July 21st, 2011 |
As the leading brand of the Casino Rewards Group, Blackjack Ballroom offers regular promotions to retain current customers and attract new players. The group releases a weekly newsletter highlighting these promotional events. The most recent release of the newsletter announced two new promotions from the casino while showcasing a big winner.
The Outer Space Promotion
The first promotion began on Saturday, July 16th and ended Sunday, July 17th, 2011. The event was played on “The Adventures of Galactic Gopher” which is outer space-theme with comically crafted characters. The gopher represents the wild symbol while the spaceship is the scatter icon. The game features 30 paylines with 32 ways to win. The betting denomination ranges from $0.01 to $0.20 with a maximum jackpot of 7,500 coins.
On each of the two promotional days, ten players will be randomly selected to win a prize of $100. The two stipulations are they must have wagered on Galactic Gopher and have deposited at least $20 in chips during the promotional period.
The Underwater Promotion
The second promotion began on Saturday, July 16th and will end Thursday, July 21st, 2011. The selected online slot game is Dolphin Coast, an ocean-themed game. Dolphin Coast has eliminated paylines and provides 3,125 ways to win. The symbols are represented by marine life such as the wild icon is the dolphin. Other characters include the jellyfish, sea horse, turtle and star fish. The game also offers two bonus games: “Pick a Dolphin” and the unnamed free spins bonus.
On each day during the promotional period, the ten highest bettors will win a prize of $100. To be eligible for the daily prize, players must have deposited a minimum of $20 during the promotional period and bet on the game.
The Big Winner
The winning story of the week outlined a player who won the progressive jackpot of over 50,000 Euros on Fruit Fiesta. The winner deposited only 100 Euros with their Visa credit card and switched to Fruit Fiesta following several unsuccessful wagering attempts. Finally after a couple of spins five Fruit Fiesta logos appeared in a row and the player won the jackpot. He immediately took pictures of the winning screen with a digital camera and withdrew.
The two promotions offered by Blackjack Ballroom are quite generous and should increase the number of players wagering on those games. Stop by the casino today to have an outer space journey or underwater adventure.
December 9th, 2010 |
Created and organized by the Game Show Network (GSN), the World Series of Blackjack (WSOB) was a series of blackjack tournaments on television. Between 2004 and 2007 there were four competitions held annually. Unfortunately the event was discontinued after the 2007 season. The WSOB became a closed event where players could win entry through a satellite tournament or were invited to play.
The first season in 2004 had a starting pool of 25 players with the winner being Mike Aponte, former MIT Team member that made millions scamming the casinos during the 1990’s. Aponte won a prize of $100,000 during this season. In the second season Mike Aponte returned to defend his title but did not make it past the preliminary rounds. Instead the $250,000 purse was won by Ken Einiger among 40 players.
In the third season the prize amount doubled to $500,000 and was won by Dr. Jeff Bernstein. The fourth and final season added some celebrity participants including Shannon Elizabeth and Tiffany Michelle, both of whom are avid poker players. Other celebrities included:
- Caroline Rhea
- Penn Jillette
- Orel Hershiser
The winner was Alice Walked who received a prize of $500,000 out of the total million dollar prize pool. Alice had a background of being the Game Show Network’s winner of the three card poker championship.
There were three special rules of the World Series of Blackjack that made the tournament interesting. The first was a Knockout Card which was shuffled into the deck. Once distributed, the player with the lowest total chip value was eliminated from the round. The second rule was a Power Chip that was given to each player at the beginning of each round. This allowed players to exchange one of their cards for the next in the deck.
Finally, the Second Chance rule which gave the fifth place finishers each one ticket, fourth place finishers two tickets and third place finishers three tickets to draw for a fifth seat. This allow those that have already been eliminated a “second chance” to reenter the tournament.
The World Series of Blackjack never reached the popularity of the World Series of Poker but the competition still exists. Gambling tournaments continue to increase due to exposure by the media. Perhaps in the future, this exciting but skillful tournament will return to television to complement the numerous Hold’em Poker series’.
