Blackjack: The Root of the Phobia & How to Overcome It!

Who’s afraid of blackjack?

Actually quite a lot of people.

So what do they do when at the casinos?

They play slots. They want to try playing strategic games, they want to try blackjack. But they’re afraid of it.

What are they afraid of?

They’re afraid of making mistakes when playing. I suppose this is understandable. We all know that there are die-hard blackjack players who are barely able to restrain themselves when a novice player doesn’t play exactly right. So it’s completely understandable that a novice blackjack player would be intimidated.

But, hey, everyone makes mistakes—even those die-hard blackjack players.

So how do you, slot player or not, gain the confidence to play blackjack?

Start at the beginning and learn the rules. The objective is to beat the dealer without going over 21.

You will be dealt two cards. Add up their value to get your hand total. The dealer will have also received two cards, one will be face up and the other face down.

At this point you have to choose how to play. If you want to try to increase your hand total, then hit for more cards. Once you are happy with your hand total you stand. You can also stand if you are happy with the first two cards you were dealt—you do not have to hit unless you wish to. You can also double down; you would double your original bet and receive one more card before having to stand. If you are dealt two cards with the same value, a pair, you can split them into two separate hands by adding another bet of the same amount as the your original. Each card will receive another card so that each hand will start with two cards. You then play each hand individually.

Learning the game is the easy part. The hard part, and this is what intimidates new players the most, which play to you make and when?

This is surprisingly easy too. Use a basic strategy chart. This is a chart with the best statistical play for every card total versus each dealer’s up card. A basic strategy chart will tell you how to play each hand. Just play how it tells you to and stick with it. You will win more hands in the long run than if you played without it.

This will give you a good start in learning blackjack. Try playing at low stakes table to start out with or practice playing for free online in a casino’s free play mode. Practice will help build your confidence and make you comfortable with the game.

Even Money is a Drain

We have all at one point or another been offered even money.

Even money is only offered under certain conditions. First, you have to have been dealt a natural 21. Second, the dealer’s up card must be an Ace. At that point the dealer will offer you even money.

Even money means that you are betting the same amount that you stand to lose. For example, an even money bet is when you are betting $10 to potentially win $10.

Under the circumstances that even money is offered, you can pretty much think of it as a type of “insurance” bet. With your natural and his Ace up card he will offer you even money. What this even money does is give you an immediate one to one payout.

Normally when you and the dealer both have naturals it’s a push and you win nothing, but you lose nothing also. Even money gets you a one to one payout.

But if you do this you’re sacrificing the additional 50% payout that you would bet if the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack.

So while even money might feel a bit safer you will in fact lose more money in the long run than if you avoided even money. How much are you losing? About 4% of your profit potential.

My advice is to not take even money. True you’re thinking that you’re giving up that one to one payout, but you’re not really gaining anything. Let’s say the dealer also has a natural blackjack and you have to push—you haven’t lost any money! Your profit potential hasn’t been hurt.

Since you aren’t standing to lose any money, even if you come face to face with a dealer’s natural, go ahead and decline the even money. If you have a higher hand value than the dealer or the dealer busts, you will win the three to two payout. And if the dealer has a natural too, so what? You haven’t lost any money.

Misplayed Blackjack Hands—Part III

Last round of misplayed blackjack hands…for now. Who knows, I may discover some more that need light dumped on them.

You’ve heard me say this before, and here it is—basic strategy is the best thing you can do for yourself. So stick with it. You want the best odds, yes? Yes. And they don’t get much better than 0.5%. But that’ll only happen if you stick with The Chart. So do it.

11 vs. a dealer’s 10

As any good blackjack player knows it’s a pretty good idea to double down on an 11. And most of the time it’s easy to do—“Excuse me, sir, doubling down here, thank you.”

But for some reason there are more nerves involved with doubling down against a dealer’s 10. This is like standing on a stiff hand. It doesn’t feel good and your brain is trying to say that doubling down just isn’t the smart thing to do. You usually figure that the dealer’s hole card is a 10, so that would give him a pat 20.

But check this out: the dealer actually has less of a chance of making 20 than you do of making 20 or 21.

