Blackjack Variations: Double Exposure

Double Exposure is one of those seemingly deceptive blackjack variations. It sounds pretty good for a player but in the end there are always rules that eat away at the player’s blackjack odds. And the thing with this blackjack variation is that it can be found in online blackjack and in brick and mortar casinos.

So what makes Double Exposure so deceptive when it comes to blackjack variations? The main in-your-face rule of Double exposure is that all cards are dealt face up, including the dealer’s hole card. So there are no surprises here. Yes, it does add to the player’s blackjack odds by 8.80% but there are other rules that lessen its impact.

The other rules in Double Exposure Blackjack are that the dealer wins all ties except on a tie with a natural blackjack—that becomes a push. And a player’s blackjack only plays even money. In other words you are only receiving a 1-1 payout for the best hand in this game. And players can only split pairs once. It breaks down in odds like this:

House wins ties: -9%
Blackjack pays even money: -2.27%
Only split once: -0.10%

So let’s add that up and we have a negative hit to our blackjack odds of 11.37%. That is a very hard hit to a player’s blackjack odds. And this is exactly why I do not like blackjack variations. They try to trick players, luring them in with one or two really great rules and then hitting them hard with sneaky rules. Although the house winning all ties should be a dead giveaway not play this blackjack variation. In fact when it comes to casino games and their variations, the variations should probably be avoided.

So while having all of the dealer’s cards showing can add 8.80% to your blackjack odds, this variation’s other rules not only take it away, but they hit you for -2.57%. So you gain nothing and lose even more.

House Rules for New PA Tables

Part of the fun of getting new blackjack tables in Pennsylvania is waiting to see what the house is going to set their rules at: are they going to screw me or are they going to be decent and give me a fair shot at winning?

Thankfully the Pennsylvania blackjack tables have been set with some pretty decent house rules. How good? The Pennsylvania blackjack tables will have more player-friendly house rules than two thirds of the tables in Vegas.

So what is in store for players at these blackjack tables?

For starters I am pleased to say that they will be paying 3-2 for natural blackjack. There will be none of that 6-5 stuff in Pennsylvania!

Another good rule: dealers will have to stand on soft 17s. So that is 0.22% that the house will not have.

Double downs will not be limited to only hard 10s or hard 11s. Any two cards can be doubled down on.

Also having to do with double downs, players will be allowed to double down after splitting a pair.

And to top off all of those player friendly house rules blackjack players will be allowed to make late surrenders. So make sure you have a basic strategy chart that tells you when to surrender. This way you will only lose half of your wager rather than all of it.

In total these house rules will result in a house edge of less than 0.4% for those who use basic strategy—and who stick to basic strategy.

It seems that Pennsylvania might evolve into a new blackjack destination with rules like these. Who knows, we just might have the new in place to play blackjack at.

Taking Away the Dealer’s Edge

Did you know that the edge in an average game of blackjack starts out at around 7.8%? This applies to blackjack in a brick and mortar casino and to online blackjack. Does not matter where you find your blackjack, it all starts out at 7.8%

So if blackjack starts out at 7.8% why do most places tell you it really starts at around 5%?

That one is simple to answer really and it is the most direct to take away the dealer’s edge. All you need to do is play in a blackjack game in which you receive a 3-2 payout for a natural blackjack. That is it. It is that easy. A 3-2 payout for a natural blackjack takes 2.35% off of the dealer’s edge, dropping it down to 5.45%.

The reason a 3-2 payout cuts into the dealer’s edge so much is because, while you are getting paid for nothing more than being lucky enough to be dealt 21 in two cards, the dealer receives nothing if he is dealt a natural blackjack.

Want to know another couple of easy ways that a blackjack player can hit the dealer’s edge?

There are two common place player plays that knock some off of the dealer’s edge: double down and splitting pairs. Having the ability to double down knocks a healthy 1.6% off of the dealer’s edge, while splitting pairs takes 0.4% off.

Now while the rules help, you need to actually double down and split pairs. Think of the increased opportunities to make a profit.

