Martingale Strategy for Blackjack

The Martingale betting strategy is used most often with roulette betting.  However, because it is a betting system, it can be employed with any game of chance.

The Martingale betting system was developed to bet on outcomes that have a 50/50 chance of occurrence, like the flip of a coin.  However it has been adapted for use in the gambling games of blackjack and roulette.  In roulette, you’d use it on bets like black/red, or odd/even.

The basics of the system is that you stay with your original bet as long as you win but you double your bet size when you lose and then you go back to your original bet once you win again. As you might imagine, your success with this system would depend on the way the cards are running.  If the cards are running hot for you (a winning streak) you can make a modest profit.  However, if the cards are producing a losing streak for you, it could get costly very quickly. 

Let’s look at some examples.  The tables below look at if you’re playing at a $5 minimum table, and you run into short or longer winning streaks or losing streaks:

WINNING STREAKS

HandBet AmountWin/LoseAmount Won/LossCumulative Profit/Loss
15Lose-5-5
210Win105
35Win510
45Lose-55
510Win1015
65Win520
75Lose-515
810Win1025
95Win530
105Lose-525
Total Amount Bet65
2 Hand winning streak – After 10 hands, you’ve bet $65 to win $25
HandBet AmountWin/LoseAmount Won/LossCumulative Profit/Loss
15Lose-5-5
210Win105
35Win510
45Win515
55Lose-510
610Win1020
75Win525
85Win530
95Lose-525
1010Win1035
Total Amount Bet65
3 Hand winning streak – After 10 hands, you’ve bet $65, to win $35
HandBet AmountWin/LoseAmount Won/LossCumulative Profit/Loss
15Lose-5-5
210Win105
35Win510
45Win515
55Win520
65Lose-515
710Win1025
85Win530
95Win535
105Win540
Total Amount Bet60
4 Hand winning streak – After 10 hands, you’ve bet $60, to win $40

  LOSING STREAKS

HandBet AmountWin/LoseAmount Won/LossCumulative Profit/Loss
15Win55
25Lose-50
310Lose-10-10
420Win2010
55Lose-55
610Lose-10-5
720Win2015
85Lose-510
910Lose-100
1020Win2020
Total Amount Bet110
2 Hand losing streak – After 10 hand, you’ve bet $110, to win $20
HandBet AmountWin/LoseAmount Won/LossCumulative Profit/Loss
15Win55
25Lose-50
310Lose-10-10
420Lose-20-30
540Win4010
65Lose-55
710Lose-10-5
820Lose-20-25
940Win4015
105Lose-510
Total Amount Bet160
3 Hand losing streak – After 10 hands, you’ve bet $160, to win $10
HandBet AmountWin/LoseAmount Won/LossCumulative Profit/Loss
15Win55
25Lose-50
310Lose-10-10
420Lose-20-30
540Lose-40-70
680Win8010
75Lose-55
810Lose-10-5
920Lose-20-25
1040Lose-40-65
Total Amount Bet235
4 Hand losing streak – After 10 hands, you’ve bet $235, to lose $65

As you look at these tables (very simple examples for demonstration purposes), the system will provide a small profit with not a large total amount bet, if you can run into a winning streak of hands.

The problem with the system is if the cards are running bad and you fall into a losing streak.  You can quickly spend a lot of money and still end up losing a decent amount of money.  Basically, it takes only losing 2 hands in a row to start to get in trouble with this betting system.

Reality of Use

Because it’s more likely than not that you’ll run into a losing streak, (after all, the odds in winning are against you from the start) you’ll need a large initial bankroll to use the Martingale system properly.

At the minimum $5 bet, if you lose just 5 bets in a row, your sixth bet would have to be $160. As a casual gambler, you probably came to the casino with $300-$500 for the night. So, after 5 hands, you’re going to be betting half your bankroll.  Also, table limits will stop your ability to double your previous bet as a losing streak continues, so you won’t make the expected return when you finally win.

It can quickly become a costly system if the cards are unfavorable.  If the cards are favorable, it doesn’t really account for that favorable advantage because you never increase your minimal bet win things are good.  At best, you make a modest profit when the cards are running good.

Final Thoughts

I think you only hear people talk about the Martingale betting system and don’t see them using it is because in reality, it can’t be used.  It can get very expensive and even if money were no limit to you as a player, the limits a casino places on their games, will limit your ability to continually double losing bets.  It is best used in short runs of hands, to limit your losses. Remember, you will probably have more losing hands because the odds are against you anyway. 