And to top this off look at it this way: if you hit you’ll win 56% of the time on one bet. But when you double you have two betting units out there, and you’ll win 54% of the time. So when your brain starts sowing seeds of doubt ask yourself which you’d rather have: win $5 56% of the time or $10 54% of the time.

The bottom line is that The Chart offers you the best chances of winning, and that’s not something to turn your nose up at. I know that it can be hard to go against what your brain is telling you. So perhaps the thing to do is work your brain around to understanding that basic strategy is your best chance at winning in the long run.

Misplayed Blackjack Hands—Part II

And on we go for another round of how to play some commonly misplayed blackjack hands.

Remember that the best thing that you can do for yourself and your odds is to stick with basic strategy. Even when your brain is saying, “No! No! No, don’t do that! It just feels so wrong!” Don’t listen to your brain. Of teach your brain to say, “Just follow the basic strategy chart.”

This will benefit you in the long run. You can lower the house edge from 2%-5% down to 0.5%. But. It only works when you play perfect basic strategy.

12 vs. a dealer’s 2

Now this is one of those blackjack hands that makes you grind your teeth and wish you were playing poker so that you could fold. In your mind, you just know that if you hit you’ll wind up with a 10 and bust. And busting with a 22 is the worst feeling, because you were this close to making it.

But stop a moment. Let’s look at this.

Think about the cards. And when you do you’ll see that you have a better chance of not busting than of busting. The only cards that can bust you are 10-value cards. Everything else—Ace through 9—will not bust you. And there are more of those cards than there are of 10-value cards. It actually comes down to a nine in thirteen chance of not busting. So take the risk, and hit.

Ace,7 vs. a dealer’s 9

How many of you have stood on this hand?

If you do, stop. Right now, stop. That Ace gives you flexibility. If you hit and the value of the hit card is too high, where you would normally bust on a hard 18, you can always reduce the value of that Ace down to 1.

Blackjack is about being flexible. So be flexible.

Doing so will give you a 9 out of 20 chance at winning. When you stand on a soft 18, you only have an 8 out of 20 chances at winning. Take advantage of that flexibility and hit.

Keep an eye out for Misplayed Blackjack Hands Part III.

Misplayed Blackjack Hands—Part I

I see it often enough that I can’t avoid commenting on it anymore. I feel so frustrated when I see players—both new and old misplaying a hand. Deviating from basic strategy. And I feel so bad for them.

But on the other hand, I can understand. Sometimes the right play just seems so wrong to our brains. But you will be better off sticking with basic strategy.

Let’s take a look at a couple of those hands.

Pair of 8s vs. a dealer’s 10

Basic strategy says to split here. And so you should. I know, it’s hard. But two hands of eight are a much better place to start than a hard 16. Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re going to play this as a hard sixteen—and I know you most certainly are not going to play that hand as a hard 16—basic strategy says to hit.

And you stand a greater chance of busting a hard 16 than two hands that start with an 8. Do both have a chance of busting? Sure they do. But this is blackjack not solitaire. Yes, you are going to lose hands—that’s part of playing at a casino.

In the long run, the 8s will lose less money than a hard sixteen will. So. Take a deep breath and split those 8s!

So while we’re on the topic of hard 16s…

16 vs. a dealer’s 7

You know what’s funny?

You will have a player who will hit a hard 16 (a real hard 16, not a pair of 8s that someone isn’t splitting when they should be) against a dealer’s 10, but will not hit against a dealer’s 7. Why? Both have a high risk of busting. However, hitting against a dealer’s 7 has a smaller loser percentage than hitting against a dealer’s 10: 40% as compared to 52%.

Man up and hit!

Blackjack is not a game in which you can guarantee yourself that you will win every hand. Get that notion out of your head. And while you’re at it, get rid of the notion that you don’t have to risk. Sometimes in this game you have to risk in order to win.

And really it may not statistically be a risk, but it just feels like it because your brain is telling you that the right move is the wrong one. Tell your brain to shut up, and stick with basic strategy. Get it in your head that there is risk in casino games and gambling, and that you must stick with basic strategy—it’s your best chance of winning.

