Tag: blackjack

Brush Up on Your Blackjack Before Visiting Tunica

Twenty-one—a number that fills us with adventure and hope. Of all the traditional games of chance, blackjack enjoys a special place in our hearts! It’s the one we learned first, the game we played for nickels with family or at sleepovers. It’s like an old friend tucked into a deck of cards. Even now, among… Read more »

Should I Hit on 16 in Blackjack?

Many blackjack players have quirks where they deviate from basic strategy. I recently shared a table at one who would not sit at 16 under any circumstances.

Should I Double Down on 11 in Blackjack?

Blackjack basic strategy includes a number of decisions that can give a player second and third thoughts. One of those comes when you have a two-card 11 and the dealer has a 10-value card face up. Basic strategy calls for you to double down — you make a second bet equal to your first, then get just one more card on the draw. That second bet against a strong dealer card is what gives players pause. 

Stories from the Casino Floor: Soft Hands in Blackjack

About a month ago, I told of being at a table with a blackjack player who insisted on standing on all 16s, including the soft ones, no matter what the dealer had.

In a common six-deck game in which the dealer hits soft 17, basic strategy for soft 16 is to double down if the dealer’s up card is 4, 5 or 6, and to hit if the dealer has anything else. Never stand on soft 16.

My experience drew responses from others who have encountered players who have trouble with soft hands. Let’s share a couple of their tales.

What Would Happen if We Changed the Rules?

My mailbag — or email box or social media messages — occasionally brings inquiries and theories about changes to the games we play.

Two of those arrived in the last few months, one was from a craps player, the other from a blackjack aficionado.

Are Side Bets Worth It?

Casinos often use side bets on table games — especially blackjack — to spice up the games and draw a little extra action from players.

The house edge on side bets almost always is higher than on the main game. That led a reader to write and ask, “Is there ever a time to make a side bet like 21 + 3 or Lucky Ladies at blackjack, the Dragon Bonus bet at baccarat or the Prime bet in Three Card Poker? [If the house edge is higher], why not just play the regular game and skip the side bet?”

Switching Strategy in Blackjack

Basic strategy players know there’s a best average play for every hand in blackjack. That’s what you’ll find in strategy charts online and in books.

Blackjack is the Game of Changing Odds

One thing I like to stress to players trying to learn the games is that the odds are unchanging. No matter how long it’s been since a 7 was last rolled in craps, the odds are 1 in 6 on the next roll, and no matter how long it’s been since the ball landed on 00 in roulette, the odds are 1 in 38 on the next spin. The exception is blackjack. There the odds change on every hand as cards are dealt and removed from play until the next shuffle. 

When Should You Surrender in Blackjack?

One challenge facing blackjack players is that the rules aren’t precisely the same in one casino as another, or even sometimes at one table as opposed to another in the same casino.

There are a number of optional rules, including late surrender, which after the dealer checks to see if he has blackjack, allows you to give up half your bet instead of playing it beyond your first two cards.

An Unusual Ace Hand in Blackjack

Even gaming events that you’re unlikely ever to see happen can be fun to talk about, and there are enough “what ifs” that conversation about them can be endless.

One that a player brought up recently involves blackjack. There are four Aces in each deck, so in a six-deck game there are 64 Aces.

Don’t Make These Blackjack Mistakes

When I learned blackjack basic strategy about 30 years ago, the plays others made were real eye-openers to me.

Players today are better than they once were. I don’t see anywhere near as many mistakes at the table. But I do still see some doozies. Here are a few I’ve seen in the last few months, at six-deck games in which the dealer hits soft 17.

Doubling Down on Blackjack

If you play enough blackjack, sooner or later you’ll see someone try to make every possible play, for better or worse. That includes doubling down on blackjack, a play most casinos won’t allow. That doesn’t stop players from trying.

Why Does the House Have an Edge in Blackjack?

Earlier this year, I was asked to speak to a group of inexperienced players before their casino trip. One who had just started playing blackjack said he was confused over why the house had an edge. After all, the dealer is stuck hitting or standing according to set rules, while players can make decisions, and the dealer can’t double down, split pairs or get paid 3-2 on blackjacks.

Blackjack Strategy when Playing Head to Head with Dealer

There are blackjack decisions that are cut-and-dried, and then there are those that are closer calls. One of the closer calls comes when you have 13 and the dealer’s face up card is a 2. Basic strategy tells us the best play is to stand and not take a chance on busting, but the difference isn’t large.

Why Should You Follow Basic Strategy in Blackjack?

Last month I relayed comments from a blackjack player who had trouble convincing himself to follow the basic strategy play of doubling down on 11 when the dealer had a 10 face up.

That brought messages from other readers who had their own moments of queasiness over basic strategy.

