BLACKJACK SCHOOL – 10,10 vs. 5

June 4th, 2008

Charles Jay’s
BLACKJACK SCHOOL
Designed to help you play a better game

WHAT DO YOU DO?
10,10 vs. 5

THE SETUP: You’ve sat down and get yourself involved in a multiple deck game where Doubling-down after split (also known as DDAS) is one of the available options. You’re dealt a pair of cards with ten value (either 10, J, Q or K), and the dealer flips over a five, which is commonly known as a “stiff” card. Your eyes pop out of your head. “Wow,” you say to yourself, “Here’s an opportunity to get a lot of money on the table against this horrible card. How could I possibly pass up on that?” You have a real temptation to put the maximum amount of chips on the table, in an effort to capitalize on the situation. Should you?

So…..

What do you do?

CJ’S WAY: Put your eyes back into your head. This is a scenario where you could very easily shoot yourself in the foot by doing the wrong thing. Do not flip the switch. Do not take more chips out. Do not pass “Go.” Do not try to collect $200. Wait a minute, I’m getting carried away with myself……You get the idea. Stay right where you are.

WHY WE DO IT: If you do what I suggest, and hold back from splitting this hand up, you are going to win about 78% of the time, compared to losing 11% of the time. Your positive expectations go way, way down when you vary from that. Even when the DDAS option is open to you, you will suffer 34% losses when you split these cards up. When you stand with 20 you are going to gain approximately 13%. As you should know by now, we are looking for the highest percentage play for each situation. Therefore, there is no plausible reason to do anything else than that which yields the best value.

Splitting tens against a five can be advantageous if you are counting cards and are in a situation where you can implement that practice. However, if you are a Basic Strategy player, you must operate on the principle that breaking up winning hands is not a winning policy. It will not be often that you find relatively opportunities to win hands. When they are laid out before you, you can’t blow the chance!

(Play blackjack, along with dozens and dozens of other casino games, at Superior Casino. It’s a superior experience!)

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BLACKJACK SCHOOL – Designed to help you play a better game

May 15th, 2008

Charles Jay’s
BLACKJACK SCHOOL
Designed to help you play a better game

WHAT DO YOU DO?
A,5 vs. 2

THE SETUP: You’re playing in a game where soft doubling is allowed. The dealer gives you an Ace and a five and then flips up a two. The hand of Ace-Five gives you a total of either 6 or 16 – it’s your choice as to which way it will work better for you. Your options are to stand, hit, or double down.

So……

What do you do?

CJ’S WAY: When you think about it, standing on this hand doesn’t make a lot of sense. What you need to resist is the temptation with the idea of doubling, just because the dealer isn’t showing an upcard that is classified as “pat.” What you need to do here is HIT this soft hand.

WHY WE DO IT: Essentially, there are two questions we’re asking ourselves – (A) Is the Ace-five (remember to call it that, not 6 or 16) strong enough to double with?; and (B) Is the upcard the dealer is showing (the two) vulnerable enough to double against? The answer to the first question is, generally, yes. The Ace-Five gives you that total of 6 or 16, and you could wind up in a lot worse condition. In point of fact, you WILL double this hand against the dealer’s upcard of 4,5, or 6. However, the answer to the second question is, NO, the two does not provide enough of an opportunity to double on this hand. It allows the dealer too much of a chance to attain a solid or standing hand. The bottom line, mathematically, is that with this hand you have an overall negative expectation; you will win 1% MORE and lose 1% LESS if you hit the hand as opposed to doubling it.

————————————

WHAT DO YOU DO?
A,5 vs. 7

THE SETUP: You are playing in a game which features soft doubling. You are dealt an Ace and a five, while the dealer shows a seven. You can’t bust out with one hit in this situation. Obviously, when soft doubling is available to you, you’re always looking for a chance to exercise it. Here we may have one of those chances.

So……

What do you do?

CJ’S WAY: No, it doesn’t. No doubling here. You must HIT this hand.

WHY WE DO IT: Remember that the Ace-five gives you a total of either 6 or 16. Certainly this doesn’t constitute a hand that’s good enough to double with against a dealer’s seven. Examining the math, doubling on the hand produces a negative expectation. You will, in fact, lose over NINE more hands per hundred than you will win. That represents about a 20% deficit, which is what you ant to avoid. However, considering the alternative, when you simply hit the Ace-five against the seven, you’re actually looking good. Leaving all pushes between the player and dealer aside, when you hit this hand you will win and lose almost exactly the same amount of times. That becomes essentially a break-even, which represents a better way to go than doubling in this scenario, where you are putting more money into play and at risk.

Try these suggestions next time you log in at Superior Casino.

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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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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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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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