Keep an eye open for Misplayed Blackjack Hands—Part II

Perfect Basic Strategy

Does such a thing exist? Yes, in fact it does.

So why haven’t casinos banned this too?

Simple. People can’t seem to play it right or stick with it.

It’s true. I don’t know how often I hear about how there is no way to beat casinos. That there’s nothing that can be done about the odds. And maybe this is because today is a Monday, but I finally decided to put in my own thoughts on this.

Yes, it is completely true that you can not beat the casinos—online or otherwise. There is no absolutely guaranteed way to win every single time. This is why it’s called gambling, folks. You aren’t supposed to know whether or not you’ll win. That’s where the thrill comes from. If you want to know that you will win every single time go play Monopoly—you can buy your win there.

Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t even the odds a bit though. That’s what strategy is for. No, there is no strategy for games of chance like roulette, craps or slots. But not every single game in a casino is a game of chance; blackjack and poker are both games of skill. This means that with work and practice and patience, the odds of the game can be changed.

I know, I know, I said that changing the odds means putting in some effort. But anything that is worth achieving requires effort. And the money you win will feel better because you know you will have earned it rather than knowing that it just fell into your lap. You can hold those chips, look at the people around you and know that you are the better player, not them.

So how can you change the odds in blackjack? Easy. Play perfect basic strategy. Don’t look at that and think, “Wow, perfect, that might take a lot of time,” or “That sounds hard.” Trust me it’s not hard.

You’ve seen a basic strategy chart. All you need to do is print one and take it with you to a casino. Or pull it up in a window so that you can reference it when playing online. Now comes the hard part—and I can’t believe that this is thought to be hard—do exactly as it says to do. That chart tells you the best statistical play that you can make based on the hand that you have versus the dealer’s up card. Do what that chart says every time and you will, over time, lower the house odds from 2%-5% to 0.5%.

The biggest misconception, and why casinos haven’t banned basic strategy, is that people think that they will win every single hand that they play when using basic strategy. This is not true. You will not win every single hand. However, you will win more hands playing with basic strategy than you will if you don’t. Casinos will play that misconception against you. They will allow you to keep thinking that you will win every hand using basic strategy. And then they will watch you throw the chart away after you lose three or four hands, thinking that you have been lied to.

The hard part in playing perfect basic strategy is sticking with it. This tends to be hardest when faced with a stiff hand, better known as a hard 12 through a hard 16. When holding those hands versus a dealer’s up card of 2 through 6 basic strategy dictates for you to stand. It will be so hard not to hit. But the dealer has a better statistical chance of busting than of winning. And you also have a better statistical chance of busting with those stiff hands and dealer up cards than you have of winning. So logically the best option for you is to stand, which offers you better odds, while the dealer keeps hitting and hopefully busts—which he has a better chance of doing.

If you can do what that chart says every single time then you will be playing perfect basic strategy. That’s all there is to perfect basic strategy—do exactly what the chart tells you to every time. If you do so, the house edge will be lowered to 0.5% over time.

So put in the effort and patience and, while you will not flat out beat the casino, you can at least come as close to even odds that you can. And doing what that chart says is not a hard thing to do either.

You and Blackjack Software—Be Wary, Be Very Wary

How many times when cruising the internet, have you seen advertisements and entries on websites boasting the superb advantages of blackjack software? Too many times to count.

I recently visited a site for blackjack software that makes such claims. And I was blown away with the used car salesman pitch. And I sincerely hope that none actually purchases such software in the belief that they will bet the casino or get rich quick.

It’s one thing to advertise practice or training software, but another to try to rip off players who are trying to learn to play and those who are trying to get better at it. So what do you keep in mind when you are looking at blackjack software?

What type of software is it? While I still maintain you and practice are your best trainers for blackjack, we are in the computer age and some players—new and old—will be tempted by blackjack software. But before making any purchases check what it’s labeled for and compare it to what it actually does. Is it really training software or is it a great rich quick scheme? Read through all the information provided about the software you are considering.

