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Best of John Grochowski

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Progressive blackjack

19 June 2016

QUESTION: I was surfing the Web for blackjack insights and I came across this on video blackjack. “Look for games with progressive jackpots on specific hands, and play when the jackpots are big enough.” Is this sound advice? Can you really get an edge, or do they put bad rules on those games so the house makes its money?

ANSWER: I don’t see a lot of progressive jackpots on video blackjack, and when I do, they’re on multiplayer games that offer side bets.

The same caution that applies to side bets on table games applies to the video versions. House edges are very high at rollover values, and even if you find a jackpot that gives the bet a positive expectation, the hands required are extremely rare.

Take Progressive Blackjack, a game I observed several years ago at Global Gaming Expo and which has occasionally been sighted in casinos. It’s designed for a six-deck game, which some multiplayer electronic tables use, but isn’t found on single-player video blackjack. The big jackpot is on four Aces of the same color. That happens only about once per 391,191 hands.

There are other payoffs for the $1 side bet, ranging from $3 on a single ace to $2,000 on any four aces. Still, the return is low. At wizardofodds.com, Michael Shackleford calculates the payback at 47.01% plus 2.56% for each $10,000 on the progressive meter. If the table, video or physical, starts the progressive meter at $10,000, then the house edge is a whopping 50.43% at rollover.

The bet doesn’t reach break-even level until $207,287.85, and even it does exceed break-even, you’re an extreme longshot to win it.

There’s no need to put bad rules on the basic blackjack game to fund bets like that. The wide wagers are easily self-funding, and the big-money progressives are there for jackpot hunters, not advantage players.

If anyone sees a video blackjack game with progressive payouts that does not require a side bet, please alert me to the game and manufacturer so I can check it out.


QUESTION: A few months ago you wrote about Free Bet blackjack, and a casino I go to just added it. You didn’t detail a special strategy. What changes do I have to make?

ANSWER: In Free Bet, you get free double downs on hard totals of 9, 10 or 11, and also get free splits on any pairs except 10 values. The downside is that dealer hands of 22 aren’t busts, they’re pushes.

With an adapted basic strategy, that adds up to a game with a 1.04% house edge.

Strategy changes are driven both by the free bet opportunity and the push on 22 rule. They’re not difficult, but too numerous to detail in one Q-A item.

When dealt pairs, always take the free split unless the pairs are 5s or 10s. Stand on pairs of 10 values, as usual, and take the free double on pairs of 5s regardless of dealer up card.

Take the free double on any two-card total of 9, 10 or 11, no matter what the dealer shows.

For a fully detailed strategy, go to the Free Bet blackjack page at wizardofodds.com. Note the differences between strategy on a paid hand and a post-split free hand. For example, on a paid hand, stand on hard 17 if the dealer shows anything from 2 through 10, but surrender, if available, against an ace. If your hard 17 is on the free hand, no surrender is available, but there’s a departure from the norm in that we hit against 7, 8, 9 or ace, while standing vs. 10 as well as 6 and under.
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski