By Mike AponteTopTipsForBlackjackGamblers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is only one correct basic strategy for blackjack given a set of established rules. However, since all casinos don’t offer the same rules the basic strategy can be slightly different from game to game. Also, the number of decks used affects the basic strategy slightly. Peter Griffin’s Theory of Blackjack and Stanford Wong’s Basic Blackjack are the player’s best resources for the “correct” basic strategy for any number of decks and rules. Basic strategy charts can also be found in Michael Dalton’s online book The Encyclopedia of Blackjack (Twenty-One) .
The example card shown on the right reflects a correct basic strategy for multi-deck blackjack games with double after splits not allowed and dealer stands on soft 17.
CORRECT BASIC STRATEGY 1)This is a generic multi-deck basic strategy where the dealer stands on soft-17 and double after splits is allowed. Refer to full charts in the Encyclopedia of Blackjack for all rule variations and fine points for single, double and multi-deck games. When trying to make a decision, first decide if surrendering is an option, then whether to split or double and finally whether you should hit or stand.
Surrender hard 16 (but not 88 pair) vs dealer 9, 10 or Ace.
Surrender hard 15 vs dealer 10.
Always split Aces and 8s.
Never split 10s and 5s.
Split 2s and 3s vs dealer 4-7.
Split 4s vs dealer 5-6.
Split 6s vs dealer 2-6.
Split 7s vs dealer 2-7.
Split 9s vs dealer 2-6 and 8-9.
Double hard 9 vs dealer 3-6.
Double hard 10 vs dealer 2-9.
Double hard 11 vs dealer 2-10.
Double soft 13 or 14 vs dealer 5-6.
Double soft 15 or 16 vs dealer 4-6.
Double soft 17 or 18 vs dealer 3-6.
Stand on hard 12 vs dealer 4-6.
Stand on hard 13-16 vs dealer 2-6.
Stand on hard 17 or more.
Stand on soft 19 (A8) or more.
Hit hard 11 or less.
Hit soft 17 (A6) or less.
Hit soft 18 (A7) vs dealer 9, 10 and Ace.
Surrender 15, 88 and 17 vs dealer Ace.
Double 11 vs dealer Ace.
Double soft 18 (A7) vs dealer 2.
Double soft 19 (A8) vs dealer 6.
The correct basic strategy is a proven winning system for the game of twenty-one. It is a strategy which maximizes the player’s expectation given only knowledge of the player’s hand and the dealer’s up-card. In the good old days when single deck was plentiful and rules were great basic strategy could actually give the player a small advantage. Today, casino managers are aware of the power of basic strategy and generally do not offer games that can be beaten off the top of the deck. However, players should keep their eyes open for promotional games which do surface from time to time!
Basic strategy is powerful! All card counters must master it before moving on to the fine art of card counting. Basic strategy is not difficult! A person with average intelligence can memorize it in just a few hours. Basic strategy is the way to play! Every time you make a play on a hunch or intuition and ignore the “correct” basic strategy play you increase the casino advantage against you.
For example, a pit boss witnessing a player standing on an A-7 versus a ten valued dealer up-card would generally consider this player a novice or an idiot. If you stand on this hand you will win it about 41% of the time. If you hit the hand you increase your chances to 43%. Why would anyone not hit this hand? You can’t bust (at least not initially) and you stand a good chance of improving it. But every time I play this game I witness players standing on A-7 vs 10 with the hope that the dealer doesn’t have a nine or ten in the hole. Don’t be an idiot! Trust in basic strategy and play it perfectly. Your bankroll will thank you for it.
For more information read Michael Dalton’s complete article on “Basic Strategy” in the Summer 1995 issue of Blackjack Review magazine.
For more information on the correct basic strategy and complete charts for blackjack, check out the basic strategy section in the Encyclopedia of Blackjack (Twenty-One). Also, check out the basic strategy app at the bottom of this page.
Copyright © 1994 – 2018 All Rights Reserved
FAQ 3: Originally published in Volume 4 Issue 4 of Blackjack Review Magazine
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||This is a generic multi-deck basic strategy where the dealer stands on soft-17 and double after splits is allowed. Refer to full charts in the Encyclopedia of Blackjack for all rule variations and fine points for single, double and multi-deck games. When trying to make a decision, first decide if surrendering is an option, then whether to split or double and finally whether you should hit or stand.|
From Bill Zender’s email discussing his upcoming activities and events.
