21st Century Blackjack

21st Century Blackjack is probably one of the most unique variants of blackjack  It was invented, by an Irvine, California company called Casino Gaming Concepts, to “get around” the 1860 California law that made it explicitly illegal to play the game of “Twenty-One,” among other gambling games where the player bets against the house.

It is similar enough to standard blackjack for players to want to play, but also varies enough to not be considered an illegal game under the California law.  It is mostly played in California, as you might imagine.

It is also sometimes called 21st Century No-Bust Blackjack, because one variant is that there is no “busting” in this game.

The Differences

While the list of differences may seem lengthy and complicated, the basic goal of the game remains similar to blackjack, in that, as a player, you try to get closer to 21, than the dealer, without going over.

  1. The game is played with multiple decks of cards, from 2-8 decks, with 1 joker included, per deck of cards.
  2. The maximum hand is 22, also called a natural
  3. The joker is considered wild and helps a player get a hand of 22
  4. Players are allowed to bet on other hands
  5. There is no house dealer.  There is a “dealer/bank” button that moves around the table, giving players the chance to act as the dealer as the game goes on. (This may vary depending on the casino)
  6. There is no bust…a player/dealer with a hand value over 21 that is also higher than a player’s hand, results in a push
  7. A player/dealer with a hand value over 21, but lower than a player’s, over 21 hand, results in a loss for the player
  8. The player/dealer does not actually receive cards for that round, but “acts” as the bank for the round.  The player/dealer gets the money if the dealer wins, but also must pay the players if the dealer loses.
  9. The casino usually charges a fixed amount to play, usually $1 to play and $2 to act as the dealer.  This is how the casino makes money on this game.
  10. The casino may or may not provide an employee or a player with a large bankroll, (detected by the large bankroll in front of them) to cover all bets on the table.  If a player chooses to act as the dealer, but doesn’t have enough money to cover all bets, the large bankroll person will step in and cover what remains, and then splits all wins and losses with the dealer.
  11. A player can place up to 3 bets on his hand, designated by 3 betting circles on the table in front of his hand. 
  12. A player may also bet on another player’s hand by placing a wager in one of that player’s betting circles.

RULES OF PLAY

  • The maximum hand value is 22, or a “natural”
  • A “natural” beats all other hands
  • A “natural” is formed with 2 Jokers,  a Joker and an Ace, or 2 Aces
  • In some casinos, a “natural” of 2 Jokers, pays extra
  • A “natural” for both a player and the player/dealer, results in a push
  • Other than when paired with an Ace or another Joker, a Joker paired with anything else results in a hand value of 21
  • There is a dealer/bank button that moves from player to player as the game progresses.  The button stays with 1 player only a specified number of hands
  • There is usually a bet limit, but players may bet that limit in each of the 3 betting circles
  • A player does not bust if his hand totals more than 21, play continues until the dealer’s last move and then rules will determine wins and losses
  • Player may double down on  and receive 1 additional card
  • Splitting is allowed
  • Surrender is allowed after first 2 cards
  • Player must hit 12 or less
  • Player must stand on hard 20 and up, and hard/soft 21, 22
  • Player may double down on 11 or 12 and draw up to two additional cards
  • A player may not double down, split or surrender if they have a Joker
  • If a player and the player/dealer tie with hands less than 21, it is a push
  • A player cannot hit if the player/dealer’s up-card is a joker
  • Player/dealer hits soft 18 or less
  • Player/dealer stands on hard 18 or more
  • When a player and player/dealer go over 22, it’s a push if the player’s hand value is lower than player/dealer’s
  • When a player and player/dealer go over 22, a lower dealer hand results in a win for the dealer.
  • Card values are the same as regular blackjack, except for the joker, which has no value except to pair with any other card to value 21 or 22.
  • Some rules may vary depending on the casino

How to Play

  • Player’s place their initial bet and one of them opts to be the player/dealer (or bank)
  • Two cards are dealt to each player, each face up, with the dealer receiving his first card face down (the hole card) and the 2nd card face up
  • If the player/dealer has an Ace or 10up, the hole card is checked to determine if he has a natural.  If he does have a natural, all players hands lose, except if a player also has a natural and that player pushes
  • If the player/dealer doesn’t have a natural, play continues with each player deciding to hit, stand, double down, split or surrender
  • The player/dealer is last to play and either hits or stands.  When his play has ended, winners and losers are decided and payouts are made

