All posts by Michael Dalton

Michael Dalton is the editor and publisher of the Blackjack Review Network and former editor of the quarterly newsletter Blackjack Review. As an authority on the game of twenty-one and a professional level card counter, he has appeared in public on very few occasions. "It is ironic", Dalton remarks, "that to be successful with one's book and writings you have to publicize yourself, which is contradictory to everything that a player must do to be allowed to win at this game."Michael Dalton is retired from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) after 30 years working in Space Shuttle launch activites, avionics, software development and project management. He is a graduate of Florida Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in Space Science and a Master of Science degree in Space Technology. Besides the space program, blackjack, and poker, his other interests include the martial arts, playing the Scottish bagpipes and managing the BlackjackReview.com web site. He can currently be found enjoying his semi-retirement...You can follow Michael Dalton on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bjrnet.

The Best Blackjack Books of All Time

By Michael Dalton

There are many good books that have been written about the game of blackjack. Here are my personal favorites for the best blackjack books of all time. These books have stood the test of time and provide outstanding advice on how to improve your blackjack skills. As a collection, these books cover everything you need to be successful at beating the casinos. Books are listed in order of the year they were first published. If you buy any of these books, be sure you get the latest edition. 1) Michael Dalton is author of the Encyclopedia of Blackjack and editor/publisher of the Blackjack Review Network. Looking for other good blackjack books? Check out the product review section of the Encyclopedia of Blackjack.

Beat the DealerEdward Thorp’s Beat the Dealer (First published 1962)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? This is the classic that changed the way we all view the game of twenty-one. This book presents, for the first time, a validated winning strategy (a ten-count) based on the results of computer simulation. The 1966 version has a practical point count (Hi-Lo) that was later revised by Julian Braun. Is this required reading for the aspiring card counter?  Probably not…. but if you are a history buff, it is required reading.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Edward O. Thorp: Beat the Dealer ]

Playing Blackjack as a Business Lawrence Revere’s Playing Blackjack as a Business (First published 1969)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? The classic text that many early card counters were taught by including myself. Contained nice color charts that made it easier to memorize basic strategy. Included four counting systems developed by Revere with computer simulation data from Julian Braun.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Playing Blackjack As A Business ]

PICStanford Wong’s Professional Blackjack (First published 1975)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? The best book to learn the very popular Hi-Lo card counting system. Be sure to get the 2011 (or later) version for updates and corrections to the count variation charts.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Professional Blackjack ]

PICPeter Griffin’s The Theory of Blackjack (First published 1979)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? This book is considered the bible on the mathematics of blackjack. Probably not required reading unless you are really interested in math.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: The Theory of Blackjack ]

 

World's Greatest Blackjack BookLance Humble & Carl Cooper’s The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book (First published 1980)

Why? Introduces the very popular Hi-Opt I and Hi-Opt II card counting systems.  The Hi-Opt counts did not assign a value to the Ace, thus requiring that they be side-counted.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: The World Greatest Blackjack Book ]

Million Dollar BlackjackKen Uston’s Million Dollar Blackjack (First published 1981)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? At the time, this was one of the most complete books on traditional blackjack ever published. Discussed everything from card counting to team play. Included the Uston Simple Plus/Minus, Uston Advanced Plus/Minus and Uston Advanced Point Count systems. Also, chapters on the art of single- and multiple-deck play, team methods, front-loading, spooking, cheating, getting barred and tournament blackjack.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Million Dollar Blackjack ]

Arnold Snyder’s Blackbelt in Blackjack (First published 1983)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? Introduced the easier unbalanced Red Seven count and the two-level Zen count. Topics included depth charging, money management, the true count, camouflage techniques, toking guidelines, hole card play, cheating, team play and the effect of table conditions. Written by the editor/publisher of the outstanding card counters resource, Blackjack Forum magazine.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Blackbelt in Blackjack : Playing 21 as a Martial Art ]

Blackjack For Blood Bryce Carlson’s Blackjack For Blood (First published 1992)

