K-man's pogo.com Informational Pages

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Buckaroo Blackjack

Sadly, Buckaroo Blackjack was recently replaced with the new program "Blackjack Carnival". However, I will keep this page up and available for posterity and for folks who liked BBJ and wish to reminisce.

Welcome to K-man's pogo.com Buckaroo Blackjack (now discontinued) page! There's a lot of data on this page, so if you want to skip around, you can start by selecting one of the following:

On this page, I will introduce you to "K-man's 4-step program toward Buckaroo Blackjack Success".

But first, to pique your interest, I'm gonna start with some stats. The stats I present here represent records I kept while using my 4-step program.

Buckaroo Blackjack Stats that I have kept

I have occasionally kept statistics on my blackjack play in the buckaroo blackjack game, and I'll present those statistics here.

Stats kept for each 15-minute session (note: after 7/27/00, pogo changed the length of a session from 15 minutes to 20 minutes; the newer stats that I have reflect this change; hourly winnings have been adjusted for the new longer session length):

In general, here's how these stats have been kept: Table 1 below represents my winnings (tokens won) and hands played in each full 15-minute session. A full 15-minute session is the period between "intermissions" (the length of time between intermissions is about 15 minutes). There is one caveat here: if you leave your BBJ game on your screen and you go do something else for awhile--eat some food; feed the pets, have a cigarette, etc.--when you come back, the 15-minute clock has been ticking already. So, for example, if you're away from the screen for 20 minutes, the FULL 15-minute period has expired. The game will let you play one BBJ hand, then will immediately go into intermission again. Or, if you've been away for say 10 minutes, you can play BBJ for 5 more minutes before another intermission appears.

Tokens won and hands played stats: Thus, I have only kept track of winnings during full 15- (or 20-) minute time periods in order to try to be as consistent as possible. Table 1 below has the summary of the data that I've collected on winnings (tokens won) and number of hands played for each 15-minute session during which I kept records.

Bonus card frequency stats: Aside from tokens won and hands played, I also have kept records of how often different bonus cards come up. What I do is, during a 15-minute session, I keep track of how many times I have received a bonus card in my hand, and then I also record the amount of the bonus: one of 100, 250, 500, or 1000 tokens. The reason I do not keep track of bonus cards in the dealer's hand is because when a the dealer gets dealt a bonus card, we are not given a value for that bonus. Also, I do not keep track of whether or not I actually won a particular bonus hand--since I keep track of tokens won separately, I thought this was somewhat redundant.

Tables 2 and 3 below represent the data I've collected on bonus cards--how many times during each 15-minute session I have received a bonus card in my hand, and what that bonus card was. I have split the data into two different tables: the first of the bonus tables (Table 2) gives complete and separate information on each separate bonus value (100, 250, 500, 1000). The second bonus table (Table 3) displays information on the number of times a 100-token bonus has appeared versus a bonus of any of 250, 500, or 1000. In other words, Tables 2 and 3 are identical, except that Table 2 shows the separation for all bonus token values and Table 3 shows the values for 100-token bonuses versus higher-token bonuses. (The reason I even present another table is that you don't get your nickname "in lights" when you win a 100-token bonus, but you do get your nickname "in lights" when you win a 250-or-higher-token bonus.)

One final note on bonus cards: bonuses do exist that are more than 1000 tokens. Other players have received bonuses of 2000, 2500, and up to 5000 tokens--and I have hear rumors of a 10,000-token bonus (!). But these larger-token bonus cards (either a gold jack or a gold ace) are very rare.

Table 1: Buckaroo Blackjack tokens won and hands played stats (PRE-7/27/2000)

(summary of 42 15-minute sessions)
Tokens won Hands Played
Total 87930 7201
Average per 15-minute period 2093.6 171.5
Average per hour 8374.3 685.8
Average per minute 139.6 11.4
Std. Deviation (15-minute period) 983.0 21.1
Average tokens won per hand 12.2

The table above is fairly self-explanatory. During the 42 15-minute periods that I was keeping track of my stats, I won a total of 87,930 tokens and played 7,201 hands. Averages are given per 15-minute period, per hour, and per minute. On average, I play between 11 and 12 hands per minute, and my overall average tokens won per hand is 12.2.

