Archive for April, 2008

Basic Strategy Lesson 1 Friday, April 25th, 2008

Alright I thought I would start my Basic Strategy lessons with the basic strategy that I am using when I play online. I currently play at and I am playing the Vegas Strip Blackjack Game. has a few variants of Blackjack available including Perfect Pairs, European Rules, and a Progressive Blackjack game. I decided to play the Vegas Strip Blackjack as it has similar rules to what I might find in Las Vegas.

Vegas Strip Blackjack has the dealer standing on all 17’s, doubling is allowed on all values and after splits, there is no surrender option and the dealer does peak to check for Blackjack. Now that we know the rules for the game we can select the right Blackjack Basic Strategy and being play.

Basic Strategy for Vegas Strip Blackjack.

8 decks, S17, DAS, No Surrender, Peek
Estimated casino edge for these rules: 0.47 %
Dealer Upcard
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
7 H H H H H H H H H H
8 H H H H H H H H H H
9 H D D D D H H H H H
10 D D D D D D D D H H
11 D D D D D D D D D H
12 H H S S S H H H H H
13 S S S S S H H H H H
14 S S S S S H H H H H
15 S S S S S H H H H H
16 S S S S S H H H H H
17 S S S S S S S S S S
A,2 H H H D D H H H H H
A,3 H H H D D H H H H H
A,4 H H D D D H H H H H
A,5 H H D D D H H H H H
A,6 H D D D D H H H H H
A,8 S S S S S S S S S S
A,9 S S S S S S S S S S
2,2 P P P P P P H H H H
3,3 P P P P P P H H H H
4,4 H H H P P H H H H H
5,5 D D D D D D D D H H
6,6 P P P P P H H H H H
7,7 P P P P P P H H H H
8,8 P P P P P P P P P P
9,9 P P P P P S P P S S
Dlr 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
H = Hit S = Stand P = Split
D = Double (hit if not allowed)
DS = Double (stand if not allowed)

Basic Strategy Results Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

I thought I would provide an update on my play now that I’ve started using Basic Strategy. Let me say that it is pretty exciting to be winning more often than not now. Now there are certainly times that I feel the Basic Strategy goes against my judgment and a lot of the times I end up busting or the dealer beats me in these cases, but I know that using the blackjack strategy is a far better move in the long run than relying on my judgment, which in most cases is just a guess or a feeling.
This is the hardest part of getting used to using Basic Strategy. You are putting the out come of your hands in the hands of a chart. Those little letters are ultimately responsible for your play. Even though I know that each Blackjack Strategy has been vetted by many Blackjack professionals and academics numerous times over the years, it is still hard to rely on a chart filled with letters but when you do it is easy to see the results right away.

I wish I had a trick to share when it comes to memorizing the Basic Strategy Chart but sadly I don’t. I’ve been playing game after game and slowly but surely I am committing the chart to memory. If anyone has any tricks to memorizing the charts I would love to hear them.

Update to Card Counting Post Friday, April 18th, 2008

It seems that card counting online doesn’t work as the deck is essentially shuffled after each deal. This means that all the cards are in play for every hand making card counting useless. In land based casino’s this would be equivalent to playing at a table that uses a constant shuffle machine. I think I’ll do a post on these neat little machines in the near future.

Unfortunately this also means that you cannot use an online casino as a training ground to practice your counting skills. There are however computer programs that people have written specifically for people to use to practice their counting skills with.

Card Counting Continued Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Some card counting system can be very complicated, even the easy system I wrote about in my last post is difficult to use when you are starting out.
I found a really simple system created by the wizard of odds. This system is call the Wizard Ace/Five and it is a great system for those that wish to start out in card counting.

Wizard Ace/Five

The Wizard Ace/Five system was developed by the Wizard of odds ( to minimize the chance of being identified as a card counter by the casino and to maximize casino comps.

The Wizard Ace/Five start like any other card counting system with the introduction of a new deck or shoe. The Wizard Ace/Five system is most effective when used at a table that has six decks, dealer stands on soft 17.

Unlike the Hi-Low system where every card was assigned a value the Wizard Ace/Five system assigns a value to only the 5 and Ace cards. The 5 cards have a value of +1 and the Ace’s have a value of -1.

Just like the Hi-Low system you will be adding or subtracting 1 to your running count. When you see a 5 played add +1 to your running count and if an Ace is played then subtract (-1) from your count. If your running count is zero or less you will wager one unit, if the count is positive you will wager 2 times your unit size times the running count. This means that if $2 is your wagering unit and the count is +2 you would wager 2 x $2 x 2 = $8.
All your game decisions should be made using basic strategy.

As you can see both the Hi-Low system and the Wizard Ace/Five system are very easy to use in theory. However using them in practice might be a little more difficult. I would imagine that trying to use these systems in a noisy casino with employees that are trained to spot card counters must be very difficult.

Card Counting Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Did you know that card counting has nothing to do with counting the number of cards played and memorizing those cards? I didn’t!

I honestly thought that a card counter tracked the number and types of cards played by memorizing the number of each card played. In my world a card counter literally new that 3 tens, 1 queen, 3 5s etc had already been played, but in reality card counting has nothing to do with memorizing which cards have been played.

