Getting Started on Casino Blackjack OnlineBy: Shirley Spicer, Wednesday December 23rd 2009
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Blackjack is a popular online casino game and many new players are attracted to it. The first problem they face is which blackjack variant to choose from the numerous that are on offer. This article is targeted at players who have a basic knowledge of blackjack rules but are new to online blackjack.
Very often it is prudent to start with what not to choose and this is the case with blackjack. In land-based casinos three blackjack rules are inviolate. Blackjack pays 3 to 2; tied hands push and the dealer busts if he goes over 21. There are some online versions of blackjack in which these rules are changed in favor of the house. For example blackjack pays 1 to 1; tied hands go in favor of the dealer and if the dealer's hand is valued at 22 then it is a push. It is true that these variants of blackjack offer some attractions to the player in lieu of these disadvantages. But the advantages are miniscule as compared to the disadvantages and new players should not wager on these blackjack variants, except for fun. One such popular variant is Blackjack Switch. In this online blackjack game players start with two hands and can interchange the second dealt cards if it provides them an advantage. However the other rules are changed in favor of the house as explained above. Therefore though Blackjack Switch is an interesting and exciting game it is a losing proposition when played with real money.
The rule variation that has maximum impact on the house edge is whether the dealer has to stand on a soft 17 or whether he has to hit on a soft 17. When the dealer is allowed to hit on a soft 17 he more often than not ends up with a valid hand value that is greater than 17. This puts him at advantage. Hence blackjack variants where the dealer can hit on a soft 17 reduce the return to the player.
Different blackjack variants are played with different number of decks starting from one deck and going up to eight decks. New players should be aware that the house edge in blackjack increases with the number of decks used. Therefore all other rules remaining the same a player can expect a lower average return from a blackjack variant that is played with a larger number of decks. Restrictions imposed on splitting and doubling down also result in increasing the house edge. The house edge is least when there are no restrictions on splitting and doubling down. For example there are blackjack variants in which players cannot double after a split or in which players can double only if their hand values are between 9 and 11. Similarly there are blackjack variants in which players can split only once or only twice. Normally what happens is that when the player is given an advantage by compelling the dealer to stand on a soft 17 or given an advantage by reducing the number of decks to one or two, this advantage is neutralized by imposing restrictions on splitting or doubling down.
Finally new players should be aware that certain features that are touted as advantages are really not so. Certain variants of blackjack promote the fact that they allow players to take insurance against the dealer having a blackjack. This insurance bet is a sucker bet and in the long run acts as a drain on the player's bankroll. Therefore it should never be placed and this bet being offered is really no advantage. Some blackjack variants allow players to split on unlike cards of value 10, such as a Jack and a Queen. Again blackjack strategy says that players should not split on cards that have a value of 10 because a combined value of 20 is considered a winning hand. Therefore by allowing players to split on unlike cards of value 10 is not really offering them an advantage. In fact it tempts them to make a mistake.
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