In gambling, there are several lulls and dry spells you can go through without even realizing it. When you first start playing table games, you might convince yourself you’re improving at a rapid rate.
That might be the case, but inevitably, you’re going to plateau. Blackjack is one of the most entertaining games at the casino as it requires gamblers to play strategically.
Other games like slots are based purely on luck, while blackjack requires players to follow basic strategy and make informed decisions to win. Learning blackjack is easy, but winning money consistently is challenging.
The house always wins, especially if you’re unable to break through mediocrity to improve your game. If you’re struggling to take the next step as a player, here are seven helpful tips to improve your game playing real money blackjack.
1 ‒ Memorize Basic Strategy
I’m not entirely against the idea of bringing a strategy card with you to the casino. New players might catch a few wily gamblers rolling their eyes if they whip out strategy cards it’s best to ignore them. The intricacies of blackjack and the plethora of card combinations are hard to memorize off the bat, so those cards are a great resource.
As you know, the basic strategy is the key to consistency in blackjack. Anyone who plays with said strategy should win nearly 50% of their hands. Once you’ve advanced past the introductory phase of your blackjack playing, consider ditching the card. It’s essential to be taken seriously at the table, and those cards can become a crutch for you.
When you force yourself to memorize all the different potential outcomes, your decisions will be easier. Instead of consulting a cheat sheet at the table, you’ll be able to quickly analyze the dealer’s card compared to your own and make a decision. By doing this, you’ll get into a rhythm and feel more comfortable at the table.
2 ‒ Bet Logically, Not Emotionally
Gambling with your heart on your sleeve is a sure-fire way to get demolished at the casino tables. The biggest dumpster fires I’ve witnessed playing blackjack always involve a player who refuses to logically approach the game. When you fail to abide by a logic-based strategic approach to the game, you set yourself up for failure.
I get that gambling can be emotional, especially if there’s big money on the line. Although it’s always best to leave your feelings at a casino’s front door, I understand getting emotionally invested in games.
Problems arise when you let those emotions creep into your playing style. For example, if you feel it in your “gut” that you’re going to hit a blackjack on the next hand, you bet the maximum.
If you’re serious about winning money playing blackjack, you can’t rely on your emotional responses to cards. The only way to win is to play according to sound strategy. The sharpest blackjack players understand this, and so should you.
3 ‒ Ditch the Gimmicky Plays
Intermediate blackjack players who have gotten lucky enough to win money are prone to try and outsmart the game. This comes in the form of particular players going against the book and creating their own gambling style. If you’ve played a fair amount of blackjack before, you’ve probably interacted with this type of player.
Typically, these gamblers experience dumb luck and win on a hand they shouldn’t have. They subsequently take the outcome of that one hand as a sign of things to come.
There’s no way to outsmart the game of blackjack. If there was, sharp bettors would implement that strategy into their games.
Unfortunately, these gimmicks are prevalent at blackjack tables all around the casino. It may manifest itself in a player splitting face cards or refusing to hit a soft 17.
Just because it worked for you once doesn’t mean it should become your shtick. Other players might take exception to this style of play, and you will cost yourself easy wins in the long run.
4 ‒ Pick the Right Table
The only pure way to truly improve your blackjack game is by playing. Sure, reading and studying up on the game will help you understand strategy. But like any other type of game, reps are the most valuable thing for you. The best place to get these reps is at a casino.
Selecting your table at a casino should come down to a few variables. The first is the price point. Once again, it would help if you felt comfortable with the money you’re going to be betting on each hand.
If you’re not, you’ll play scared and second, guess your every move. Another factor is the payout amount. Always make sure you’re sitting down at a table that pays out 3:2.
When you find a table that works for you, consider starting your bets near the table minimum before you begin betting serious money. It’s crucial that you enjoy your fellow players and the dealer to eliminate any possible distractions. If you notice the table won’t work for you, starting small gives you the chance to take your chips to another table without losing too much money.
5 ‒ Avoid Side Bets and Insurance
Several blackjack tables feature side bets to add to the entertainment value of the game. The side bet at a particular table depends on the casino but typically is something along the lines of 21+3 or Super 7s. These side bets are a nice distraction from the standard game of blackjack. But that’s all they are—a distraction.
When you focus your attention on side bets instead of beating the dealer, there’s a chance you can worsen your circumstances. Additionally, these side bets don’t have the best odds and cost you money if you bet them consistently.
One of the primary reasons to play blackjack is the small house edge. But feeding money into side bets that have a large house edge virtually eliminates any chance of gaining an advantage.
The most popular side bet in blackjack is insurance. Simply put, players can take out insurance on their bet if a dealer has an ace showing. If the dealer hits blackjack, you get paid out 2:1 on your insurance bet, which is half of your initial bet.
Let’s say you bet $10 on a hand and a dealer’s upcard is an ace. You have the opportunity to bet $5 that the dealer has a blackjack. If the dealer does have blackjack, you win $10 and break even on the hand.
I never take insurance and advise you to do the same. The positives of insuring your hand against a dealer’s ace do not outweigh the negatives.
6 ‒ Try to Learn to Count Cards
Counting cards is easier said than done. But that’s the only way to gain an edge on the house. Even if you play with perfect strategy, your chances of winning are still right below 50%.
There are worse ways to spend time than sit at a blackjack table for hours and almost break even. But if you want to win consistently, you need to learn to count cards.
Learning to count isn’t as hard as you would expect, but it does require patience and practice. Becoming proficient at it is another story entirely because the process of counting cards can be somewhat convoluted.
Suffice to say that you need to assign values to each card and add or subtract amounts throughout the game. This helps you figure out how many face cards, aces, and lower cards are still in the deck.
It’s infinitely easier to count cards at casinos that use a single deck compared to casinos that use multiple decks. However, it is still possible to count cards; it requires you to have a longer attention span.
If you’re attempting to count cards, it’s best to avoid drinking while you play, especially if you’re new to the game. Counting cards is already a challenge, and there’s no point in increasing the level of difficulty.
7 ‒ Tune Out Other Players
When you’re playing blackjack, a great skill to have is learning to develop tunnel vision. The cards in front of you are the only thing you need to focus on.
Blackjack tables can be home to a wide variety of interesting characters with varying skill levels. Chances are, you’re going to run into someone who is a distraction personified.
Focusing on other players takes your mind off the game at hand and lowers your chances of winning. If you’re learning to count cards, you can’t afford to pay attention to anything else.
Gamblers can be loud, obnoxious, and sometimes even belligerent. If you find yourself being unable to concentrate, either reassess your approach or find a different table.
Learning how to play blackjack is simple, but learning how to play winning blackjack is challenging. If you think you’re in a slump and can’t escape the plateau, implement the tips above into your game.
You’re going to want to ditch the handy dandy cheat sheet eventually, so try to memorize the game’s basic strategy. Remember always to make decisions based on logic and focus on eliminating gimmicks from your arsenal. At the casino, avoid 6:5 payouts and find a table where you feel comfortable.
While you might be a fan of side bets, remind yourself that the odds are terrible, and betting on them takes money out of your bankroll. Once you advance past the beginning stages of blackjack and feel comfortable with strategy, consider learning to count cards.
That’s the only way you can gain an advantage on the house and consistently win money.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. …