5 Tips to Play Like a Blackjack Professional

Blackjack is the one casino game where the player can consistently make a profit if played correctly.

The professional gambler enters a casino as if it was a battlefield and knows the casino is most vulnerable at the blackjack tables. 

One way to win a battle is to expose your enemy’s weakness.  The casino’s weakness is the blackjack table, because it has the lowest house edge of all the casino games.

So what strategies does the professional blackjack player use to beat the casino?

#1 LEARN THE GAME

The professional player is an absolute student of the game.  They understand that knowledge is power and to know everything possible about blackjack will make the difference in how profitable it can be for them. 

To play like a blackjack professional, you need to know every possible rule and variation of the rules, at the house where you play.  There can be many differences from casino to casino, that will absolutely make a difference between winning and losing. 

It would be good to read a wide variety of blackjack books to ensure you’re learning every aspect of the game.  A casual player may not think about proper dealing procedure, watching the skill level of the dealer, or if correct payouts are made, but a professional is astutely aware of any deviation that could change the advantages.

Most of the blackjack books will have at least a small section that talks about card counting and how being able to count cards creates a professional advantage.  A professional player is going to be able to use at least one effective card counting system.

Professional players are not going to make a simple mistake. You must have the basic blackjack strategy memorized to perfection because in the game of blackjack, there is always a proper or best move to make.

If you want to play like a professional blackjack player, be honest with yourself and admit what you don’t know and then take the steps to learn what you don’t know.

#2 Find the Bad Dealers

Another advantage that casual players don’t take into consideration is poor dealer technique. It is possible to use poor dealer technique to make more money.

A blackjack dealer may not be aware that he/she flashes the value of the face down card to players in a particular seat.  Learn to watch the dealer’s hands as the face down card is placed to the table.

In reality, something like that is not going to happen often, but when you know the face down card value, that’s of course a huge advantage.

If the cards are hand shuffled, some dealers aren’t as thorough as they could be, which can lead to shuffle tracking or ace sequencing by the professional player.  Shuffle tracking is when you keep track of cards or a series of cards during shuffling.  It lets you predict when portions of the shoe will come up. So if a clump of high cards is coming up, you’d want to bet bigger and if you know a clump of low cards is coming up, you’d want to bet smaller.  Ace sequencing is a form of shuffle tracking where you determine when an ace may be coming up, based on tracking identifier or key cards before it.

#3 Play The Best Version

Of course there are many variations of blackjack available.  Each game has it own set of rules that will influence the house edge either up or down. To play smart, you want play the version that lowers the house edge as much as possible.

Most casino blackjack games have a house edge of .5% or less, though every now and then that edge can go down to .3% based on the rules.

You must be aware of rules that can bring the house edge up to 1% and therefore stay away from those games.

Learn how different rules can effect the house edge so you only play at tables with the lowest house edge.

#4 Learn When Side Bets are Okay

Basic strategy tells you to never play any side bets, that includes insurance and surrendering.  Blackjack professionals know that there are times when side bets are profitable.

If you don’t already know, side bets are basically a way for casinos to get more of your money, per hand, and increase their profits. 

It is best to be a card counter to know when the deck is favorable and there is a better chance to “hit” the side bet for break even.  All the counting systems have information on when it’s best to take insurance.

You can also take advantage of a bad dealer by taking insurance if you’ve seen the face down card is a 10-value and the face-up card is an Ace.  The dealer will ask if you want insurance and of course you would say yes because you know the dealer has 21.  You don’t profit, but you do break even.

#5 Card Counting

Being able to count cards is the best way to play like a professional.  There are many card counting systems available, some more complex than others, but card counting is a skill that can be learned.  To play like a professional, it is a skill that absolutely must be learned.

Pick a system, get a book to study and learn it inside and out, and practice it until it becomes second nature.

Even the simplest of systems will give you an advantage that can be the difference between making money or losing money.

THE FINAL PAYOFF

If you can learn to use these 5 tips, you will be able to play blackjack like a professional and make a profit more consistently.

They are not difficult strategies to learn. You just have to be willing to invest the time to learn them.

You’ll probably enjoy playing blackjack more as a result and perhaps end up becoming a blackjack professional yourself!

BLACKJACK PAYOUTS 6:5 vs. 3:2

With more and more casinos going to a 6:5 blackjack payoff, you should  understand the significant difference this makes.