PAYOFFS

  • All payoffs are to the extent the player/dealer has the money to cover all bets
  • Order of payoff or collection is determined by the player/dealer’s hole card and is in clockwise order. The player/dealer will place an action button in front of the first hand and go clockwise from that point.  If the hole card is an Ace, the payoffs start with the player immediately to the left of the player/dealer.  If the hole card is a two, payoffs start with the second player to the left of the player/dealer, and so on.
  • Order of payoff can make a big difference if the casino doesn’t offer the “large bankroll player” or employee who would cover any bets the chosen player/dealer can’t pay.  If the player/dealer doesn’t have enough money to cover all bets, the players whose bets weren’t covered, would get no action, no matter if they would have won or lost.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned in the beginning, though the rules and differences may seem great, the game play is not that different from standard blackjack.  If you’re an avid blackjack player, it’s a game that will challenge you a little more, having enough difference to keep you from getting bored with play.  Also, if you’ve ever thought that being the “bank” or “dealer,” would be cool, this game gives you the opportunity to do that!  Different can be fun!

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Blackjack Superstitions

As you sit at a blackjack table, you’re bound to hear all kinds of hype about what brings good luck or bad luck at a blackjack table.  Unfortunately, believing in any of that hype can actually harm your game.  Let’s go over some of the myths and facts:

MYTH:  Novice or Bad players will make you lose

FACT:  It’s true novice players can negatively affect the outcome of a hand, because they’ll stand when they should hit and hit when they should stand.

When a bad move happens like that, it’s easy to blame the novice player for costing you a hand (especially if that novice is in the 3rd base seat), taking the dealer’s bust card, but the reverse can also happen.  The player’s bad choices can help you just as often, evening things out. 

MYTH:  A new player entering in the middle of a shoe, ruins the flow of the cards

FACT:  There is no way to know the order of cards, so you can’t say there’s a certain flow for you to know what card is supposed to come next.  Once again, as with playing with a novice, the addition of a new player can change your luck for the better, just as well as “ruin” the flow.

The Superstition: Face cards always follow face cards—so if a face card is dealt, don’t hit your stiff hand.

FACT:   Keep the facts in mind.  If you include the 10’s with the face cards, there are 16 out of 52, 10-value cards in a deck, meaning 31 percent of the deck.  If you see two face cards in a row, the chance of another face card coming out drops to 28 percent.  Because there are now fewer face cards, you’re actually in a better position to hit a “stiff” hand (12, 13, 14, 15, 16).  Looking at it this way, that superstition would be a detriment to your game. 

The Superstition:  You will always bust if you hit a 12

FACT:  Many blackjack players feel that if you hit a 12, you will almost always get a 10-value card.  However, remember the point that  a non-10-value card is more likely to come up, than a 10-value card.  You have to trust the basic strategy charts and hit a 12 when the chart tells you to do so.

Final Fact

If you let superstitions direct your blackjack playing decisions, you can bet it will cost you more money!

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Double Attack Blackjack

This variant offers many twists and is seen mostly in Atlantic City.  It is similar to Spanish 21, in that, blackjack pays even money and the player can double down after seeing the dealer’s first card, before seeing their own card.

RULES

  • 8 Spanish 48-cards decks are used (all the 10’s are removed)
  • Dealer stands on a soft 17
  • If a player takes insurance, a dealer peeks for blackjack
  • Insurance payout is 5 to 2
  • A player has a right to double down after splitting
  • A player can split aces once and receive one more card
  • All cards except aces can be re-split 4 times (this can vary depending on the casino)
  • No re-doubling for this type of blackjack
  • A player can double or surrender any time during a game

The dealer gets the first card dealt and the player can then choose to double their bet, namely, the “Double Attack.”  The bet actually can be just a slight raise, but maxed at double the original bet.  If the player later splits, that bet must match the “double attack” bet.