Avoid the get rich quick advertising. General rule of thumb here is that if it sounds too good to be true, it is. If you read the disclaimer (and for the site-that-shall-not-be-named, I did read the entire disclaimer) you will see that they make no actual guarantee that you will not only make what their advertisement says, but they don’t guarantee that you will make anything. In other words, they aren’t guaranteeing that you haven’t thrown your money away if you purchase their software.

Beware the ‘Beat the House Every Time’ advertising. You cannot beat the house every single time. Do not for a second think you can. The site-that-shall-not-be-named above actually makes the claim that their software is undetectable in online casinos, but it tells you when to ‘change tables’ so that you don’t get detected. Sound a bit fishy? Don’t worry, it’s thoroughly fishy. You don’t want to get involved with software that can get you into trouble, whether it’s trouble that will simple get you booted from the online casino or trouble that will get you into a legal tangle.

Roll your eyes at claims that software can count cards. This one thoroughly makes me angry. This one is a downright lie. You cannot count cards online. I don’t care if the casino tells you how many decks their blackjack games use. Many players make the mistake of thinking that if they know how many decks are being used that they can count cards. But what is forgotten here is the Random Number Generator. The RNG is what makes card counting in online blackjack impossible as there is no way to predict what cards haven’t been dealt. The RNG in online blackjack can be likened to this: imagine at the end of a round all the played cards are gathered up and shuffled back into the deck. This is exactly what the RNG does, and it doesn’t matter how many decks are being used since the RNG “shuffles” all the cards before each round. So. Any software that claims that it will count cards for you is a definite rip off. You’re a smart player, and smart players know that you can’t count cards online.

Keeping all of that in mind, this is why I’m all for using practice as my trainer, pulling a basic strategy chart up in another window when playing online blackjack. But if you really want to use software be careful of what’s out there—you don’t want to get ripped off and lose money you never had to.

Respect to the Dealer’s 7 Up Card

The dealer’s 7 up card isn’t given its due. Often underestimated, this card should be treated with more respect than most players give it. It’s just a card, right? No. So many times have I seen a player play their hand out the wrong way when facing down a dealer’s 7. When faced with a dealer’s 7, here’s some things to keep in mind and work into your blackjack strategy.

Doubling Down with a 9: Okay, this one might qualify as a smart play. But there is a smarter move that can be made. Don’t double down when you have a 9. Yes, I said don’t double down. Double down only gives you a 53% chance of winning that hand. What if I told you there was a better play to make with better odds of winning? Just hit it. Forget doubling down this time. Hitting with a 9 when faced with a 7 actually gives you a 59% chance of winning. Go with the 59% and hit your hand.

Splitting two 6s: While we all play to win, how you play this hand should be factored into the part of your blackjack strategy of “What’s the best and cheapest way to lose.” This is pair is best left together. You have a greater chance of losing two hands built of those 6s than you do if you just hit. If you split and lose both hands, you’ve just lost twice the money you would have lost if you had only just hit your 12. Just accept that the chances aren’t that great with this hand, hit it, play it out and hope for better cards in the next round.

Standing with an Ace/6: Statistically your soft 17 is going to lose more than it will win. Don’t play for a push, be aggressive with this hand, be fearless. Hit it. Yes, the chances of a hit turning your soft 17 into a stiff hand is pretty good, but you know what? Hit that too. This goes back to being fearless and remembering that you aren’t going to win every hand. Standing with a soft seventeen already has a greater chance at losing than winning, so why not try to improve your hand by hitting. You never know, you just might. Yes, you might lose if you hit, but the chances weren’t stacked for you to win with a soft 17 anyway. So go ahead and hit.

Doubling Down with an Ace/6: Okay, I know I said play aggressive, to be fearless, but there are limits to that. Be smart. While I would hit on this hand, I wouldn’t double down on it either. That I would say is too fearless. There’s a difference between being fearless and stupid. You know that if you double down you’ll only receive one more card. Chances are when–not if—you hit, your first two cards will turn from a soft 17 to a 7, in which case you’ve 14 more points to play with. That means you’ll probably have to hit a second time, which is impossible when doubling down. The smartest thing to do with an Ace/6 when faced with a dealer’s 7 is to hit as much as basic strategy keeps telling you to, but do not double down.