To Follow or Not to Follow Basic Strategy in Blackjack

Basic strategy charts tell blackjack players the play that’s best for them in every player vs. dealer situation. Those who count cards amend basic strategy to fit the composition of the remaining deck, but for most of us, basic strategy is a solid guide.

What are the Chances of a 20 Hand Winning in Blackjack?

With the exception of blackjacks, all player hands lose sometimes, and even blackjacks push if the dealer also has a two-card 21. There are times when even 20s just can’t seem to win. The dealer gets on a roll and pulls a 21 – and another and another. Player frustration follows.

How Does a Dealer’s Decision to Stand or Hit on a Soft 17 Affect You?

Not all blackjack games are created equal. There’s a set of mix-and-match rules, and you’ll find different combinations in different casinos. Sometimes you’ll even find different combinations at different tables within the same casino. One key variation comes on whether dealers hit or stand on soft 17.

Does Basic Strategy Apply to the Third Card in Blackjack?

Sometimes, things are so ingrained in experienced casino players that we forget newcomers haven’t yet learned all the ins and outs. Not long ago, I received email from a blackjack player who is working on learning basic strategy.

Splitting 5’s In Blackjack And Why It’s a No-No

One of the absolutes in blackjack is that you should never split 5s. Most players aren’t even tempted, because they recognize they have a much stronger building block for a hand when they start with 10 than starting each of two hands with 5s.

Nontheless, I received an email recently from a player who challenged the notion. He reasoned that when the dealer had a weak card such as a 5 or 6 face up, he had an edge. If he was dealt another 5, he wanted the opportunity to get a third bet on the table.

A Blackjack Streak Too Crazy to be Real

Players often send me tales of streaks at the tables, but they’re usually winning streaks. A reader named Mike sent me something a little different.

“I have a streak story for you,” he wrote. “ I was playing blackjack in Laughlin a few years ago, there were four players, and we all get pat 20s. The dealer has a 10 up and turns over a face card, so a push, with 10 10-values  in a row.

Strategy And Betting in Blackjack

Everywhere you look, house edges on casino games are listed by percent – 1.52 percent on place bets on 6 or 8 in craps, 5.26 percent in double-zero roulette, 1.06 percent on the banker bet in baccarat, and so on.

A reader asked me to translate that into dollars and sense for blackjack players. If you’re playing basic strategy, how much money of yours will the house keep? What if you’re just an average player who hasn’t memorized the strategy chart?

Stop Getting Burned At Blackjack

Some of the most frustrating hands at blackjack come when the dealer starts stringing out low cards. You see the dealer with a 14, and think there’s a good chance he’ll bust. Then comes a 2, and with 16, he just HAS to bust, right? Then, boom! Here’s comes a 5, the dealer has 21 and the whole table loses.

Busting at Blackjack in Tunica Mississippi

No blackjack player likes to bust and wind up with a total of more than 21 that’s a loser before the dealer even plays his hand. But if we’re going to take the best chance to win, accepting the risk of busting is part of the bargain.

Do Something Different In Tunica, Mississippi

It’s nice to escape the monotony of a typical weekend and do something different. It’s even nicer when my friends and I can take a little road trip, and maybe raise a little hell in the process. Tunica offers that escape…

Stories From The Tunica Mississippi Casinos Floor

From time to time, readers send me stories about unusual things that have happened to them in casinos. I always find them fun to read, and I hope you will, too.

How To Choose A Video Blackjack Machine

One thing I’ve warned blackjack players about is games that pay less than the standard 3-2 on blackjacks. If you play video blackjack, you have to be extra watchful, as one reader learned.

Blackjack Changing Strategy As The Game Evolves

Blackjack basic strategy has been around as guide to when to hit, stand, split and double down has been around since the 1950s. It’s well-grounded in the math of the game, and it’s something anyone who’s serious about blackjack should learn.

However, the game itself evolves, and when the rules change, so does basic strategy.

Hot Streaks, Are They For Real?

Not long ago, I received a note via email from a craps player who was taken aback when a shooter rolled five sevens in a row. “It would seem to me there has to be a makeup time to get the odds to come out right,” he wrote. “What’s the hidden factor that balances those five 7s in a row?”

Adapt to the Ever-Changing Game of Blackjack

In his blackjack strategy post, John Grochowski tells us that players who learned basic strategy for stand-on-all-17s games need to make a few adaptations for today’s blackjack.

Treat Dad to Tunica Fun!

We know that Dads love Tunica, so why not bring yours this weekend?  He’ll enjoy gaming, golf, fun and more!  And I’m pretty sure it will get you bonus points, so that you’ll be well on your way to being his favorite child!

Cinco de Mayo Tunica Style

You don’t have to be in Mexico to celebrate Cinco de Mayo this year. Some of our casinos are getting into the action and are serving up everything from free beer, yes I said free beer, live entertainment, party favors and special tournaments.