BUST IT – Side Bet

This bet is a bonus bet in the game.  The player has the opportunity to bet whether or not the dealer will bust with 3 total cards.  This bet does have to be made before the dealer’s up-card is dealt. The payout will depend on what the “bust out” card is for the dealer and is as follows:

  • Third card is a face card. Pays off 3 to 1.
  • Third card is a nine. Pays off 6 to 1.
  • Third card is an eight. Pays off 8 to 1.
  • Third card is a seven. Pays off 10 to 1.
  • Third card is a six. Pays off 15 to 1.

There is also a special payout if the dealer busts with 3 eights (888) and is as follows:

  • The eight is the same color. Pays off 50 to 1.
  • The eight is the same suit. Pays off 200 to 1.

Additional Bust It Side Bet

Though not typically done at many casinos, the Bust It side bet can also be made on the total number of cards the dealer busts with and those payouts are as follows:

  • Dealer busts with 4 cards. Pays off 2 to 1.
  • Dealer busts with 5 cards. Pays off 4 to 1.
  • Dealer busts with 6 cards. Pays off 12 to 1.
  • Dealer busts with 7 cards. Pays off 50 to 1.
  • Dealer busts with 8 cards. Pays off 250 to 1.

Best Strategy for Double Attack Blackjack

Using traditional blackjack strategy should allow for a decent return on your money. You can trust that typically doubling down on 9, 10 and 11, as well as splitting Aces and eights should continue to be your playing strategy.

When the dealer’s card is low, say 2-8, is the best time to double attack.  If the dealer’s up card is a 9 or better, it’s best not to double.

Taking insurance in this game is slightly more favorable, because the payout is better.

Final Thoughts

While Double Attack Blackjack could be looked at as a bit more advanced, it’s a fun version for many blackjack fans.  The additional rules and bets don’t have to be memorized, just enjoyed. If you’re want a little more excitement with your blackjack fun, try this version.

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Play Free Bet Blackjack

Another popular Blackjack variant is Free Bet Blackjack.  This version was created by Geoff Hall, who also invented Blackjack Switch, Zombie Blackjack and Zappit Blackjack.

The big difference from regular Blackjack is that the player doesn’t risk his own money when splitting or doubling down, for the most part.  I’m sure you thinking that’s great, show me where to sit!  Fortunately it won’t take long to understand the rules, especially if you’re already familiar with regular blackjack.

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Rules

Apparently the rules have been modified since the original launch in 2012, and casinos can develop their own rules, but the following are considered the standard.

  • Six decks
  • Dealer hits soft 17’s
  • Blackjacks pay 3 to 2
  • Double after split allowed
  • Double on two cards only
  • Re-split pairs up to four hands, including aces
  • No surrender

Three major changes from a standard game:

  1. FREE DOUBLES – with a 2 card total of 9, 10, or 11.  The player’s bet is matched with a “free bet” button and the player receive 1 additional card.
  2. If the dealer wins, the player loses only his original bet.
  3. If the player “pushes,” the player gets back only his original bet.
  4. If the player wins, the player get back his original bet, plus double the original bet.

  Regular doubling is allowed on all other two-card totals.

  • FREE SPLITS – With all pairs, except 10’s, the player’s cards are split into 2-one-card hands.  The player’s original bet is placed with the 1st hand and a “free bet” button is placed with the 2nd hand.  Each hand is played out one at a time, (where “free doubles” and “free splits” are still allowed).  For winning hands, the “free bet” button is replaced with chips equaling the original bet. Losing or push hands result in the dealer taking back the ‘free bet” button.
  • Dealer pushes with 22. If the player has 21 or less and the dealer busts with 22, the player’s bet is a push.

Basic Strategy

Strategy will depend  on whether you playing your real money hand or the “free bet” hand.  This is because with a ‘free bet,” a push is just as bad as a loss.  Therefore you want to be a bit more aggressive with a “free bet” hand.  Afterall, you’re not playing with your own money.

An easy thing to remember strategy-wise, take every free double and free split opportunity you can.  It’s free money!

Worth Playing?

Free Bet Blackjack was accepted by casinos because they know the idea of “free money” is appealing to gamblers.  The idea is that players will make larger original bets, hoping to get the opportunity of a free double or free split and thereby win bigger.

