How to Play Blackjack Like a Pro
Imagine how great it would be to play cards for a living. Many of us dream about getting into professional sports when we grow up, but very few will ever make it to that level. Blackjack, on the other hand, is a game that most people can beat. With a little advanced blackjack strategy, and a solid work ethic, you might end up earning a solid income – if you’re good enough. But even if you’re not a budding blackjack savant, you can probably win a few thousand dollars on the side, just by playing cards.
This is the right place to start. We’ll give you the tools to become a professional blackjack player, from the basic blackjack strategy to the more advanced tips and tricks you’ll need to beat the game. And yes, that means counting cards. You’ll have to play live at the bricks-and-mortar casinos if you want to become a Blackjack pro. However, Slots.lv is the perfect place to hone your skills; you can practice blackjack for free anytime, day or night, just like the pros do. Let’s start with four very simple blackjack tips you can use to improve your game right now.
Tips Quick Blackjack Pro Tips
- Blackjack is a game of chance. This may seem obvious at first, but there are plenty of card players out there who don’t understand probability. You won’t be able to make money at Blackjack unless you think about the game using math and logic.
- Learn the basic blackjack strategy. Everything starts with the mathematically proven moves that will reduce the house edge as much as possible. Once you get these moves down pat, you can take the next step and learn when to deviate from optimal play.
- Bankroll management is key. No matter how good you get at blackjack, if you’re careless with your betting, you greatly increase your chances of going broke. Only play blackjack with money you can afford to lose, and never bet your bankroll on a single hand. Spread the risk around by dividing your bankroll into smaller units, and while you’re working on your basic blackjack strategy, always bet one unit per hand.
- Enjoy the game. Becoming a professional blackjack player means treating the game like a job instead of a hobby. However, if you’re not having fun while you’re working, what’s the point? There are easier ways to make money than playing blackjack professionally. Treat the game seriously, but don’t take the fun out of it; blackjack is a mind sport, and you need the right mental approach to be successful.
How to Choose the Right Blackjack Games
There are many different blackjack variants you can play at the casino. Take a moment to browse through the menu here at Slots.lv; there’s Single Deck Blackjack, Double Deck Blackjack, Classic Blackjack, European Blackjack, Zappit Blackjack, and Perfect Pairs. You might find even more varieties of blackjack when you play live. Each game has its own rules, which determine what the house edge will be.
Generally speaking, you want to play blackjack games with as few decks as possible. This will give you the lowest house edges at the casino; you’ll also have an easier time implementing the more advanced Blackjack strategies you’ll use to make your money. But there’s more to game selection than how many decks are in the shoe. Keep an eye out for any casino promotions that will add value to the game, like Blackjacks that pay out at 2:1 instead of 3:2. And watch for blackjack dealers who make mistakes that you can exploit, like flashing cards – this will happen more often in Single Deck Blackjack, where the Dealer holds the cards instead of pulling them from the shoe.
How to Maximize Your Wins
As previously mentioned, the road to becoming a professional blackjack player starts with learning the basic blackjack strategy. We’re assuming here that you already know the general rules of the game. Each variant will have its own slant on the rules; for example, the Dealer may hit or stand on soft 17, and surrenders may or may not be allowed. Each tweak of the rules changes the basic blackjack strategy for that game.
Because of this, we recommend learning a simplified blackjack strategy when you’re starting out. A simplified strategy will be much easier to learn, it will cover almost all the Blackjack variants you may encounter, and it won’t leave much money on the table compared to the basic strategy. Almost all the moves you’ll make using a sound simplified strategy will stay the same when you’re ready to take the next step, which is: Learning the exceptions.
You can find a number of simplified blackjack strategies online, usually in the form of a small blackjack chart that you can print out and use for reference. Pick one that you like, and use it as a pair of training wheels when you start playing blackjack games – free at Slots.lv. Simply use the Practice Play mode. We recommend getting the simplified strategy down pat before you go to the live casino, although you are allowed to bring the chart with you and use it at the table.
Once you feel comfortable with your simplified blackjack strategy, it’s time to tackle the basic strategy. Start with Single Deck Blackjack, since it’s the game you’ll be most interested in playing live; get familiar with the rules in play at Slots.lv, and hunt down the basic strategy that fits those rules. There are a number of online Blackjack calculators that you can use to plug in the rules and spit out a blackjack chart for your chosen game. Make a note of the exceptions between that chart and the simplified version. The more hands you play at Slots.lv, the more often these exceptions will come up, and the sooner you’ll get the optimal plays figured out.