Why? The best part of this book is Carlson’s insight into what I call the art of twenty-one. Introduced the advanced ace neutral two-level Omega II count.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Blackjack for Blood ]

Knock-Out BlackjackOlaf Vancura & Ken Fuchs’ Knock-Out Blackjack (First published 1996)

Why? Introduced the very popular K-O unbalanced card counting system. This count ranks as one of the top single-level counts available to players today. The K-O card-counting system eliminates the mountain of mental arithmetic necessary to win at blackjack.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Knock-Out Blackjack ]

Blackjack Attack by Don Schlesinger Don Schlesinger’s Blackjack Attack (First published 1997)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? The ultimate blackjack reference book for professional players. Covered topics such as back-counting the shoe game, betting techniques and win rates, evaluating new rules and bonuses, statistical insights, the “Illustrious 18”, the “Floating Advantage”, team play, camouflage, risk of ruin, and more.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Blackjack Attack: Playing the Pros’ Way ]

Burning the Tables in Las VegasIan Andersen’s Burning the Tables in Las Vegas (First published 1999)Blackjack Hall of Fame

Why? This was the long awaited sequel to one of the best-selling blackjack books ever written, Turning the Tables on Las Vegas. Included powerful camouflage strategies to avoid detection by casino staff while card counting.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Burning the Tables in Las Vegas ]

Blackjack BluePrintRick Blaine’s Blackjack BluePrint (First published 2006)

Why? Think of this book as everything you need to know about team play that Ken Uston never told you. Anyone even considering joining a team must own this book. Revised and updated in 2014.

[ AMAZON: Blackjack Blueprint: How to Play Like a Pro … Part-Time ]

 

Modern Blackjack 2Norm Wattenberger’s Modern Blackjack (First published 2009)

Why? This two-volume book is massive. It was written by the author of the outstanding Casino Verite suite of blackjack software which he used to provide highly detailed information and analyses of every aspect of the game.

[ BUY ON AMAZON: Modern Blackjack Second Edition Volume I ]
[ BUY ON AMAZON: Modern Blackjack Second Edition Volume II ]

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Michael Dalton is author of the Encyclopedia of Blackjack and editor/publisher of the Blackjack Review Network. Looking for other good blackjack books? Check out the product review section of the Encyclopedia of Blackjack.

Best Online Card Games 2020

By Gytis Miliauskas

Live Dealer BlackjackThere will be many people playing inside online casinos during 2020. Many will be experienced and have played online before and many who are brand new to casino gaming and playing for the first time. We all have our own favorite games that we love to play, but many will also see the new year as a chance to make a few changes and try something new. Of course, it is human nature to stick with what we all know and love, but trying out new games can enhance your experience inside a casino. If you have a number of different games at your disposal, you can choose the game based on your mood or any opportunities you might find when you log on.

From slot games to card games, table games and video poker, there are dozens, if not hundreds of choices for players looking for something to play. While most games are simply a game of chance, some have an element of skill attached to them and it is those games that often attract great interest from players as they try to beat the casino.

YieldEDITOR NOTE: This article is written with the gambler in mind. If you enjoy gambling for the sake of gambling, online casinos have so much more variety and possibilities than the largest land based casino could ever have. Many online casinos are still not available to players in the United States and all players should investigate any new casino before depositing any monies.  Note that card counting is essentially impossible online but that doesn’t mean there are no opportunities for advantage players.

Card Games

Those looking to try and win over the casino and use skill while gaming will often turn to card games. These offer you the chance to make decisions that will directly impact whether you win or not. They are used by many players alongside other types of game, for example, if you want a challenge then play a card game. If you want to relax and not think too much then try a slot game.

What is the Best Online Card Game for 2020?

While it has been a big favorite with players for many years, blackjack remains the best online card game to play in 2020. The game offers you the chance to play something that combines skill with the luck of the draw when the cards are dealt.

The reason why many people love this game is that you are gaming and relaxing while playing it, but it also makes you think and work out what you are going to do next. The idea of the game is to get closer to 21 than the dealer without going over, and it is your decisions that will set the target for the dealer to beat.

