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The Best Online Blackjack Strategy with a Wagering Requirement
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|BEST ONLINE BLACKJACK STRATEGY WITH A WAGERING REQUIREMENT
By Arnold Snyder
(From How to Beat Internet Casinos and Poker Rooms, coming in 2005 from Cardoza Publishing)
© 2005 Arnold Snyder
Go straight to Blackjack Online Strategy Card
When you are playing blackjack online to meet the wagering requirement for a bonus in an Internet Casino, or in any other situation where you have a wagering requirement, the best basic strategy for blackjack changes slightly.
If you are unfamiliar with standard blackjack basic strategy, see Learn Blackjack Basic Strategy in the Blackjack Forum Gambling Library. That article is an introduction to the logic behind normal blackjack basic strategy, with comprehensive charts.
For those who already know blackjack basic strategy who are surprised to learn that correct strategy with a wagering requirement would be different, here is the logic as it applies to a double down decision:
If I want to know whether I should double down on a total of 9 against a dealer deuce, I have to consider the return on getting double the money on the table with this strong total while giving up the option to rehit the hand if I am dealt a 2 or 3 on it. To double down on a 9 v. 2 and catch a deuce on it is a truly miserable result. Here I am with a total of 11, that I cannot take another card on, and I have double my bet on this hand!
As it turns out, this is one of those borderline decisions that changes according to the number of decks in play. In single and double-deck, the basic strategy is to double down on the total of 9 v. 2, because having that one deuce taken out of play (the dealer's upcard), has removed a significant enough percentage of the remaining deuces to make the double down the optimal play. In fact, with three decks, it's correct to double down on 9 v. 2 if my total of 9 is comprised of a 7-2, since this would mean two deuces would have been removed from the remaining cards. But as soon as we get to 4 or more decks, the basic strategy for 9 v. 2 is to hit, and not double. That's how the logic works.
But let's look at how much of a borderline decision this is. In a shoe game (and it will be slightly different with 4, 6, or 8 decks), if I am dealt a total of 9 v. 2, I have a approximately a 7.85% advantage over the house if I just hit. In dollars and cents, this means that with a $100 bet, my average return on this hand with basic strategy (hit) is to make $7.85.
How much money do I lose if I double down? Well, not really that much. If I double down on this hand in a 4-deck game, my win expectation is about $7.45. Card counters who table hop and play only plus counts just about always double down on 9 v. 2 because with most balanced count systems the index number for doubling down on this hand is 0. If you have just the slightest positive count, doubling down becomes the correct play.
In any case, since a return of $7.45 is less than a return of $7.85, basic strategy with 9 v. 2 is to hit in all games with more than three decks, not double down.
But, consider an Internet 4-deck game where I have a wagering requirement to fulfill. Let's say I have a total wagering requirement of $2000, and I've already played through $1800 in action. In other words, I have exactly $200 of action left to meet my wagering requirement. The casino allows a $100 max bet. I place a $100 bet, and I am dealt a 9 v. 2. How should I play it?
If I hit, I have an expected return on this hand of $7.85. I then must play one additional $100 hand, and I must assume that the cost of this random hand will have the house edge of 0.50%. This second $100 hand that I must play to meet my wagering requirement has a negative return of -$0.50. So, for these two hands, my total return is $7.85 - $0.50 = $7.35.
If, however, I violate standard basic strategy and double down on my 9 v. 2, my total return on the $200 in action will be 10 cents higher, $7.45. So, when there is a wagering requirement, basic strategy for the 4-deck game changes. But, with 6 decks, if I double down on 9 v. 2, it will cost me about 21 more cents than hitting and playing a second hand against the house edge, so with 6 or more decks, it is best to follow the standard multiple-deck basic strategy for 9 v. 2, and just hit.
The logic here does not require that you be down to the last two bets of a wagering requirement. As long as you are playing to meet a wagering requirement, and every additional bet (double or split) that you don't place on a hand where you have this option will require another bet on a random hand with the house edge, you will be in a situation where the value of doubling down or splitting must include the value of eliminating a random hand that must be played at the house advantage.
In any case, the value of following a Wagering Requirement Basic Strategy as opposed to a standard blackjack basic strategy where no wagering requirement is imposed is negligible. But it does exist, and smart players may want to know about it. For those who are out there playing on bonuses with wagering requirements in Internet casinos, here are the changes:
9 v. 2 = double (4 decks or fewer)
A7 v. 2 = double
A6 v. 2 = double
8 v. 6 = double down in a 2-deck game with a 5-3, but not with a 6-2
11 v. A = double down in a 2-deck game
Normal basic strategy with 9 v. 2 is to double down in 1 and 2-deck games only. With a wagering requirement, we should also double down in 4-deck games. In a 6-deck game with a wagering requirement, however, this double down would cost us an extra 21 cents on a $100 bet, so we only make the altered double down in a 4-deck game, unless we're looking for a cheap camo play in 6-deck.
Normal basic strategy with a total of 8 v. 6 is to double down in single-deck only. With a wagering requirement, we are correct to double down on 8 v. 6 in 2-deck games if our cards are 5-3, but not 6-2. With more than 2 decks, it is not correct to double down on 8 v. 6 with a wagering requirement.
Double down on 11 v. A in a 2-deck game. Normal basic strategy is to double down on 11 v. A in single-deck only, or in multi-deck if the dealer hits soft 17. In Theory of Blackjack, Griffin provided refinements to this rule, namely that if the player's 11 is a 6-5 or 7-4 (but not a 9-2 or 8-3), it is also correct to double down in 2-deck. With a wagering requirement, it is optimal to double down with 11 v. A with 6-5, 7-4, and 8-3, but 9-2 is still on the other side of borderline. With more than two decks, however, do not double down on this hand.
COMPREHENSIVE WAGERING REQUIREMENT ONLINE BLACKJACK STRATEGY
DOUBLE DOWN, HARD TOTALS
DOUBLE DOWN, SOFT TOTALS
S = Stand, H = Hit, D = Double Down (if doubling not available, then hit), Ds = Double Down (if doubling not available, then stand),
1 = Stand with 3 or More Cards
There may be a few other violations of standard blackjack basic strategy that would bring you an extremely small extra return in particular games, based on the exact number of decks in play and the precise rule set, when you are playing to meet a wagering requirement. They will not be worth much to players in dollars and cents. However, any minor corrections in the basic strategy charts above will be filled in sometime this summer.
Also, some players have questioned whether correct online blackjack basic strategy would change again in a situation where you have a win target, such as when you are playing on a sticky bonus. It turns out that the online blackjack strategy for win target situations with a wagering requirement is the same as the regular Wagering Requirement Online Blackjack Strategy. I will explain why in a separate Blackjack Forum article.
Again, the value of following a Wagering Requirement Online Blackjack Basic Strategy as opposed to a standard blackjack basic strategy where no wagering requirement is imposed is negligible. But it does exist, and smart players should know it. ♠
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