July 5, 2017
Dear Friends and Business Associates,
I hope everyone is doing well. First off, I want to give the University of Nevada Reno’s Extended Studies course in Casino Management a recommendation, especially the Table Game Management course that is scheduled to be held in Reno Nevada September 18th thru 21st. Earlier this spring the course was pushed back to September because it lacked participants. I’ve been involved with this University of Nevada program for the past fourteen years, and I feel that it is the best casino management program in the country, if not the world. The week session in which I will be participating, features two other individuals involved in that week’s presentation whom I believe do an outstanding job.
On Monday, September 18th, Bob Ellsworth presents a session regarding the overview of casino table games. Bob Ellsworth shows the students all aspects of table games and procedures that the gaming professional needs to understand in order to operate an efficient table game operation. On day 2, September 19th, Bob Del Rossi presents an outstanding session on table game protection. He covers all the common methods used to attack table games, and drills down into the different “indicators” that table game and surveillance personal need to identify in order to catch and stop both legal and illegal intrusions. On September 20th and 21st, I conduct my presentations on table game mathematics and methods for better managing table games (see descriptions of those session below). As you can see, the four days of table game training are quite invaluable to the novice table games and surveillance executives, as well as the more experienced individuals looking for ways to improve their operations.
Second, I want everyone to know that you have a rare opportunity in August and September in which I have plenty of weeks open to conduct work. If you are considering in-house training sessions on game protection, or areas table game management, please contact me. Right now I have about six weeks open this late summer. It’s also a golden opportunity to have me come to your property to conduct a table game operation evaluation. I have conducted a number of these evaluations over the past several years for several casinos throughout North America. If you want to know how to better position your table games to be safer, and at the same time create opportunities for greater revenue potential, please let me know.
Remember, I always have time to conduct “winning” player evaluations. Just recently I conducted an evaluation on some high limit Pai Gow tiles play that indicated that the players involved were passing along hand information in order to determine the dealer’s hand. Sometimes it a good thing to get a second opinion.
Blackjack Basic Strategy: Is it Important?
During a casual discussion with a table games manager in a Northwestern casino, he asked me how important it is for the floor supervisor to know basic strategy. His contention was that since most ratings systems in blackjack don’t require a player skill evaluation, he didn’t understand why the floor supervisors should learn basic strategy and be tested on that knowledge. He also related that his casino had recently given all floor supervisors and pit executives a basic strategy test, and the result was dismal at best. He also experienced a lot of negative feedback from his staff regarding being tested in the first place. Is knowledge of the “exact” plays regarding basic strategy really that important?
Based on my 40 years of experience in blackjack as dealer, floor supervisor, casino executive, professional level advantage player, and a game protection expert, the answer is YES! The foundation of the game of blackjack is anchored around the customer’s ability to make hand decisions accurately. Without knowing how the customer should play each and every hand decision, the floor supervisor, casino executive, and surveillance operator will not be able to determine a customer’s level of blackjack skill. Subsequently, they will be unable to detect most situations of advantage play and cheating.
Experienced blackjack customers use two different types of strategy to play their hands; (1) basic strategy, the computer calculated best hand strategy based on the player’s two-cards (or sometimes more) and the dealer’s up-card, and (2) common strategy, the more popular strategy derived from some understanding of basic strategy and table observation of other players. I will go out on a limb and suggest that approximately 90-95% of all blackjack players use common strategy when deciding how to play their hands, and only a small percentage of players (1-2%) use perfect basic strategy. What the floor supervisor, casino executive, and surveillance professional need to be able to do is identify which strategy style each blackjack player uses. Customers who use a common strategy are normally no threat to the casino while basic strategy players know more about the game than the casual blackjack player, and may extend their knowledge further into areas of advantage play, and possibly cheating.
Following is a link to a blackjack strategy examination I have created. The purpose of this examination is to determine whether your table game or surveillance employees can spot the difference between a non-threating blackjack customer who uses a common strategy, or that of a potential threating customer who follows basic strategy. The link to the blackjack strategy examination and answer sheet are as follows: Blackjack Strategy Examination. Please feel free to download and use this blackjack strategy examination at your property. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Note: A professional level card counter will use basic strategy 4 out of 5 hands while deviating that one hand out of five based on the count. Advantage players will also use perfect basic strategy, however APs obtaining the dealer’s hole-card may use neither basic nor common, but exhibit hand strategies based on advanced knowledge of the hole-card. Cheaters will use basic strategy up until the point where their cheating technique require them to do otherwise. The cheater uses basic strategy to give back the minimum amount of money to the casino until they can apply their illicit trade.
Why can’t we beat this guy!!!
Here is an email correspondence that needs to be passed along to everyone on my email list. I received this email from a casino executive regarding a winning higher limit player in blackjack. For a consultant like myself, this type of email is very common. A higher limit customer is winning a large amount of money, and upper management does not understand why anyone could be beating the house, especially if the house losing streak has continued through several of the customer’s visits. The executive’s question and my answer to his situation are as follows.
