BLACKJACK: HOW TO DEAL WITH A MULTI-CARD HAND

March 12th, 2008

BLACKJACK: HOW TO DEAL WITH A MULTI-CARD HAND
By Charles Jay

Let’s say you’re sitting at a blackjack table, whether it’s in a brick and mortar situation but preferably online here at Superior Casino, and you’re playing the Basic Strategy you’ve probably read about somewhere, practiced at home and by now have memorized by heart. You’ve been dealt a 10 and a 2 for a hard total of 12. The dealer has a ten showing. Of course, since it is dictated by Basic Strategy, your move in this situation is to hit.

Okay, so you call for the hit and now you wind up with another two. That gives you a three-card total of 14 on your hand.

So what now?

Sure, you know the Basic Strategy which applies for two-card combinations, but what about three cards, or four, or even five?

This is often the first point of confusion for people who are relatively new to the game; in many cases, it’s something they may not have thought of before.

But there is no reason to become despondent. The answer to this problem, in fact, is very simple: when you encounter a multi-card hand, all you have to do is plug the total right back into the Basic Strategy and go from there.This means that if you’re dealt three or more cards which total 11 or less, you will hit that hand. When your cards total 12 or more, your response would be exactly the same as if it were a two-card hand. For example, a 5-7-3 combo would total 15 and you would hit when the dealer shows an upcard of 7 through Ace and stand when the dealer shows 2 through 6.

Alright, that covers the HARD hands (not the difficult ones but those without an Ace). Now what about multi-card SOFT hands (those with an Ace)? The critical thing, as always, is to refer to the hand as an ace and the sum of the other cards. For example, the hand of A,7 is referred to as “Ace-Seven” rather than “Soft 18” or “8 or 18”, as the dealer might refer to it.

The hand A,3,3 is also “Ace-Six”, because you’ve added the sum of the other cards. Just add those other cards up and plug the hand into your Basic Strategy for the correct play. To exemplify how the rule works, the hands which total Ace-Three through Ace-Six are always hit; Ace-Eight through Ace-Ten (21) always call for you to stand. Naturally (if you pardon the pun), there should never be a three-card hand of Ace-Two, because hopefully, the aces will have been split the first time (another critical part of Basic Strategy you shouldn’t screw up on).

Now let’s go over what may be the only possible exception to these basic rules. That’s the case of the multi-card hand that adds up to Ace-Seven. Basic Strategy mandates that you stand against a dealer’s upcard of 2,7, or 8 in this situation. Otherwise, you will hit. Of course, always remember that with multi-card hands, any two-card Basic Strategy rule which dictates that you double down means that you’ll HIT, since obviously you can’t double a three-card hand (well, there are exceptions to that, but not enough to cover here).

How about when you hit your multi-card SOFT hand and it becomes a HARD hand? In other words, you have an Ace-Seven then get a six which leaves you with 14 and without the flexibility you might have if it was still 11 or under as a total? This, for some reason, becomes a very uncomfortable situation for some people. But it’s actually quite easy to proceed. Simply plug it in once again to your Basic Strategy for hard hands, and you’ve solved your problem.

If you are so motivated, it’s worth it to practice this technique at home in Superior Casino. Configure your own drills where there is a constant dealer upcard and then take out most of the ten-value cards (10,J,Q,K), leaving mostly aces and low cards (2,3,4,5,6) in the deck, so that it will demand quick decisions on multi-card hands. This is a great way to avoid this kind of confusion in the future.

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WHY ARE YOU LOSING?

March 5th, 2008

Have you ever wondered why you haven’t been successful in the casino, at least in extending your play long enough to really have a good time?

Well, maybe the answer lies in some of the reasons we’ve detailed below.
Maybe…….

Possible Reason #1 — MAYBE YOU’VE GOT NO GAME PLAN

Of the people who sit down to play any casino table game, some of them obviously are there for sheer entertainment, but most who are hopeful of making money will likely remain just that – hopeful. They really have no idea what they’re there for, or what they’re trying to accomplish. The good players, i.e., the ones who want to be competitive at least – know what
they’re going to do in each and every situation. Even if you don’t consider yourself some kind of “expert,” you still want to be that kind of player in the casino.

