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?

Microgaming Online Blackjack Upgraded and Improved

Like any good online game, every now and then an upgrade is needed. Even a game such as online blackjack needs to be updated once in awhile to tweak this or mildly enhance that.

But considering that online blackjack is always the same game with the same rules, its upgrades are more of the tweaking variety. Unlike World of Warcraft, which is changing a great deal in its upcoming expansion. Or so I hear.

So one would not expect that online blackjack could be truly upgraded. But then along comes Microgaming, who likes to show that they are the best in online game development, and gives their blackjack games quite the upgrade.

Microgaming has available a type of online blackjack that features a dealer. It is similar to having a live dealer. Except that there is no pretty dealer on the other end of the Internet connection. Players just have to be content with the pretty computer generated dealer who is not real.

These online blackjack games from Microgaming had a slightly awkward interface. There was the table on which players could play multiple hands if they so desired. And then there was a box where the dealer was supposed to be which featured a picture of a dealer. But the look and the angle of the table to the dealer box to the dealer image itself was on the awkward side. The lines and angles did not line up.

But Microgaming has come along and fixed it. All a player need to do now when they want to see the dealer is change their casino view. Once they do that players will have the appearance of sitting at a blackjack table with a dealer.

No awkward angles. No dealer boxes. But there is still a pretty dealer, boys.

It just goes to show that Microgaming is constantly up to ways to create new games and to improve their existing ones—even ones as unchanging as online blackjack.

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.

Online Blackjack vs. Casino Blackjack

First off, what exactly is casino blackjack? Casino blackjack is a way of differentiating between blackjack that is played online and blackjack that is played in a brick and mortar casino. Without having to say blackjack in a brick and mortar casino every time.

So now that we have that established, what is the difference between?

First off, when you play blackjack online you are playing alone. It is not like some of those online poker rooms in which you are playing at the same table with other people that could be anywhere in the world. Online blackjack is one on one play between you and the dealer.

This does not sound like a big deal but it actually has quite an impact on your blackjack odds.

In blackjack, even with basic strategy, you are playing with less than 50% chance of winning a round. This means that you have a greater chance of losing than winning a round. And the more rounds you play per hour, the larger the chances of losing more money. This is why online blackjack players are cautioned to slow their rate of play.

When playing at a full table, like you can do with casino blackjack, you might only have fifty five rounds in an hour. But playing one on one in online blackjack you could wind up playing upwards of two hundred rounds in a single hour.

So one of the differences between online blackjack and casino blackjack is the change in the rate of play simply because you can only play one on one in online blackjack.

Changes in Blackjack in Nevada

Blackjack payout or a dancer, which would you pick?

It seems that while the older generation of blackjack players would like a nice table off to the side where they can concentrate on their strategies and the game, the younger generation of blackjack players seem to prefer other things.

Like dancers.

In the last several months party pits have begun to pop up in brick and mortar casinos around Nevada. In these party pits there can be found blackjack tables that are positioned so that they are facing towards a stage. And on such stages are dancers.

On the surface casinos may appear to be whining about the increased cost of employing dancers, but I do not believe that this is the true case that lies beneath the surface.

Because of the increased cost of dancers, casinos are having to decrease the amount of their blackjack payouts. This is one of the explanations for the recent increase in the 6-5 payouts that are replacing the standard 3-2 payouts.

The reason I do not think the casinos mind this increased cost of dancers is because they can use that as a mask to cover the reason behind decreasing the payout. Because we all know that casinos are always looking for a way to drag a little more money out of a player.

Think about it. Imagine a young man approaching the blackjack tables in one of these party pits. His eyes keep coming back to the dancers. He probably will not really read over the house rules on the felt, which means that he will miss the 6-5 payout on the felt. Those same dancers will also cause him to focus less on his strategy—if he remembers to use it at all—which will cause him to make errors in his playing, costing him even more money.

No, the casinos are making more money from their dancers than they are letting one thanks to the distraction they provide. What I do not get is why any blackjack player would want the distraction. The idea is to play your best and to try to lower the house edge as best as possible. Why willingly throw money away to watch a dancer? I thought the point was to try to make money on blackjack.

Best Worst Blackjack Betting System

I have got to say that there is no better birthday present than stumbling across a blackjack betting system written about by someone who knows nothing of the game. Yet this betting system they are writing about is the big secret key to blackjack. Oh it makes me laugh.

So this is my blackjack birthday present to me: presenting and poking holes in the latest blackjack betting system.

This blackjack betting system is called the Labouchere. And its writer claims that it is the most precise way to “consistently winning big money.” This Labouchere betting system is a negative progression system. This however is incorrect as the progression is based on winning, meaning you only progress to the next step if you win the round.

