In previous sections, this guide has walked you through a basic strategy that should help you when playing blackjack, and somewhat reduce the house edge. By doing so, you can begin to level the playing field. However, in this section you will learn additional techniques that could help you even further and utilise blackjack odds when playing blackjack.
In many instances it takes only slight variations to tip the odds away from the blackjack house edge. There are even ways to help you play that involve actions taken away from the table. Let us take a look at some of these techniques that focus on the players edge.
In this chapter we take a look at the composition dependent strategy. We examine how you can use casino competitions and coupons to your advantage to improve your chances. Many offers alter the risk of playing a hand of blackjack, at least temporarily. We will even throw in the odd tip too.
By the end of this chapter you should be another step closer to becoming a blackjack master, where you can begin to flatten the blackjack house edge. Because whilst blackjack, like any casino game, is based primarily on hoping for good fortune, via the luck of the draw, there are still strategies any player can learn to gain to improve their play and chances of winning hands.
From this section onwards, you can successfully build on the knowledge gained from following a blackjack basic strategy and supplement your existing skills by learning about the further marginal improvements you can make by drilling down on the cards in the hands you receive.
COMPOSITION DEPENDENT BLACKJACK STRATEGY
In the first installment of the basic strategy, you discovered optimal plays to make, just by considering your card total. But as you add layers of blackjack knowledge, you will see that there is a wealth of additional tactics that can be employed by using individual cards as a guide. So let us look at the first of those techniques.
When utilising a strategy based solely on your card total, this is known as the Total-Dependent (T-D) basic strategy, or traditional basic strategy. It is a perfectly acceptable strategy – it would not be in this guide otherwise. It is a great starting block for learning the nuances of the game and gaining a greater understanding of optimal plays and blackjack odds. However, by digging down further, we can discover ways to bring down the house edge further. This new strategy is referred to as the Composition-Dependent (C-D) basic strategy. Many experts believe that learning this technique separates expert players from recreational ones.
This strategy has been in existence for many decades. It is a complex strategy that cannot be covered in full within this guide, but by looking at examples of strategies, you can still develop your blackjack knowledge and awareness. The strategy first came to light with the release of a book in 1979 – “The Theory Of Blackjack” by Peter A. Griffin. More recent releases that discuss strategy include “Blackjack Bluebook II” by Fred Renzey and “Blackjack Attack: Playing The Pros’ Way” by Don Schlesinger. All can help you edge your bets.
The fewer the number of decks, the more beneficial using composition dependent basic strategy becomes. We will take a look at a couple of examples to show how this strategy might work. Let us consider a card total that is made up in four different ways, and consider how the C-D strategy may suggest a different play to the T-D strategy.
So why this change in strategy? Because the C-D strategy flags the fact that a 3-card hand must contain at least one low value card, a card that is therefore by definition no longer in the remaining pack. These are the type of cards you need to hit and achieve a pat hand, rather than go bust. As at least one is in your hand, the odds of being dealt another one have reduced slightly, tipping the odds over to standing rather than hitting.
In Blackjack Bluebook II, Fred Renzey suggests the strategy of standing if your hand contains any 4’s or 5’s. Don Schlesinger suggests standing with any multi-card 16. If you wish to pursue such a strategy, then this is the most common occurrence where C-D can be utilised to affect the blackjack house edge.
Let us take a look at another example to show the strategy at work.
A player is dealt a hand of 12, against the dealer’s 4 upcard, in a game with S17.
Again, the optimal play under C-D will change according to the composition of the player’s hand.
The T-D strategy states to stand on 12 against a dealer’s 4. But as there are 4 ways to be dealt a 12 hand, under C-D you should hit with a 10-2 hand.
The reason? As the player has a 10-value card in their hand, the odds of going bust by picking another 10-value card is lowered just enough to tip the odds in favour of hitting. However, the more decks there are, the less the odds are tipped, so with an 8-deck game, it is best to still stand.
And a final example:
- Under the C-D strategy, hit with a hand of 15 if composed of an 8-7, against a dealer’s 10 upcard, but again only if there are fewer than 8 decks.
The above examples show the marginal gains that can be achieved by adopting this new strategy, to build on what you have already learned. It is well worth learning them to use on the occasional hand and manipulate the blackjack odds.
REDUCE THE ODDS WITH CASINO REWARDS
For regular casino players, the house may offer rewards for their patronage. Getting rated and receiving complimentary items and rewards can help a player reduce the blackjack house edge. Casinos will reward players according to the perceived worth to them.
The level of benefits awarded are based on a number of factors that casinos use to calculate your value to them as a player. Online, this will mean your time spent playing, number of hands and the size of wager you make.
These vary in nature, but should always give you a temporary advantage over the house, even if it is for a solitary hand. A good example of this is the Promotional or “Promo” Chip. They are often handed out as rewards for regular play, or as an inducement to return. A player simply uses the chip as they would any other, according to its value. Winnings should be paid with regular chips. They are essentially a risk-free bet.
An alternative is a match play coupon, which is where the casino makes a bet on your behalf. A bonus coupon that tends to pay 2-1 on your first hand, giving you a one-off edge.
Here are a couple more rewards that could help mitigate losses:
1. Loss rebate - This involves negotiating a rebate on any losses with a casino. Whilst it may not appear to be an attractive offer, over time it should benefit you as it reduces losses. These types of offers do favour high rollers more however.
2. Exclusive online offers - Online casinos are constantly advertising not only welcome offers, but deals for existing customers. Use them. As part of what is often referred to as “matched betting”, it is essentially a limited offer risk-free bet that helps you edge your bets over the casino.
Use all the tools at your disposal to reduce the house edge. Learn to play hands according to individual cards in your hand. Utilise competitions, promotions and coupons to get as many chances to play hands as possible. Playing the system whilst adhering to the basic strategy can help put you in control of your gameplay, while luck of the draw still dictates what card you will receive.