The opposite of that is being rather careless. If you’re on a lark, or if you’re drunk and just biding some time, you’re relying on luck and luck alone. You really don’t have any long-run chance, and we’ve got news for you – you indeed very little chance in the short-run either. That’s okay with some people, because they just want to have a few laughs and an hour or
two of light entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with that. Are you one of those people? Well, just don’t punish yourself too much.

Anybody who thinks losing is funny, please raise your hand. No, I didn’t think so. Part of a playing session, whether it’s in the atmosphere of a brick and mortar casino or online, involves determining ahead of time how much you are willing to put into play and more to the point, how much you are willing to lose before coming back another day.

If you’re not of this mindset, try it sometime. Some kind of control on your casino behavior will wind up doing you some good, which will be noticeable in the long run.

Possible reason #2 — MAYBE YOU’RE TOO SMART TO LISTEN

Let’s face it – a lot of the people who travel to a casino locale for an evening or weekend of play, or engage in online casino sessions, have certain discretionary income which allows them to spend the money necessary AND have bankroll with which to gamble. Many of these people have secure jobs, or run their own businesses, which allows them to undertake this recreational activity. In other words, these are reasonably successful people, and in some cases, very, very successful.

At some point though, they become somewhat less than successful when it came to gambling.

Hmmmm.

Whether it be ego-driven or not, they don’t take kindly to someone telling them that they are playing their favorite casino game the wrong way; that there is a better way to go about it. Or they think they know it all already, just like they know their own business backwards and forward (this is much more common than you think, by the way). Because of all this, bad habits are acquired and will never be shaken. It’s happened a million times and will no doubt happen a million more.

Let’s illustrate this. Say you were talking to a boxing trainer. He would tell you that he would much rather have a fighter come in the gym who was an absolute beginner, who he could teach from scratch, than one who has had a little or a lot of experience but had developed bad habits that were going to be problematic to undo. It’s no different than people who, say, have been playing blackjack or craps for years – the wrong way – and are so far gone that it is particularly hard to reverse that pattern of bad play.

Try not to be one of those folks. Even if something doesn’t seem to make “logical” sense to you, follow it if it is mathematically sound. Your “best bet” is to absorb good advice like a sponge.

Possible Reason #3 — MAYBE YOU’RE BREAKING A CARDINAL RULE BY PLAYING OVER YOUR HEAD

Yes, that cardinal rule sounds so simple. Yet one can claim to understand it and still not do it. Gambling is supposed to be an entertainment vehicle. It is not blood and guts, or life and death. The “spirit” of your play is important here, and it’s not healthy to be mean-spirited toward yourself.

Follow something in the way of rudimentary principles of money management. In the long run, “living on the edge” is not something that will give the gambler more satisfaction. In fact, it will not only distract from the enjoyment of the game as you are playing it, it will invariably wind up dictating that you play less and less.

You do not want to play less and less, do you?

What you may want to do is budget a certain amount of money to play with in any individual session. That does not mean that you are taking the entire amount of what you have on deposit with the casino. The deposit (along with projected bonuses you might accumulate) should constitute the “bankroll” and you should divide it up into sub-bankrolls, if you will, to be used in your individual sessions.

Relax. Enjoy. And don’t fall victim to the tension created when you try to get too excessive too fast. That would kind of defeat the purpose of it, don’t you think?

Go get ’em.

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SHOULD YOU ALWAYS INSURE A BLACKJACK?

February 27th, 2008

SHOULD YOU ALWAYS INSURE A BLACKJACK?
By Charles Jay

Were you ever wondering about this?

There is perhaps no bigger argument at a blackjack table than that which involves the player insuring a two-card natural (commonly known as a blackjack). The insurance rule says that when the dealer turns an Ace as the upcard, he will ask the players if they’d like to “insure” their hands. The player puts up one-half of his original bet, and if the insurance wager wins (if the dealer has blackjack), it pays off at two-to-one odds.

