Blackjack in the Gulf

Are you a blackjack player near coastal Louisiana or coastal Mississippi? If so you might just find your blackjack games at brick and mortar casinos beginning to show the effects of the two month old BP oil spill.

I am in no way saying that blackjack or gambling is more important than the animals or ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico that are being affected by the continuous flow of oil. Those animals and those ecosystems are way more important.

But as the summer tourism season gets underway coastal areas who rely on tourism will find that they are feeling the pinch of the oil spill in another way. It is likely that tourists will be choosing other destinations for their summer plans, which will hit areas hard. This will be an especially hard hit to areas that are still recovering from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

So what does this mean to blackjack fans in coastal Louisiana and costal Mississippi?

As tourism in those states and in those areas begins to show the affects of the BP oil spill in the form of a reduced number of tourists, one of two things could happen in casinos in regards to their blackjack tables.

One thing that could possibly happen is that casinos implement more 6-5 payouts at blackjack tables to help boost their profits. Or they could start using rules that increase the house’s edge, such as allowing the dealer to hit on a soft 17. Such steps to try to wring as much money out of blackjack players could increase their profits somewhat, but in the end, I think, it will drive blackjack players away.

On the other hand, casinos in coastal Louisiana and Mississippi could put forth blackjack games with player favorable blackjack rules, such as Charlies and doubling on any two cards. Blackjack players would flock to take advantage of such rules, and the casinos can bring in a profit from their accommodations and the breaks they take playing slot machines.

As the summer rolls in we will all see how tourism is affected by the oil spill, and blackjack players will see if they should in fact plan a trip to those coastal area casinos or to casinos in other areas. But if you do visit coastal Louisiana or Mississippi do not visit the beaches—I have heard it smells like burnt melted crayons.

Bad House Rule: Dealer Can Hit Soft 17

I have noticed something rather interesting of late pertaining to blackjack. There seems to have been an increase in blackjack games that allow the dealer to hit on a soft 17. And this happens with the casino industry being hit harder by a hurting economy and an increase in online blackjack.

On the surface a dealer hitting a soft 17 does not sound like too big of a deal. If you are shrugging your shoulders and saying, ‘Yeah, so what?’ then you obviously have no idea what a dealer hitting a soft 17 does to the house edge.

Let me ask you, would you like the house’s edge to be increased by 0.2%? No? Then you need to avoid playing blackjack games, be they online blackjack games or brick and mortar blackjack games, that allow the dealer to hit a soft 17. That house rule does exactly that: increase the house edge by 0.2%.

The reason for the increase is the same reason why blackjack players like being dealt Aces. Not only are they key to a natural blackjack, but Aces are the only flexible cards in blackjack. They start with a value of 11 but can be reduced to 1 if necessary. And that is why the house edge goes up if the dealer can hit a soft 17.

Sure the dealer has just as much of a chance of busting as a blackjack player does when hitting a soft 17, but when the dealer does not bust his chances of having a final hand total greater than 17 are also a lot higher. Hence the house increase of 0.2%

And 0.2% is a pretty good chunk. It can give back just under half of what basic strategy reduces the house edge to, making it increase from 0.5% to 0.7%. Why give the house anymore help increasing their odds against you? It is in the best interest for your blackjack odds and the effectiveness of your blackjack strategy to avoid blackjack games, online or not, that allow the dealer to hit a soft 17.

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?

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.

How to Play with Soft Hands–Soft 17

Soft hands can be tricky to play with real success. It’s all because of that Ace. Some players will look for the easy way out when they have been dealt a soft hand.

Take, for example, being dealt a 6 and an Ace. Soft 17.

Many players will play this hand as they would a hard 17. That’s because they are so focused on that 17. And in some cases that’s an acceptable thing to do. But in many cases it isn’t the most advantageous play to make. ‘Isn’t the most advantageous’ as in you are going to lose more money in the long run if you always stand on soft 17.

Let’s go back to the basic principle of blackjack strategy, and that is assuming that the dealer’s hole card is worth ten. Once you assume that you can assume what the dealer’s total is versus what your total is.

Pretend that you have been dealt a soft 17 and the dealer has an upcard of either an 8, 9, 10 or Ace. If the dealer has any one of those for an upcard, and you assume that his hole card is a ten, then you need to play a defensive strategy.

And having a soft 17 gives you the ability to play defensively. You can turn that soft 17 into a hard seven and hit, which is what basic strategy tells you to do with a hard 7. This is giving your hand another chance at winning.

You can take even more advantage of a soft 17 by doubling down. It’s best to double down when the dealer is showing a 3, 4, 5 or 6. This is because the dealer has the best chances of busting against a soft 17, making you the winner.

You can use this blackjack strategy for a soft 17 both in casinos and online casinos.