For Your Blackjack Strategy and Your Odds—the Double Down

No, I am not talking about that so-called sandwich. A friend of mine tried it once and could not eat for two days his stomach was so upset.

I am talking about the double down play that players can make in blackjack. This handy little play packs quite a punch against the house. And we all know that when the house’s edge is hit, the player’s blackjack odds go up. So it is important to include doubling down in your blackjack strategy.

Doubling down is when a player doubles his original wager and only receives one more card before standing.

As you can probably tell, this is not a play that you make any old time in blackjack. It is a play that must be used at advantageous times. And this is where strategy comes in.

It is well-known that one of the best tools for blackjack strategy is basic strategy. This little chart will tell players when the most advantageous times to double down are. Doubling down when it is not advantageous is a quick way to lose money since your wager, once you have doubled down, is twice what you started with.

Casinos lean on the fear players have of losing their money to keep them from doubling down. But players need to take a deep breath, swallow the fear and double down when strategy calls for it to happen. Otherwise players will not knock 1.6% off of the house’s edge.

Did I forget to mention that earlier? I did? Well, it is true, doubling down when it is advantageous hits the house’s edge for 1.6%.

That is a fairly big hit to their edge, which means that players make a gain to their blackjack odds because they are gaining money. And not just the regular amount won off of a normal hand; players win twice the amount of their double down wager. In fact, it is the extra amount won that makes for such a hit to the house’s edge.

Because of the gain in blackjack odds and in money, players need to add doubling down to their blackjack strategy—but only when it is advantageous.

Good and Bad Blackjack Tips: Card Counting Online

When looking at online casinos many of them have little sections on their sites with information about their casino games and casino games in general. Not always, but fairly often casinos will actually give players tips on how to play, say, blackjack and tips for blackjack strategy.

Now what is funny to me is that there are some players out there who blindly follow those tips on how to play blackjack and for blackjack strategy. Stop and think about that. You want to follow the tips on how to play better—as in win money—from the online casino—which wants to take your money? Yeah, that is what I thought too.

So I went out to see what some of these tips are. Some of it was as I expected and other times I was surprised. There are actually online casinos out there that will offer genuinely good blackjack playing tips.

Here is some of what I found and some blackjack tips about what I what I found.

I did find online casinos that encouraged players to use card counting. This is very dubious to me. Card counting is very much frowned upon in brick and mortar casinos. So first off why would an online casino encourage players to use it in online blackjack?

The answer is simple. Because card counting is ineffective in online blackjack. Because of the game’s RNG no card is ever discarded and all are still in the deck, so to speak since we are talking about a virtual game. On top of that, again because of the RNG, it is like all of the cards are shuffled before each round because the RNG randomly pulls a combination for the beginning of each round.

So online casinos will encourage card counting for online blackjack because it will not actually work and it actually can hurt a player’s online blackjack odds by trying to use it. Players could increase their wagers, thinking that they are getting the jump on the house and a run of high cards, when there are not any discards to back up that run.

Really all this so called blackjack tip is doing is encouraging players to use a blackjack strategy that does not work online in order to create erratic betting, which causes a gain in money for the online casino. So understand card counting does not work online, even if the online casino’s tips say it does.

Oh, and think twice about an online casino that is encouraging you to use card counting when playing online blackjack.

Blackjack Odds: Another Reason to Cut Insurance from Your Blackjack Strategy

Some players are die hard about insurance and blackjack. They insist on insurance remaining a part of their blackjack strategy.

It has been explained numerous times why insurance is bad for your blackjack odds.

For one thing it is a side bet. Side bets were created with the purpose of squeezing even more money out of players. The best you can do with insurance is break even. In other words you wager an additional $5 on a $10 wager just to hang on to your $10. It is still more money on the line, which is another opportunity for you to lose money. Losing money is bad for your blackjack odds and will lower them.

For another thing the only way to win an insurance bet is for the dealer to have that 10 for a hole card and to therefore have a natural blackjack. Hoping to win an insurance wager is hoping for the dealer to win the round. And there is something just wrong about hoping for the dealer to win.

Finally there are the blackjack odds of the dealer having a 10 card and the money involved in those odds.