21+3 Side Bet in Blackjack

Side bets at blackjack come and side bets at blackjack go. Mostly they go when players discover their money is disappearing a little too rapidly. One that’s lasted, though, is 21+3, which combine blackjack with a three-card poker hand.

The Luckiest Day of the Year is Upon Us

The Fitz Casino goes all out each year for St. Patrick’s Day. And who better to hold Tunica’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day party than the casino that celebrates the luck of the Irish all year long?

Mimic the Dealer Not a Viable Blackjack Strategy

I’ve mentioned in this blog before that mimicking the dealer is not a viable approach to playing blackjack. Dealers and players operate under different conditions. Players act on their hands first, and if they go bust, the house wins even if the dealer busts too.

Maintaining an Empty High-Limit Table When $5 or $10 Tables Are Overflowing

When my wife, Marcy, goes to casinos with me, she rarely plays on the tables, but she knows the kinds of things I watch for. So when she spotted one empty blackjack table in a crowded casino, she pointed it out.

“It’s a $100 minimum bet,” she said. “Couldn’t they get more players if it was lower?”

New Table Game, BJ-Bac

When the Global Gaming Expo rolls around every fall, the display floor is dominated by major slot manufacturers. You could spend days just trying new slot games — and I do spend most of two days doing just that.

But I like to reserve one day seeking out new table games. There are nowhere near as many new table games as there are slot games, and many of the table games designers have small booths on the back rows of the floor, far from the main action. But walking the floor sometimes allows you to uncover a gem.

Casino Spotlight: Play Big at Blackjack and Slots at Roadhouse

I’ve been giving you some tips about how to have some biker-style fun at Roadhouse, but now I’m wrapping up the Roadhouse spotlight with its main attraction. Use this guide to gaming at Roadhouse to see if you can be like one of the casino’s latest big winners who won $72,000 at the slots.

Playing a Betting Progression When Blackjack Games Use a Continuous Shuffler

When casinos use continuous shufflers at blackjack tables, they eliminate the possibility of counting cards. You can’t get a handle on the relative proportions of high cards vs. low cards remaining to be played when cards that already have been dealt are shuffled back into play.

That doesn’t affect basic strategy. For non-counters, your best plays for hitting, standing, splitting pairs and doubling down are the same regardless of the method of shuffling.

Casino Spotlight: Step into the Action at Gold Strike

It’s hard to not be excited to talk about all the gaming options at a casino with the word “gold” right there in its name. With an award-wining slot machine selection, a team that will actually teach you how to play poker and high-rolling accommodations, Gold Strike is all about helping you find your pot of gold.

Olympic Spirit Lives on in Tunica – Tunica TV

Yesterday’s Closing Ceremony signified the end of this year’s Summer Olympics. You could wait four more years to experience the pageantry, drama and excitement of sport’s greatest showcase, or you could head on over to TunicaTravel.tv  for an Olympics extravaganza that is totally Tunica.

Splitting 8s vs. a Dealer’s 10 in Blackjack

Sometimes splitting pairs in blackjack is about playing offense, getting in strong position to win two hands. Splitting 8s against a 6 is like that, with two hands starting with 8 that both are stronger beginnings than the dealer’s 6.

Doubling Down for Less at Blackjack

Doubling down is one of the players’ most important advantages in blackjack. After seeing your first two cards, you can make a bet equal to your first in exchange for taking just one more card.

To Hit or Not To Hit: 16 v. 7, Blackjack Strategy

Blackjack basic strategy sometimes calls on us to make plays that make players a little queasy. When dealt 16 while the dealer has a 7 face up, we know the right play is to hit, yet we also know we’re going to bust more often than not.

Close Call Blackjack Hands

While playing blackjack one morning, I ran into one of those situations we all see from time to time. One player was making unconventional plays. And it was driving another player nuts.

Sometimes Mr. Unconventional would stand on 12 against a dealer’s 4, as the basic strategy chart says to do, and sometimes he’d hit. Sometimes he’d hit 16 against a 10, and sometimes he’d stand.

Why Do More Decks Increase the House Edge in Blackjack?

If you play blackjack, you’ve probably heard that fewer decks are better for the player. And if all other rules are equal, that’s true. The house edge is lowest on single-deck games, and increases with each deck added.

Can You Count Cards On Single-player Video Blackjack Games?

When you play blackjack, you’re not restricted to the betting spot directly in front of you. You can bet on two spots and get two hands, or three, or more. I once saw a fellow with a much larger bankroll than mine betting all seven spots at table with $100 minimum bets. He wasn’t betting the minimum, either.

Can You Improve Your Odds at Blackjack?