Table 2: Buckaroo Blackjack bonus card frequency (PRE-7/27/2000)

(summary of 28 15-minute sessions--all bonus values separate)
bonus cards
bonus cards
bonus cards
bonus cards
Total bonus
cards seen
Total bonus
tokens seen
Total 210 72 54 47 383 113000
Average 7.5 2.6 1.9 1.7 13.7 4035.7
Std. Deviation 2.8 1.5 1.2 2.2 3.7 1425.2

The table above represents the frequency of bonus cards received in my hand. Over the 28 15-minute periods that I kept track of this information, I received a total of 383 bonus cards in my hand, representing a total potential bonus win of 113,000 tokens (I probably won about half of these hands, but I didn't actually keep track of this). The "Averages" line shows clearly that 100-token bonuses are more common than 250-token bonuses, which in turn are more common than 500-token bonuses, which are slightly more common than 1000-token bonuses. On average during a 15-minute period the total potential token winnings was 4035 tokens (and again, I probably won about half of these).

Table 3: Buckaroo Blackjack bonus card frequency (PRE-7/27/2000)

(summary of 28 15-minute sessions--250-1000 bonus values combined)
bonus cards
bonus cards
Total bonus
cards seen
Total bonus
tokens seen
Total 210 173 383 113000
Average 7.5 6.2 13.7 4035.7
Std. Deviation 2.8 2.2 3.7 1425.2

Table 3 above represents the frequency of bonus cards received in my hand just like Table 2, except that in table 3 I compare 100-token bonuses to bonuses of 250 tokens or more. Over the 28 15-minute periods that I kept track of this information, I received a total of 383 bonus cards in my hand. More than half of these were 100-token bonuses. The rest of the information in Table 3 is identical to Table 2 and is repeated here only to compare 100-token bonuses to 250-or-higher-token bonuses.

OK; now for the boring information on my strategy. All of the stats above were accumulated while using the strategy below.

The strategy below assumes that your primary goal in playing Buckaroo Blackjack (which we'll also refer to as just "BBJ") is to amass as many tokens as you possibly can in the shortest amount of time. In fact at the time of this writing, BBJ is the highest consistent per-hour token-producing interactive game on pogo. I have been averaging picking up between 8,000 and 8,500 tokens per hour playing BBJ.

By the way, my BEST actual 15-minute session in terms of tokens earned was 4104 tokens. My WORST 15-minute session was 585 tokens (I never had a single losing session using my 4-step strategy). During my best consecutive hour of play, I earned 12,243 tokens. My WORST consecutive hour of play was 5,464 tokens (not bad considering that the game that wins the second-most tokens per hour averages only 3,000 tokens per hour).

First a brief look at the four steps to blackjack success, then I'll discuss a bit about the game, then I'll go into more detail about each of the steps listed below:

K-man's 4-step program toward Buckaroo Blackjack Success:

  1. Bet Low
  2. Play Fast
  3. Covet bonus cards
  4. Throw most normal basic blackjack strategy out the window

OK; that was a brief look at the 4-step program. Now let's look at some basic information about the game, a philosophy of play that incorporates the 4 steps, then I'll go into the four steps in more detail further below on this page.

Getting Started

First, if you're here, you probably already know how to get going with playing a game on pogo.com. Briefly, you have to go to the site www.pogo.com, then you have to register as a user: pick a nickname and password, tell them your gender and birth month/year, and tell pogo your email address so they can contact you (mostly with email messages telling you you DIDN'T win today's lotto drawing!).

To get into the blackjack game, go to the main www.pogo.com page and click on the "Buckaroo Blackjack" link. Then select a room: probably you want to pick a room that has folks your own age in it. Then, just click on any one of the games offered, and in short time a window will pop up that will eventually contain the blackjack game.

pogo.com's blackjack game described

Pogo.com's Buckaroo Blackjack game is similar to some of the real-life blackjack games you'd find in some casinos--in fact, they use the same rules that are used in downtown Las Vegas casinos: single deck, double on any 2 cards, double after split, dealer hits soft 17. (Don't worry if you don't understand these rules--you don't have to understand them to play K-man's 4-step program).

How pogo.com's blackjack game differs from real-life blackjack

However, pogo.com's game differs from casino games in one important way: pogo.com offers special cards that come into play occasionally called "bonus cards". These include SILVER jacks, GOLD jacks, and GOLD aces. By far the most frequent of these cards is a SILVER jack. If you are holding a bonus card in your hand, and you beat the dealer during that hand, you will earn a certain amount of bonus tokens ranging from 100 to 5000 (100, 150, 250, 500 are most common). Also, if you happen to get a blackjack consisting of a GOLD ace and a GOLD jack, you automatically win the current "JackPot", which is real dollars usually ranging from $50.00 up to several hundred dollars.