I believe I know the answer to this but it would be great to hear it from the expert. Assuming we can rule out collusion, card marking, card counting, and shuffle tracking. Can a player with a large bankroll overcome the HA by only attempting to win a small amount.
We are under new ownership and I would like to give the new ownership some piece of mind other than “it’ll come around”. We have a handful of regular, well known, lifetime losers with that play style. They will win 20K several days in a row and historically will blow 200-300K when they lose. We are playing unlucky in 2016 with our top 3 players and the questions are coming in. There hasn’t been any rule or procedural change. I look forward to hearing from you.
Don’t think for a moment you are the only Table Games Director with this problem. I guess the basic answer is that some players win for periods of time, and that’s why it’s called “gambling”. There will always be an “element of uncertainty” in the business. Statistically, within 10,000 hand decisions in a game like blackjack, 16% of all players will be below -1 standard deviation. This usually means those players are beating the casino, and doing so while still playing against the casino’s natural mathematical edge. Taking the normal distribution curve further, 2-3% of your players will be winning below even the -2 standard deviation point. If you have 100 higher limit players, based on statistics, two or three of those players will be big winners.
What I usually suggest in this situation is that you use two primary strategies; first, conduct an evaluation of all possible and logical ways of gaining a player’s edge over the game in question. In blackjack that would be card counting, hole-carding, location play, marked cards, collusion, etc.
Put together a concise report to present to upper management with your findings that nothing can be detected.
Second, go back historically and build a profile of the player or similar past players to show that the games will “turn around” eventually. Be sure to point out periods when a player has lost back a lot of his winnings. Players who gamble with an advantage or down right cheat, do not gamble back a large percentage of their past wins. I would use periods of loss-back of 50% of previous winnings or better as strong evidence the player is a desirable gambler and not playing with an advantage.
Another course of action could be the need to “educate” non-table games executive in the games and the slime mathematical edge of the games. Right now with your region’s BJ rules the average high limit BJ player is subject to a mathematical house advantage of 0.3% to 1.0% depending on how good or poorly he makes hand strategy decisions (baccarat is around 1.2%). In comparison with slot machines, the average slot machine “floor PAR” in your region is about 10-12%.
Statistically speaking, the average 1% H/A% player could be winning at maximum risk after about 8,000 hands while the guaranteed win point is around 40,000 hand decisions. If the BJ player was a good hand strategy player and drove the expected H/A% down to 0.5%, the maximum risk and guaranteed win point could be as much as 16,000 hands and 80,000 hands respectively.
There’s my two cents on the topic. If you want me to conduct a player evaluation, let me know, and if you need me to conduct a table game evaluation at your casino, feel free to contact me so we can set something up. Take care and good luck with your situation.
Seminars and Workshop
I am still considering conducting a seminars on the cost of casino promotions along with a section on Dead Chip/Rolling Chip programs somewhere in the USA, preferably in Las Vegas. I’m also looking to conduct another Optimal Baccarat Seminar somewhere in the East or Midwest. Please watch for future eBlast to find out what seminars, dates, and locations will be offered.
University of Nevada Reno Extended Studies: Table Game Management – September 18th thru 21st, 2017 – Reno Nevada
I always enjoy presenting at the UNR Extended Studies Gaming program regarding table games management. The students are from different gaming regions throughout North American, and occasionally, from around the world. I will be covering the topics of Casino Mathematics and Table Game Management on September 20th and 21st. Following are the topics covered during my portion of the four-day program:
As I mentioned previously, these are the days I will be presenting; however, to attend you need to sign up for the entire week’s program. I truly believe that price and time spent in this University of Nevada Extended Studies program is well worth it.
See the Gaming Management Series overview for a full schedule of upcoming courses. Email email@example.com, call 1-800-233-8928 or visit the website for information about gaming management education from the University of Nevada, Reno.
On the Move
Summer is a slower time for me so if you are looking for a game protection or table game management seminar, or need your table games evaluated, this is the perfect time to contact me. Right now all my available time slots in July are filled, but my schedule is wide open for August and September. If you have any questions, let me know firstname.lastname@example.org.
Las Vegas BOD Meeting
Las Vegas BOD Meeting
University of Nevada Reno
Please let me know if I can provide one of my services for your organization.
I’m always available to answer your questions. If you have any questions on gaming; don’t hesitate in contacting me through email. I answer close to a half dozen email on gaming every day email@example.com.
Cheers and good luck.
Bill Zender and Associates