This is where the rubber meets the road. If you want to be a blackjack pro, you need to understand the concept of advantage play (AP). Just about every card game at the casino can be beaten, in theory, using AP tactics – some more easily than others. Blackjack is the bread-and-butter game for advantage players. You’re already starting out with a very low house edge using the basic Blackjack strategy, so it doesn’t take much to flip that edge in your favor.
At the same time, you need to understand the casino’s side of the equation. It wasn’t until the 1950s that people started using computers to figure out how to play blackjack optimally, and then how to take advantage of all the information made available to them at the tables. Casinos aren’t in the business of losing money. They have the right to refuse service, even if you’re technically not cheating when you use AP tactics. It’s crucial to use these tactics discreetly. You don’t want to get thrown out of the casino, even if they’re a lot more polite about it these days.
Advantage play involves measures like snapping up those aforementioned casino promotions, and loading up on all the comps you can get your hands on – anything that will add value to your time on the felt. But for the most part, AP is about collecting information. Every card that gets revealed during play will have at least some impact on the blackjack odds. The game is designed for you to see your cards and the Dealer’s up-card; if you keep your eyes open, you’ll see more cards than that. Ideally, there will be other players at the table, and you’ll get to see their cards. Maybe the Dealer will accidentally flash the bottom card, too. This is information you can use.
The reason AP works in blackjack is because the deck doesn’t get shuffled after every hand. Except when it does, that is. Many casinos have installed continuous shuffling machines (CSMs) and automatic shuffling machines (ASMs) to counter these AP tactics. These machines aren’t universal, though. It’s still common to deal several blackjack hands in a row, either from the shoe or directly by the Dealer. As the cards are dealt, they’re eliminated from play until the next shuffle, so if you keep track of the cards you see, you can deviate from the basic Blackjack strategy and take advantage of the changes in probability.
This is where counting cards in blackjack comes in. Several counting methods have been developed over the years. The most popular method is the Hi-Lo count, introduced by Harvey Dubner in 1963. Instead of memorizing every single card you see, you’ll apply a value to each card and keep a “running count” in your head. Low cards (Deuces through Sixes) are worth +1, high cards (Tens through Aces) are worth –1, and everything in between (Sevens, Eights and Nines) are worth zero. The larger your running count, the more high cards there are in the shoe – which gives you more incentive to bet.
Once the shoe is “rich” in high cards, you’ll respond by increasing your bet size. Conversely, you can also decrease your bet size when the shoe is rich in low cards. One way to do this is to bet two units as a standard size, then three units when the running count is in your favor, and one unit when the count is against you. Getting greedy and making really big bets when the shoe is ultra-rich in high cards is a great way to get noticed by the casino. For that matter, any changes you make in your bet size can look suspicious. Consider only increasing your bet size after a winning hand, and lowering it after a losing hand, which is more common for regular players to do.
The other way to adjust to your running count is to deviate from the basic blackjack strategy. As your running count gets higher, the odds will shift and make it more worthwhile for moves like splitting and doubling down. Taking insurance can also become profitable where it wasn’t before. Again, every deviation from the basic strategy is likely to be noticed, so you might want to save it for specific situations where regular players often make “mistakes” with their standard moves. Splitting a pair of Tens is definitely not one of those situations. Do this, and you’ll be shown the door.
Quick Blackjack History/FAQ
Q. Where did blackjack come from?
A. Blackjack has been around for centuries, although pinning down an exact date and birthplace is impossible. It’s based on a game called twenty-one that was first referenced in a 1601-02 short story by Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, who would go on to publish Don Quixote starting in 1605.
Q. When did they first figure out how to beat blackjack?
A. In 1956, four authors (Roger Baldwin, Wilbert Cantey, Herbert Maisel and James McDermott) wrote a paper in the Journal of the American Statistical Association, called The Optimum Strategy in Blackjack. Other writers like Dubner, Edward O. Thorp and Stanford Wong helped develop the AP tactics mentioned above during the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Q. What other AP tactics can I use to win at blackjack?
A. First, the Hi-Lo method as mentioned above is incomplete and should be studied more closely. In most cases, you’ll divide the running count by the number of decks left in the shoe, giving you a “true count” to base your decisions on. Some counting methods will deal with the Sevens, Eights and Nines in more specific ways; others will make things easier by only counting the Fives and Aces. More advanced AP tactics include shuffle tracking, hole carding, and edge sorting.
You should definitely look into these advanced tactics if you want to be a professional blackjack player. But for now, you have the information you need to get started. You know the mindset of a pro player, the importance of starting from the bottom with a simplified blackjack strategy, and both the benefits and drawbacks of card counting. It’s not a glamorous pursuit, and you probably won’t become a millionaire, but if you want to make a living playing a game you can enjoy, you’re well on your way. Study hard, practice your moves at Slots.lv, and best of luck at the tables.