More specifically, pogo.com's blackjack game is played with a single deck. The deck is shuffled, and in a random fashion, certain Jacks (and perhaps an Ace) are replaced with bonus cards. Play occurs, and when the deck is depleted it is re-shuffled (you will know when a new deck comes up because the words "New Deck" will appear just under the dealer's shoes in yellow text). The bonus cards replace regular playing cards completely at random; but of course they only replace jacks and the occasional ace. I have found on average that a single deck will usually contain 1 or 2 bonus cards (usually one or two SILVER jacks). On occasion, I think a deck might contain 0 bonus cards, and on occasion I think a deck might contain 3 bonus cards, but I do not have any evidence to support that a deck might contain 0 or 3 cards--I've only seen decks with 1 or 2 bonus cards replacing regular cards. As you start play, you can bet anywhere from 1 to 50 tokens per hand. I have observed most players play 50 tokens per hand (this is an incorrect betting strategy if your goal is to amass the most number of tokens possible).

As play progresses, when you get a bonus card in your hand, the dealer will announce it, and you'll see a section of your screen indicating how many bonus tokens you are playing for on that hand. As mentioned above, bonus amounts will vary; I'll go into more detail on what you can expect in terms of bonus amounts later.

Read This about the Philosophy of BBJ play

It is my belief that the folks who run pogo.com want their patrons to win tokens. In fact, all of their token-oriented games have odds that are skewed toward the player, and in the long run, even the least-apt players tend to amass a fortune in tokens (I don't describe what you can do with your tokens--please see the appropriate area of the pogo.com pages for information on this).

So, as such, the Buckaroo Blackjack game is also skewed slightly in the player's favor. But interestingly enough, there are a fair number of players that not only do not earn tokens playing BBJ, but they actually lose tokens at a fast pace. When I first started playing the game, I played the maximum number of tokens per hand, which at the time was 100 (pogo has recently reduced this to a maximum of 50; I believe this is to help keep their patrons from losing tokens at BBJ too quickly). In my first couple hours of playing this game, I actually LOST 8,000 tokens from my token account playing basic blackjack strategy. Ouch. That's a lot, when you consider that it takes at least a couple hours of playing poppit to earn that many tokens.

However, there are still many many players that in the long run do earn positive tokens. This is because of the bonus cards.

What if no bonus cards were in the deck?

Each of the token-earning games on pogo.com are skewed so that the player has the advantage: in video poker, the odds chart gives much better odds than a casino video poker machine; in roulette, they have added "big shot" areas on the roulette wheel that will give the player 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, or 10x or more odds if they match a number. In BBJ, the player's advantage is gained through the use of bonus cards and bonus tokens.

I want you to consider a very important question at this point: "What if no bonus cards were in the deck?" In other words, what would the pogo.com BBJ game be like for the player if there were no bonus cards/tokens offered? The answer to the question is that since the game follows blackjack rules found in downtown Las Vegas, the game would actually be skewed against the player, in favor of pogo.com. This means that in the long run, everyone playing the BBJ game would LOSE tokens as they played! And, the more tokens the player bets, the more they would end up losing in the long run. Therefore, if there were no bonus cards/tokens offered, there would really be no point in playing this game, since the only outcome is that you would lose tokens.

If you don't believe this, just consider real-life blackjack in a casino: the fact of the matter is that the game itself is skewed in the casino's favor. Despite inevitable short bouts of winning by some of their players, the casinos know that in the long run the game will be profitable for the them. If this were not true--that is, if in fact the game favored the player--the casino would not offer this game to its patrons because they would lose money at the game. And despite all the friends you might have who claim they "always" win playing blackjack in the casinos, and despite all the books that have been written about various "winning" strategies, the fact of the matter remains that there are very few people who are lucky or skillful to come away a winner at the blackjack table (stay away from blackjack in the real world!).

This is a very important point to consider and understand as we look at pogo.com's BBJ game. If you think that you could beat pogo.com's BBJ game without the addition of the bonus cards/tokens, you might as well stop reading right now because you won't be able to accept the strategy that I'm proposing here.

More on pogo's bonus cards/tokens

I assume at this point that you agree with me--that if pogo did not offer bonus cards and tokens in their BBJ game, you would not be able to win tokens regularly at the game. This brings me to another important piece of information that you need to understand perfectly before we continue. The piece of information is this:

In other words, whether you bet 1 token per hand or whether you bet 50 tokens per hand, the amount of the bonuses when they appear will still be 100, 150, 250, or 500 tokens (or more, but these are rare).

If this were not the case (that is, if the bonus amounts offered depended directly on the amount of your bet), it would affect step 1 of my 4-step strategy from "bet low" to "bet the maximum".