Winning is positive. Losing is negative. So, yes, a negative progression system based on winning. Hmm, what does that tell you right there?

In the opening description about this betting system, the writer claims that you have to win all bets, meaning that you have to win every round. Yes, this is a realistic betting system because you win every single round of blackjack you ever play. If you did win every round, you would not need a betting strategy or system, and the casinos would not offer blackjack.

The Labouchere begins by the player righting down a series of number. These numbers can be any number and the series can be any numbers in length as the amount of numbers needed is not stated. For explanation purposes here is a string of random numbers 4, 6, 3, 7, 2, 1, 9.

We then add the first and last number together for our first wager. Based on the above string we are betting 15chips. What value of chips is up to you, but it must be 15 chips. If you win, you cross the first and last numbers out and then add up the next two. So our next water is 6+1=7 chips.

This continues as long as you win. But if you lose you have to start all over with the beginning first and last numbers. But as long as you win, because remember that you win every round of blackjack, you are done playing when you have combined that last two numbers.

So if we were playing blackjack with this betting system and were winning every round, we would bet like this:

4+9=15
6+1=7
3+2=5
7+ uh oh, I do not have a second number. Hmm, guess the writer of this betting system should have mentioned that your random length of random numbers needs to be even in total.

The problems with this betting system are very obvious. The numbers used to determine wagers are random, and random does not work in strategies. The number of numbers needed is random as well. This betting system is based on the idea that the player wins every round of blackjack, which does not happen.

Clearly, the creator of this betting system does not understand the first thing about blackjack. And you can see why betting systems should be avoided when playing blackjack.

Blackjack and Insurance—How Does it Work Again?

I am going to call the basic rules and plays of blackjack Blackjack 101. This includes the objective, hitting and standing. Double downs and splitting pairs goes into Blackjack 102. Then there is the leap into Blackjack 103, better known as ‘first discovering basic strategy.’

But once a new player gets Blackjack 103 under their belts they begin to move into the murkier waters. Bring on Blackjack 104: Casino Tricks and Insurance.

When a novice blackjack player first encounters insurance they are usually a bit confused. Here they are trying to bet the house and the house is offering them a way to save their bet in case the dealer has a natural blackjack. Is that not oh so considerate of them?

But even then the little warning bells go off in the player’s mind: Why is the house trying to help me when they want me to lose?

The truth is quite simple. The house is helping you. They are helping you to turn your money over to them faster.

And really that is all it is. Think first about what insurance is. The dealer has an Ace showing, the less common of the two cards necessary for a natural blackjack. He then offers you insurance just in case he does have a natural blackjack, which means that hole card needs to be a 10. In all reality you are placing a side wager on whether that hole card is a 10 or not.

Insurance is a side bet made for half the amount of your original wager. If you have bet $10 on the round, insurance would be $5 for you. You are wagering more money on a round than is ordinary.

So rather than standing to lose $10 in a round, you could lose $15. And it is possible to lose both bets. Let’s say that you have a hard 19 and the dealer has an Ace. You take insurance and the hole card is a 9, giving the dealer a soft 20 that he can stand on. His 20 beats your 19, and since the hole card was not a 10, you lose the insurance bet too.

What novice blackjack players have to understand is that insurance does not offer them any true benefits, and that it is best not to take insurance when playing blackjack.

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.

Blackjack Fun Fact Friday—Part II

Fridays are fun days. So I am going to continue with this being Fun Fact Friday. Again, I will take no arguments.

Do you remember a few posts ago when I wrote about the history of blackjack? Well, if not a quick recap: blackjack is, as of right now, credited as coming from France, showing up in casinos there in the 1700s. End of recap.

However the Italians had a game similar to Vingt et Un, the French name for 21, which was the original name for blackjack. The Italian version of the game is called Seven and a Half. French and Italian blackjack aficionados still argue over which country should be credited as being the first to have blackjack.

And to further throw a wrench into that debate is Napoleon. In documentation of Napoleon’s life it was discovered that Napoleon was a big fan of blackjack. So it could be argued that, being that Napoleon was French, that he picked up blackjack from growing up in France.

However, Napoleon spent time a good chunk of his time in exile playing blackjack. He was exiled on the island known as Elba. The Italian island I might add. So it could be argues that he picked it up in Italy.

So we are left with a point in each country’s corner as to who can lay claim as to where blackjack came from.

Now, much to the annoyance of the French and the Italians, the Spanish can lay a claim to being the source of blackjack. After all they do have their own version of the game: Spanish 21. But thankfully the Spanish seem to be more laid back about the debate and are happy to just enjoy the game.

Regardless of where blackjack originally came from, it made its way to the United States in the 1800s. And after a ban in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, has been enjoying its popularity since 1939 when Nevada made blackjack legal.