For those that want to try something new in 2020, adding blackjack to your online game portfolio and playing it alongside other titles is a great way of testing yourself. When you want to relax and enjoy gaming without having to think too much you can head to the slot titles you know and love, but when you want something different and you want to test yourself you can try out blackjack.


Example Online Blackjack Games From SmartCasinoGuide.com


A Blackjack Guide

The goal of blackjack is, of course, to beat the dealer. You do this by trying to get closer to 21 than the dealer. Ties push and you are paid extra for a natural blackjack, which is a ten valued card and an Ace. If you hit your hand (take another card) and go over 21 you automatically lose, even if the dealer subsequently busts and goes over 21.

The game of blackjack adds an element of skill because you need to decide when to stick with the hand you have and when to hit, double or split your hand to improve your odds. For example, if you have 15 you are 6 away from 21, is that enough for you to put pressure on the dealer and win, or do you need to hit and get another card, in the hope it is six or less.

Your decision will be heavily influenced by what the dealer’s up-card is.  That is where basic strategy comes in that will help improve your odds.  It is these decisions that you need to make on every hand and the big reason why this will remain the best online card game in 2020.

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The Art of Twenty-One

 

The Art of Twenty-One

by Michael Dalton
Copyright 1992 – 2020

Originally published (in part) in the Summer 1992 issue of Blackjack Review Magazine
 

The key to success for most blackjack card counters is the act.  It is the very essence to the art of twenty-one.  It is what distinguishes the average card counter who has trouble finding a good game and the blackjack expert who manages to make the game good.

A player once told me that he gave up card counting because every time he raised his bet the dealer would shuffle up on him and intimidate him by trying to deal faster.  If this player had used some common sense and not acted so obviously like a card counter he probably would have been left alone.  A good card counter should be able to keep up with the fastest dealer, however, if you are having issues with this, here is a tip:  Just play your hand slower and think about every decision.  Don’t let the dealer dictate the speed of the game!  To be successful at twenty-one you not only have to be able to count cards you must develop a unique style of play that is different from what the casinos are looking for.

CARD COUNTERS DON’T DRINK

All books recommend that players not drink.  All casinos realize that drinking affects judgment and card counting and drinking don’t mix.  Therefore, players who drink are not a threat to the casino and more likely than not they are preferred to your average player.

I also recommend that you don’t drink when you play but no one ever said you couldn’t pretend to drink.  I will often order a Heineken or dark bottle beer only to empty 95% of its contents out and refill it with water.  This completes my full gambler/tourist act.  It doesn’t cost much since you can always refill your beer bottle with water.  Just don’t try carrying your beer bottle from casino to casino.  You might get arrested!

EARLY MORNING PLAY

Many card counters prefer to play early in the morning (3-6AM) because they tend to get better games and there are less crowds.  However, most casinos also realize this.  If your schedule calls for early morning play, try not grooming yourself when you wake up.  In other words, don’t shave or shower.  From the casino’s point of view, you will appear to be a player that has stayed up all night and thus less of a threat.  Some players push this to an extreme!  I once ran into an fellow card counter1)Yes, a card counter can usually identify another card counter in the casino.  I remember the first time this happened to me many years ago.  I was at the Silver City Casino in Las Vegas playing a $1 minimum single deck game.  It only took about 15 minutes.  I didn’t like the fact that this player was practically mirroring my bets.  I later discovered after talking to him that he was using one of Lawrence Revere’s Point Count Systems.  Recently, I found a fellow counter playing much higher stakes on a cruise ship.  He was betting $50 to $500 or so.  I watched him for a few days and after being convinced he was accurately keeping the count, I would occasionally jump into his game betting my maximum bet whenever he had $500 or more on the table. who attempted to block seats while smoking, drinking and essentially acting like an idiot.  