The casual blackjack player is not going to care, or may not even realize there can be a different payout on blackjack from table to table.  They may feel they would rarely get blackjack, so it’s no big deal to them.

The problem is that the difference can really hurt your potential profits.  The draw to these games is that they’re usually single-deck games, which many casual players feel is more advantageous.

The odds of hitting a blackjack are actually 1 in every 21 hands over a lifetime, coincidentally. For example, if you’re playing at a 4-handed table, for five hours, at a $10 per hand, you’ll probably hit 21 blackjacks in that time period.

Out of those 21 blackjacks, let’s say you push on 2 of them because the dealer is mean like that.  You’ll be paid on 19 blackjacks. At 6:5 on a $10 bet, you’ll be paid $12. At 3:2 on a $10 bet, you’ll be paid $15.  That makes for a difference of $57.  Because the house pays 6:5, instead of the traditional 3:2, they have ripped you off of $57!  That may not seem like a lot, but if you played 10 times, being cheated out of $57 each session, that’s $570 after 10 visits!

That payout difference gives the house about a 1.4% additional edge in the game.  If you only play once or twice a year, it won’t be a big deal to you, but if you’re going to be a regular player, it’s a killer!

Here’s a chart that shows the results of that difference:

Blackjack PayoffStandard Daily Win/Loss RangeAve. Daily ResultAverage YearStatistical Odds Against a Winning Year
3 -to- 2+$210/-$265($28)($330)2 to 1
6 -to- 5+$150/-$325($88)($1,000)9 to 1

Additional drawbacks of a 6:5 payoff:

  • If you don’t make a bet divisible by 5, your payoff will not be totally paid at 6:5.  For instance, if you bet $8, you will get $6 for the first $5, but the last $3 will be paid at even money, resulting in a payout of $9. (instead of the $9.60 it should be at full odds) At a 3:2 odds payout, any even amount bet will get the full 3:2 payout.
  • The even money payoff on a blackjack if the dealer shows an Ace, is not allowed in a 6:5 game because of the uneven payout.
  • It also impacts dealer tips. In a 3:2 game, a $1 tip to the dealer pays him $1.50, whereas as $1 tip in a 6:5 game is only a $1, because small change is not handled. (the tip should pay $1.20)
  • Not really a drawback, but you wouldn’t find a 6:5 payout on a high stakes table. The high rollers know better than to stand for that ripoff!

Final Thoughts

Remember, blackjack is popular because the house edge is low, now casinos are looking to change that and this is a simple way for them to up their edge.  They know the casual tourist player, or uninformed beginner, will not realize the difference.

Try not to play at 6:5 tables.  Don’t fall for the single-deck ploy and lower minimum bets, it’s not a better deal if blackjack pays 6:5.  Perhaps if casinos see a drop in play at the 6:5 tables, they’ll bring back more 3:2 tables, which is what we want!  Unfortunately, it will probably end up the way it’s going now…more 6:5 tables with lower minimum bets, and the 3:2 payout tables left for the high stakes players.

VIDEO POKER STRATEGY – Jacks or Better

Can you have a strategy when playing video poker?  The video poker game  Jacks of Better is probably the most popular and is said to be the same whether you play it at a land-based casino or online.

With video poker games, the house edge is tied directly to the pay tables on the machines.  It’s been figured out that the best Jack or Better video poker games to play are those that pay 6 coins for a flush and 9 coins for a full house.  So, you first want to look at the pay tables when you sit down at a machine (or you are looking online) to determine if those parameters  exist.  These machines are called 9/6 machines and it has been determined that the house edge with these machines can be as low as .46%, if you use a proper strategy chart.

Yes, there are strategy charts for poker, the same as with blackjack.  Basically, a video poker strategy chart has hands ranked from best to worst.   You locate your hand on the chart and follow the instructions from there.  The following chart is the “Jacks or Better Simple” developed by online guru, The Wizard of Odds.

  1. Four of a kind, straight flush, royal flush
  2. 4 to a royal flush
  3. Three of a kind, straight, flush, full house
  4. 4 to a straight flush
  5. Two pair
  6. High pair
  7. 3 to a royal flush
  8. 4 to a flush
  9. Low pair
  10. 4 to an outside straight
  11. 2 suited high cards
  12. 3 to a straight flush
  13. 2 unsuited high cards (if more than 2 then pick the lowest 2)
  14. Suited 10/J, 10/Q, or 10/K
  15. One high card
  16. Discard everything

The idea is to figure out all the reasonable outcomes for the hand and pick the hand that has the highest payoff. While that seems easy and logical, the proper strategic play is not the usual play most casual players would make.