If you are a skilled player and a card counter, Free Bet Blackjack can result in some very profitable sessions.  The question is whether or not you can stay disciplined in play and make the bigger bets, only when it’s most opportune and not in hopes of hitting a big free bet.

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Is Wonging in Blackjack Effective?

Wonging

This is a technique named after Standford Wong, the pen name for the legendary author of “Professional Blackjack” and other gambling books.   It’s not that Stanford invented the technique, but many of the users were Wong’s students.

It is when you stand beside or behind a blackjack table and count the cards and then decide to sit down at the table when the deck is favorable to you as the player.  It is also called “back-counting,” because you’re counting cards from behind the players. 

It is mostly used when there are several decks in play because it allows the wonger to spend some time counting cards.  If only a couple of decks are being used, the wonger doesn’t have a chance to get a good count on the deck before it’s shuffled.

By sitting down when the deck has become favorable, you can make relatively larger bets at once, hopefully without drawing suspicion.  If you’ve been at a table a while and suddenly start making bigger bets, the pit boss may consider that a sign that you’re counting cards and know the deck is suddenly favorable.

Some casinos try to negate wonging by having a “no mid-shoe entry” policy.  However, that can be difficult to enforce, so it still can be done effectively.

There is also a technique called Semi-wonging, where you actually leave the table at a predetermined point in the count.  For instance, you may have sat down when the count was +8, but decide to leave the table if the count falls to +4.

Wonging Advantages

The most obvious advantage is that you only play when the deck is favorable to you.  You don’t have to make minimum bets because you’re only playing when the count is highly favorable, allowing for maximum bets for you.

With bankroll management a vital concern, not having to waste time and money with minimal bets when the deck is not favorable, is a huge advantage.  The bigger you can bet, the more you can win, in a shorter period of time.

Wonging Disadvantages

Though standing around and counting cards can be relatively simple, it can also be noticed by casino surveillance. The casino will eventually realize that you observe tables for a bit and then sit down and make relatively large bets.

Despite sitting down when the deck is favorable, there’s no telling how long the deck will remain this way.  You will of course want to get up when the deck starts cooling down.  Casinos become wary of card counting when a player sits down for only a couple of hands, gets up and perhaps watches a few hands and then sits down again.  You don’t want to be that obvious.

Final Thoughts

Wonging has been around since probably the 1970s.  It can still be done effectively today if it is thoroughly understood and practiced.

In terms of doing it effectively, you need to be able to count cards from a distance, without drawing attention to yourself.

As a wonger, you probably won’t have your table mates happy with you because you sit down and start winning, while they have suffered through all the bad hands!  Just tell them you’ve brought them luck, since the deck is now favorable for all players!

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Understanding Bust-Out Rates

Dealer Bust-Out Rate

This refers to the chance a dealer has of busting out, depending on the up-card.  It’s not imperative to know the exact percentages for each up-card, but knowing the relative rate can help you decide how you will play your cards.

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It has been determined that for an overall rate, a dealer will bust 28% of the time.  The following chart will show the dealer bust rate based on each available up-card.  The first row is the up-card, the second row gives the bust-out percentage:

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ace
35% 37% 40% 42% 42% 26% 24% 23% 23% 17%

Of course these rates (specifically for 10 up-card) refer to those times the dealer does not have blackjack.  If the dealer had blackjack, you wouldn’t even play the hand.

There is clearly a significant drop between having a six or having seven.  This is why “basic” strategy can vary depending on the strategy card you’re using.  It is also why it can make a big difference if the dealer must “hit” a soft 17 or must stand on all 17’s.  If the dealer must hit a soft 17, the bust-out rate for a 6 up-card increases to 44% and for an Ace up-card increases to 20%.

One observation that should be made with this chart, is that the dealer bust-out rate is never over 50%, not even close. So, the dealer never has an up-card that will bust more often than not.  That’s part of the built-in house advantage of the game.