NEVER STARE

One give-away that you may be a counter is that you sit quietly and stare at the cards.  You need to get over this!  A glance is all that should be necessary to accurately pick up the count. You should be counting cards as efficiently as possible – counting cards in groups of 2, 3 or more and canceling cards out.  For minus counts, never think “minus X”.  Always think “my X” or something simpler.  It is shorter and more efficient.  If you get distracted for some reason, have a method to “lock in” the count.  Using chips or a chip location has worked for me. 

ALWAYS BE FRIENDLY

Probably the best advice I can give to increase longevity in the casino is the ability to talk with other players, the dealer and pit personnel while accurately keeping the count and playing perfectly.  For more ideas on putting on the perfect “act” be sure to read The Blackjack Player’s Guide to Idiot Camouflage.

BLOG MENU 2)The Art of Twenty-One: Blackjack and Smoking Cigars Background image courtesy of Michael Godard, the “Rockstar of the Art World”.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1.Yes, a card counter can usually identify another card counter in the casino.  I remember the first time this happened to me many years ago.  I was at the Silver City Casino in Las Vegas playing a $1 minimum single deck game.  It only took about 15 minutes.  I didn’t like the fact that this player was practically mirroring my bets.  I later discovered after talking to him that he was using one of Lawrence Revere’s Point Count Systems.  Recently, I found a fellow counter playing much higher stakes on a cruise ship.  He was betting $50 to $500 or so.  I watched him for a few days and after being convinced he was accurately keeping the count, I would occasionally jump into his game betting my maximum bet whenever he had $500 or more on the table.
2.The Art of Twenty-One: Blackjack and Smoking Cigars Background image courtesy of Michael Godard, the “Rockstar of the Art World”.

How to Maximize Daily Expected Value in Blackjack

By Sebastian Mat

Cigars and Playing CardsBlackjack is as much a game of skill as it is of chance, and this is one of the reasons why it has consistently remained so popular. From measuring your bet to calculating the odds and far more, the elements which make up a good strategy are wide and varied.

In this article, we want to look at how you as a player might balance all of the available factors so you can maximize the daily expected value you can get from the game. Follow these simple tips, and you’ll be well on your way to a better gaming experience.

Defining Value

Before we can even think about helping you pursue the best value, we first need to be able to define exactly what, in your mind, counts the most. For some players, value is all about being able to place a wide range of bets, from small bets to huge investments. For others, the value lies in being able to enjoy the experience for as long as possible, regardless of the winnings on the table.

In order to move on, you need to decide what counts as your value. Some of these tips might not apply for your game style, or in other instances, they all might be equally important.

EDITOR NOTE: Expected value (EV), as defined in Dalton’s Encyclopedia of Blackjack, is the theoretical outcome per wager and a measure of how much the player (or casino) can expect to lose (or win) in a particular game.  For a basic strategy player, your EV is usually negative.  Card counters and advantage players strive for positive EV when playing.  This article looks at an alternate definition of EV from the gambler’s perspective.  For the gambler, EV can be a combination of how much one enjoys playing, the ability to play longer, the quality of bonuses and comps given, etc.  To someone who is not an advantage player (AP), expected value has nothing to do with a theoretical return on investment.

Bang for Your Buck

For players who wish to spend a long time at the tables, it can be difficult to track down the experience which is best catered to you. Even in the cases where you can find a table which enables low bets to be placed, not all are created equal.

Take a regular brick and mortar casino for example. For these locations, you’ll be playing with your money all day, and this can limit even the most contained spenders. Compare this to the online betting opportunities available which often come with enormous bonuses. These bonuses like deposit matches are found on many websites and can keep you engaged on the service’s dime far longer than any older casino could manage.

If you’re in it for the long-haul, note that online casinos will always have the edge in this regard.

Learn Your System

Chips and CardsWhile we can’t recommend turning to card counting as a way to get ahead, at least in this instance, we absolutely recommend becoming familiar enough with your systems that they become second nature. Every player has their own tendencies, but those who wish to really make their mark are those who understand the statistical realities of the game.

There are a lot of different strategies you can use here for multi-deck, double-deck and single-deck. Players already intimately familiar with the game will undoubtedly already have their preference for game type picked out, but even in this case, it can be a good idea to widen your horizons.