For instance, looking at the chart, if you are dealt a High Pair with 3 to a royal flush, you should keep the high pair. That can sometimes be a difficult decision to make because most casual players figure it’s always best to go for the royal flush if you’re dealt at least 3 of the cards.  High cards (J-A), are usually kept because if matched, at least your original bet is returned. A royal flush is said to happen 1 every 40,000 hands.

The Wizard of Odds also has intermediate and optimal strategies to follow, that involve more detail.  You can check them out on his website.

The other basic strategy when playing Jacks or Better video poker, is to make the maximum bet.  So, you want to make sure you’re playing at a machine that you can afford to do so.  If you’re not playing the 5 coin maximum bet, you’re upping the house edge for every spin.  Also, there is a  bonus paid for hitting a royal flush with a maximum bet.

FINAL THOUGHTS

For a strategy to be effective, you must be disciplined and diligent in using it properly at all times. It will take practice to perfect, as no strategy will work if you don’t practice it.  Whether you play online or in a land-based casino, Jacks or Better video poker has a minimal house edge, which means you can probably play and make a profit if played strategically correct.

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CASH GAME STRATEGY-Tips for a profitable poker session

WHAT IS A CASH GAME

A poker cash game is a game where the players use real chips and are betting real money.  A cash game is also called a ring game or live action game.

There is no designated start or stop time and they will happen 24 hours a day in casinos and online.

The amount of money bet is usually preset for a particular table, but the most popular are the no-limit, Texas Hold’em games.

WHY DIFFERENT STRATEGY

Playing in a regular cash game as opposed to in a tournament, requires different strategy because typically a tournament is a winner-take-all situation.  With a cash game, you can stop playing whenever you want and therefore you can determine your profit or loss.

Cash games are more about value. There has to be strategy in play all through the hand with a cash game. Play can be more difficult because there are generally more chips on the line, so you have to think about strategy from the flop to the river.

In a tournament, the fact of being “on the bubble” (1st player out of pay position) will make a player hesitant on going for maximum value.

STRATEGY AND TIPS

  • Try to keep a healthy stack size.  This seems obvious but the tendency is to have your stack get so low, and then you start making bad decisions out of panic.  If you feel you’re the best player, keep a good stack of chips so you can maximize profit when the opportunity arises.
  • Do not open limp preflop.  Limping in, just to see more flops is not good. Experienced players will usually raise preflop as a sign of aggression.  This lets you win pots postflop that you probably would not have won with limping in.
  • Try to be the last person to bet or raise.  When players end up checking around to you, you can often win the pot with a continuation bet.
  • Bet aggressively only if you’re in position.  Being out of position is always a disadvantage.
  • Know when to hold, know when to fold.  Don’t try to play every hand, and don’t stay in a pot too long.
  • Play tight and try to open with top pair or better only.  Don’t bluff too often, just value bet your good hands. When you open with solid hands, you will make solid hands after the flop.
  • Bluff on the flop if there is a potential backdoor draw, such as runner-runner, flush or straight on the river.
  • Almost always 3-bet with a premium hand.
  • Play with an amount you can afford to lose!
  • Don’t let “tilt” get you…try to stay calm and mentally alert!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Cash game strategy is not hard to figure out.  If you play tight but aggressive, you will probably end up with a very profitable poker session.

Be sure to sign up for more free information and check below for the best online casinos to test your new strategy.  Good luck!

INTERMEDIATE BLACKJACK STRATEGY – Beyond the Basics

While you should be able to maintain a decent profit, playing blackjack with basic strategy, you should also realize that there are probably more advanced tactics that can be used to enjoy even more profits.

More experienced players know that there are special situations where basic strategy is not the best play.  Experts will tell you that the use of basic strategy is always acceptable, yet not always the best play to make the most money.

WHAT IS INTERMEDIATE BLACKJACK STRATEGY

This strategy takes into account advanced play of the game and bankroll management. It includes learning about odds and probability, in addition to basic card counting, which is not as difficult as you would think.

Basic strategy is based on rigid rules of play that do not allow a player (more experienced) to take advantage of special circumstances that would reduce the house edge, giving the player a chance to make more money.

