To increase your chances of winning at blackjack, first learn the basic strategies of playing your cards wisely and then master a card counting system. Basic strategy is the calling card of blackjack — if you play with proper strategy, blackjack gives you the best odds in the casino over time. (People forget the “over time” aspect. We’re a culture that freaks out over small sample sizes. They’re the only thing keeping Around the Horn on the air.). Some players get so excited to play blackjack that they will sit at any table where a seat is available. If there is no seat available at a table that qualifies, wait. The casino is not going anywhere. Small ball your way to a profit: Using win/loss limits in blackjack is the best way to put money in your pocket.
- To have an advantage in play against the dealer, basic strategy is arguably the most effective tactic you can use to win at blackjack without counting cards. Basic strategy is a series of instructions (expressed as charts). They tell you what moves to make when the dealer has a specific hand.
- Blackjack strategy can also be used to boost your chances of making a profit rather than a loss at the blackjack table. So what are the best ways to win at blackjack? Read on for our complete guide to win at blackjack. Pick the right type of blackjack game. The first step to winning at blackjack is to give yourself the best odds you possibly can.
Blackjack is one of my favorite games in the casino. Not because there is a lot of excitement generated like with craps but because with some very basic strategies and knowledge you can turn what I find a relaxing experience into a profitable one.
Having spent hours (which may equate to days) at the blackjack table, I have seen a lot of different strategies to no strategy at all. Playing blackjack can be fun and rewarding. I recommend that you keep it as simple as possible and use the people around you, including the dealer.
When at the table I’d like to encourage you to get involved with the table. Whether that is from the perspective where you are learning or an expert at the game. I read somewhere along the way that “if you help enough people get what they want you too shall get what you want”. Consider that when you have a player considering to take a card when holding 15 when the dealer shows a 6.
First Things First
We all have to start somewhere and like with much of what we do in life we learn the most while on the go. Blackjack, for most, is learned in the same manner. I cannot remember the last time that I sat down at a blackjack table and there was not at least one person that either needed some guidance or could use some guidance. So here are some starting points:
- Know the basics.The goal is to beat the dealer – not to reach 21. There are a lot of players that have what I refer to as “card paralysis”. They see the two cards that are dealt and they are counting in their heads to see what they might need to get 21. We are all playing to win and winning means beating the dealer. Not achieving 21.
- Never hand the dealer your cash.You have to set the cash down on the table so that the cameras can see the money being accepted by the dealer.
- Cards stay on the table. You have to keep the cards on the table, even if you are playing a game where they allow you to pick up the cards. IN a game where they deal the cards face down and allow you to pick them up you must keep them on the table and only touch the cards with one hand. Otherwise in the vast majority of blackjack games you are not to ever touch the cards.
- Know the basic hand gestures.As we all know, casinos are filled with cameras so the player must point or gesture to either hit to receive another card or wave to stay. Knowing the hand gestures would essentially allow a player to be able to play, for the most part, without saying a word during the course of the game.
- Get online. Before playing it is almost a must to become a student of the game. Going to one of the free online sites allows for you to learn how to bet, when to split, how to double down or when to use insurance.
- Download an app. The vast majority of us have a smart phone that will allow us to download a game. I recommend downloading a blackjack game that will allow you to track your statistics and practice your strategy.
- Practice with friends. It is always helpful to practice with a live deck of cards and with friends that know how to play. There are a lot of players now that have been introduced to casino style gambling online but lack the experience at the tables. As I mentioned before, you have to start somewhere. So try to get a feel for the live gaming experience by practicing what you have learned with friends or family that know what the actual live experience is like.
- Respect the table.On countless occasions I have seen people walk up to the table and cash in $20.00 and walk away in less than 2 hands. For the most part it is disruptive to the players that have been playing at the table. Blackjack is a progressive game and the players at the table are working and observing trends in the cards. A “floater” coming in and not investing time at the table is distracting.
- Know the numbers.The dealer busts 28% of the time. This is equal to two (2) times out of every seven (7) hands. Keep this important stat in mind and try not to act too quickly and help the dealer out. When a player mishandles a hand there is a 28% chance that it was going to equal a bust with the dealer. Remember, it is not the first to 21 but the first to not bust. Another angle to consider is that 85% of the player’s hands are lost when holding a hard 12 through 17. Also, when a dealer is holding an Ace as their up card there is a 31% chance that they have a 10 underneath.