November 24th, 2010 |
Almost all online gaming software providers offer some variant of blackjack at their casinos. However, many of these games differ slightly so each blackjack game must be treated individually. Vegas Technology casinos offer four variants of blackjack. Therefore, there is a different method of play for each version.
Two variations of Vegas Technology blackjack are based on land casino rules. These are:
- European rules blackjack
- Vegas Strip blackjack
In both of these games, the dealer is required to stand on all 17’s. However, the difference lies with the no hole card rule. In European blackjack, the dealer is dealt their second card face down but never checks for blackjack. In Vegas Strip blackjack the dealer always checks the face down card if the face up card is an ace, ten or face card. If the dealer is distributed blackjack, the player loses and the hand is over.
Between the two versions, there is only a slight difference to the amount lost by a blackjack hand; either the player loses their wager at the beginning or the end. In European blackjack, the player has an opportunity to lose additional wagers since the dealer’s blackjack is revealed at the end. On the other hand, in Vegas Strip blackjack, the player will only lose their original bet to blackjack. This equates to a 0.1 percent advantage when playing Vegas Strip blackjack.
The other two games offered by Vegas Technology are specifically designed for online play. These games are:
- Perfect Pairs
- Progressive Blackjack
In Perfect Pairs, regular blackjack proceeds as usual, however, a side bet is placed for perfect pairs. The side bet pays 5-to-1 for a mixed pair, 10-to-1 for a colored pair and 30-to-1 for a perfect pair which is a hand identical in rank and suit. This is made possible by the 8 decks used in the game. The house edge for Perfect Pair 3.37 percent compared to less than 1 percent in the main game. Therefore, the side bet has proven to be a tremendous waste of money.
Finally, Progressive Blackjack offers an optional $1 bet toward a progressive jackpot. This pays out when the first four cards dealt are aces of the same suit. There are additional payouts for other ace combinations. The house edge is tremendously high in progressive blackjack games with a low payout.
These four variants add more excitement to the traditional game of blackjack. Most of these extras are not worth the additional bet but can be fun to participate in on occasion. Overall, these versions of blackjack still have a lower house edge than slots!
November 3rd, 2010 |
Blackjack Switch is a new variant of blackjack invented by Playtech where the player initially places two equal wagers and is, in turn, dealt two hands. At this point the player can utilize the switch option which is to interchange the second dealt cards in their hands. Each hand is then played independently in a regular manner.
Through computer simulation of this game, it has been determined a larger positive value indicates a greater chance of winning while a negative value equals a greater chance of losing. All possible card combinations have been evaluated and assigned an expectation. On the table, the dealer’s face-up card shows within the columns while the player’s two cards are displayed in rows. Hands containing aces and pairs are presented separately.
There are two primary strategies for utilizing blackjack tables for Blackjack Switch including:
- Deciding upon the switch
- Playing the hands based on the decision
This table can be used to make the optimal decision in an instance. The player reads the expectation values presented on the chart for each hand and totals them. The player can then find the total in the case the switch is to be made. If the total following the switch is greater than the total prior to the switch, the player should take the switch option. Selecting the switch move is a huge advantage for the player.
To counterbalance the switch option, the rules of blackjack have been slightly modified. For instance, natural blackjack pays even money as opposed to 2 to 1. Also, it is a push if the dealer has 22 but the player will bust on 22. Due to these changes, the regular blackjack strategy card is useless so the player must use the Blackjack Switch card.
Another aspect of Blackjack Switch is the Super Match side bet. This is a bet based on the original four distributed cards and pays even money for a pair, 3-to-1 for three of a kind, 8-to-1 for two pairs and 40-to-1 for four of a kind. This wager is voluntary and offers a higher risk return. This bet is commonly placed for the more aggressive player.