When the player is dealt, for example, a Jack and an Ace, which constitutes the aforementioned blackjack, and the dealer has an Ace showing, there is a great propensity on the part of the player to “protect” that hand by buying insurance. After all, the logic goes, the blackjack is a bonus hand, which pays off at three-to-two odds. The player doesn’t get a blackjack that often, so players feel they had better get something out of that situation. If they have a blackjack and the dealer also has one, it’s a push (a tie) and the player gets nothing.

Many supposed blackjack “experts” recommend strongly that their students always insure their blackjack in that situation. The rationale is that whatever happens, the player will always end up with a profit. And you know something? They’re right! The player will come out with a profit every time, if they insure a blackjack. But I’m telling you that insuring the blackjack is not the percentage play.

Let’s illustrate.

Take a 52-card deck. In this deck, there are 16 ten-value cards, and 36 non-tens, a ratio of 2.25-to-one. When we are faced with the situation in which we have a two-card blackjack and the dealer has an Ace showing, there are now 15 tens and 24 non-tens remaining. That’s a ratio of 2.27-to-one. Remember that insurance pays only two-to-one, so you’re sort of getting “the worst of it.”

But let’s get back to the illustration. Imagine that you’re laying out $10 bets in each of these situations. There are four different scenarios that can take place:

1) YOU TAKE INSURANCE AND THE DEALER HAS BLACKJACK;

2) YOU TAKE INSURANCE AND THE DEALER DOES NOT HAVE BLACKJACK;

3) YOU DO NOT TAKE INSURANCE AND THE DEALER HAS BLACKJACK;

OR

4) YOU DO NOT TAKE INSURANCE AND THE DEALER DOES NOT HAVE BLACKJACK.

In scenario one and two – which we do not recommend for any player – the yield is $10 each for the player. If the player bets $10 and insures for $5, he’ll push the primary bet and win $10 on the insurance bet. If the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, the player wins $15 from the primary bet, but loses the $5 insurance bet, leaving a $10 profit.

In scenario three, we have not wagered on insurance, and tied the dealer on our blackjack. We retain our $10 bet, giving us a net gain of zero. In scenario four, we beat the dealer with our blackjack, giving us a gain of $15 on the hand.

As you can see, when you take insurance, you are guaranteed a return on investment, while in one of our scenarios you gain nothing.

Let’s take a look at probability for a moment: remember, we have 15 tens and 34 non-tens left, making a theoretical total of 49 cards remaining. Since the dealer has to have a ten in the hole to complete a two-card blackjack, let’s calculate the chance of that happening. Just divide 15 by 49, and you come up with a 30.6 percent chance of the dealer having blackjack. That leaves us with a 34/49, or 69.4 percent chance of the dealer not having blackjack. Clearly scenarios two and four are going to happen much more often than the first and the third, even in an online casino.

Now let’s look at what our expected gain is per 100 situations for each of our scenarios:

1) TAKE INSURANCE + DEALER BLACKJACK = $10 (30.6%)

2) TAKE INSURANCE + NO DEALER BLACKJACK = $10 (69.4%)

3) NO INSURANCE + DEALER BLACKJACK = $0 (30.6%)

4) NO INSURANCE + NO DEALER BLACKJACK = $15 (69.4%)

Just multiply it out.

Scenario #1 gives you an expected return of $306 for every 100 situations;

Scenario #2 yields $694 for that same duration. That’s a total of $1000 even.

Scenario #3, in which there is no insurance, offers an expected return of $0, since there was no protection for the blackjack. But in scenario #4, where the dealer doesn’t turn over a natural, we win $15 per play, or $1041 over the course of 100 situations ($15 x .694 x 100).

The difference, or gain, between the results when you TAKE insurance (Scenarios #1 and #2 added) and DON’T TAKE insurance (Scenarios #3 and #4 added) is $41 for every 100 situations, or $1000 wagered.

