Blackjack Tricks and Tips

Most rookies feel intimidated when they approach a blackjack table for the very first time. To their consternation, everyone else appears to know what they are doing, not to mention most first-timers cannot keep up with the fast pace of the game.

Blackjack certainly can be confusing at first because it is not as simple as most of the other games available on the casino floor. Unlike them, it requires a good amount of skill, knowledge, and strategy. In addition, there is a certain comportment one needs to comply with while at the table, which further adds to the confusion of novices.

If you are new to the game, we recommend you go through the few tips and tricks we have provided below. They can help you improve your game, save some money, and feel at ease until you settle into the routine of playing regularly.

Always Use Basic Strategy

Basic StrategyBlackjack is not a game you can play with the help of intuition or hunches. There is a set of correct playing decisions for all situations you can possibly find yourself in and by “correct”, we mean mathematically optimal decisions.

This set of optimal plays is called basic strategy and it helps you achieve two main things – generate more profits during advantageous situations and cut down on your losses when you are the underdog. In other words, it tells you when it is the right time to hit, stand, split, double down, or surrender.

Following perfect basic strategy leads to a significant decrease in the house edge which drops to half a percent. You are playing an almost break-even game with basic strategy. However, what is correct and what is not is closely related to the rules of the blackjack variation you are playing which leads us to tip number two – know your game.

Know Your Game

blackjackOne of the biggest issues with blackjack is the absence of a unified system of rules. The rules of the game are different depending on which casino you play in. This leads to differences in the optimal strategy for the game. The worse thing you can do is memorize the first basic strategy chart you come across and use it at all blackjack tables regardless of the rule variations.

The strategy is affected not only by the number of decks a given blackjack game uses but also by the dealer’s drawing rules and other playing conditions. You need to learn to adjust your plays in accordance with these variables. Otherwise, you will inevitably end up making playing mistakes which, in turn, costs you money and decreases your EV.

Also, some blackjack variants offer more favorable playing conditions than others. For example, many single-deck games pay at a rate of 6 to 5 for blackjacks and require the dealer to hit soft 17. Both rules are detrimental to the player, especially the reduced blackjack payout, which significantly increases the house advantage. Never settle for anything less than the standard 3-to-2 payout for your blackjacks.

Never Accept Insurance

blackjack insuranceEvery casino game has its sucker bet and in blackjack, this “honor” goes to the insurance bet. This is a proposition bet offered to players at the start of a round when the dealer’s exposed card is an Ace. If you accept insurance, you must make a side bet that amounts to half of your initial stake.

If the dealer does not have a blackjack, you lose the insurance bet and continue playing your hand as usual. Insurance pays at a rate of 2 to 1 when the dealer indeed has a blackjack. This misleads players into believing they are protecting their hands against a potential dealer blackjack.

In reality, insurance has nothing to do with your starting hand. You are simply betting the dealer has a ten-value card in the hole. The only thing insurance does is giving the casino a bigger edge so you should never “take advantage” of this option if you are a basic strategy player.

Try Not to Slow Down the Game

blackjack basicsThe pit crew and experienced players generally show understanding toward blackjack rookies but you should do your best not to slow down the game. This will invoke unpleasant reactions from everyone at the table. The members of the casino personnel hate this because it decreases the number of hands played per hour. In turn, this causes the house’s hourly revenue from the table to drop. Skilled players also hate a slow-paced game because it decreases the profits they generate per hour.

If you have not conquered basic strategy yet and cannot recall the correct plays for certain hands, it would be wise to take the third-base seat, if available. This is the last seat at the table which gives you plenty of time to recall the correct move for your hand or check your strategy chart while the players before you make their decisions.

Tip the Dealer Occasionally

blackjack tipYou should not feel pressured into tipping the dealers because this practice is not mandatory. However, it would be a nice gesture to give your dealer a toke (i.e. a tip) every once in a while, particularly if you are on a winning streak. Approach toking the dealer the same way you approach tipping the waitresses at classy restaurants. If you like the service, do it. If not, pay your bill and leave.

Just make sure you do not overdo it with the tips because extreme generosity significantly decreases your expected value. Let’s suppose you are betting $25 per hand but you also post a $5 bet for the dealer at the start of each round of play.

Assuming the game runs at an average pace at a full table and you go through sixty hands per hour, you will end up spending $300 each hour of play on dealer tokes only. As ridiculous as this hypothetical situation does sound, some blackjack players are indeed willing to sacrifice such huge amounts on dealer tips.

Watch Out for Dealer Mistakes

blackjack acesNobody is immune to making mistakes, including dealers, no matter how experienced they are. Sometimes these mistakes manifest themselves in the form of miscalculating a player’s hand total or involuntarily misplaying a hand.

More often than not, they have to do with the dealer mispaying you on blackjacks. Such payout mistakes tend to occur more often when a player is betting in increments of odd amounts like $5 and $25. As you know, blackjacks earn you a 3-to-2 payout which is equal to 1.5x your initial bet. Respectively, the correct net payouts are $7.50 for a $5 bet and $37.50 for a $25 bet.

