Gaming Guru - by "Vegas Vic" - Victor H Royer
Blackjack Questions and Answers
My friend Ziggy recently asked me some questions about Blackjack. You may know Ziggy and me from our Periscope broadcasts – some of which you can see at www.LasVegasLiveTV.com – where we often discuss many casino games, including Blackjack.
This time Ziggy wanted to know a few answers from questions that he received during his own Periscope sessions about Blackjack, and so here they are:
1. If both the player and dealer have Blackjack, does anyone win/lose/push?
Answer: It’s a Push – the player does not win, but does not lose either.
But there are other nuances to this. If the player is dealt a Blackjack, and the Dealer is showing an Ace – and BEFORE the dealer checks for his/her Blackjack – the Dealer will ask all Players for “Insurance.”
At the same time they will also ask the Player with the Blackjack if that Player wants “Even Money.” And, if the Dealer does NOT ask this, the Player can ask for “even money” anytime prior to the Dealer checking for the Blackjack.
However, if the dealer only has a 10-value card showing – and NOT an Ace – then the dealer will usually not offer Insurance, or "even money", and will only check for the Ace to see if he/she has a Blackjack as the normal procedure for the game.
If the Dealer DOES have that Ace underneath the 10-value up-card, then the game is over right there, and all players lose - EXCEPT the player who also has a Blackjack, in which case this is a "push". However, the Player with the Blackjack CAN still ASK for "even money" before the Dealer checks for that Ace. But the Dealer will only offer Insurance, and ASK for "even money", if he/she is showing the Ace as the up-card.
Asking for “even money” is, in fact, a form of Insurance. By getting “even money” – meaning a payment of 1:1 instead of the traditional 3:2 – the player is offered the chance to “win something”, rather than just “Push” – no win.
But since most of the time the Dealer will NOT have the Blackjack, asking for “even money” in this situation is just as bad as taking Insurance. In these situations the Player has the advantage, and so by giving up that extra money for the Natural 21, it costs him profits overall.
The best way to know that this is NOT to the Player’s advantage is the simple fact that the Casinos offer it, and are actually pushing it, and ASKING for it. If this WAS a good play for the player, then the Casinos would NOT ask for it, and would, most likely, try to not offer it as a playing option at all.
Anytime you are in a casino, playing ANY casino game, a good rule of thumb to follow is this:
If the Casino OFFERS you something as a bet, it’s almost always NOT to YOUR advantage to do so, because it is instead good for the Casino – and not for you!
Because any time you make a “smart play”, this takes away from the Casino’s edge on the game, and therefore reduces their overall expected win percentage for that game.
Asking for Insurance, and offering Even Money – like in our examples here – gives the Casino BACK a small percentage of the Player’s advantage. And while that percentage is small – less than 1% – you must remember that the Casino is open 24/7 and plays all the time, and, therefore, each small fraction of a percentage adds up.
And that’s one of the reasons why casinos can win $1 BILLION per month from their casino games, and their Players. Especially Players who play the games but don’t know very much about them, or how all of this actually works.
However – there is one caveat to all of this:
Recreational Players, such as those that will go to the casino once or twice per year, and only play for a few hours, will rarely encounter percentage swings in wins and losses large enough to equate the value for which these rules are designed.
Professional players will see this, and for them it will have an effect. But for the casual player, these variances are so small – for the limited time at play – that they are practically insignificant. Practically, but not altogether.
You see, in ANY form of casino gambling, the MORE you can get FOR YOU is better than LESS FOR YOU. So – LEARN SOMETHING, and try to play better … even if only for those few times, and few hours. It will add up, and you’ll have a much better time.
2. A push is a tie – no one wins or loses, is that different in Indian casinos/Atlantic City?
Answer: No. In all traditional Blackjack games, a Push is just that: a Tie, a no-win-and-no-loss, a Push. However, there may be some variances on the game – with different rules – that MIGHT be played in some Indian casinos.
But then these are NOT Blackjack, per se, but VARIANCES on the game. In all such cases, you should be very careful about WHAT KIND of a game it is, and exactly what it does, how it plays, and what are its rules. I would advise anyone to NOT play ANY such games which are different from the traditional Blackjack games.