- Probability Theory and Blackjack. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines Probability Theory as:
- a branch of mathematics concerned with the analysisof random phenomena. The outcome of a random event cannot be determined before it occurs, but it may be any one of several possible outcomes. The actual outcome is considered to be determined by chance.
There are a lot of people in the gambling industry that have done the math for us and conclude that a win in blackjack happens approximately 42% of the time. A tie with the dealer occurs roughly 9% of the time. So you are going to lose 51% of the time. Knowing these odds helps you to work a strategy that helps you to maximize your betting during the 42% of the wins.
Getting into the Game
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There are a lot of moving parts in almost every game in the casino. Each and every one of them have a draw for different players and provide a sense of thrill. Having a good base of knowledge will enhance your ability to both enjoy the game and turn it profitable.
Just as any game we play, the longer we play, the better we get. Aside from all the tips I am mentioning here, the best little known way to become a winner at blackjack, is to play and play often.
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- How to Bet.The table has the minimum and maximum bets posted at the table. The player places a minimum bet in the designated location and play begins with the dealer dealing the cards. During play you will have the opportunity to increase your bet by splitting pairs or doubling down.
- The Deal. Once bets have been placed on the table the dealer deals two cards to each player (in most games they are face up) and two cards to the dealer, one face up and the other face down.
- Basic Play. Once the cards have been dealt, play begins. Players and the dealer can have blackjack and players are paid out and the rest of the table plays their hands. If the dealer has blackjack play is over and the players lose their bets. Aside from blackjack, players play out their hands by either taking additional cards, splitting or doubling down. If a player busts then their bet is surrendered and game continues for the other players at the table.
- Play of the Dealer. Everyone at the table is playing their hands to beat the dealers hand. The dealer, in most cases, have to hit on 16 and stay on 17. If dealt an Ace as their up card the dealer can ask players if they wish to use insurance to protect their bet.
- Know when to use Insurance.When the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, any of the players may make a side bet of up to half the original bet that the dealer’s face-down card is a ten-card, and thus a blackjack for the house. Once all such side bets are placed, the dealer looks at his hole card. If it is a ten-card, it is turned up, and those players who have made the insurance bet win and are paid double the amount of their half-bet, a 2 to 1 payoff. When a blackjack occurs for the dealer, of course, the hand is over, and the players’ main bets are collected – unless a player also has blackjack, in which case it is a stand-off. Insurance is not good for the player, unless he is sure that there are a high number of ten-cards still left in the deck.
- Know when to split your cards.You have the ability to spit any matched pair during the game. When you find yourself looking at a pair of cards on the table there are a number of different scenarios to consider. First you want to know if there is a better chance to win against what the dealer is showing if you split your cards. The basic rules for splitting your cards are:
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|i.||Pair of 2’s or 3’s||4,5,6 or 7||Split|
|ii.||Pair of 4’s||Anything||Never Split|
|iii.||Pair of 5’s||2 through 9||Never Split; Double Down|
|iv.||Pair of 5’s||10 and up||Never Split; Hit|
|Pair of 6’s||3,4,5 or 6||Split|
|vi.||Pair of 6’s||Anything else||Hit|
|vii.||Pair of 7’s||2 through 7||Split|
|viii.||Pair of 7’s||8 and up||Hit|
|ix.||Pair of 8’s||Doesn’t matter||Always Split|
|x.||Pair of 9’s||2 through 6||Split; Double Down|
|xi.||Pair of 9’s||7||Stand|
|xii.||Pair of 9’s||8 or 9||Split|
|xiii.||Pair of 9’s||10 and up||Stand|
|xiv.||Pair 10’s – King||Doesn’t matter||Never Split; Stand|
|xv.||Pair of Ace’s||Doesn’t matter||Split|
- Know when to double down.The quickest way to build your personal bank is to double down as often as you have the chance. Totaling the cards dealt to you are what initiates the opportunity to double down and here are the rules to follow when doubling down:
|a.||9||3,4,5 or 6||Double Down|
|b.||10||2 through 9||Double Down|
|c.||11||2 through 10||Double Down|
|d.||Ace and 2 or 3||5 or 6||Double Down|
|e.||Ace and 4 or 5||4,5 or 6||Double Down|
|f.||Ace and 6||3 through 6||Double Down|
|g.||Ace and 7||3 through 6||Double Down|
- Always hit on soft 17.I know that when the average person looks at this they scratch their head and wonder why in the world anyone would hit on a soft 17. Many players get dealt a soft 17 (which is a hand that is equal to 17 where an Ace and a 6 has been dealt) and decide to stay. The general rule of thumb is that when dealt a hard 17 is to stay because the number of potential bust cards is great. Conversely, when a dealer shows any up card not a three through 6 the player usually loses with a 17. As a result, always hit on a soft 17.