Blackjack Switch drastically decreases the house edge and is therefore a profitable game. It is offered at most Playtech online gaming sites including, Play United Casino, Casino Tropez, Omni Casino and Casino Del Rio. This game combines the fun of blackjack with a low house edge.
September 22nd, 2010 |
A surrender is an advanced Blackjack technique that allows the player to cut their losses during a losing hand. When used in the proper manner, this tactic can work to the players advantage and increase their average return on investment thus decreasing the overall house edge. The move is simple: after all cards are distributed and the dealer has checked for a natural Blackjack, the player can “surrender” their hand and fold there cards immediately which results in a loss of only half their wager.
There are specific instances where it is better for the player to discard their hand and take a loss of only half their wager upfront rather than losing it all by playing through. There are four specific situations that warrant a surrender by the player. These include:
- Single deck with the dealer staying on a soft 17
- Single deck with the dealer hitting on a soft 17
- Multiple decks with the dealer staying on a soft 17
- Multiple decks with the dealer hitting on a soft 17
The first situation is when the player has been dealt 16 and the dealer has a ten value card or an ace, it is in the player’s best interest to surrender. With 15 or less, it is more beneficial to attempt to improve the hand. With a hand of 17 or more, the player should stay with the hopes of the dealer busting.
With the second instance, this situation is a stronger position for the dealer so the player should surrender more frequently. With hand values of 15, 16 or 17 the player should surrender when the dealer also has an ace. Also, it is proper to fold with a 16 and the dealer has a ten value card. Additionally, the player is to surrender with a pair of sevens when the dealer has a ten value card or an ace.
The third situation occurs when the player has a hand that equates to 15 and the dealer has a hand of 16 containing a ten value card, 9 or an ace. The player should also fold if the dealer has a hand with a ten value card. It is improper for the player to fold with a pair of sevens.
The final instance is the most common reason for surrender. This is when the player has a hand equaling 15 with the dealer showing a ten value card or ace; when the player has 16 and the dealer has 9, ten value or an ace or when player has 17 and the dealer’s cards contain an ace. Additionally, it is correct to surrender with a pair of eights against an ace.
This strategy has been adopted due to the results of millions of simulated hands and is successful more often than not. If you want to elevate your game to increase your maximum return, then it is imperative to learn this strategy.
September 14th, 2010 |
Microgaming Software offers a unique variant of Blackjack called Double Exposure Blackjack at their online casinos. The primary difference from standard Blackjack is the dealer’s pocket cards are dealt face up, hence the name Double Exposure. This gives the player a huge advantage.
Changes in the Rules
As a result of this advantage, the casino has changed a few of the rules to level the playing field. First, natural Blackjack pays even money. Second, the dealer wins all ties except for tied Blackjack hands which the player wins. This is another fantastic advantage for the player. Third, the dealer must hit on all soft 17’s.
The first cards are dealt to the player then one face up to the dealer. The second cards are distributed to the players then another face up to the dealer. Players can then take action by hitting or staying. Some casinos allow the player to split or double up, others do not.
The Best Strategy
The optimal strategy for Double Exposure Blackjack has been formulated from millions of computer simulated hands. Unfortunately, this strategy is difficult to learn and extremely complication. Therefore, it is imperative to use the strategy card provided by Microgaming which can be accessed in expert mode. Simply click the Expert button at the bottom of the toolbar.
Using the Strategy Card
Each time the player needs to make a move, they should note their hand total as well as the dealer’s hand total and click the Strategy button. The card is extremely large being two pages of information. One column identifies the dealer’s hand totals from 4 to 20 and 12 to 17. Rows display the player’s hand totals from 5 to 20 and 13 to 20 with the last row identifying pairs dealt to the player.
Based on the cards dealt, the player must choose the appropriate row and column then use the strategy associated to that particular hand. The instruction are color-coded with yellow indicating STAND, red means HIT, green is SPLIT and blue is DOUBLE-DOWN.
