Best Tips for Blackjack
I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m not the best blackjack player in the world. But I have been reading about, writing about, and playing blackjack for the last 20 years. In that time, I’ve picked up some essential tips about gambling on 21.
I share them here as “commandments” with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. You can, of course, play the game any way you like. But if you’d rather play smart, obey these tips to the letter.
1. Thou shalt not play 6:5 Blackjack.
One of the best rules in blackjack is the 3 to 2 payout when you get an ace and a ten on your initial hand. This is called a “natural” or a “blackjack”. But you’ll find more casinos than ever offering games where the payout for this hand is only 6 to 5.
Here’s how that works:
In a normal blackjack game, you bet $100. You get a natural. Your payout is $150.
In a 6/5 blackjack, you bet $100. You get a natural. Your payout is only $120.
Casinos offer other rule changes that favor the player in exchange for the reduced payout, but these rules are never good enough to account for that lower payoff on a natural.
Here are some examples of those favorable rules:
- Single deck game
- Dealer stands on soft 17
- Player can double after splitting
- Player can double on any 2 cards
These rule changes do have an effect on the house edge. A single deck game has a house edge 0.61% better than a single deck game. The dealer standing on soft 17 instead of hitting has a house edge of 0.2% better. Being able to double after splitting is good for almost 0.15%. Being able to double on any two cards is worth about 0.2%, too.
In fact, if you combine all the rules variations I listed, you’ll get a net gain of 1.2%, which is significant.
Here’s the problem, though:
6/5 blackjack gives the house an extra 1.35% edge.
And most casinos don’t give you ALL the good rules. They just give you enough good rules to convince you to try their 6/5 game.
Don’t do it. Even if you’re an excellent card counter, overcoming that extra 1.35% is tough.
Want to know how much that would actually cost you?
Assume an average 3/2 blackjack game offers the house an edge 1%. The 6/5 version has a house edge of 2.35%, instead.
Assume 60 hands per hour at $10 per hand. That’s $600 in action per hour.
You’ll lose, on average, $6 per hour playing the standard game.
But if you play 6/5 instead, you’ll lose an average of $14.10 per hour.
Just say no to 6/5 blackjack. If enough players refuse to play, the casinos might stop offering it.
2. Thou shalt not deviate from basic strategy.
On any given hand, you’ll have the following possible choices:
Some of these options are only available on certain hands. For example, you can only split if you’re dealt two cards of the same rank. In some casinos, you’re only allowed to double down on certain totals.
You’ll notice that I didn’t include “insurance” as one of the options—that’s not a mistake. Insurance is an optional side bet that you should never take unless you’re counting cards. It’s not a choice about how to play your hand.
Based on the cards in your hand and the dealer’s up card, only one of those five choices is the best choice—the option that offers you the highest possible expected value.
Basic strategy outlines the mathematically best way to play every hand in every possible situation. You can learn basic strategy elsewhere on this site, or you can just buy a strategy card in the gift shop of the casino.
UFC 21: Return of the Champions was a mixed martial arts event held by the Ultimate Fighting Championship on July 16, 1999 at the Five Seasons Events Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The event was seen live on pay per view in the United States, and later released on home video.
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