Why Hit a Soft 18

Novice players will stand with a soft 18, against a dealer’s 9, 10 or Ace, because they figure that there are only 3 cards that will help the hand, 4 card will keep it the same and the remaining 6 cards will make it worse.

Unfortunately, though it is logically correct in that thought, it is flawed because it is only thinking in terms of one additional hit!  Statistically, when you hit a soft 18, you’ll improve your hand with the first hit only 23 out of 100 times.

In that same vein, you’ll make 38 stiffs (12 thru 16), which you will continue to hit!  With the continued hitting, you’ll improve your hand, to 19 or better, 10 more times out of the 38. So, you’ll improve your hand almost 33 out of 100 times.

Statistically it’s been shown that based on 100 hands, 34 times you’ll hit a hard 18, 32.5 times you’ll hit a 17 or bust, and 33.5 times you’ll hit a 19 thru 21.  So, you can figure only 32.5 times out of a hundred, you’ll lose against a dealer’s 9, 10, or Ace.

If you hit a soft 18, you will improve your hand a little more often than not hitting it.  It is a slightly improved chance, but by hitting a soft 18, against a dealer’s 9, 10 or Ace, your chance to win goes up more than it goes down, when you don’t.

For example: If you stand with a soft 18 against an Ace, you’ll win 5 out of 13 hands.  If you hit all 13 hands and turn them into 17’s, you’ll win only 3 hands. However, if you hit and make all 19’s, you win 8 out of 13 hands.   So, you’ll have more wins by taking the chance to improve your hand, than by sticking with it.

It’s been figured out that when a dealer has a 9, 10, or Ace, and has to hit a soft 17, if you stand on a soft 18, your win percentage is 39-41%.  If the dealer has to stand on a soft 17, and you stand on a soft 18, your win percentage goes to 41-45%.

If you hit a soft 18, when the dealer has an 9, 10 or Ace and must hit a soft 17, your win percentage is 42-45%.  If you hit a soft 18 and the dealer has a 9, 10 or Ace and must stand on a soft 17, your win percentage is 43-45.5%.

As the basic strategy charts tell you, you should hit a soft 18 against a dealer’s 9, 10 or Ace, because testing proves it to result in slightly more wins.  Trust the charts and you’ll win more in the long run!

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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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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 Betting Progressions – Is a Negative a Positive?

In my previous post, I touched very quickly on negative progression betting.  This type of betting is when you increase the size of your bet after a loss. Let’s go over the good and bad of it.

Is It Effective?

One of the most well-known and used negative progression betting systems is The Martingale method.  With this system, the amount of your next bet, after a loss, is “double” the previous bet.  That is probably the biggest problem with this method.  There are other negative progression systems that don’t require doubling your bet size after a loss, but the principal is still the same, increase your bet after a loss.  The good thing about it is, that more than likely,  you’ll end up ahead or at least at a break even, if you win that next bet after a loss.  However, you’re headed for sure disaster with just a few losses in a row.

Can Negative Progression Betting Work?

Here’s a projected outcome using a negative progression system.  I’ll use the same run of ten dealt hands that I used in my previous post on positive progression systems.

    • Hand #1, Bet $15, win, win $15, cumulative win/loss = $15
    • Hand #2, Bet $15, win, win $15, cumulative win/loss = $30
    • Hand #3, Bet $15, win, win $15, cumulative win/loss = $45
    • Hand #4, Bet $15, lose, lose $15, cumulative win/loss = $30
    • Hand #5, Bet $30, lose, lose $30, cumulative win/loss = 0
    • Hand #6, Bet $60, lose, lose $60, cumulative win/loss = -$60
    • Hand #7, Bet $120, win, win $120, cumulative win/loss = $60
    • Hand #8, Bet $15, win, win $15, cumulative win/loss = $75
    • Hand #9, Bet $15, lose, lose $15, cumulative win/loss = $60
    • Hand #10, Bet $30 win, win $30, cumulative win/loss = $90

While this outcome is favorable, it is that way because I have only projected a maximum of 3 losses in a row.  What is more likely to happen at a casino is 5 or 6 losses in a row!  Think about that using a negative progression system with a minimum bet of $15 and 5 losses in a row.  The betting progressions would be: $15, $30, $60, $120, $240, for a total of $465 in just 5 bets.  Your sixth bet would have to be $480, and if you finally win with that sixth hand, you’re up $15.  Keeping that in mind, your starting bankroll would have to be almost $1000, just in case your session started with 5 losses in a row. Not being a professional, I would never have my starting bankroll that high. Yes, that is an extreme example of what could happen, but it is an easy way to show the negative about the negative progression betting. But that’s why they call it gambling.

Can You Afford It?

As stated earlier, doubling up on losses is the basis of the Martingale betting system.  Now of course you can modify the system to fit your own gambling style by increasing your bet by a lower percentage (not doubling) and then you can withstand more losses in a row.  Unfortunately, you never now how long a losing streak will be.  Since the casino will always have a slight advantage, you have to realize that you will probably be losing more hands than you will be winning. That’s the inherent risk in gambling of course. The question to ask yourself is: Can your bankroll handle 5 or 6 losses in a row, if you increase your bet after each loss? How many times are you willing to double up on your bet?  What is more  likely to happen though, is that you will reach the table maximum in allowed bet size, so you may not be able to make your money back with that next bet, even if the next hand is a winner for you.  Remember, the reasoning behind doubling your bet size after a loss, is to win back your lost money with the next hand that will hopefully be a winner. In my experience playing blackjack, it’s not too often that a session of blackjack goes “win a hand, lose a hand, win a hand, lose a hand,” and so on. Blackjack is definitely a game of streaks of wins or losses.