Please note that the amount of the bonus differs from the amount that you will actually "win" on a bonus hand. If you are betting 50 tokens and you win a 100-token bonus hand against the dealer, you will win 150 tokens. This includes the amount of the bonus plus the 50 tokens you won from the dealer that you originally bet (and of course you get your original 50 tokens back also, but this is not counted as winnings). Similarly, if you are betting 2 tokens and you win a 100-token hand, you will win 102 tokens. The actual amount will differ depending on the actual outcome of the hand (another example: betting 2 tokens and winning a 100-token bonus hand with a blackjack will give you a total win of 103--100 bonus, and your 2-token bet paid off at 3 to 2 for your blackjack). In fact, if you watch closely at how much your fellow players win on each of their announced winning bonus hands, you can guess how much they are betting (in most cases, they bet the maximum allowed).

The 4-step program

OK. Now that you understand that without the bonuses the game is a losing game, and that the amount of the bonuses does not vary depending on your bet, we can go into greater detail on the 4-step program:

Step 1: Bet Low

If you accept the above 2 premises just mentioned, it will be obvious to you that you must bet low in order to win at BBJ. In fact I recommend that you bet as low as possible--1 token per hand. I actually bet 2 tokens per hand instead of 1 only because betting 1 token does not return 3 to 2 odds on a blackjack (i.e., you don't win 1.5 tokens). Betting 2 tokens, you'll get back 3 on a blackjack.

The reasoning behind this is simple: without the bonus tokens, this game is a losing proposition. The more tokens you bet per hand, the more potential you have for either winning very slowly (with the bonuses) or possibly even having losing sessions at this game. Betting fewer tokens will limit your loss potential without penalizing you on the bonus hands.

Step 2: Play Fast

I've been keeping statistics on my play on this game pretty regularly; let me mention a couple stats here: I play this game pretty fast, and usually do not participate too much in chatting with other players. I end up playing around 650-750 blackjack hands per hour. My hourly average winnings are about 8300 tokens. Therefore, my per-hand winning average is about 12 tokens per hand, and I therefore want to play as many hands as I possibly can with this positive expectation. The bottom line on this game is, the faster you play, the more the bonus cards will come out and the better your chance for winning bonus tokens.

A second reason to play fast is that the more hands you play, the better your chance of actually hitting the real $$ JackPot (though I believe this to be truly a long shot!).

The caveat to this is that you don't want to play so fast that you make mistakes. However, making mistakes is difficult using my strategy.

There are a bunch of factors that may hinder your attempts to play this game fast: if the room is crowded, the dealer tends to deal hands slower; if you chat a lot, you won't be able to play as many hands per hour; if you lose your internet connection or take a break from play, these things will also slow you down. These factors considered, your average token winnings per hour may be lower than the 8,300 per hour I have claimed.

Step 3: Covet Bonus Cards

By now you must realize that the only winning strategy in this game is to get as many bonus cards in your hand (and win as many of these hands) as possible. In fact, you should realize by now this important point: if you are betting a low number of tokens like 1 or 2 per hand, the actual outcome of each blackjack hand DOES NOT MATTER compared to winning a bonus hand of 100, 150, 250, or 500 tokens.

Therefore, do whatever you can to quickly move past a hand that does not contain bonus cards in hopes of getting one that will.

Step 4: Throw most normal basic blackjack strategy out the window

If you've accepted everything up to this point, I'm going to ask you to go one step further and realize that if you are playing this game only to get bonus cards in your hand, and if you really don't care about the outcome of individual blackjack hands, then your actual hand-by-hand strategy will vary greatly from what you might be used to playing in a casino (normally called "basic blackjack strategy").

A more detailed description of my suggested hand-by-hand strategy for BBJ on pogo can be found below. But at this point I want to give an example or two to get you thinking in the mind set required: a really good example is being dealt a hard 12 (such as a face card and a deuce) against a dealer up card of ten (a 10 or a face card). Normal, real-life basic blackjack strategy tells you to take a "hit" on this hand. However, in pogo BBJ, our goal is not to win individual blackjack hands, but rather it is to get bonus cards in our hand. Keep in mind that by a wide margin, nearly all of the bonus cards you'll get in BBJ are Jacks, with a blackjack value of 10. So, if we routinely hit hard 12's or higher against a dealer up card of 10, we will end up receiving some bonus jacks in this situation which will bust our hand and "waste" that bonus card.

I therefore suggest for reasons of wanting to covet bonus cards and also wanting to play fast, that you simply "stand" on hands like hard 12, 13, etc. regardless of the dealer up card. If you do so, it will result in faster play, and bonus cards will appear more frequently.

There is an important exception to this strategy!!! If you DO get a bonus card such as a SILVER or GOLD jack in your hand, YOU NEED TO PLAY THE HAND TO WIN--TO BEAT THE DEALER! Don't forget this. You can't win the bonus unless your hand beats the dealer's hand, so when you get a bonus card in your hand, you must at that point switch to playing basic strategy (or whatever blackjack strategy you traditionally use).