The reason that a 3-2 payout, doubling down and splitting pairs hits the house edge in blackjack is because these are opportunities for profit that the house does not have. Think about it. The dealer does not receive a special payout for a natural blackjack. And he cannot double down or split pairs either. When it comes to casino games, blackjack offers rules and plays that take away from the dealer’s edge without too much effort on the player’s part.

So if you really want to be that smart blackjack player take advantage of the rules and payouts that are available to you.

Splitting 8’s for Defensive Blackjack

When it comes to blackjack strategy it is important to understand that not all of your strategy should be focused on offensive playing. Meaning, it should not all focus on making money for you. Not every part of blackjack is in good order for you to win. If blackjack was a game that let you win all the time then online casinos and brick and mortar casinos would not offer it.

Anyway. Defensive blackjack strategy.

Regardless of whether you are playing online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino you must understand that there will be times when you are dealt a losing hand. It sucks. But it happens. And it is not the time to try to make money. So you play some defensive blackjack and try to minimalize your losses.

Being dealt a pair of 8’s is one of these hands that need defensive playing.

Looking at basic strategy and it shows you to split your pair of 8’s no matter what the dealer’s up card is. For the majority of up cards this makes sense. But some players wonder why they should split against a high card like a 10—to them it seems like they are only setting themselves up to lose more money.

But this is not the case. Because this is a losing hand—hey, face it, sometimes they happen—you need to look at what your percentage of losing is and how much you stand to lose.

If you do not split your pair of 8’s you can wither hit or stand. If you hit you have a 62% chance of losing; and if you stand you have a 77% chance of losing. So you split because starting a hand with 8 is somewhat better than starting with a 16 against a 10.

Now let’s look at this in terms of money. You know now that you will lose 62% of the time if you hit and 77% of the time when you stand on a pair of 8’s against a dealer’s 10. Because standing has a greater chance of losing we are not going to look at money, just know that it will be worse than the money lost on hitting.

Hitting would result in an expected loss of $54 per $100 wagered, whereas splitting results in an expected loss of $49 per $100. I know, it is not much of a difference, but every little bit helps in blackjack.

Remember that there are reasons behind the plays in basic strategy. They are the best statistical plays both in terms of offense and defense for blackjack. Even while losing hands do not give you the best chances of winning, you need to play for the best odds. If splitting 8’s is the best odds and has the smallest expected loss that is the way to play.

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?

Types of Pair Splitting Part II

Yesterday I wrote a post about the types of pair splitting there is in blackjack. Pair splitting happens no matter if you are playing blackjack online or in a casino. In order to make the most of pair splitting in terms of strategy and improving your blackjack odds, you need to know when to split pairs.

Basic strategy is the first place to start. A basic strategy chart can be used in blackjack as the most basic way to gain an advantage through splitting pairs. But eventually, once you have mastered basic strategy, you can begin to work in other little bits of strategy. These other little bits offer you the chance to tweak your strategy to increase your blackjack odds a little more.

In yesterday’s post I talked about offensive, aggressive and defensive pair splitting. Okay, I mentioned reckless pair splitting, but that is not to be done.

Offensive pair splitting is when you take a not so great hand and turn it around to make it advantageous. Aggressive is when you take a good hand and push the envelope of your odds to increase them even more. And defensive pair splitting in blackjack is when you try to minimize your losses as best you can.

The choice to play with just basic strategy or to tweak your strategy to try to increase your blackjack odds a little more is up to you. If you really feel that you cannot make the tweaked pair splitting, then resort to whatever play your basic strategy chart says.

That being said here is each pair with when to make offensive, aggressive or defensive pair splits. Notice that not every single pair against every single up card is here. That is because not every single pair splitting decision should come from this. If it is not listed here, play according to basic strategy.