PLAY OF THE GAME

The first thing an experienced player will think about is which seat to take at the table. A novice will sit anywhere, often directly in front of the dealer to better see all the cards and how others are playing.  The experienced player will take the last seat because he knows play from this seat can greatly influence all the players.  If the player sitting in the last seat doesn’t play correctly, it can affect everybody’s chance of winning.  For instance, if he hits a hand that he should really stand on (based on basic strategy) and takes a high card, a card that would have busted the dealer, that allows the dealer to draw a low card and ends up beating everybody!  An experienced player knows the importance of the last player being able to play perfect basic strategy.  You don’t want to be at a table where the player in the last seat announces he is a novice!

An intermediate player will recognize a winning streak and therefore will raise their bet until a losing streak begins. A novice player will always bet the same amount (not counting doubling down), and just be happy winning. The thought of “hitting while the iron is hot” is not in their mind.  Part of bankroll management is knowing when to bet more, to realize faster profits.

ODDS AND PROBABILITY

As with all games in a casino, winning blackjack is about odds and probability.

Blackjack is a popular casino game because it has the best odds of all the games, with a house edge of around .5%  That’s why, even as a novice, it is the best table game to play in a casino if making a profit is your primary goal.  If just having fun and hoping to win big quickly is your goal, feel free to pick any other game.

When you think about probability in blackjack, you take into consideration previous hands.  Being able to remember the cards that have been played, even if not exactly, but the fact that a whole bunch of face cards have been dealt, makes it more probable that a low card should be coming out soon.  This is the simple start of card counting.

ADVANCED TIPS

Surrender – Not all casinos offer surrender, and therefore it’s not usually a subject talked about with beginners.  As a beginner, you’re basically told to never surrender.

When you surrender, you give up your hand for half your bet.  If your wager was $10 and you surrendered, you would only lose $5 instead of the whole $10.  Seems like a dumb move because albeit a dealer blackjack, you have a chance to win.

However, if the dealer has a blackjack, it would be better to surrender and only lose half your bet if you have a bad hand anyway.

For example, if the dealer has a 9 showing, there’s a great probability of him having a good, probably 19.

If you have hard 16 total against that and stand, you’re probably going to be beat, and if you hit that, you’re probably going to bust.  You’re better off throwing your hand in and getting half your bet back.

If the dealer has a 10 or an ace showing, meaning a better chance of a blackjack, surrender may be even more appealing.

Because of the potential blackjack by the dealer, there are 2 different kinds of surrender: early surrender or late surrender.

Early surrender is done before the dealer checks the hole card and late surrender is done after the dealer checks the hole card.

Because early surrender favors the player, when casinos do offer surrender, it’s usually only late surrender.

When to split – Learning when to split 2’s, 3’s, 6’s, 7’s and 9’s is the trickiest part of splitting cards.  In fact, because of it being complicated, beginners are told to just worry about always splitting Aces and 8’s, and never split 4’s, 5’s and 10’s.

When to double – Learning the correct time to double when you have a soft hand can be a bit more complicated.  Beginners should stick to just learning when to just hit (not double) a soft hand.

Card Counting –  As mentioned earlier, card counting doesn’t have to be hard, but just a bit of it can advance your game. Simple card counting is about tracking the ratio of high cards to low card left in the deck.  If you know a lot of low cards have been played, that means there are more high cards left in the deck and therefore favors the player.

When there are more Aces and Tens in the deck, you have a better chance of hitting a blackjack, so that would be a great time to increase your wager.  It works in the opposite direction as well.  If you guess there aren’t a lot of Aces and Tens in the deck, you’d want to decrease your wager.  Employing this strategy gives you an edge over the casino.

There are definitely more complex card counting systems available, but those are for the more advanced players.

Insurance – Beginners are always told insurance is a foolish bet and should not be done.  However, taking insurance can make sense if you know there are plenty of 10’s in the deck.

Be sure to sign up for more free information and check below for the best online casinos to test your new advanced strategy.  Good luck!

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TEXAS HOLD’EM STRATEGY

Only because of watching poker on TV, do I believe there is Texas Hold’em Strategy.  Even then, I only believe it because the hosts say some sort of strategy is being employed by the players.  Okay, if they say so…it seems there’s an awful lot of luck happening in my eyes!

Strategy Rules

First, when thinking about strategy in doing anything, it’s about planning for the long run. When thinking about basic blackjack strategy, it is based on interpretation of statistical data from playing millions of hands.  There is definitely a blackjack strategy, a correct way to play blackjack.