A dealer only has a 31% chance of having a 10 card for a hole card. That is only four times out of thirteen: 10, Jack, Queen, King. The other nine out of thirteen, or 69%, of the time the hole card will be any other card.

Now we are going to say that you are wagering $10 per hand, which makes insurance $5 each time. In terms of money this means that you could expect to win $40: four times $5. So if there is a nine in thirteen odds that the card is anything other than a 10 card it means that you will lose $45.

So you see, by taking insurance you are hurting your own blackjack odds and losing more money that you would not have to. Insurance makes for bad blackjack strategy.

Blackjack Strategy and Odds for Shuffle Machines

A good many blackjack players do not think twice when in a brick and mortar casino about what sort of shuffling is happening at their table. This is especially true of novice players who do not understand how shuffling impacts their blackjack odds.

And it is true, something as with seemingly as little consequence as a shuffle machine can indeed impact a player’s blackjack odds—and not in a good way.

I will cover online blackjack first as it is the simplest. There is only one kind of ‘shuffling’ in online blackjack, and it is like a Continuous Shuffle Machine (CSM). This is because when the RNG goes to pull the cards for the next round, it is pulling from all possibilities. This means that no cards are ever discarded. Hence, why online blackjack ‘shuffling’ is like playing with a CSM.

In online blackjack there is no choice on shuffling methods. Players just deal with the RNG and keep on playing. But players in brick and mortar casinos do have a choice. And often they make the wrong one.

When playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino there are generally three different types of shuffling available: CSMs, non-continuous shufflers and hand shuffling.

For experienced blackjack players it is well-known that CSMs are the worst type of shuffling. Well, they are if you are a card counter as they make card counting impossible.

Sometimes novice blackjack players pick up on this, and so they deem CSMs as bad and avoid playing at tables that use CSMs. Good job, newbies!

However, a good many of them will play at tables with non-continuous shufflers. In truth, when you do not consider card counting, these are just as bad as CSMs. This is because all shuffle machines—CSMs and non-continuous shufflers—speed up the rate of play, and THAT is what hurts a player’s blackjack odds.

Both types of shuffle machines speed up the rate of play by around 20%. So say on average you play 100 rounds per hour; if you were playing with some sort of shuffler you would be playing 120 rounds per hour. The more rounds per hour you play, the more opportunities there are for you to lose money:

You are wagering $10 per game. If you lose 52% of the games—which does follow blackjack odds—you would lose $520. At a table with a shuffle machine you stand to lose $624 per hour.

It would be in a player’s best interest to include in heir blackjack strategy to not play at tables with shuffle machines. Why voluntarily hurt your blackjack odds like that?

Blackjack Strategy: Winning and Losing with Insurance

Over the weekend a question related to blackjack strategy and insurance came in. I was asked if it was possible to work insurance into one’s blackjack strategy and win with it.

I had to sigh. Here we go again with insurance and blackjack strategy.

Insurance should not have any place in a player’s blackjack strategy.

Insurance is not the protective play that the casinos would like for players to believe it is. Insurance is only a side bet on whether the dealer has a card worth 10 as a hole card. In other words, a side bet on whether the dealer has a natural blackjack or not. Players only win their insurance wagers when the dealer does have blackjack.

So first you are rooting for the house to win if you want to collect on that insurance bet. And there is something just wrong about rooting for the house to win.

Second, if you do win your insurance wager, you are not anymore ahead. Sure you might think you are because you have won the side bet. Whoopie! You won the side bet! But since the dealer has won with a natural blackjack, you have lost the round.

In money-speak: yes, you won $10 from your insurance wager, but you lost your original $10 wager. Pat yourself on the back and order a drink from the nice waitress to celebrate.

In a round winning an insurance side bet causes you to break even. You are no further ahead money-wise. And since you gave money to the house you did not have to you actually hurt your own blackjack odds.

Side bets hurt your blackjack odds because they put you in a position to lose more money faster. Imagine if you lost both the insurance side bet and lost the round—you would then be out more money than if you had only lost the round.

And, yes, it is possible to lose both the insurance bet and the round. Say the dealer actually has a 9 for a hole card, giving him a soft 20 that he stands on; and you only have a 19. You lost your insurance bet and the round.