4/4 vs. 5 or 6: aggressive
6/6 vs. 2-4: defensive
6/6 vs. 5 or 6: offensive
7/7 vs. 2, 3 or 7: defensive
7/7 vs. 4- 6: offensive
8/8 vs. 2-7: offensive
8/8 vs. 8-Ace: defensive
9/9 vs. 2-6 and 8: aggressive
9/9 vs. 9: defensive
Ace/Ace vs. 2-8: aggressive
Ace/Ace vs. 9-Ace: offensive

Give yourself some time to practice these. Try playing blacking online in an online casino’s free-play mode. The more you practice your blackjack pair splitting in a free-play mode the more comfortable you will be when playing a real game of blackjack online or in a casino.

Types of Pair Splitting

Knowing when to split pairs is according to basic strategy is one thing. Knowing the difference between types of pair splits in blackjack is another. Sometimes you have to deviate from what basic strategy tells you to do. It all has to do with the type of pair splitting that is necessary.

Pair splitting happens no matter if you are playing regular blackjack or online blackjack. So you will have to eventually decide how to split a pair whether you are at a blackjack table or playing blackjack online.

There are four types of pair splitting in blackjack: Offensive, Aggressive, Defensive and Reckless.

I am going to show you how these types play into improving your blackjack odds. All of the money figures are based on a $10 wager

In the case of Offensive pair splitting you are starting with an average or potentially losing hand and improving your odds. An example of this would be if you were dealt a pair of 7s and the dealer is showing a 5. If you were to stand you could expect an average of a $3.30 loss. But if you split you have a net average of about $1.20. This taking a loss and turning it around, making it an offensive pair splitting.

With an aggressive split you are taking a good hand and pushing the limits on it. For this example we are going to say that you have been dealt a pair that you would probably normally stand on: a pair of 9s and the dealer has a 6 showing. You could expect a $2.80 profit on standing, but by splitting you could expect $4.40 in profit. That is taking a strong hand and pushing it for something more.

Defensive pair splitting is when you have a pair that you know you are probably going to lose with no matter what, and your play is to try to minimize the loss. Let’s say you have a pair of 3s against a 7, and you decide to hit; your expected loss would be $1.50. But if you were to split your expected loss would only be $0.70.

As for Reckless pair splits, those are pair splits done without any real reasoning behind them. They are made just for the sake of splitting. Do not do them.

Tomorrow I will cover which type of pair splitting strategy to use for each pair in blackjack. I do recommend practicing with pair splitting strategies. This does take some time, but the best place to practice is with some online blackjack in a free-play mode.

Basic Strategy or Instinct

Basic Strategy is the single easiest blackjack strategy tool that can be used. Basic strategy can be used for blackjack in a brick and mortar casino, and also for online blackjack. This is because it is based on the basic rules of the game, making it a versatile blackjack strategy tool.

However, this does make it ineffective for variations with different house rules, such as Spanish 21 and Pontoon. It can be used in variations in which the game play is the same as regular blackjack with the variation coming from a side bets. But you should not be playing side bet variations anyway.

What makes basic strategy the easiest blackjack strategy tool? It is because the hard work has already been done. All you have to do is find out what play is the best recommended for the hand you have been dealt against whatever the dealer’s up card is.

I know, this seems really simple. So why should you be practicing a strategy in which all you do is make the play the chart recommends?

Playing according to basic strategy is not as easy as it might appear. This is because sometimes the most recommended play is one in which you have to double down or split a pair, which means putting more money on the table. Or you might have to stand when you would rather hit or split.

Because your instinct might be telling you something different than what the basic strategy chart is telling you, it can make it hard to make the play on the chart.

Basic strategy can lower the house edge in regular blackjack and blackjack online to about 0.5%. But this can only happen when you play every single hand according to what the chart says. This means that you will have to put extra money on the table or stand when you do not want to stand.

The key aspect of basic strategy is that the chart has the best statistical play for every hand against every dealer up card. While you will not win every single hand, you will win more when you make the best statistical play rather than the play that your instinct wants.

In order to make yourself comfortable with ignoring your instinct in blackjack you need to practice using the chart. The more that you have to make a play that goes against your instinct and the more hands you win with basics strategy—even if you are only practicing with play money—the more comfortable your mind will be with abiding by basic strategy.