Player Bust-Out Rate

Knowing the player’s bust-out rate is as important as knowing the dealer’s bust-out rate.  The idea is that you don’t want to take the chance of busting out, if the dealer has a better chance of busting out.  In other words, you want to stand pat with your hand only if you have a greater chance of busting than the dealer. The top row is the hand value, the 2nd row is the bust-out rate.

121314151617181920
31%39%56%58%62%69%77%85%92%

As you compare the two charts, you should be able to understand the basis of strategy charts a little more.  First, you want to remember that these rates are primarily used when learning to deal with hand values of 12-16, because you should know not to hit hand values of 17-21.

So, you want to stand when you have 13-16 and the dealer has up-cards of 3-6, because you have a higher bust-out rate (39%-69%) than the dealer (37%-42%) Also you can see that it should be fairly safe to hit a twelve because your bust-out rate is lower than the dealer’s rate in those cases. 

You will find there are experts who say knowing these bust-out rates will help your play, while others profess that such knowledge is useless.  As I first looked at it, it was a bit confusing, but as I took the time to understand it, I think it gave me a better understanding of basic strategy as outlined on strategy cards.

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Card Counting Practice

As with anything you want to be proficient at, it requires practice.  Card counting is no exception.  While it is definitely not illegal, casinos don’t like it to be used because it absolutely allows the player to win more and lose less.

To use it effectively, you have to make sure your usage is not detectable!  Card counters have to be cool, calm and collected, so the pit bosses don’t start keying on your activities.  You want to practice until the process becomes second nature to you.

How To Practice

Fortunately, it’s as simple as grabbing a deck of cards and counting through the entire deck, one card at a time.  Using the simple Hi-Lo method, as you count through the 52 cards (jokers removed), your final count should be 0. 

Your goal should be to get faster each time through.  The expert card counters are able to get through a deck in less than 30 seconds.

Speed Counting

The difference between professional card counters and beginners, is the expert’s ability to count cards in groups, as opposed to counting each card individually. 

Because cards are generally grouped in pairs as you look at a blackjack table, it should be your goal to look at a pair and immediately know that value.  For instance, if you see a Jack and a 3, you should automatically think “0” instead of “-1” and “+1”, = “0.”  Learn to recognize low cards (2’s-6’s) and 10-value cards cancel each other to 0.  In the same vein, with 2 low cards, immediately think “+2,” and with 2 10-value cards, think “-2.”  Being able to look at 2 cards at once and have a count, will dramatically increase your counting speed.

Distractions

You want to practice your card counting with as many distractions as you can possibly create, because casinos will have many distractions.  Just the noise alone in a casino can make card counting difficult. 

The casino atmosphere can work a little in your favor as well, because if you can maintain your cool and keep a running count of the cards on the table, without a pit boss becoming suspicious, more power to you!  You want to be focused, but not “look” focused on the cards dropping on the table. 

You want to be able to take only a second to look at cards and a get a count in your head.  If you can only count by intently staring and doing the math in your head, you will be caught by a pit boss and kindly asked to leave the table.  Learn to count with just a peek at the cards and do the math in your head while looking away from the table.

Online Practice

Finally, there are many online simulators that will help you increase your card counting speed and accuracy.  These are effective ways to truly test how fast you are at counting.  You may have gotten very good at challenging yourself with hand dealing to yourself, but rest assured, it’s more difficult with the online simulators and therefore great practice.

I like cardcountingtrainer.com and the free counter at casino.org just to name a couple of trainers.  All you need to do is a google search for card counting simulators to find one that you’ll like. 

Many people don’t try card counting because they feel it’s too difficult.  That’s not true!  All it takes is practice, practice, practice. 

It takes a lot of practice because the hardest part of card counting for blackjack, is doing it calmly enough so that you’re not caught doing it.  Remember, it’s not illegal, so you won’t get arrested, you’ll just be asked to not come back.

The best way to stay calm about it is to know it so well, that it’s like second nature to you and you can count without batting an eye.  That just takes practice!

European Blackjack, Rules & Strategy

With Europe being the place where Blackjack was said to be born, the European version does vary slightly from the classic American standard and therefore more and more players look to challenge themselves with the European version.  It is mostly played online and in some rare instances, can be found in land-based casinos.  Rules can vary slightly depending on the casino you play at, so always be sure to look at their complete set of rules before sitting down at the table.

