How to win at blackjack
Many players will ask themselves how to win at any casino game. It’s a logical question, and one that often enough we have to answer with “get lucky”, unfortunately. When it comes to blackjack, we have good news for you. Not only is this game one of the most player favored casino game, but there are a number of simple and advanced strategies that can help you in getting the answer to question how to win at blackjack – even in the long run.
Make no mistake, as tiny as that house edge is, it still persists. You still have to get relatively lucky as we’re talking about a card game after all. However, beyond what is dealt to you by the dealer, you will assume a controlling position. The more skillful you are at blackjack, the better you will be at manipulating with what luck has dealt to you.
How to win at blackjack online
Blackjack’s widespread availability online may have bumped this staple casino game’s popularity, but the good old blackjack techniques and strategies have not alternated at all. You may find additional variations of the game across online casinos in comparison to land casinos, yet the same variance of rules still persists.
There is, however, one major difference; online blackjack algorithms shuffle the deck after each hand, making it literally impossible to count cards.
Without further delay, let’s get to the point and offer some tips on how to win at online blackjack.
Pick a trustworthy casino
Surely you don’t want to grind away at hours on end at a blackjack table, only to find the casino operators have taken away your cash for some absurd reason. Identifying a reliable casino, where you can play to your heart’s content without worrying about the security of your cash, is of utmost importance.
Beyond worries of personal security, you should pick a casino with a good gaming selection. Many casinos in our reviews section boast a large number of blackjack variations, including live dealer games to boot.
Manage your bankroll
We’d argue that knowing how to pace yourself and manage your bankroll is much more important online than offline. You’re losing money either way, but it’s much easier to put everything you have down the drain when playing online. Betting only requires you to click a button or two, and before you know it you can lose everything within minutes in a rush of adrenaline.
It doesn’t matter if you’re playing blackjack, roulette or slots. Set aside a gaming budget per gaming session. Plan out ahead how much you’re going to play and how many days per week. Make sure you set realistic goals and a proper budget that’s within your means.
Once you’ve done all that, abide by your limits no matter what. What’s more is that some casinos can do all of that for you, via their built-in player limits system integrated on their websites.
Play the right game
A new player can be baffled by the amount of blackjack variations online. Make sure to carefully examine the rules before staking real money at a table. Here’s what you should look for and what to avoid when playing online blackjack.
Splitting aces allowed
This is one of the more important blackjack rules. Nowadays, most online blackjack tables will allow you to split aces, but be wary of those who don’t.
Resplitting aces allowed
Having the option to resplit aces is a very rare occurrence in blackjack. When it does happen, it can be beneficial, but it’s not as important as other rules because of its rarity.
Double after split
This is another blackjack occurrence that you’ll seldom come across. If you can find it among other beneficial rules – good, but don’t be too upset if you don’t.
Blackjack pays 3 to 2
A blackjack table that pays 3 to 2 is always better than a table paying 6 to 5. This should be your number one priority when pursuing a blackjack table online.
Single deck blackjack that pays 3 to 2
Finding a single deck blackjack game that also happens to pay 3 to 2 is nigh impossible across land casinos. Online, it’s a slightly different story, and there are a number of variations that support both rules.
Dealer hits on soft 17
This rule should be avoided when possible. The house edge when the dealer hits on a soft 17 vs when he stands is .2%. Not the greatest odds shift in the world, but it does make a difference.
Blackjack pays 6 to 5
There is no compromise when it comes to 6:5 paying blackjack tables. If you value your budget, under no circumstance should you play at such a table.
Blackjack basic strategy chart
The blackjack basic strategy is one of the most powerful tools at player’s disposal. It has become so widely accessible that you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not using it. The average blackjack player won’t bother with learning blackjack strategy, which is why he will seldom come out ahead. If you seriously care about maximizing profits when playing blackjack, you should take the time and learn this chart by heart. The house edge in blackjack, assuming flawless basic strategy use, is 0.4%.
The leftmost column lists all possible player hands (vertically), while the top column (horizontally) lists the dealer’s up cards.
This basic strategy chart applies for a blackjack table with 4 to 8 decks, where the dealer has to stand on a soft 17.
Hard hand combinations basic strategy chart
Soft hand combinations basic strategy chart
Pair combinations basic strategy chart
H = HIT
S = STAND
DDH – DOUBLE DOWN IF POSSIBLE (else HIT)
DDS = DOUBLE DOWN IF POSSIBLE (else STAND)
SP = SPLIT
SRH = SURRENDER IF POSSIBLE (else HIT)
How to count cards at blackjack
At long last, we arrive at the ultimate question. Hollywood movies have taught us that card counting is a malevolent, illegal activity, one that requires great skill to master. Well, the skill part is true, but the rest of it – not so much. Counting cards on blackjack is not illegal, but it is frowned upon by casinos. If you do it (successfully) at a land casino, you may get kicked out should the operators notice. Online, there’s no way for anyone to detect if you’re counting cards, but there’s also no way to count cards.