This is not to say you should always avoid betting with chips that do not return payouts in whole-dollar amounts. However, you should always address an incorrect payout if you happen to notice one. The proper way to approach one such inaccuracy is to turn the dealer’s attention to their mistake.

Do Not Attempt to Count Cards when Playing against the RNG

blackjack card coutingIf you decide to take your blackjack game to the next level and master the more advanced technique of card counting, you should be aware that it is useless in online blackjack. This does not work in virtual variations of the game where the outcome is determined by a Random Number Generator (RNG).

Card counting is basically keeping track of the cards that have already been dealt. This gives you knowledge about the ratio of low to high cards in the remaining shoe or deck. You vary your bet size and deviate from the basic strategy plays with the help of this knowledge.

The trouble is the RNG software reshuffles the cards after each round of play. The discards are automatically reintroduced into the deck or shoe, which basically means you start afresh after every round. This renders it impossible to count cards effectively. You can reduce the house edge for the game you are playing to the absolute minimum through perfect basic strategy only.

Avoid Purchasing Strategy Cards from Casino Gift Shops

blackjack strategy cardsWhen playing at a larger casino, you normally have the option to purchase a basic strategy card directly from the venue’s gift shop. The dealer might also offer you one such card while you are at the table. We advise you not to accept.

Some casino gift shops offer cards that are accurate for single-deck blackjack only so some of the suggested plays there are incorrect in a shoe game. These inaccuracies may be small but they still have an impact on your long-term expected value.

You must ensure you have an accurate strategy chart on you before you take a seat at a given table. If you are playing only multiple-deck blackjack, for example, it would be best to print out the charts for both S17 and H17 shoe blackjack and use the one that is accurate for the table you are playing. This saves you money in the long run.

Do Not Take Advice from Dealers and Fellow Players

blackjack adviceSometimes, either the dealer or a fellow player may offer you advice on how to play out a specific hand. This usually happens with non-intuitive decisions where it is not immediately clear what the correct play is. Such is the case with splitting a pair of 6s against a dealer with a deuce in shoe games.

You have learned basic strategy before you attack the table and know the optimal decision is to split the 6s if doubling afterward is allowed. If not, you must take a hit. However, a fellow player at the table is apparently convinced you must stand on your hard 12. They seem bent on convincing you they are correct and you are wrong, so you take a peek at your strategy chart and confirm splitting is indeed the optimal decision here.

Do what basic strategy tells you to do. The intentions of such players or dealers are rarely malicious but you should never take advice that is contrary to basic strategy. Such mistakes are costly in the long term.

Do Not Chastise Fellow Players

blackjack strategyThis tip is somewhat of a continuation of the previous one. It is important to remember that the way other patrons play out their hands has no bearing on your chances of winning or losing yours. The decisions of others could be just as beneficial to you as they can be detrimental.

You should refrain from chastising your fellow players when they end up making an incorrect or a downright stupid move. In the long run, their decisions have to effect on your expected results when you play perfect basic strategy. Sometimes it may seem somebody’s stupid play ruined things for the entire table but this is only a delusion.

The minds of us human beings are wired in such a way so that we remember only the negative and forget the positive at times. If you keep a record of your plays, you will inevitably notice the stupid decisions of others have “caused” you to win some hands and lose others, so make sure you do not scold anyone the next time they misplay a hand.

Take Advantage of Comps and Promotions

blackjack bonusOur final tip has to do with maximizing your expected value by taking advantage of comps and other casino promotions. Comp points you collect when you play online for real money. Some casinos will allow you to exchange them for cash, while others will give you only free credits to play with.

There is a cornucopia of promotions at online casinos, with most operators offering players percentage-match bonuses on their first deposits. Participating in such offers gives you the opportunity to expand your blackjack bankroll if you are playing with a limited budget. Just make sure you read the bonus terms before you opt in because some of these promotions are not valid for tables games like blackjack.

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Dan Shavon

Can I still improve my winning chances in blackjack if I do not use t strategy?

Asked by: Shavon | Asked on: 2023-09-01
Answered by: Dan | Answered on: 2023-09-01

While there are multiple ways to improve your winning odds in blackjack, it is not a coincidence that the very first tip listed in the topic covered above is to always use basic strategy. The reason for this is the edge that making the correct move will give you. Even if you consistently make the perfect move on each hand dealt in blackjack, you will still gain a small advantage against the house. Now, imagine playing blackjack without a basic strategy. Even if you have come across a blackjack game with rule variations that give the player the best edge against the dealer, without implementing basic strategy, that edge gets reduced.

Since players are advised to use any advantage they have, always playing blackjack with basic strategy seems like the best tip I can give you. Of course, as blackjack is a game, which is based both on luck and skills, playing with basic strategy will not guarantee you constant wins. However, utilizing the correct strategy can help you improve your winning chances and also reduce your losses.