How to Win at Blackjack

Published: 08/04/2012

Players who win consistently at the Blackjack table have several characteristics in common. First and foremost, they are all familiar with Basic Blackjack Strategy. They may or may not use betting progressions or card counting, but they all know how to play “by the book,” even when they break an occasional “rule,” such as splitting 10s or doubling down on a total of twelve.

The other characteristic that regular winners share is self-discipline. This has less to do with following the “right” decisions as outlined on hand play charts than it does with managing a bankroll properly. Good players know their limits, they bet with their heads and not over their heads.

Poor money management causes far more losses than improper play of Blackjack hands. In general, a starting bankroll should be no smaller than 50 to 100 times the table minimum. The maximum single wager should not exceed 2% of the bankroll on any hand. Good players also set a limit on their losses before they start playing. If the limit is reached, they stop playing.

It is also very helpful to have a specific goal in mind before sitting down to play, such as “increase the bankroll by 50%.” Similarly, setting a time limit on play is useful. If the monetary goal is not achieved within a fixed period of time, it is best to quit for a while and resume play later, when refreshed. The only sure way to win at the Blackjack table is to quit while ahead. Good players know this and do not overplay or overstay. Small wins add up to big wins over time.

Much has been written about how slight changes in the Basic Rules can have a huge impact on Blackjack odds and the House edge. Consistent winners seek out the tables that give them the greatest opportunity to win. If the House Rules are not clearly posted, they will ask the pit boss, who is on hand to answer questions as well as oversee the games.

To the greatest degree possible, questions asked of the pit boss should be specific, such as “Is it possible to double down after a split?” Other good ones might be “How many splits are allowed?” or “Can I double down on any two cards?” Asking these questions before sitting down eliminates the need to bother the dealer during play and helps identify which tables have a lower House edge before buying in to the game.

Good players are keen observers, too. They look for certain “traffic” patterns that help them know when to play. If weekends attract tourists with money to waste and little experience in card play, it may be better to limit sessions to weekdays. If heavy drinkers dominate the tables late in the evening, early mornings or afternoons may be better times to play. Joining other “regulars” at the time when they play is also a good practice.

Consistent winners will not sit down at a table just because a seat is available. Most of them find it preferable to join a game immediately after a shuffle in order to begin with a fresh and “neutral” deck. On the other hand, for card counters in particular, joining mid-deck can have several advantages. The card counter can take time before sitting down to watch hands and identify “rich” or “poor” decks. It is then possible to wager accordingly.

Table limits are often lower when the casino floor is uncrowded. The minimums and maximums may be raised during peak periods. Learning when a “good dealer” has his/her shift can be very useful information, too. Some dealers control the game better than others or simply brighten the mood of the table with their personalities. If they help beginners to learn how to play “by the Book,” they also help protect serious players from being seated next to amateurs making mistakes.

Published on: 08/04/2012

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