You may not agree with this strategy yet. That's OK--you're entitled to disagree with me at this point :-), and just play basic blackjack strategy while you play fast and bet low. It probably will not hurt you too much to do this--it will mostly just slow you down a bit, and will cause you to draw a bonus jack that will bust you occasionally.

Table 4: Buckaroo Blackjack Strategy Table

Dealer up card: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
Soft 12 through Soft 19 H H H H H H H H H H
Soft 20 D D D D D D D D H H
Hard 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 H H H H H H H H H H
Hard 10 D D D D D D D D H H
Hard 11 D D D D D D D D D H
Hard 12 or higher S S S S S S S S S S
Any pair Spl Spl Spl Spl Spl Spl Spl Spl Spl Spl
Key: H = Hit ; S = Stand ; D = Double ; Spl = Split

Explanation and defense of the above table

The table above displays the correct betting table for K-man's BBJ strategy. The dealer's up card is displayed across the top of the table. Here's a summary of the reasoning behind the actions:

One final note on this strategy: it is particularly important that you split all 10's and that you draw a card to soft 19 and 20 and hard 9, 10, 11. The reason is that if you do draw a bonus jack, you will have a VERY strong hand and you are very likely to win the bonus by beating the dealer.

Finally, I have found that the frequency of GOLD cards is about 1 in 500 or so hands. The frequency of GOLD aces is much less (I've played over 30,000 consecutive hands without seeing a single gold ace). It is therefore not worthwhile to consider drawing GOLD aces while developing a strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I use pogo.com to practice basic blackjack strategy?

A: Yes! But remember not to include your bonus card wins when estimating the success of your basic blackjack strategy.

Q: Can I use pogo.com to practice card counting?

A: Yes! The pogo.com blackjack dealer deals from a single deck, and if you can find a single deck game with similar rules, pogo is a good way to practice card counting. But remember that counting for a single deck is very different from counting cards in an 8-deck shoe, for example.

Q: Do gold cards really exist?

A: Yes they do! Check out these pictures (click on the pictures to see a larger version):

(the third picture above showing TWO gold jacks is contributed by pdpacheco)

More on Gold Bonus Cards

Also, regarding gold bonus cards, I kept track for awhile on how often they appear. Here's what I found: over the course of about 11,000 blackjack hands that I played, I saw a total of 19 gold cards, either in my hand or in the dealer's hand. Out of these 19 gold cards, an amazing 18 of them were gold jacks! Only one gold ace! That should tell you something about how special it is to even see a gold ace.

Out of those same 19 gold bonus cards, 10 of them were dealt to the player (me) and 9 of them were dealt to the dealer. Out of the 10 times that I was dealt a gold ace, I won 4 of the hands for a total of 5,500 tokens won off of gold cards. I lost 6 of the hands (this represents another 6,750 worth of bonus tokens that I didn't win because I lost the hand). I do at this point plan to continue keeping track of when I see gold cards appear.

On average, a gold card appeared about every 590 hands. If you figure you play around that many hands per hour, you should SEE one gold card (whether in your hand or the dealer's hand) about once per hour.

So how frequently might I be dealt the jackpot hand of a Gold Jack and a Gold Ace in the first 2 cards of the same hand?. This is a reasonable question to ask, but I don't really have a large enough sample size to make anything but educated guesses here. Let's assume the following: A Gold Jack will get placed in a deck about once every 75 decks (600 hands). A Gold Ace will get placed in a deck, say, about once every 1250 decks (10,000 hands). Thus the frequency of a gold jack and a gold ace appearing in the SAME deck will be something like once every 93,750 decks (750,000 hands). Now, out of those decks where both a gold jack and a gold ace even APPEAR, we have to consider the odds that the two cards will be spaced in the deck with exactly one card in between them, and that those cards will be dealt to the player, not the dealer. I can't really even guess the odds of this happening, but let's suppose it's one in a hundred.

All told, then, we could expect to be dealt a jackpot-winning hand about every 75 million hands we play. (Yikes!). So if we play 600 hands per hour, 24 hours a day, we should expect to hit the jackpot hand about once every 5200 days (about once every 14 years if we play 24 hours per day). This is pretty much in line with the frequency of winning jackpots in other pogo games, so it's about what I would expect.

Another way to look at this is that if there are on average say 1300 players playing 600 hands of blackjack all day long every day, then we'd expect the jackpot to be hit about once every 4 days or so (this seems about right!). GOOD LUCK, EVERYBODY!!!!