Blackjack is a game of skill. And skills require practice. While the basic strategy chart is a tool, the use of that chart is a skill. The better you are at sticking to that chart the better your basic strategy skill will be.

Also, the more familiar you are with basic strategy the better you will understand the how’s and why’s of the game. Understanding those why’s and how’s is what makes a player ready to work with more advanced blackjack strategies because the nuances of the game are understood—and advanced strategies are based on those nuances.

So take the time and practice working with basic strategy. Open yourself up towards working on a lower house edge and being a more skilled blackjack player.

Do You Know When the Dealer Will Bust?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly when the dealer will bust? It could make the difference in how you play out your hand in a game of blackjack, maybe make you less hesitant to double down or split a pair if you knew the dealer was going to bust.

Some players believe there are such things as dealer bust cards, meaning that the dealer will bust if he’s showing that card. Don’t believe this. There is no single card that is a red flag for busting. Unfortunately there is no precise way of knowing when the dealer will bust.

But there are cards that he is more likely to bust with. While these don’t guarantee a bust, knowing that you have a better chance can still impact your own playing confidence. Let’s take a look at the percentage of busting for each up card:


Just looking at that list you can see that the dealer has the highest chance of busting in blackjack when he is showing a 5 or 6, with 4 not all that much further behind those two. This applies to both regular casino blackjack and online blackjack as well. The game is still has the same rules whether it’s played on a computer or not.

How does knowing this impact your own blackjack game?

Take a moment to pull up a basic strategy chart. We’re going to look at the most obvious reasoning: stiff hands. What do you notice about the recommended plays for stiff hands, particularly a hard 13 through a hard 16?

You will notice that basic strategy advises that you stand against a 2 through 6, but to hit against a 7 through Ace.

Now look at the dealer’s bust percentages for 2 through 6. You will see that he has the highest chances of busting in blackjack with those up cards. This is why it is recommended that you stand. You yourself have a pretty good shot of busting so you don’t want to hit. But against the cards that the dealer has a greater chance of busting you stand because you are hoping that he’ll bust.

You can see how the reasoning can be applied to the plays for stiff hands when compared to the chances of the dealer busting. Take your basic strategy chart and keep looking at how the plays that are recommended do have a correlation to the dealer’s chances of busting.

Keep this reasoning in mind while playing blackjack, and it will further enforce how valuable basic strategy is to your blackjack strategy.

Source of Dealer’s Edge

Beginning with the base game of blackjack—this is before we apply any strategy or house rules, only the basic rules of the game—dealers start out with 7.8% edge over a player.

That is a nasty edge. So why to people play blackjack then?

They play because even before you factor in a player’s own blackjack strategy, the house rules can actually act in the player’s favor. This is done because casinos—online and standard—know that players will not play a game of skill with and edge like that to try to overcome. So some house rules are in place to help the players out.

The first cut to the dealer’s edge is the payout on blackjack. Any player who is dealt a natural blackjack receives a payout of 3-2. This hits the house for 2.35%. This is the biggest hit to the house edge and the easiest hit to the house that a player can have because you don’t have to lift a finger for it to happen. It happens just in being paid 3-2 for your blackjack.

There are two plays available to players in blackjack that the dealer can’t use: double down and pair splitting. Of the two doubling down causes a larger hit to the house’s edge: 1.6%. This is because players can make twice as much off of a round, whereas you will probably draw even with a split pair rather than lose a round on a bad hand. So pair splitting only knocks 0.4% off the house edge.

But those two only work to lower the house edge when used at their most advantageous times. The best times to double down and split pairs can be found on a basic strategy chart. If doubling down and pair splitting are done at inopportune times they can actually turn around and hurt the blackjack player. And that is another reason to play according to basic strategy—you want to be able to take full advantage of those two plays.

So just those built in concessions will lower the housed edge to 3.45%. And that’s before any player initiated blackjack strategy is applied, such as basic strategy. You can see now why blackjack is one of the most popular card games played whether online blackjack or regular blackjack is your favorite.