I’m sorry to tell any card counters out there that I am just a little less impressed with your skills than I was only yesterday. Yesterday you were Blackjack Idols with the memories that were closer to computers than anything else. Today you are just Blackjack Idols with impressive skills… sorry :)

In case there is anyone like me that has no idea what card counting is I’ll explain it like I did with Basic Strategy.

There are a number of different card counting strategies available but I’ve only looked at two of them, the Hi-Low system and the Wizard Ace/Five system.

The Hi-Low system is the most basic of the card counting systems. Each card is assigned either a +1, -1 or 0 value to it. As each card is dealt you will either add (+1), subtract (-1), or do nothing to a running count in your head and adjust your wagers based on this count.

The cards valued 2 through 6 as assigned a value of +1.
Ten valued cards (including Faces and Aces) are assigned a value of -1.
The cards 7, 8, and 9 are assigned a value of 0.

Using this distribution when a full deck has been dealt your running count should be zero as there are an equal number of +1 valued cards and -1 valued cards.

So to use this system you would wait until a new deck(s) is introduced at the table and add the appropriate value to your count (which starts at zero) as each card is dealt.
As an example I just started a hand and the cards dealt to me were 5 and 2 and the dealer has an Ace as their face up card. The count would look like this +1 for the five, +1 for the two and -1 for the Ace so my current running count is +1 (1+1-1=1). I take another card and I am dealt a 4 which changes the count to +2. Again I take another card which is a King, which bring my count back to +1. Since the King gives me 21 it is the deals turn and I get to see what cards the dealer has and will get. Their hole card was a 4 and they drew a 9 and 10. So with these cards there is no change in my running count because the 4 is worth +1, The 9 is worth 0 and the 10 is worth -1 (1+0-1=0). This means after the first hand my running count is at +1 which means that there are a more 10 valued cards in the deck and I should increase my wager as I am now more likely to be dealt a Blackjack than I was on the last hand.

Here is how my second hand worked out.
Player: 4, 2, Q, (+1)
Dealer: 5, 6, 3, 6 (+4)
New running count total: (+6)

Well thats all for my first post on Card Counting. In my next post I will discuss a simple card counting system called the Wizard Ace/Five.

Basic Strategy Primer Monday, April 7th, 2008

Blackjack Basic Strategy has been tested both in the real world and in the theoretical world and it has been proven time and time again to be an effective strategy to lower the casino’s edge over the player. With this in mind I would like to present a basic primer on Blackjack Basic Strategy, how to use it and how it will affect your game.

The Goal of any strategy is to improve your odds of winning. Basic Strategy does this by providing a set of rules that you as the player will follow. These rules will dictate your play, when you should hit, stand, split, double etc. When you follow these rules exactly and play what is known as perfect strategy you can reduce the casino’s (or house) edge down to about one half of a percent, that is 0.5%!

Unfortunately there is not just one Basic Strategy that will cover all variants of Blackjack, there is one Basic Strategy that has been developed for each different variant of Blackjack. This means that you will need to play the same variant of Blackjack every time you goto the casino or you will need to learn a number of strategies that will cover the types of blackjack that you might play. Luckily casino’s don’t mind the use of Basic Strategy trainer cards at the tables as long as you do not rely solely on the card for each and every hand.

Here is an example of Basic Strategy explained in detail. Future Basic Strategy post will contain a Basic Strategy Trainer Card or Chart.

Soft Hands: Soft hands are hands that contain an Ace.

If your starting hand is:
Ace, 2 or Ace, 3 - If the dealer’s hand shows a 5 or 6 Double otherwise hit.
Ace, 4, or Ace, 5 - If the dealer’s hand shows 4 - 6 Double otherwise hit.
Ace, 6 - If the dealer’s hand shows 3 - 6 Double otherwise hit.
Ace, 7 - If the dealer’s hand shows a 2, 7, or 8 Double 3 -6 otherwise hit.
Ace, 8 or Ace, 9 - Always Stand.

Hard Hands: Hard hands are hand that do not contain an Ace.

If your starting hand is:
8 or less - Always hit.
9 - If the dealer’s hand shows a 3 - 6 Double, otherwise hit.
10 - If the dealer’s hand shows a 2 - 9 Double, otherwise hit.
11 - If the dealer’s hand shows a 2 - 10 Double, otherwise hi if the dealer shows an Ace.
13 - 16 - If the dealer’s hand shows a 2 - 6 Stand, otherwise hit.
17 - 21 - Always stand.


If you starting hand is:
Aces or 8s - Always Split
2 or 3s- If the dealer’s hand shows a 2 - 7 Split, otherwise hit.
4s - If the dealer’s hand shows a 5 or 6 Split, otherwise hit.
5s - If the dealer’s hand shows 2 - 9 Double, otherwise hit.
6s - If the dealer’s hand shows 2 - 6 Split, otherwise hit.
7s - If the dealer’s hand shows 2 - 7 Split, otherwise hit.
9s - If the dealer’s hand shows 2 - 6, 8 or 9 Split, if the dealer shows a 7, 10 or Ace Stand.
10s - Always Stand.

