A game of chance is a game of chance. You can’t lower the house edge but you can play smarter and decrease your chances of losing. How do you play smarter? Remember a few rules, don’t go crazy, and stick to a plan, of course!
Blackjack is one of all-time favourite casino games for both beginners and pros. It’s simple to learn, and you can play it without ever going outside of the few basic rules: try to hit as close to 21 as you can, and get a higher number than the dealer.
For the most part, many beginning gamblers have played successful blackjack games without ever venturing outside of these simple rules. If you’d like to have a little more fire and purpose in your game, check out our list of 10 tips for increasing your odds in blackjack.
Number one – skip the insurance. It’s just another way of giving money to the house while thinking you’re being responsible. Even the name suggests a level of “responsibility”, but don’t be fooled. A lot of gamblers who like to gamble with their “feelings” or “premonitions” will take insurance when the dealer runs a streak of great luck.
People take insurance when they think that the dealer is going to get a 10 – so unless you’re a good card counter, this is really purely a gut feeling. What is insurance anyway? For those who don’t remember, it’s simply a side bet.
You can take this side bet when the dealer has an ace. You basically bet half of your wager that the dealer will get a blackjack – so, another 10. If this happens, instead of automatically losing, you will get paid out 2:1. Again, if you’re a good card counter or downright psychic, this method might save you some money, but our advice for beginners is to never gamble on an insurance bet.
2. The Strategy Guide is Your Friend
Ah, the strategy guide. Some people feel like they’re a tourist in the middle of a busy city trying to read a tiny map when they have a basic strategy guide in their hands. But don’t worry – everybody does it at one point or another. And when you use a strategy guide, it means that you’re ready to start on a path to becoming a better player.
Here is our version, if you’d like to take a look:
What is a basic strategy guide? It’s a handy sheet of paper (or a downloaded chart) that tells you when you should do something. Of course, you’re a grown-up and you don’t HAVE to do it, but it tells you what your best odds are. Sometimes our gut feeling says something completely different, and you should think of the basic strategy guide as that friend with a lot of common sense that can stand next to you and tell you what’s best.
It helps you when you’re trying to decide when to hit or stand, when to surrender (if you can), when it’s not a good idea to split pairs, and when to double down. Counting cards doesn’t mean memorizing every single card – that’s almost impossible to do. What you’re going to be learning are strategies – high or low, Rever Point Count, Mentor, K-O, Hi-Opt I, Omega II, Silver Fox, Uston SS, Wong Halves – wait what??
3. Learn to Count Cards
We know you’re going to ask “Isn’t counting cards illegal?”. Let us assure you – it’s not. There is no way to prove it, and although most casinos don’t like it or approve because it gets in the way of their nice house edge, there is nothing in any law book that says you can’t do it if you do it in your head.
There are a lot of strategies for learning how to count cards in blackjack. Of course, the fewer the decks the better your chances are at being successful.
You might not have known there are so many strategies and different ways of predicting cards by counting them, but there are a lot more than we mentioned here! They all have different difficulty, efficiency, probability, and were invented by different people in different times. Here is an easy intro to card counting by Mike Aponte, a former member of the MIT Blackjack Team:
4. Play at Tables That Use Fewer Decks
This is an easy rule to follow. Most casinos will use anywhere from 4 to 8 decks. Of course, fewer decks lower the house edge, so the fewer decks you play with, the better chance you have at a win.
5. Don't Show Off
Remember to keep your head about you and don’t watch what other people are doing. For all you know, they’re either drunk, good at card counting or just throwing their money away. Concentrate on the right here – your game is between you and the dealer, forget everyone else.
6. Know When to Walk Away
The trick about winning is knowing when to walk away. This is probably the most simple advice we can give anybody. A great way of knowing when to walk away is deciding before you even sit down – do you have a certain amount of money you’d like to gamble with before you go? If your budget is 200$, then put all your winnings aside – gamble only with your beginning amount. When you are finished, walk away from the table. This way, you will never really lose.
Playing cards is all about having fun. Throwing money into the game makes it a lot more exciting to play blackjack, and when you set your “playing budget” you know that you’re willing to pay a certain amount of money for the entertainment – the socializing, the excitement and the experience. With this strategy, you will never walk away empty-handed.
7. Remember a Few Simple Rules
There are a few set rules that most people tend to follow when playing blackjack.
- Don’t double down when your cards are showing more than 11
- Double down if you have soft total of 16-18 and the dealer is showing low numbers. Grab your chance!
- Never split a pair of 10 – this is probably as close as you’re going to get – don’t ruin it in a moment of hubris.
8. Practice First
It never hurts to sit down to a few free games of blackjack before you start playing with real money. This will increase your chances at more confident play, with less “beginner mistakes”. In most online casinos, you can practice playing with any bonus money that you get for signing up. When you make your first deposit, you also get a generous bonus for practicing gameplay in many different gambling games.
9. Use All the Tools at Your Disposal
Don’t think you’re “too cool” for rules and can play a winning hand with your mind tricks alone. Take the strategy guide, listen to common sense, and take a gamble when you see an opening. Never play drunk and remember basic blackjack rules. This might seem simple, but it will put you at a real advantage and increase your chances of winning a lot more than believing in “lucky numbers”.
Know What the Table Rules Are Before You Begin
Different tables – different rules – there are different prices for joining the table, or buy-in rates. There are also different rules that might be helpful – for example, when splitting face cards, some casinos will want the face cards to be the same, and some casinos won’t – since all face cards are “tens” anyway. Not sure? Ask the dealer for a heads up about any special rules that might apply at your table. It would be awful to find out that the minimum bet per turn is 25$ on every turn!