Oddly enough, you can find the European version played with anywhere from 2-8 decks of cards, so verify how many decks are being used at the casino you choose to play at.  Playing with 6 decks is most common.

Standard rules with any version:

  • – No Peek – dealer doesn’t look at hole-card, player loses total bet on dealer blackjack
  • – Dealer must draw to 16
  • – Insurance is allowed
  • – Cards are shuffled after each round

 

Rules that can vary depending on the version:

  • – Splitting allowed only once and only with identical cards (cannot split King/Queen, for instance)
  • – No splitting of 4s, 5s, or 10-valued cards
  • – If Aces split, player can only receive 1 additional card on each ace
  • – Blackjack pays 3:2
  • – Dealer always stands or always hits a soft 17
  • – Player can double on any two cards
  • – Double after split may or may not be allowed
  • – Surrender may or may not be allowed, though not if dealer is showing an Ace

As you can see, there can be several differences involved depending on where you play the game.  Make sure you understand all the rules to the version you opt to play, so you can strategize accordingly.

European Blackjack Strategy

The fact that the cards are shuffled after every round, makes it difficult to count cards, so don’t expect to practice your card counting skills playing European blackjack!

The first notable variant is that splitting of 4’s, 5’s and 10’s is not allowed.  This can vary depending on the casino you’re playing at.  While classic strategy tells you not to split those pairs anyway, the rule was set to make sure it’s not done.  By splitting, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to increase your bet and win more, something the casino doesn’t want to happen.

The variant considered most significant is that the dealer is not allowed to take a look at his face down card until all players decide what they want to do.  In most versions, the dealer is dealt only one card first anyway. Remember, with classic blackjack, the dealer will check for a blackjack if he has an Ace showing.

That changes strategy slightly because if the dealer eventually has blackjack, a player may have double downed or split cards, losing the additional bets.  With classic blackjack, the dealer immediately checks for a blackjack, “saving” the player from making additional bets on a “losing hand”.

Compared to classic American blackjack, in European blackjack, your play should be more conservative.  You’ll be doubling down and splitting less often.  For instance, when the dealer has a ten or an Ace, you don’t want to be doubling down so quickly, because he still may have 21 and you would lose even if you do make 21 yourself.

Conclusion

This is a great choice if you want to try a different version not too far off the classic blackjack. The differences are minor and easily figured out, so it makes it an easy game to fight the boredom of classic blackjack.

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Quick & Easy Soft Hand Strategy

Probably the most misplayed hands in blackjack are the soft hands.  The casual player gets easily baffled about when to hit or double.

A good rule to follow with soft hands is to “Always count your Ace as an 11 first.”  You do that until your total is over 21, then make it a 1 and play your hand like it is a hard hand.

 

Doubling Down with soft hands:

As a start, you always want to double down when the dealer is showing a 5 or 6, if you have a soft 13-18. The idea behind this is to maximize the return on your bet.  When you double down, you believe you are more likely to win the hand than lose the hand.  With a 5 or 6 showing, the dealer is going to have to take a hit, with a greater probability of busting and you winning.  You want to take advantage of that by making a bigger bet through doubling down.

The strategy charts will tell you the only other times to double with a soft hand is when the dealer shows a 3 or 4.  When the dealer shows a 3, you double with a 17 or 18, when the dealer shows a 4, you double with a 15-18.  Other than those instances, you’re going to just hit or stand.

The strategy behind doubling down also entails that the play must also return a greater profit than playing that hand in any other manner!  So, with many soft hands against a weak dealer’s up-card, you make money over time regardless of whether you hit or double.  But with certain cards, just hitting makes more money because it gives you the ability to take a second hit if your first hit is low.  Doubling down with the wrong soft total can make you go from favorite to underdog, so playing the cards right is essential.

Rule of 9

This is the final easy way to learn the correct times to double down with soft hands.  First, you definitely have to have A/2 – A/7 (13-18) before thinking about doubling.  What you then do is add your kicker card (the non-Ace) to the dealer’s up-card and if the total count is nine or greater, you double down on your bet. If the sum total is less than nine, you just want to hit your hand.

