double down, but based on regular casino rules you won’t be able to because you had already hit for more cards. This newer rule would allow you to double down on that 10 even though it’s made up of three cards.

This blackjack rule significantly increases your chances to double down, and therefore to win more hands, which means more money. This rule also lowers the house edge by around 0.2%

Now let’s say that you have been playing perfect basic strategy in a blackjack game that allows you to double down on more than three. Perfect basic strategy can lower the house edge to 0.5%. Now subtract that 0.2%. The house edge with this rule can be lowered to 0.3%. See how it adds up?

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

Player Favorable Blackjack Rules—Part III

Ready for some more player favorable blackjack rules to look for? Well, who wouldn’t be?

Now, the likelihood of finding every single player favorable rule at one single game isn’t that great. You need to look for the best combination of these rules. You may only find a game with only one of these rules, but it will still be better to play at than a game with no player favorable rules—or worse, casino favorable rules like the 6-5 payout. But if you happen to find a blackjack game with all the player favorable rules, let me know!

But for right now we’ll look at resplitting Aces.

We all know to split Aces. We split them for their flexibility of being used as a 1 or as an 11. Each time you split up a pair of Aces you are potentially starting each hand with 11 and are half way to blackjack. At the worst you can reduce the Ace down to 1 if necessary and play out your hand as if you had been dealt a soft hand.

But look for a moment at being dealt a pair of Aces that you split. Let’s say that one of your original Aces received another Ace. Some casinos won’t allow you to resplit, which leaves you with a hand total of 12. A stiff hand that you can try to hit, and might win. But we all know how stiff hands turn out.

By not letting you resplit Aces, casinos are increasing your chances of losing, which of course increases their chances of making money.

And this is why you want to look for blackjack games that will allow you to resplit Aces. Allowing resplits lowers the casino’s edge by about 0.06%. It’s not a huge amount but the point of having a blackjack strategy is to chip away at the casino’s edge. And resplitting Aces is one more way of doing so.

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