ALL such “gimmicks” have reduced pays, bad rules, and – very often – aren’t really Blackjack games at all. Usually ALL such games have a House Edge of 20% or more, and that’s a killer no matter what the other rules, or advertised pays, might be.
3. If someone gets insurance, it requires them to put up half their bet. If the dealer does have blackjack, the player loses their original bet, but how is the insurance bet paid?
Answer: It says so right on the felt, on the table itself: Insurance Pays 2:1 – see Photo 1, here below:
4. Can you split 10's if you have say a Jack and a Queen, or must it only be when you have two identical cards?
Answer: You can split 10’s, Jacks, Queens, and Kings – as well as Aces, of course, and any other two matching same-value cards. But they must be the SAME – such as Two 10’s, Two Jacks, Two Queens, or Two Kings. All such matching 10-value cards CAN be split – but WHY? Why would you?
Two 10-value cards are a total of 20, and so the ONLY hand that can beat you is the Dealer’s 21. So, you have MORE chances to WIN than to lose. Splitting such 10-value cards is IDIOTIC.
Except for two situations:
One – you are in a Blackjack Tournament, playing with Tournament Chips, and you need a split hand to advance to the next round, or to win the tournament. If you don’t put two hands into action, you WON’T advance, or win, and so THIS is the ONLY option. BUT – ONLY IN TOURNAMENTS, and ONLY in these SPECIFIC situations.
Two – you are a VERY EXPERIENCED CARD COUNTING PROFESSIONAL Blackjack Player, and YOU KNOW that the NEXT CARDS WILL BE to YOUR advantage. Even then, most of the time the Pro will NOT split 10-value cards.
A point of note:
There are some Blackjack variations which will allow the Player to Split Face Cards even when they are NOT a match. In these variations, the Face Cards are recognized as a “10-value card”, and, therefore, in THESE games you CAN then split – say – a two-card hand of Jack-Queen, Jack-King, Queen-King. But, again, WHY? It’s NOT to your advantage.
So, the point still remains: Check the Rules of the game you are playing before you start playing it. IF this game offers such derivatives from the Traditional Blackjack game rules, chances are that this is NOT a good game for YOU, the Player!
5. Split 9's against a dealer's 9?
6. Hit 12 against a dealer's 3?
Answer: Yes – most of the time. In Standard Basic Strategy for Blackjack, it is best to ALWAYS hit a 12 against a Dealer’s up-card of 2 and 3. But this can vary, somewhat, depending on how good you are as a player, and also on the House Rules of the game where you are playing.
If you are counting cards, for example, and you have a positive count, and therefore expect a lot of 10-value cards still left in the deck, then the answer would most likely be to Stand. But in almost all other circumstances – especially in casual play – the mathematically-better choice is to hit. Doesn’t always work out mathematically-perfect, but that’s just because the real world does not always follow Math Theory. But it will, in the end, so the principle is still valid.
7. Hit Hard 16 against a 10?
Answer: Yes – ALWAYS
8. Hard 16 against a 10 – with 2 cards – Hit or Surrender?
Answer: If Early Surrender is offered, take it, and Surrender. If only Late Surrender is offered, usually hit – BUT, that decision depends on how good you are, and the other rules of the game where you are playing. If that casino offers Surrender at all, chances are there are other subtle rule variations elsewhere in the game that make up for that slight loss in the casino’s overall advantage on the game.
So, be careful. However, all other rules being equal, with only LATE Surrender, it’s mostly better to hit, especially if you are counting cards, or at least keeping track of what’s been dealt.
9. Hard 16 against a 10 – with 3+ cards – Stand?
Answer: NO! ~ With ANY HARD HAND against a dealer’s up-card of 10 or Ace (no dealer’s Blackjack), KEEP HITTING until you reach 17 OR BETTER. Only then Stand.
10. Hit soft 18 against dealer's 9 or 10?
Answer: Yes. Also against an Ace (no dealer Blackjack), although that play may be controversial in some circles. But since you cannot bust – and your 18 may already be a loser – hitting is preferable to standing.
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