Our most profitable scenario, therefore, is the one that occurs the vast majority of the time. As this example illustrates, we are gaining 4.1 percent for every $1000 wagered by NOT insuring. The truth is, as we’ve stated before, it is not mathematically sound to exercise the insurance option if you’re a Basic Strategy player.

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THE MARTINGALE

February 20th, 2008

General Gaming
THE MARTINGALE

As long as there has been gambling, there have been betting systems people have devised for the purpose of beating the game. Almost all of them that are no tied to some form of playing strategy are doomed to fail. In the interests of introduce you to some of these systems, perhaps more of an example of what not to do, we will discuss the Martingale.

The Martingale system (and there are different kinds of Martingales, as we’ll explore in future installments) involves doubling the bet after each loss until you win. That means if you’re at a $5 minimum table, your progression would go from $5 to $10 to $20 to $40 to $80 to $160 to $320. If you win sometime within that period, you are going to have a profit for that particular stretch. But obviously there is a flaw. As you’ve already guessed, if you have a $500 maximum at the table, there is only so far you can go with this system. In fact, you can go only seven levels (i.e., sustain seven straight losses) before the table limit renders the system useless.

Using the same $5 bet, you can go only six levels on a table with a $200 limit. And you can go only five levels with a $100 limit.

Proponents of the strategy (and I know plenty of them) will tell you that there is very little chance of losing six or seven hands in a row.

But you know that there are going to be losing streaks, regardless of the game you decide to play, and when you go on one of those streaks using a Martingale, it can kill you.

Let’s use an example of what can happen when you employ a Martingale system in your online casino:

Let’s say you have a $200 limit at the table (obviously not all of them are like this). If you experience a losing streak that takes you over the house limit, you are going to be betting not just the last bet, but everything before that: $5+$10+$20+$40+$80+$160 = $315

You have now lost $315 that is going to take you forever to get back, if it ever happens at all.

Conversely, if you get on a streak of six WINS in a row, you would win a grand total of $30, because remember, the only increases in bets happens when you LOSE. In a game like blackjack, for example, the chances of winning six hands in a row and losing six hands in a row is relatively the same. So you have a $30 win versus of $315 loss. That doesn’t look like a beneficial risk/reward scenario, does it?

Now, if you lose the first five bets and win the sixth, you’ll have lost $155 before winning the bet for $160, coming out $5 ahead. So you have put $315 on the table for a $5 profit that is in no way guaranteed.

You will find all the way through the Martingale system that when you DO win, it is an amount only equal to your single unit bet. In this case it is $5:

* If you win the third bet — $5+$10 = $15 in losses, $20 in wins = $5 profit
* If you win the fourth bet — $5+$10+$20 = $35 in losses, $40 in wins = $5 profit
* If you win the fifth bet — $5+$10+$20+$40 = $75 in losses, $80 in wins = $5 profit

This is a system that will look good, but only until the first protracted losing streak happens. Then it’s an uphill battle, to say the least.

There are other forms of the Martingale system. Let’s examine them, because we want you to know what you’re encountering in your online casino:

THE GRAND MARTINGALE — In the “regular” Martingale, you are going to double the bet each time you lose until you win, which then would yield a net profit. With the “Grand Martingale,” you are going to double the bet after losses, but this time you are going to add $1 to that bet. So instead of going from $5 to $10 to $20 to $40, etc., you are progressing from $5 to $11 to $23 to $47 and so on.

With the Grand Martingale, the losses you sustain if you lose six bets in a row are even greater than with the regular Martingale. In fact, when you look at that total:

$5+$11+$23+$47+$95+$191 = $372,

it is 18% more than if you used the regular Martingale:

$5+$10+20+$40+$80+$160 = $315

It is true that when you win on a series of hands with this system it will put you a little bit more ahead, but the basic principle still applies – you are potentially putting up a lot to earn just a little. In a game like blackjack, the risk-reward quotient is much greater than a player who would be employing Basic Strategy and card counting principles.