Unfortunately, poker strategy is not that straight forward.  Depending on who you talk to, or learn from, strategy may vary because there is psychology involved with poker strategy.  Also, strategy is different when you play in a “cash” game, as opposed to playing in a tournament setting.

Poker strategy is more about understanding the odds of ending up with the winning hand at the end of play. 

Hold’em Strategy for Novices

If you try to find basic Texas Hold’em strategy for beginners, what you end up getting is “tips” beginners should follow.  Said in different ways by different people, the best tips boil down to these:

  • Open with a hand that can make money in any situation
  • Correctly size your bet
  • Avoid limping in, it hardly ever works for a novice!
  • Fold appropriately to increase profits
  • Be in the right position for betting

Opening Hands

When deciding to open, not only are the cards you hold important (hand strength), but your position at the table must be taken into consideration.  The closer you are to the Button, the wider the range of hands you can have to open.

The number of players in the hand should also be considered.  Hand value is  less when playing against 1 player, as opposed to 6 players. On the other hand, against 1 player, hands have a better bluffing value.

When deciding whether or not to open with a hand, you need to think if you’ll be able to make money after the flop.  If you can’t see a way that you may make money with those 2 cards, don’t open!

Correct Bet Sizing

Be aware of how the table is playing.  If the pre-flop raise has been 2.5x the BB, don’t try to be clever and raise an unusual amount.  As a novice, it’s best to stay in line with the play of the table.  Odd pre-flop raises will only make players think more about what you may have.  Odd post-flop raises are expected, and won’t draw more than the normal attention.

The size of your bet helps define the strength of your hand.  Your goal is to have your opponents think you have them beat.

NO Limping

If action has been folded to you, it’s better to either raise or fold.  With a raise, you can take control of the pot, and put callers on the defense.  The experienced players can usually smell a limp and will challenge you, so it’s better to fold.

Know When to Fold

Like the Kenny Rogers song, know when to fold’em! Trying to play every hand is a big signal of you being a novice! A vital part of winning poker strategy is to know when to fold!  If you fold when you should, you save your money so you can make bigger bets in more profitable situations. It’s better to play tight, but aggressive.

Bet in the Right Position

Having position over your opponent is a huge advantage in poker. What that means is that they have to make the first move.  Obviously, seeing your opponent’s action first, allows you to react appropriately.  It will allow you to bluff better, value bet more accurately, and basically make better decisions overall.

If you can learn these tips and incorporate them into your playing style, you should definitely see your poker sessions become more profitable.

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BLACKJACK INSURANCE – BET OR NOT

The insurance bet in blackjack is easily the biggest sucker bet in blackjack.  In fact, most blackjack books and instructors will tell you that this bet should almost never be taken.

The insurance bet is a side bet that the dealer has blackjack, after seeing that his upcard is an ace.  It usually pays 2-1 odds.

Based on mathematical theory and projections, the dealer will have a blackjack only about 4 times in every 13 times he shows an Ace.  So, if you were to make a $5 insurance bet on 13 different hands, you would win 4 bets, for a total of $40, but lose 9 bets for a total of $45!  In the long run, you’d be losing money with the insurance bet. Think about it, why would a casino offer a bet that they would not have the odds in their favor?

Novice players make the bet because they want to “protect” their blackjack that they have hit.  What they don’t think about is that they will win or lose their hand, with no difference, whether they take insurance or not.  There is nothing to protect!  If you try to protect your 21, and the dealer does have twenty-one, you’ve broken even because you’ve made that second bet of insurance.

A blackjack usually pays 3:2 odds and insurance pays 2:1 odds.  So, let’s say you’re betting $5 and get a 21, but want to make the insurance bet (usually half the original bet) of $2.50. If the dealer does have 21, you win $5 on the insurance bet and push on your original bet. So, you’ve bet a total of $7.50 and got back a total of $10 (original $5 bet and $5 insurance bet win), winning $2.50. Now, let’s say you make the insurance bet and the dealer doesn’t have 21.  You lose $2.50 on the insurance bet, but win $7.50 on the original bet.  You bet a total of $7.50 and got back $12.50, (original $5 and $7.50 win) winning a total of $5.

Why waste the half-bet when it will only win 4 out of 13 times?  If you have 21 and the dealer doesn’t (which is most of the time), you’ve given back half a bet.  Why throw away half a bet? Don’t take insurance!

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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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