I saw some play at Full Tilt Poker last night that brought tears to my eyes. Nothing too unusual there you might think - only this was at the new Blackjack tables rather than in poker. Some of these plays were handing the house a 50%+ edge on each hand. It was not just the 10c players making them either, one guy doubled a 14 against a dealer 6 betting $25 a hand. Once you know even the basics of blackjack odds that is enough to make a grown man cry!
Fortunately, I wear many hats in this life, and blackjack is something I know just a couple of things about ;) – so I have created this handy guide to not throwing away your money too quickly at the Full Tilt Blackjack tables.
Otherwise known as…
Planet Mark’s Guide On How Not To Be A Blackjack Fish!
I’ll base this on the micro-limit game, which is actually fairly negative in terms of the odds when you compare it to other games. The key factor is the dealer hitting on soft 17, which adds around 0.22% to the house edge. Lack of a surrender option also adds a little. The extra payout for 7-7-7 would be a small positive, only it encourages people to chase this payout when the correct action is to stand (against a low dealer card). This probably turns it into a small advantage for the house overall. You can play for just 10c a hand, which makes this game far more accessible to than the $1 minimum at most online casinos.
My estimate based on a ‘perfect strategy’ by the player is that this game has a house edge of around 0.5% to 0.6% for Full Tilt Poker. Based on the plays I saw yesterday their real edge is something like 15%!
Full Tilt Blackjack Strategy - Big Mistakes And Small Mistakes
I’ll divide up the errors depending on their size, and after that give you a strategy card for those seeking to improve even more.
#1 – Insurance Against Blackjack: Stop with this bet, please. This is simply giving money to the house hand over fist. You are taking a 2:1 payout on a 9:4 shot over and over again, this means that you are handing a >12% edge to the house every time you do it. Over time, that adds up. It does not matter what the dealer shows this time around, declining this (and the even money payout) is better for your bankroll!
#2 – Dealer 5 / 6 Hands: When the dealer shows a 5 or a 6, mathematically he will bust around 41% of the time. For an upcard 6 followed by a 10 there are only 5 useful cards in the deck, A, 2, 3, 4 and 5 – against 8 cards which will cause an instant break (dealer can catch 2 sets of small cards too, but here we are getting advanced). If you combine the high chance of you busting if you hit on a 14 (for example), with the 41% chance that the dealer will bust and you'll win by default, then you have a clear 'stand' according to the math..
#3 – Doubling Down Errors: Doubling against a dealer 10 or Ace is negative when you have anything other than a 10 or 11 hand… Doing this when you have any other score is like taking your money, travelling to the Isle of Man, and simply handing it directly to the Full Tilt accounts department in a brown paper bag.
Note than when I say smallies, these mistakes can easily increase the house edge by 500% or even more…
#1 – Standing With 12 / 13: When the dealer shows a card which is favored to make a hand (7 through Ace), then a player standing on 12 through 16 is a mistake. This is especially a mistake with 12 or 13, since there are a lot of helpful cards in the deck (as much as it will feel like you always get a 10, haha). The easy rule to remember here is that you always hit under 17 for a 7+ dealer upcard.
#2 – Splitting Errors: Again the dealer’s upcard is key. When the dealer shows 7+ then you should only split 8-8, 9-9 (though not when the dealer has 7, 10 or Ace) and Aces (which you always split with these rules). If you split 10’s against a 5 or 6 then you are in a very favorable position, keep on re-splitting if you get the chance.
#3 – Playing Soft Hands: Hands with aces (counted as 1 or 11) give novice blackjack players a lot of chances to make mistakes. Make sure you stand on A-7+, you are not favored to make a better hand than this. A-2 to A-6 can be doubled against bad dealer upcards (5 /6 especially), since you have the extra insurance of a likely dealer bust in these cases. Most other times you simply hit.
Planet Mark’s Guide To Not Being A Full Tilt Blackjack Fish – Strategy Card
I generated this card at a very useful blackjack resource site called Blackjackinfo.com – hopefully this link and plug is enough credit to use the card here. (if not, then Ken, please let me know!)
How To Use This Card:
Many decisions you take will be easy, like standing on a 20 against a dealer 7 for example. When you hit a decision you are not sure about, take this card, find your hand on the left hand column and run your finger over until you hit the dealer upcard. You’ll see a colored symbol, which tells you what to do.
Keep in mind that many situations are bad for you, a small card against a dealer ace means there is little you can go to get a positive expectation. The idea of a solid basic strategy is that you always choose the ‘least bad’ in those spots… and let the natural swings of the game even things out to the long term true house edge.
Card Counting And Composition Dependent Strategy
Nope, I’m afraid the more advanced stuff simply will not work here. 6 Decks means that basing your decisions on different compositions (for example treating a 10-2 differently than a 7-5 in certain spots) is futile… this only works in single deck games. Counting will not work, since the deck is shuffled every time and the 6 decks make getting a positive true count too hard even if you see 10x 10 cards via splitting.
Oh well, this game is just for your entertainment then.
Blackjack has many levels when played professionally – this is just a fun game. Hopefully my guide will stop you making the biggest mistakes of all while you enjoy the change-up from poker.
If you enjoyed my guide, then I would genuinely appreciate you taking the time to share it.
GL at the (Blackjack) Tables
Submitted by Planet Mark on Fri, 02/14/2014 - 10:46