Soft Hands Friday, April 4th, 2008

In Blackjack there are two types of hands, Soft Hands and Hard Hands. Hard hands are very straight forward the value of the hand is the value of the cards in that hand. A hand that contains a 10 and a 8 is an 18. A soft hand is a hand that contains an Ace. If you remember from earlier I mentioned that an Ace can have a value of One (1) or Eleven (11) what this means is that a hand that contains an Ace and a 8 could be valued at 19 (11+8) or 9 (1+8). Now it might seem obvious in this example that you would want to value the Ace as 11 and have a hand of 19, which would be the correct thing to do. However lets assume you had
an Ace, 7 which is pretty good hand at 18, however according to Basic Strategy if the dealers up card is a 9, 10 or Ace you will need to hit. In this case any card higher than a 3 would bust your hand if it was a hard 18, the Ace in the soft 18 however would convert to a value of one and the hand would not bust.
For an Example lets say the card the hand recieved was a 5. Our hand of 18 if the Ace was valued at 11 would bust as adding 5 to 18 = 23. Since the hand would bust with the Ace valued at 11, the ace will be valued at 1 which means out new hand total is 13 (1+7+5).

It is almost like the soft hand is giving the player a second chance if the hit delivers a less than ideal card.

A detailed look at play in Blackjack Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

When you step up to a blackjack table you will notice that the table has a half circle shape with the dealer standing in the middle of the table on the flat side. The players will be positioned around the curved edge of the table facing the dealer. Most Blackjack tables can accommodate 7 players. A hand of Blackjack begins with each player placing their wager for the next hand on the table in the designated spot in front of them. Once all the wagers have been placed the dealer will begin dealing out the cards starting with the player to the dealer’s immediate left and working around the table and ending with themselves.
After everyone has received one card the dealer will deal the second card to everyone at the table. The dealer will deal the first card face up including their first card. The second card will also be deal face up except for the dealer’s second card which will be dealt face down, this card is called the hole card. Once the deal has been completed the dealer will return to the player on their left and ask if they would like to hit (take a card), stand (take no card). There are other options like doubling, splitting, insurance and surrender that will be covered in another post. The player will indicate to the dealer what they would like to do.
If a player hits the dealer will deal another card face up, if the hand total has not exceeded 21 the player can take another card and continue to do so until they bust.
At any time the player can stand which means they do not want another card and the dealer will move to the next player and this will continue until all player hands have been played.
Once the player portion of the hand is completed the dealer will reveal their hole card and will hit until the hand is equal or greater than 17. Generally the dealer will stand on all 17s but at some tables the dealer may hit on a soft 17. A soft 17 is a hand that contains an Ace. The table will have the rules written on it so you will know if the dealer stands on all 17s or if they hit soft 17s.
When the dealer phase of the hand is over the dealer will collect money from busted hands, losing hands, Payoff hands that have one and return the wager of tied hand. This last action is called a ‘Push’.
The hand is completed with the dealer collecting the played cards and discarding them in the card disposal slot. At this point the next hand begins and the sequence starts over again.

Blackjack Basics Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Alright perhaps I should have started with this post instead of waiting so long. Since I am learning to play Blackjack there are probably a few other people out there that don’t know how to play this fun game and would like to start but do not know where to begin. Let me fill you in with the basics of Blackjack.

There are many different variations of Blackjack and all have subtly different rules but the basics of the game remain the same for all these variants. This is what I going to cover in this post, the basics of Blackjack.

The game of Blackjack is very simple and can be quickly summarized in a few quick points:

  • Each player is dealt two cards, usually face up.
  • The dealer is dealt two cards, usually one face up and one face down (hole card).
  • Each player in turn will decide which action they wish to take regarding thier hand.
    • Hit - To take another card
    • Stand - To stay with the current hand
    • Double - To double the wager and hit only one card .
    • Split - To separate a pair into two separate hands, requires an additional wager equal to the first.
    • Surrender - To fold the had and give up have of your wager (not always available).
  • The goal is to get you hand total as close to twenty-one without going over while beating the dealers hand.

That in a nutshell is the game of Blackjack. Of course actual game play is a little more complicated but not much more. The first question I had was, “How are hand values calculated?” It is pretty straight forward, the value of card is determined by it’s face. A 2 of clubs would be worth 2, a 10 of diamond is worth 10.
Face cards like the Jack, Queen and King are also worth 10. The Ace is a little tricky as it is worth either 1 or 11 depending on whether your hand would bust with the Ace being worth 11. I’ll explain the Ace later on in a detailed post on soft hands.

Still need to see 21 Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Well the weather this weekend was decidedly unwinter like which is great because it isn’t winter anymore. Anyways I couldn’t bring myself to sit in a movie theater in such nice weather so I passed on seeing 21 on the opening weekend. It looks like they didn’t need my help to have a bang up opening weekend.
It would seem that the studio’s gamble on 21 was worth the risk and they certainly were dealt a Blackjack with this one. 21 grossed $24,105,943 on it’s opening weekend.

In case you haven’t heard about 21 yet here’s the trailer. (I tried to get it to embed but it would work so here’s a link)