As we mentioned before, an automated shuffle system follows after each round of online blackjack. Now, you may think that with the advent of live dealer tables online, the case for card counting has changed, but unfortunately it has not. We’ll explain just why.
Deck penetration signifies how deep has the dealer gone in a set of cards in a blackjack table. If you’re playing a six deck game and there are three decks still in play, that’s 50% deck penetration. The issue is that dealers at live online blackjack tables are instructed to shuffle the deck at 50% penetration. Anyone acquainted with card counting will know that 50% deck penetration is too large of a card pool to be able to reliably count cards. That’s 156 cards left in the pool, simply too much to be able to predict what comes next. You are welcome to try it, but don’t expect many fruits of your labor.
Those of you who still plan trips to your local or not so local land casino, should keep reading because card counting strategies can work. They may be difficult to master, and some would argue they’re not worth the effort, but there will always be merits to card counting. However, don’t expect ridiculous profits by employing card counting. If it was that profitable, everyone would be trying to employ card counting strategies. It is estimated that by employing successful card counting strategies, the player edge in the long run is roughly about 1.5%.
Lastly, before we get to our point, you should know that without knowing blackjack basics strategy, trying to count cards is a highly unadvisable. Many successful card counters will tell you that basic strategy is the most important thing you should know before employing any additional technique.
The Hi-Lo was first introduced in 1963, it is the most commonly practiced, and most comprehensive, card counting system. The point of this system is to increase your bet when the card count is high, and in contrast – decrease it when the card count is low. Here’s how it works.
To start off, you must assign a value to each card. 2 through 6 have a value of +1, 7, 8 and 8 are neutral carrying a value of 0, and 10 through A have a value of -1. Now, here comes the tricky part. You will need to heavily concentrate and maintain a 100% clear count if you want the system to work. This is called the running count. As an example, if the first six cards that have been dealt are a K, J, 5, 9, 6 and 3, then the running count would amount to +1. K (-1) + J (-1) + 5 (+1) + 9 (0) + 6 (+1) + 3(+1).
Next what you should do is divide the running count by the number of decks remaining, to get what is called the “true count”. Taking an example of a running count of 6+, dividing it by a hypothetical amount of 2 decks left, the true count is would amount to 3. We are aware that estimating how many decks are left in the card pool is nigh impossible, but by practicing this will become easier over time. Also, dividing an exact number to identify the true count is not always necessary, a rough estimate will do in most cases.
As the true count increases, the higher your bets should be. If you do not increase your bets at a high true count, then you’d be missing the purpose of this technique. As the deck penetration increases, so will the true count, and so will your odds of winning increase in accord.
Be mindful to not get detected by the pit boss when trying to employ this card counting strategy. To do this, you will need to come up with a min-max betting range, in order to avoid suspicion. Staying focused while trying to count cards and doing your best to avoid suspicion all at the same time can be nerve-wracking, but at the same time exhilarating. You will need tons of practice to become at least a semi-successful card counter, so the sooner you start – the better.
The knockout count is an almost directly simplified version of the Hi-Lo. The differences with the KO is that a 7 is not a neutral count, but a +1, while all others remain the same (2 through 7 add +1, 8 and 9 are neutral and 10 through A subtract -1. This eliminates the need for keeping a true count, which is highly appealing to beginners.
However, with the KO system, the running count does not start with 0. It is calculated by subtracting 4 from the number of decks in play multiplied by 4. If you’re starting a fresh game with 6 decks, then the initial running count would be (4×6)-4=-20. In a single deck game, the count would start with 0.
As with every other system, you start betting higher as the running count increases.
The KO sacrifices precision for convenience. It is not as accurate as the Hi-Lo, but it is still a proven card counting system, one that is highly recommended for beginners.
How to win at blackjack in Vegas
Las Vegas is the gambling center of the world. There’s not a player who does not wish to traverse it and look towards entertainment and potentially full pockets of casino money. In a city where casinos number in the hundreds, where a blackjack table can be found at almost every corner, it can be quite confusing on which table to play it.
And yes, that is the key to winning – finding the table with the most player-favored rules, therefore best odds. It is a subject we’ve already covered above. The same advice, and the same strategies apply regardless of whether you’re playing in Vegas, Monte Carlo, Atlantic City or an online casino from your computer or phone.
You may want to try your hand at card counting, but whatever you do we’ll advise you again to remember the basic blackjack strategy chart above all else. Next find a table with liberal vegas rules, such as the ones we mentioned above (dealer stands on 17, 3 to 2 tables exclusively, double after split) and remember to have some fun!