In some places, your preferential type of blackjack might not be available, so being able to rely on a strategic fall-back can ensure a more sustained level of play.

If you do use blackjack strategy cards, then we understand it can be annoying to have to consult them every time, but after just a short while these concepts and numbers will easily become second-nature.

The Miscellaneous

The final component we need to look at is the surrounding environment of where you choose to play. Our environment often affects our mental state, so uncomfortable or frustrating surroundings can cause us to lose focus, or otherwise growing tired prematurely.

It’s not just decoration and noise which needs to be taken into account either, as food availability, comfort, and fellow players also need to be considered. Some players out there might be lucky enough to live in areas with a lot of options from which to choose, which can be great for these random elements.

For the rest of us, it can be useful to instead create our own little corner haven for online play. Remember, live casino games are also available online for those after a more visual experience.

Only by examining all of these aspects together should you be able to generate some idea of how you might get the best daily value out of your blackjack experience. If you’re not yet sure or haven’t experienced all that this world has to offer, then it might be a good idea to go and see some of these options for yourself.

Wherever you settle, there are no wrong answers. Do what is right for you, and your experience will be all the more valuable for it.

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Blackjack Player’s Guide to Idiot Camouflage

.Player’s Guide to Idiot Camouflage

by Michael Dalton
 Copyright 1997 – 2019
Originally published in the Summer 1997 issue of Blackjack Review Magazine

This article originally started out (in the 1990s) as an Internet discussion group topic called “What New (Blackjack) Players Do.”  I would like to thank Grimy Fellow for posting the topic and Max Von Count, JW, Curious Amateur, BJ, Grinder, Slick, and Don Schlesinger for contributing items and ideas.

“…the less you ‘look’ like a counter the longer your play will be welcome.”

The point of this topic was to come up with ideas to improve a card counter’s cover at the table.  When you get to a comfortable level of proficiency in card counting you often forget that your play may be monitored.  The last thing you want is for a casino to suspect that you are good enough to beat its game simply because you act and look like a good player.   Although it is almost impossible to count cards indefinitely without being detected the less you “look” like a counter the longer your play will be welcome.

Obviously, not all of the plays below can be incorporated in a player’s camouflage repertoire but many of them can with little or no loss in expectation:

    • Making a few (or a lot) of playing errors. (This can get costly – See update below!)
    • Over-tipping or just tipping in general. (This can get costly – See update below!)
    • Telling the dealer you want to double down when you really want to split a pair. (You don’t want to do this with a pair of 5s.)
    • Having consultations with friends or other players about how to play your hand.
    • Putting an insurance bet out equal to your first bet.
    • Doubling down by betting twice the amount of your first bet.
    • Going WILD over winning a $5 hand! (Or at least getting overly excited when you get a blackjack — even with a small bet.)
    • Referring to a basic strategy card. (usually a bad one)
    • Doubling down for less. (usually because they have run out of money)
    • Placing medium to big bets off the top of the deck or shoe. (This can get costly – See update below!)
    • Pressing your bets when you win.
    • Chasing your losses.
    • Always (or usually) taking even money. (This can get costly – See update below!)
    • Running over to the slots for one lucky pull.
    • Attempting to shake the dealer’s hand.
    • Drinking too much while playing. (You can act can’t you?)
    • Splitting tens. (I’d be careful about this one!)
    • Trying to “hand” the dealer cash when you want chips.
    • Having a cup full of slot tokens on the table.
    • Touching the cards to split them in a face up game. (a definite no-no!).
    • Placing money on “top” of your original bet when doubling down. (You can only get away with this once per casino!)
    • Asking what insurance is “after” the dealer asks “Insurance anyone?”
    • Asking what surrender is. (if sign mentions surrender is available).
    • Asking if there is a bonus for a 5-card 21.
    • Asking if the dealer wins ties.
    • Not paying attention to the game when distracted by the cocktail waitress, friends, or by the noise of someone who just won a slot jackpot.
    • Getting upset when third base takes the dealer’s bust card. (An indication that a player is not really new to the game, however, is superstitious.)
    • Stacking chips in the betting circle in no apparent order (e.g., green on top, red on bottom, etc.)
    • Not using hand signals or incorrectly using hand signals.
    • Not using correct terminology at the table. (Like bust, hit, stand, felt, insurance, tokes)
    • Taking too much time to play a hand.