The reason insurance should not be factored into your blackjack strategy is because it hurts your odds by putting you in a position to lose more money. Opportunities to make money increase your odds, and opportunities to lose money decrease your odds. So. No insurance in your blackjack strategy.

Blackjack Odds: Stiff Hand Frequency

Stiff hands are the most awful hands to get in a game of blackjack. In terms of your blackjack moral, you immediately feel bummed out because you know that stiff hands are the toughest hands to play out. And in terms of blackjack odds, well, they are just hard on your blackjack odds.

In blackjack, stiff hands are any two card hard hand with a total of 12 through 16. But for today’s discussion we are going to include a two card hard 17 as well.

The reason is because hard 17s are not quite as great as players think they are. Sure it is a high total and you immediately stand, but you are standing not because you know you have a good shot at winning, but because you know that you are more likely to bust if you hit. In a way you could consider a hard 17 the secret, lesser known stiff hand.

Anyway your blackjack odds for being dealt a two card stiff hand—including a hard 17—is about 43% of the time. In other words, about forty three hands out of one hundred will be stiff hands—so a little less than half of your hand put you in a position to lose.

But also consider this: in your blackjack odds of winning are 48% and tying the dealer are 9%, which leaves your odds of losing at 43%. Interesting coincidence.

Now I am not saying that you will lose every single stiff hand you are dealt—the above comparison was just an interesting note. The only way to win with a stiff hand is for the dealer to bust.

Because of the high blackjack odds that you will be dealt a stiff hand that you are most likely going to lose, it is not surprising that the majority of your money losses will result from these stiff hands. How much? Try 85% of your money losses coming from a hard 12 through 17.

Since you know your blackjack odds for stiff hands are on the high side and that most of your money losses go to them, the best thing that you can do is play out those hands in the best way possible. And that means using basic strategy.

Blackjack Strategy: Things Not to Do

No one is a perfect blackjack player. Well, professional players might come close, but still, no one is perfect.

In blackjack there are strategy plays that have good intentions that end poorly, but the point is that you played the correct play based on basic strategy—the dealer just wound up with a better hand. But then there are full on blackjack strategy mistakes. In fact, forget calling them blackjack strategy mistakes. Some of the plays people make are just flat out mistakes.

Take this one woman I saw on a casino cruise. We were playing at a full table and she was dealt a pair of Aces. Does she split the pair like basic strategy says to? No. Instead she hits, winding up with a three card soft 15, which she stands on.

The dealer then hits twice and ends with a hard 17. Three of us at the table won, two gentlemen busted (that is the tough thing about being dealt a stiff hand) and the other two players lost. Yes, one of those who lost was the woman with the soft 15.

Two mistakes this woman made: 1. She did not split her Aces, and 2. She stood on a soft 15.

First off you should always, always split a pair of Aces. Basic strategy will also tell you to always split a pair of Aces. It starts you off with a strong 11 to build on, and often you will be able to build two pretty strong hands.

Not splitting is guaranteed to give you a soft hand that gives you more potential to lose to the dealer with than to build anything significant.

But if you are inexperienced enough to not split your pair of Aces and you do find yourself with a soft hand, make up for not splitting by following basic strategy. This means that you will most likely be hitting again.

As for that woman’s soft 15, there is no reason not to hit a soft 15. One Ace has already been reduced to 1; there is nothing to stop the other Ace from being reduced if necessary. And that is why there is no reason not to hit a three card soft 15.

Blackjack strategy is there to help you. It can hit the house’s edge and increase the money pull in from blackjack by increasing your opportunities of winning. This is why I always tell novice players to stick to basic strategy…and always split a pair of Aces!

Blackjack Odds: Being Dealt a Natural

The crowning event when playing blackjack is being dealt that natural blackjack—those two cards, a 10 and an Ace. Nothing can beat you. At worst you have to push with the dealer. But that is better than losing. So what are your blackjack odds of being dealt a natural?

You are going to laugh at the answer. Players’ blackjack odds of being dealt a natural are once in every twenty one hands. Ironic, yes?