This is a time consuming process so Microgaming has implemented an auto-play feature which plays the hand for the user based on the strategy card. Since the computer will move much faster than the player can process the action at the table, there is a timer setting to slow down the speed of the decisions. Microgaming has created yet another fun and exciting game in which the house edge is extremely low.
September 9th, 2010 |
There is a great deal of controversy regarding how to handle skilled gamblers (card-counters), especially those playing Blackjack. In many cases the debate is based on lack of knowledge of the game or misconceptions by the surveillance, security and pit management departments. Depending on casino policy and the casino personnel, these opinionated differences can lead to liabilities.
All casinos should have some type of policy on how to handle skilled players. This is commonly decided by upper casino management and verified by the legal counsel. The result of this collaboration is specific procedures that confirm how to handle players of high skill that are less than desirable customers.
Skilled Blackjack players do not hugely affect the casino’s bottom line. Instead they are a liability when practicing fraud by using false names. Another liability is that these players are using card counting methods which can be discovered through their betting and playing patterns.
Single card counters can easily be detected by surveillance and/or security. As a result, their income is minimal. On the other hand, card counting groups that risk little money and place large wagers when the cards are favorable can impact the pit income greatly when allowed to operate for an extended period of time.
The biggest liability is the actual lack of policy for handling these players. Without a procedure, the casino staff can mishandle patrons resulting in terrible public relations with potential customers. Also, this type of behavior often leads to lawsuits against the casino because they are treating players like criminals.
Why a Policy is Important
A detailed policy must be implemented prior to the opening of a casino to avoid these situations. There are too many areas where public relations can greatly diminish as well as legal battles can ensue as a result of improper customer relations. There is so much potential for liabilities within the casino business. Some are easily noticeable while others are hidden.
It is a shame when situations such as the previous go overlooked and the casino must engage in legal battles and poor press when it could have simply been avoided with policy and procedure. Once a policy is in place, security, surveillance, management and floor personnel will develop a better understanding as to how to manage these individuals and save the casino from the trouble and hassle of negative results.
August 26th, 2010 |
There are 16 cards in a standard 52-card deck including tens, jacks, queens and kings. As a result, any player has a 31 percent chance of being dealt one of these cards. On the other hand, all other cards only have less than an 8 percent chance of being dealt. Therefore, this emphasizes the significance of hand value 10 in the game of Blackjack.
Due to this high chance of receiving one of these 16 cards, a strategy can be formulated. The following simple strategy is not as good as analyzing and utilizing data from computer simulations to formulate strategies. However, this helps the player understand the significance of value 10 cards in Blackjack and can assist with creating a solid strategy for when the value 10 card is not present.
There are only two options for this simple strategy. These include:
All other situations can be added later to create a much more complicated strategy but we will focus on the simple approach for the time being. This strategy is based on the postulation that the next card distributed to either the player or dealer will be of 10 value. Since almost one-third of all cards hold a value of 10 in the game of Blackjack, this is a reasonable hypothesis. If your total hand value equals 11 or less, then you must hit as exceeding 21 is impossible, even with a 10.
If your hand value from the first two cards equals 12 or more, the best action to take is stay. Since 31 percent of all cards are valued at 10, it is likely you may bust. However, this is based on the dealer’s face-up card. If between 2 and 6, it is likely they will have to draw another card. Chances are the hand is a 12 or 16 which means the dealer must draw. If the card is a 10, the dealer will bust and you win.
If the dealer’s card is between 7 and 11, with a 10 face-down they could have 17 to 21. Therefore, it is pointless to stay on a 12 to 16. It is best to take the chance and hit for one additional card. If the hand is 17 or higher, it is competitive and best to stay.
For committed Blackjack players, using this strategy can be an improvement in edge for the player by up to 1 percent. This may seem little, but in the long-run it is quite a significant advantage.
July 29th, 2010 |
It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact time and location a card game was invented. Although there are varying theories, some general ideas are commonly agreed upon based on written accounts in various texts. Blackjack is one of many games with a murky past.