Winning With Negative Progression

Professional blackjack players will tell you that negatve progression betting is risky because it is sort of based on what is known as “The Gamblers Fallacy.”  The Gamblers Fallacy is the mistaken belief that, if something happens more frequently than normal during a given period it will happen less frequently in the future.  Negative progression bettors wrongfully rely on the belief that there won’t be a lot of losses in a row.  I can’t rely on that.  I’ve seen too many times, players losing 6 or 7 hands in a row.  Now hopefully they would get up after perhaps 5 losses in a row, but they “have a feeling” the cards are due to turn around in their favor and they will win the next hand.

As shown in my example above, a nice amount of money can be won, but only if there is not a long streak of losing hands. With a relatively small run of losing hands (5 or 6), a lot of money can be lost very quickly.  In my area, the cheapest minimum bet blackjack table is $15, so doubling up on bets can add up to a lot of money very fast. I’m not a professional. I enjoy playing for fun and hopefully making a little side money.  In my opinion, there is definitely too much risk and too much money involved with using a negative progression betting system.   A negative progression betting system can be good, if you’re willing to start with a large bankroll,  just in case you run into a bad run of cards.

Conclusion

In my mind, a negative is not a positive. I’ll stick with a positive progression system where you can probably play for a little longer, despite a bad run of cards.  I believe a negative progression betting system should be left to the true professional player to use because it does involve taking a big risk that you don’t have several losing hands in a row.  That’s too big a gamble for me…leave it to the professionals!

 

 

 

 

Winning Blackjack Betting Strategies-The Good vs The Bad


Having a strategic betting system when playing blackjack is the best way to ensure a winning session.  The problem lies in figuring out which one is best for you.  There are so many to choose from, keeping in mind the different deviations that can be played, that you should pick the one that’s the easiest for you to learn.

Basic Types of Blackjack Betting Systems

For the most part, blackjack betting is done with progressive betting, which is choosing to raise or lower the amount of your bet based on winning or losing the previous hand. Blackjack betting systems are defined as either Positive Progressive Betting or Negative Progressive Betting.  With positive progressive betting, you raise your bet after a win.  With Negative Progressive betting, you raise your bet after a loss.  I personally like and use a simple positive progressive system because I don’t want to use something that is inherently negative!  I try to always think positive!

Positive Progressive Betting – The Good

This type of betting is quite popular with blackjack players because you increase your bet as long as you’re winning and go back down to a minimum bet when you lose.  This can be an effective strategy when the game play is “streaky,” as often is the case. In playing blackjack, there can definitely be streaks of several winning hands in a row or losing hands in a row.  When you are on a streak of several winning hands in a row, it’s great because you’re raising your bet after each win.  Once the winning stops, you go back to the minimum bet, If the losing streak continues, you’re only losing the minimum amount.  What’s good about this is that it would allow you to probably play at the table for a while without a big loss if streaks are consistent.  You’re going to be winning a little more with each wining hand in a row, and only losing the minimum with each losing hand in a row.  Let’s take a look at how I would use this system, on a run of 10 hands:

    • Hand #1 – Bet $15, win, win $15, cumulative win/loss: $15
    • Hand #2 – Bet $20, win, win $20, cumulative win/loss: $35
    • Hand #3 – Bet $25, win, win $25, cumulative win/loss: $60
    • Hand #4 – Bet $30, lose, lose $30, cumulative win/loss:  $30
    • Hand #5 – Bet $15, lose, lose $15, cumulative win/loss: $15
    • Hand #6 – Bet $15, lose, lose $15, cumulative win/loss:  $0
    • Hand #7 – Bet $15, win, win $15, cumulative win/loss: $15
    • Hand #8 – Bet $20, win, win $20, cumulative win/loss: $35
    • Hand #9 – Bet $25, lose, lose $25, cumulative win/loss: $10
    • Hand #10 – Bet $15, win, win $15, cumulative win/loss: $25

This scenario is assuming all winning hands were even money wins, no blackjacks or double downs that pay more.  You can see that with just 3 wins or losses in a row, I could still be winning with this relatively conservative positive progessive betting system.  I find that I generally don’t have more than 3 winning hands in a row, so my betting rarely goes over  $30. Since I don’t do this as a profession, that’s okay. Also keep in mind that if some of the wins were doubled or blackjack wins, I’d be up even more.

Does Progressive Betting Work?

Many blackjack players swear that progressive betting doesn’t work in the long run, because it does rely on streaks to work effectively.  So, my theory behind using a positive progressive strategy is to know when to get up from the table.  Sure the pros say it won’t work in the long run, I say, use it in the short run.  My strategy is “don’t be greedy.”  I live close to a casino, so I keep it a rule that if the cards start to run bad, get up and come back tomorrow!  I have my own take on a positive progressive system, as outlined above, and my goal for each session is to win $100, or lose $60, or play for just 1 hour. Once 1 of those three results happens, I leave the table and come back another day.  With any betting system you should always have a pre-determined win/loss limit.

Just a caution, I’m talking about a POSITIVE PROGRESSIVE system.  A negative progressive system is a totally different story to be discussed at another time.  As mentioned earlier, with a negative progressive system, you increase (usually double) your bet with every loss. Just imagine how quickly you could lose your money with just a short streak of losing hands.

Conclusion

Professional blackjack players will tell you that casino’s like progressive bettors (especially negative progressive bettors) because in the long run, they will lose  There again are the magic words “in the long run,”  and so your goal should be to play disciplined and not stay at a losing table.  A positive progressive bettor can lose money, but will have increased winnings to get ahead and offset the losses.  Positive progressive betting is good and can work!