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when video card games started to make their way into casinos, there was some thought that video blackjack was going to be the big hit game. After all, blackjack was and is the most popular table game in casinos. There was some surprise when video poker became a casino staple and video blackjack was left on the fringes as a niche game.

New Blackjack Variation

Most side bets at blackjack require you to wager before you see your cards, and they spot the house a big edge. At Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, table game developer Joe Awada showed a different kind of blackjack bet, called Free Draw.

Home Blackjack Rules

Practicing before you play for money is a good thing. I first learned the ins and outs of blackjack playing at home, and I learned video poker strategy in the days before home computers by dealing myself hands of cards and comparing to a strategy table.

Single Deck Blackjack

Single-deck blackjack is a different game than the multiple deck version, requiring some strategy adjustments if you’re going to get the most out of the game. That includes some extra double down situations, one of them coming when you have an 8 and the dealer has a 5 or a 6 face up.

Blackjack Strategy for Soft 17

When I first started writing about casino games at the beginning of the 1990s, and really started watching what other blackjack players were doing, soft 17 seemed to be the most misplayed hand around. That 17 seemed to be a magic line that players would not cross, even the hand was Ace-6, or Ace-2-4, or Ace-3-3, or any other “soft” combination that included an Ace being counted as an 11.

The Number of Decks in Blackjack

On a casino trip with my dad Jerry and my brother Jay, we were scouting blackjack tables. We bypassed a single-deck game that paid only 6-5 on blackjacks, then chose a two-deck game over a six-decker.

Blackjack Surrender

I once was playing in a casino that offered late surrender in blackjack. What that means is that after the dealer has checked to make sure he or she doesn’t have a blackjack, you have the option of surrendering half your bet instead of playing out the hand and risk losing it all. There’s also a version called “early surrender” in which you have that option BEFORE the dealer checks for blackjack, but it’s very rare.

Mimic the Dealer Blackjack Strategy

While playing blackjack, I noticed a player hitting on ever 16 and under, and standing on every 17 and above, just like the dealers do. “If it’s good enough for the dealer, it’s good enough for me,” he said.

“Casino Surrender” Option in Blackjack

If you’ve played much blackjack, you know the pain. You’re dealt a couple of face cards, and the dealer has a 6 face up. You’re feeling comfortable with your 20, practically counting the winnings to add to your chips.

Blackjack Strategy for Pairs of Fives and Tens

When I first started writing about casino games on a regular basis for a newspaper just shy of 17 years ago, I wrote a column about when to split pairs in blackjack. One tip was that players shouldn’t split 10s, that the should just stand on their 20s.

A co-worker came to me with an opposite theory.

Relative Speed of Play

Blackjack games are not all created equal, as experienced players know. There’s a mix-and-match set of rules, and different casinos match different mixes. Does the dealer stand on all 17s or hit soft 17? Can you double down on any starting hand or are doubles restricted to a few totals, such as hard 9, 10 and 11? How many decks are in play?

The “Even Money” Option in Blackjack

In blackjack, if the dealer has an Ace face up when you’re dealt a blackjack, the dealer will ask if you want “even money.” If you wager $10, you’ll win $10 even if the dealer also has a blackjack. “The only sure thing in the house,” I’ve had dozens of dealers tell me.

It’s a form of insurance, which is really a bet that the dealer has a blackjack. You’re offered insurance whenever the dealer has an Ace up. That allows you to make a wager half the size of your original wager. If the dealer has a 10-value card face down, your insurance bet pays 2-1.

Splitting 8s in Blackjack

Sometimes in blackjack, the best offense is a good defense. And splitting pairs is often a form of defense.

Take a pair of 8s, especially when the dealer has a 10 face up. If we play it as a 16, we bust too often if we hit, and if we stand, the dealer beats us all 79 percent of the time he makes 17 or better.

How to Handle a “Soft Hand” at the Blackjack Table

While playing blackjack, I watched as a player who had an Ace and a 5 signaled to stand. The dealer urged him to take another card. All the players at the table urged him to take another card. He was determined to stand.

The dealer, who had a 10 face up and a 6 down, then drew the card the player WOULD have received: A 5. The player would have had 21. Instead, the dealer had 21, and beat the table. One fellow angrily gathered his chips, shouted at the man who stood on a hand that could have been counted as a 6, and moved to another table. 

Blackjack – Don’t Let Other Players’ Mistakes Bother You

A frustrated blackjack player e-mailed me with a familiar lament. “I can’t stand it when another player’s mistake costs me money,” he grumbled. “Why do people insist on taking the dealer’s bust card?”

The Best Game is the One You Like to Play

A couple of friends of mine were having a friendly disagreement — not heated enough to call an argument, but they asked me to referee.

“Which is the best casino game? It’s blackjack, right?” asked the first.