Here are a few “new player” habits that are applicable only in hand-held games:

    • Picking up the cards with two hands.
    • Leaning too far back with the cards, thereby removing them from above the felt — a definite no-no!
    • Failing to tuck your original cards under your bet, in the circle, when you stand. (The usual move is to simply drop the cards in front of your pile of chips, thus annoying the hell out of the dealer who has to pick them up and give instructions on “tucking”!)
    • Failing to turn over your blackjacks.
    • Turning over your cards when you hit to 21. (thinking that this is the same as a natural)
    • Bending the cards when you look at them.
    • Peeking under the cards as if it were a poker hand.

Once again, be aware that some of the above plays may not be suitable or cost effective as cover.  You obviously don’t want to over-tip the dealer and you obviously don’t want to make costly playing errors.  But not all playing errors are costly!   A good source of information on this topic is Don Schlesinger’s article entitled “How ‘Dumb’ Can You Afford to Appear?” in the September 1993 issue of Blackjack Forum.   One of the conclusions of this article was that appearing very “dumb” at the outset of play may remove any potential heat after just a few hours.  Schlesinger wrote “Pit bosses often formulate ‘first impressions’ that last for the duration of the tripSo you might not have to continue to make ‘mistakes’ all the way through.”  Schlesinger presents charts of every basic strategy play possible with hand frequencies and conditional and absolute penalties for deviating from basic strategy.   According to Schlesinger study, of the 254 plays on the chart almost 100 of them carry penalties of less than one cent per $100.

In the 1990s, I integrated many of the above ideas, including an occasional playing error from time to time,  into my overall blackjack strategy.   If you want a long playing career, you should give the above ideas serious consideration!  Good luck!

Yield

2019 UPDATE:  Playing errors can be costly!  I no longer recommend making playing errors for the sake of camouflage.  Most pit personnel probably won’t even know a “playing error” from an appropriate card counter’s “play deviation” anyway.  Oh…. and be careful with tipping!  If you tip at all, I suggest tipping at the “end” of a session only, which also suggests that you only tip if you won.

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What Does Playing Blackjack Have in Common with Playing Football?

Playing Blackjack in a CasinoBy Robert Bell

It isn’t entirely unknown for a football player to become a professional card player when they retire from the game. Evan Mathis, Calais Campbell, and Antoine Winfield are a few of the former players who started playing poker seriously.

There are fewer obvious examples of NFL players turning to blackjack. Yet, there are some very good reasons why they could find plenty of similarities between the games.  

Ability to Memorize Plays

One of the things that most impress some sports fans is how football players can remember so many complicated plays. It isn’t just about remembering the plays, though. They also need to recall them instantly in the heat of the moment and in a highly pressurized situation.

Of course, something similar occurs at the blackjack table. When your hand is dealt, you need to instantly decide whether to hit or stand. If you can memorize all of the different possibilities and recall them during the game, then you have a far greater chance of winning regularly.

Determination to Win

Everyone who reaches a good level in a sport as demanding as football has to show an intense will to win. There is simply no way to achieve success in this game without having the determination to keep going even when the odds are stacked against you.

Blackjack may seem like a laid-back game to outsiders. However, the best players have that same, fierce desire to win every hand. They will also feel bitterly disappointed with themselves if they make a mistake that causes them to lose.

Football Fans Can Play Blackjack Too

It isn’t just the guys out on the field who have got an advantage when it comes to playing blackjack. Just by watching NFL games, you could be picking up some valuable tips that help you at the card table later on.