This does not mean that every twenty first hand is going to be a natural blackjack. It just means those are your average odds.

But I am going to take this blackjack odds knowledge a step further, and I am going to use it to further impress why 6-5 games should be avoided.

Okay, you are playing blackjack at 100 hands per hour. You are at the casino playing for two hours, which means that you are playing 200 hands. Based on the blackjack odds of being dealt a natural, you will have been dealt ten blackjacks. In theory at least, but just go with me.

Now comes the money and the math. Also known to me as the beauty and the beast, respectively.

Just focusing on those ten natural blackjacks we are going to compare what you would get paid in a 3-2 game to what you get in a 6-5 game.

In a 3-2 game, wagering $10, you would receive $15 for your natural blackjack. For those ten that your blackjack odds say in theory that you should have, you would receive $150 in total. Now if you were playing in a 6-5 game you would only receive $120 for those ten naturals.

In short you are handing over $30 to the casino for enjoying what was probably a single deck game.

That is how your blackjack odds of being dealt a natural factor in to your payout. Consider those blackjack odds a part of your blackjack strategy in so much as it will help to further dissuade you from playing in a 6-5 game.

What you need to consider is which do you want more? The single deck game or the $30? Me, I will take that $30, thank you.

Blackjack Strategy: Basic Strategy and Losses

Casinos and online casinos love to perpetuate the idea that blackjack is the one casino game in which the house can be beat. They will even admit that you need a blackjack strategy to beat the house. And they are more than willing to perpetuate the myth that blackjack strategy is the key to beating the house.

And they would be lying to you.

It is true that basic strategy is a major tool against the house in blackjack, but it will not beat the house on its own. Playing according to basic strategy can lower the house edge to 0.5%. But players must play it perfectly, otherwise that 0.5% is not achievable.

Even if you are playing perfect basic strategy there will be times that you lose a round. This is because you only have a 48% chance of winning (ignoring pushes) in blackjack, even if you are using basic strategy. Think about it—if you have lower the house edge to 0.5%, the house still has the edge.

But casinos and online casinos will happily allow and encourage players that they cannot lose with basic strategy. Some brick and mortar casinos will even give players a basic strategy chart for free.

What they are hoping to see are players who believe that they will win every hand with basic strategy who then lose a few rounds and toss the chart away. Once they taught the chart away they are playing without strategy, and that means more money for the casino.

It is possible to lose rounds of blackjack. It is possible to lose them in a row. In fact there is a 14% that you will lose three hands in a row. It is just how it is. And casinos are hoping to bank on that percentage and what players toss their basic strategy charts away.

The best thing that you can do for your blackjack strategy is to understand that you will not win every single hand. Even card counters who are skilled enough to gain an edge over the house will still lose some hands. Stick with basic strategy and hang on through the hands you lose.

Blackjack Odds: Face Up Games

Blackjack games, in general, come in two varieties. Forget house rules and blackjack variations for the moment. I am talking about run of the mill, general casino blackjack.

When you walk into a brick and mortar casino and amble your way over to the blackjack tables you will see two types of games right off the bat. In some games the players will be holding their cards and at other tables the players are not even touching their cards, let alone holding them.

What is the deal with this?

When only or two decks are being used the players will be allowed to hold the cards—but they can only use one hand. One hand with cards and the other nowhere near the hand holding the cards. These are known as face down blackjack games, and their rate of play is slower than face up games.

Face up games are blackjack games in which four or more decks are being used, and the cards are dealt from a show. In a face up game the players are not allowed to touch the cards at all. Think of it as hands-free blackjack.

The reason for this is that the dealer can quickly give the hand totals without the players taking time to do the math on their own. This also prevents players from marking cards or even switching them. It is all in your best interest is how the casinos present face up games.

However, blackjack dealers are quick with the cards, and the rate of play is sped up when playing in a face up game. This means that you are playing more rounds per hour, which means that you have an increased chance of losing more per hour.

Unfortunately the majority of blackjack games are played with four or more decks. And since there is nothing you can do about the odds you get from the increased rate of play at a face up table, the best you can do is look for a blackjack table with the most players. After all the more players there are, the more you the rate of play drops. And that means that your blackjack odds can go back up a little.