In the Beginning…
It’s commonly agreed upon that Blackjack was invented sometime in 17th century France under the name Vingt et Un or 21. The name Blackjack originated from the black suit of spades of ace and jack. The game has evolved since Vingt et Un as there are some minor differences. In Vingt et Un, the player bets after each round and the dealer is permitted to double down. The objective of both games is to have a total equaling 21.
Migration to North America
Following the French Revolution, Blackjack migrated to the United States due to the lack of gambling laws. France had many gaming laws during that time period. This made it easy for players to hop on a ship and gamble. During the 19th century, betting games like Blackjack were completely outlawed in the United States as a method of decreasing crime.
During this time, Blackjack was played in secret underground clubs away from the watchful eye of the law. Throughout the 1920’s, the punishment and enforcement of the gaming laws become more stringent. In 1931 Las Vegas opened its legal casinos with droves of gamblers flocking to the city.
Development of Strategy
As this game progressed, numerous individuals studied the game to further develop strategies and tips. In 1953 Roger Baldwin and several associates began to test different theories and tactics. Three years later they published a strategy manual based on their findings to help limit the house edge.
Although this manual helped many players, they lacked the technology to further investigate. Building on these strategies, Edward Thorp developed an improved statistical model (now known as the card counting theory) which was published in 1962. This proved to be the most defining moment in Blackjack history and made the New York Times best seller list.
Casinos dispelled players from their property if found to be utilizing this theory. It also resulted in many changes including the method of shuffling. Luckily for the casino operators, the book was difficult to read due to the mathematics and statistical theories that the common player isn’t aware of.
The most profitable strategy gurus were Ken Ulston and the MIT Blackjack Group. Ulston took over $300,000 from Nevada casinos by placing a mini-computer in his shoe to calculate various odds. The MIT Blackjack Group won several million dollars in the 1990’s and were later banned from Las Vegas in 1997. Blackjack has a long and rocky history with players using questionable strategies like card counting.
July 7th, 2010 |
The overall blackjack payout has slowly declined at many Las Vegas properties. The trade-off is that minimum bets have also decreased. Over the past few months, over 24 tables at Harrah’s Casino properties have begun paying out 6 to 5 for blackjack games at various limits. The previous payout standard was 3 to 2.
When running the numbers, the difference is minimal in the short term, but over a long playing period can be quite significant. For instance, the conventional payoff on a wager of $10 will win $15. With the new pay structure, the player only wins $12 on a $10 bet.
The idea behind the new payout originated from party pits approximately 10 years ago. These are areas of a nightclub or bar in which the table games (such as blackjack) are dealt by attractive women. Since gambling isn’t the main attraction, the payout is 6 to 5. This structure seems to have made its way onto the mainstream gambling floor at various casinos. The idea was for casino managers to increase profits from low stake games.
Blackjack Players Reaction
It is estimated that nearly 25 percent of the casinos on the Las Vegas strip are offering blackjack games with the 6 to 5 payout arrangement. Blackjack gurus have always criticized this payout differential, stating that it’s simply a way to swindle unsuspecting tourists that aren’t familiar with the different payouts. Many believe once tourists realize the difference, this will hurt the casinos further economically.
According to the Gaming Control Board during the past 12 months, wagers on blackjack on the strip were $1 billion less. On the other hand, blackjack is currently less profitable than it was twenty years ago. Presently strip casinos keep 10 to 11 percent of profits compared to the 13 to 14 percent just a decade ago.
Although the economy is playing a large factor in the decline, a complimentary explanation is that Vegas is becoming a destination that offers more than just gambling. Consequently, gamblers are distracted by other attractions such as nightclubs and pool parties, all of which cost money.
In the past, casinos have managed to remain profitable even with cheap inexpensive food and rooms, better odds and better comps. Perhaps they need to return to the Vegas of old where the deals draw the customer in to gamble. Since customers are cutting back, the idea of cheap food, rooms and better comps may entice them to gamble more and increase profits for the casinos.