Now that you can see how a dealer’s 7 is a bit trickier to navigate than you might have originally thought. Take those tips and work them into your blackjack strategy—you could think of it as your strategy for how to cope with a 7 up card.

Word on Blackjack Betting Strategies

I’m sure in your time online, while either searching for a good online casino or looking for blackjack tips (always abide by basic strategy, by the way), you’ve seen multiple theories on betting strategies. And, I’ll be honest, I’m not a fall really of them. I rather like my card counting. However, that’s pretty much useless when playing online blackjack. So what’s a blackjack player to do?

Well, there is a couple betting strategies that we can look over.

First, let’s look at the Martingale approach. In this betting strategy for every hand that you lose you increase your bet by a hundred percent. The only time you return to your original bet is when you’ve won a hand. In other words, this strategy is aimed at trying to beat losing streaks. Obviously you need a large bankroll to handle this one though, which could be a downside to using this strategy. Let’s say you are playing at a $10 table, and you’ve lost the first nine hands. That means on the tenth hand you would need to bet $5120. And there’s no guarantee that you would even win that hand. Seems to me that in using the Martingale approach you stand to lose a fair amount of money—more than I would personally be comfortable with. And if your bankroll isn’t outstanding to begin with, you could have a short night in playing blackjack. However, there is a definite benefit to winning back what you lost and making quite a gain too. Let’s say that you won that tenth hand with a natural blackjack—your payout would be $7680.

Now let’s look at the Paroli blackjack betting strategy. Whereas, Martingale seeks to overcome a losing streak, Paroli seeks to make the most of a winning streak. This is accomplished by doubling when you win a hand, but you return to your original amount once you lose a hand. This betting strategy doesn’t require a large bankroll, which is nice for those who don’t wish to risk a lot. Using the same scenario as above, after nine hands you will have only lost $90. But, despite this method being safer risk-wise, it doesn’t seem to me to have the high yield potential that the Martingale method does.

Mostly it comes down to your own personal thoughts towards blackjack and gambling in general. Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty sort of person? Me, I will admit that I’m the half empty sort. I approach blackjack with the mentality that I have a greater chance at losing. I’ve heard that this is smart, as players who believe that they can’t possibly lose tend to be over-confident and lose more.

It never hurts to try both methods in an online casino’s free play version. This way you can try both methods and see which one seems to suit you better. I believe that if you’re willing to risk and the bankroll, the Martingale has a better chance of giving you a larger payout, even though the Paroli is a safer methods. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Blackjack Fallacy! Or Why Card Counting is Not Already a Part of Basic Strategy

After finishing up, for now, the ‘What’s Real and Imaginary in Blackjack’ series, I was going to focus on some other blackjack related aspect. However. That was before I came across this “strategy” that just dropped my jaw.

I can hear you asking, then why not make a sixth Real or Imaginary entry? Easy. Because this so-called strategy shouldn’t be mistaken as a “rule” on how to play blackjack. This is just downright inaccurate and silly. And no new-comer to blackjack should think that this so-called “strategy” is worth anything.

So what is this so-called “strategy?” That the only way to learn to count cards is to have basic strategy memorized.

Yes. Apparently someone somewhere believes this and is trying to spread it. According to him or her, card counting can only be effective if you have already mastered basic strategy. And this is most defiantly not true. It is true that in order to have a sound playing strategy that covers how to play and how to bet, a player must know basic strategy and how to count cards. But the one is not dependent on the other.

In other words, it’s completely possible to count cards but not use basic strategy. It’s not a wise way to play. But not knowing basic strategy will not determine whether or not you can count cards. Both strategies are independent of each other. It isn’t necessary to know how to count cards in order to know basic strategy. Both of these can be used independently of each other or together. I advise that they be used together, but that is up to you as a player. Card counting is extremely hard to do online so all a player has at their disposal is basic strategy.

Do not ever think that you absolutely must have basic strategy memorized in order learn card counting. If you’re just starting out and are still learning basic strategy, go ahead and teach yourself to card count. There isn’t anything stopping you. You could even teach yourself card counting first and then basic strategy. Remember that while both can be used independently of each other, they do not determine whether or not you can learn the other.