THE SHORT MARTINGALE — This is played just like the Grand Martingale, except here you are going to play up to four levels (in this case, $5+$11+$23+$47), then you’re going to quit. Obviously it doesn’t take much to send you back to the drawing board.

THE ROTATING MARTINGALE — This involves the same progression as the Grand Martingale (see above), except you are going to be doubling and adding one dollar if you WIN. For example, if you bet $5 and win, the next bet is $11. Then if you win again, the next bet is $23, and so on. When you lose, you take it down a level. So if you have won the $11 bet, put up $23 and lose, you go back down to $11 for the next bet. Your progression ends when you have gotten to the fourth level and won (meaning you have to win four hands in a row) or when you lose enough to have to regress to zero.

At that point, you’re finished.

And for this subject, so are we.

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SOFT DOUBLING

February 13th, 2008

Blackjack
SOFT DOUBLING
By Charles Jay

One of the player’s most important options available is that of SOFT DOUBLING. This concept applies when the player holds a SOFT HAND, meaning a two-card hand which contains an ace. Of course, a hand with two aces is technically a soft hand, but the player would always split that hand, not double (If you were in a brick and mortar setting, however, and you doubled, you’d probably find pit bosses falling over each other to give you casino comps).

Another soft hand to which the doubling principle does not apply is the Ace-10 deal which naturally (pardon the pun) is a blackjack and constitutes a 3-2 payoff. That leaves us with the hands running from Ace-2 through Ace-9. By the way, an Ace-2 should be referred to by the player as “Ace-Two” and not as “3 or 13”. When this category of hand is dealt, it is the player’s option to take a one-card draw for twice the original bet, which of course is the concept of DOUBLING.

When you double soft hands, they differ from the process with hard hands since you can use either the soft or hard total of the original hand. With a hand like Ace-Five, you can improve your hand by a high card (Ace), bringing the total to 17, or by a low card (2, for example), which would bring the total to 18.

A potential danger to soft doubling as opposed to hard doubling has you making things worse for yourself by using the option. For instance, let’s say you held an Ace-7 which totals 18. The dealer holds a five, signaling the player to double. The player is dealt a six, producing a very weak total of 14. The dealer now has to bust for the player to win.

The soft doubling option does produce a tremendous potential opportunity for the player. Removing the option represents a disadvantage of approximately .14%. That figure at first glance may seem inconsequential but actually is very important, considering the maximum advantage a good card counter can procure, for example, is between 1.25% and 1.5%.

Put that in perspective, and it’s easy to see why the option can be critical.

The Basic Strategy decisions with soft doubling at first can seem a little confusing but become easy after familiarizing yourself with them. The hands are grouped in two — (A,2-A,3), (A,4-A,5), (A,6-A,7), and (A,8-A-9). In a multi-deck game, the Ace-2 and Ace-3 hands should be doubled when the dealer shows a 5 or 6 upcard. The Ace-4 and Ace-5 are doubled when the dealer has a 4,5, or 6 showing. The Ace-6 is doubled when the dealer is showing anything from a 3 through 6.

For all of the above hands, the player will hit on any other dealer’s upcard. The Ace-7 hand is similar to the Ace-6, with a double required when the dealer shows 3-6. But the Ace-7 differs from all other hands, because the player must stand with A-7 against the dealer’s 2,7, and 8 upcards. The two is never doubled upon, and the seven is already beat, for the most part, with a soft 18. A push (or tie) is very possible with the 8 showing. The only way to beat the dealer’s projected total of 18 is to draw an ace, 2, or 3, making it not a very strong option.

The Ace-8 and Ace-9 hands are already PAT, or standing, hands, and should be left alone. In all likelihood, these are winning hands.

All it takes is a little memorization of the basic rules to get yourself in tune to the correct plays. You might want to try a soft hand drill to facilitate learning. Just take one of the soft hands – Ace-4, for instance, and leave it as a constant. Then deal out samples of dealer’s upcards and practice making your decisions. Go through the deck a few times, keeping the rules handy for quick reference. It won’t be long before you know when to hit, stand, or double on soft hands.

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