The Rule of 9 is only correct 94% of the time though because of the situation of A/4 against a dealer’s 4.  The rule says you should just hit that (sum total is 8), but mathematically you’re actually about a half percent better off if you double down on that. It’s a borderline call, and based on thousands of hands played, “in the long run” doubling down in that situation pays off more often than not. It’s an exception to the rule.  If you can remember this exception, playing the Rule of 9 will have you doubling down on soft hands, with precision. 

Final Thoughts

Learning to play correct soft doubling can add .10% advantage to basic strategy.  That may not seem like much, but over time, that can make a big difference in your profit/loss.  There are 3 easy rules to follow when deciding on soft doubling. They are: Always soft double against a 5 or 6, Never soft double against a 2 and if the dealer has a 3 or 4, go with the Rule of 9. 

Casual players make the mistake of doubling down against any dealer small up-card.  Don’t slip up like that!

There is “correct strategy” for when to double down with a soft hand…learn it!  Trust the charts!

 

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Blackjack Split Strategy

Knowing when to split cards and actually doing it at the game table, can be two different things for many blackjack players.

It’s well known good strategy that you always split Aces and Eights.  Even the most casual player can understand that and be quite comfortable with remembering and doing that when faced with that choice. 

Splitting the F’s

Another blackjack lore (there are many) is that you “never split anything that starts with an F.”  In this instance, F stands for 4’s, 5’s and faces.

As your playing strategy and knowledge advances beyond basic strategy, you come to realize that adage is not always right.  The only part that is always right is that 5’s should never be split.  Any “hard” ten combination should be played the same way.  So, if you have 2/8, 3/7, 4/6, or 5/5, play them the same.

You would think it would be bad to split faces, and that is so for a basic strategy player.  However, in some cases, when you’re counting cards, it can be advantageous to split faces.  Staying with never splitting faces, is the best strategy for most players though.

The difficult question with 4/4 is whether to double down, hit or split the pair. For the most part, splitting 4’s is a no-no, but against dealer’s 5up or 6up, you want to split.  The error many players make with a 4/4 hand, is that they will double down on this if the dealer is showing less than 6.  Again, if you think of 4/4 as a “hard” eight, like 5/3, or 6/2, you know not to double down.

Re-Splitting

It becomes a difficult choice for the amateur player when they make the correct decision to split a pair and end up with another pair to split.  What you must keep in mind is that the situation hasn’t changed, so if it was correct to split the pair the first time, it’s correct to split again.  As long as the table rules allow, you want to continue to split as long as you’re pairing up.  If it’s the correct play the first time, it will be the correct play the 2nd, 3rd or however many split chances you get in the one hand. Yes, it can become expensive, but it you win the bets, it can be a very profitable hand, especially if the dealer busts!  As long as you have the chips to bet, keep splitting if it’s the right play!

Doubling Down

It’s common for amateur players to “forget” to double down after splitting cards.  If you split and face a double down situation, you have to remember to make that double down.  The amateur probably worries about having many bets in play on a single hand, but you have to make the double down when it is there for the taking.  When you have the double down play, it’s clearly your advantage at that time, don’t save your extra bet for the next hand that might not be a winner for you.  Always jump at those times when you know you actually have the advantage, don’t be afraid.

Multi-Card Hit

While it’s not considered splitting cards, the decision to hit a multi-card 16 or multi-card soft 18 is also a difficult choice to make for the average blackjack player.

With a multi-card hard 16, you still must hit if the dealer has a 7 or better.  The number of cards you need to get to 17 or better should not be your concern.

With a multi-card soft 18, you must remember that it’s a “soft” 18, so the correct play is to hit if the dealer has 9 or better.  It’s not the number of cards, it’s the point value of the cards that count!

In Summary

Understanding splitting and multi-card strategy is what will take your game to that next level.  By not doing the above outlined strategies, and not trusting what basic strategy tells you to do, you will give back 1/3% of the advantage to the casino.  You can’t be afraid to re-split a pair,  double after a split or hit multi-card 16’s or soft 18’s.  Even if you do everything else right, you’re giving away advantage over the long run.  Trust the process!