For instance, if you work out the best football odds to place a bet then you are used to considering the possibilities of different outcomes and how much to wager on them. You will also be used to mentally working out figures quickly and accurately. All of this can really help when you play blackjack.

High Level of Self-Control and Discipline

Football players need to take care of their bodies if they are going to enjoy a long, successful career at the top of the sport. Young athletes who gain a football scholarship in the USA can expect to practice with their team for up to 30 hours each week. Away from the action, they need to live as healthy a life as possible.

Blackjack players also need to put in the hours to learn the game. Once the cards are dealt, they will need to show self-control and discipline in order to stick to their game plan even when something unexpected happens.  

Knowing When to Take Risks

If we look at some of the greatest plays in the history of football, some of them involved taking risks. Often, when a team is trailing and time is short, something out of the ordinary is called for. However, a great player knows when to take a risk and when to stick to the plan.

Equally, a lot of blackjack playing is about sticking to a pre-planned strategy. Yet, there may be times when an experienced card player realizes that it is worth taking a risk for the chance of the rewards it could bring.

To sum up, while they look very different at first glance, it is clear that there are some interesting similarities between football and blackjack. Perhaps it is the ideal combination of games for certain people, since they both involve wise techniques and approaches.

Cleveland BrownsCincinnati BengalsMinnesota Vikings
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Blackjack Side Bets

by Simon Beasor 

For many players, the attraction of blackjack is the simplicity of the rules and the bets placed.  However, for some, these are a big disadvantage of the game. Some players are not satisfied with the even money game and want a little more excitement, and potential profit, from their game play.  This is why many casinos now offer blackjack side bets to enhance the action and add some variety to the game play. 

Blackjack side bets, such as insurance, are often shown on the table
Blackjack side bets, such as insurance, are often shown on the table

Blackjack has been played for centuries, with the first mention of ‘trente-un’ appearing as early as 1440. Players back then could never imagine how competitive the world of casinos, both brick-and-mortar and online versions, would one day become. Blackjack side bets are a way for casinos to attract new players with new ways to win at the oldest of card games.

What is a blackjack side bet?

These bets are predictions based on the initial cards dealt to the player and the dealer. They have nothing to do with the main game, and there is no skill or strategy involved, although it is theoretically possible to count cards to make your predictions more accurate. For most players, however, it is simply a matter of guessing which cards will be dealt.

Blackjack side bets offer a far greater potential return than the main game, but they also come with a much higher casino edge. In the main Blackjack game, the bet pays even money, or 2:1, for a blackjack, with a casino edge of just 0.5%. Side bets, on the other hand, can pay anything up to 5000:1, but the casino edge is also significantly higher, often over 10%. So, while you may win more in the short term with side bets, over time you will inevitably lose.

Typical side bets

The side bets available will vary from casino to casino, but here are a few of the more common varieties of wagers.

  • Insurance – This side bet covers the player against the dealer making blackjack if their card on show is an ace. You bet half your stake, and it pays 2-1 if the dealer does indeed have a blackjack.
  • Perfect Pairs – This bet predicts that you will be dealt a pair with your first two cards.
    • 5-1 for a mixed pair of the same value
    • 12-1 for a matching color pair
    • 25-1 for a perfect pair of identical cards
Two red eights would pay 12-1 with a Perfect Pairs side bet
Two red eights would pay 12-1 with a Perfect Pairs side bet
  • 21+3 – This bet predicts the combination of all three upturned cards from the player and the dealer.
      • 5-1 for a non-consecutive flush
      • 10-1 for a non-suited straight
      • 30-1 for three of a kind
      • 40-1 for a straight flush
      • 100-1 for three identical cards
  • Over/under 13 – This bet predicts the total value of the player’s cards will be more or less than 13. It is an even money bet, with the house collecting all bets if the sum is exactly 13; however, some casinos take bets that pay around 6-1 for this outcome.
  • Royal match – This bet predicts the suited cards in the player’s hand and returns 25-1 for suited kings and queens and 5-2 for other suited cards.
  • Lucky ladies – This bet predicts that the total of the player’s cards will be 20. It pays 4-1 for an unsuited 20, 10-1 for a suited 20, 25-1 for a matched and suited 20 and 200-1 for two queens of hearts. This increases to 1000-1 if the dealer has a blackjack.
  • Super sevens – This bet predicts that the player will be dealt sevens and pays 3-1 for one seven, 50-1 for two mixed sevens, 100-1 for two suited sevens and 500-1 if the third card is also a seven. If all three sevens are the same suit, you will hit the jackpot with a 5000-1 payout. (Note—some casinos will not deal a third card if the dealer has a blackjack, so check their policy before placing this bet.)