- When you Win (the Payout).The player always goes first in blackjack and if a player busts they lose their bet at that moment (even if the dealer later busts). The player is paid immediately when a player gets a blackjack otherwise the table players play out the hand. Most blackjacks are paid out at 3:2. Some tables pay out differently so be aware of what the payout is at the various tables. Aside from the payout of a blackjack the table pays 1:1 on your standard bet. That same bet is paid out when you split pairs and double down.
- Most casinos have auto shufflers and deal multiple decks. Some of the multiple decks are 6 to 8 decks in total. About one in every six tables you’ll find a single deck game and the cards are shuffled at a more frequent rate.
- Play more than one position.Playing two or more positions allows you to deploy a number of strategies as well as opening up a lot of advantages. Most casinos allow you to play multiple positions but they have rules that require you to double the table minimum bet. Be mindful of the table minimum because it will apply to the splitting of any cards and doubling down on any bets. There are a few strategies to consider and when playing three or more positions it is recommended that you stand, at all times, on any one of the hands with a hard 16 and play the others with your developing strategy. Also, when playing three positions, make one of the positions an aggressive position when you play. You will take more risks in this position. While playing multiple positions it is good to play a progressive betting style. As you grow your bets, make sure that you are raking profits.
- Play a progressive betting system.There are a lot of ways to bet progressively while playing blackjack. This is one of the optimal ways you can rake significant profits. This style of betting can be used when playing one or multiple positions. I have used a number of progressive styles over the years and there is one style that I use regularly. First, begin by betting the table minimum and if playing multiple positions make sure that you are betting the required minimums. When you win the first time with a hand, double your next bet. When you win the second time, rake the profits and go back to the table bet. Follow these tips until your profits reach a level that you desire and begin increasing your minimum bet. I generally double the table bet as I win and keep that level until I lose three hands in a row. At that time, I lower my bet to the table minimum and repeat the process as described previously. While I am playing multiple positions I don’t always win at all positions. I generally will run a streak where I win one and lose or push with the other position. When this occurs, I use the profits of the winning position to finance the bet of the other position(s). Doing this will keep you from dipping back into your pocket. With the multiple position progressive betting I grow my table minimum bets just as I described above and reset my betting strategy back to the table minimum once I have lost three in a row.
- Pick a strategy and follow it through.Blackjack, like any gambling game, it is a game of numbers and strategy. I have seen dozens of people walk up to the blackjack table and sit down for a few moments and burn through their cash in a matter of moments. Personally, I do not have that kind of money to burn. When I play I try to deploy the strategy and I remain committed to that strategy. It has been tested and proven that if you can tweak and adjust a strategy, rather than abandon it at the first sign of losses, your career earnings at the tables can be significant.
- Practice your strategy. Go to one of the free online sites and work with strategies that you have found over the internet or what you have learned from friends or the movies. Additionally, download an app for your phone so that you can practice on the go. Looking at both of the options, online and an app, make sure that you use one that keeps track of your statistics. It is important also that you can reset your statistics as you work to deploy new strategies. Once you have identified your strategy, make it your own but know that tables at time will go cold. When you have found a table that has gone hot you need to be taking as many calculated chances as you can and make the most out of every bet.
- Play with people that know how to play. This is by far one of the hardest things that you can do in most cases. A lot of people that show up at a table does not know how to play and it can negatively impact your pocketbook. Many people think that the objective is to get to 21 rather than play to beat the dealer. So, if you find yourself with players that don’t know how play offer to help. If they make a bad decision that you could have helped with it could (and usually does) have an adverse effect on your hand. It is also these players that can turn a hot table too cold very quickly. As this is occurring you must have the presence of mind to reduce your bets quickly.
In my opening I mentioned that there are a lot of strategies and there is a lot of time invested in practicing and cultivating a strategy that works well for your style of play. You have to be willing to practice and work on your strategy.
Think about your chosen career and how long it took you to get to your current level of compensation. It took time to reach that level. Much like this example, you need time to develop your strategy and practice often if you want to see your blackjack play turn from just a game to a profitable pastime.