A shot in the dark

At the end of the day, the cards you are dealt in blackjack are no more predictable than the final resting slot for the ball in roulette. This means that side bets are just as much down to chance as picking a number at random from 1-36.  But if you are after a little extra fun on the side of your serious blackjack strategy play, then they could be just what you are looking for.

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Four Commonly Misplayed Blackjack Hands

By Alex Tester

In blackjack, a lot of players make some pretty significant mistakes. What might seem like a “common sense” play is actually a pretty serious misplay if you consider the odds.

Here are four commonly misplayed blackjack hands that you should avoid.

Taking insurance                  

While you might feel tempted to take an insurance offer when the dealer reveals an ace, you should resist the temptation. The logic behind this play is that there are four cards (10, J, Q, K) that will give the dealer blackjack. If the face-down card is one of these, you will be able to regain your original bet.

So why exactly is this a bad play? Well, the odds are actually in the dealer’s favor by a significant margin. If you choose this option, there is a much bigger chance that the dealer actually doesn’t have blackjack.

In this situation, you are much better off turning down the even money insurance bet. Instead, you should try for the 1.5x win.

6 of clubs5 of heartsNot doubling on 11 vs 10

If your dealer is showing they have a 10, there is a good chance they will also have another one in the face-down position. If you have an 11, the chances of getting a 20 or a 21 are significantly higher than the chance the dealer has a second face-down 10.

While you might think that doubling down when the dealer has 10 is a counter-intuitive strategy, according to comparison site CasinoGuide, you are actually playing to the odds. Let’s say you bet £10 and hit your 11. In this situation, you will win 56% of your hands according to the statistics. If you doubled your bet amount for £20, you will win this bet 54% of the time (remember that doubling means you only receive one more card, and then automatically stand).

Since there’s a small difference in these bets, it wouldn’t hurt to double your bet, as you’d get a significantly higher return for just 2% less of a chance of winning.

Jack of hearts6 of clubsStanding on a 16 vs 7

In this situation, drawing a small number such as a 2 or a 3 can significantly increase your chances of winning. You should always hit on a 16 when you are playing against a dealer with 7. You might get lucky and hit a low enough card to get you the win. This will improve your odds to the point that it should mitigate your losses over time.

The following is a good rule of thumb to follow: An 18 against a dealer’s 10 is somewhat better than a 16, whereas an 18 vs a dealer’s 7 is significantly stronger.

8 of clubs10 of spadesStanding on a soft 18 vs 10

While you might feel like an 18 is a hand you can’t improve on, this is not always the case. While an 18 may bring you a win more often than not, the odds are not necessarily in your favor.

For example, against a dealer’s 10, the odds are not on your side. If you were to stand on a soft 18 in this situation, over time, you would lose more hands than you would ever win.

This is also true if you were to hit, but you wouldn’t lose quite as much. This means you should be brave and give yourself the best chance of winning: always hit on that soft 18.

Practice, practice, practice

Being good at blackjack can take time. You need to have an acute understanding of the rules and you need to be able to estimate the odds on the fly. Or just use a blackjack strategy card.

A great way to practice and refine your strategy is to play online blackjack games at live dealer casinos that allow you to experience the fun atmosphere and face-to-face interaction of the game, within you own home. Away from the pressure of being in a real casino surrounded by experienced gamblers and impatient dealers, you can take the time to get comfortable with your own blackjack strategy.

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