Blackjack games are available in most land based casinos and online casinos. They have different rules and betting limits, but the base game is played the same everywhere.
Some casino games are 100% luck based. You can’t do anything to change the outcome. But some games, like blackjack, are designed so you can use strategy to change the house edge. Once you learn what to do, and how to do it, you can change the house edge every time you play.
By following the 21 steps below, you can improve your chance to win every time you play. You don’t need to use every step to get better, but the more of them you use, the better your results will be.
On the list below there are two different types of advice. One type deals with strategy. The other type of advice deals with rules. In order to have the best chance to win you need to understand which rules are best, and which ones hurt your chances.
It would be great if you could find blackjack games that offer every favorable rule, but the truth is that you can only find games with some good rules and some poor rules. Once you learn about the best rules, pick the game that has the most favorable rules.
Once you find a game with mostly favorable rules, the strategy sections come into play. Blackjack has a low house edge when the rules are good, and you can use strategy to keep the edge as low as possible.
It’s even possible to make money playing blackjack if you can count cards. I’ve also included a few advanced advantage plays for you to explore.
1 – Dealer Stands on Soft 17
Blackjack dealers follow strict rules on how they play their hand. They start with one card face down and one card face up. After all of the players at the table make their playing decisions, the dealer turns over their face down card.
When the dealer’s total is less than 17 they take another card. When their total is 18 or more, they stay. They also stand on all hard 17 totals. A hard total is one that doesn’t have an ace counted as 11.
If it isn’t printed on the felt, look for a card on the table explaining the rules for this information.
You want the dealer to stand on a soft 17. This is slightly better for you overall than when the dealer hits on a soft 17.
The soft 17 rule isn’t as important as some others, but if all of the other rules are the same, pick the table where the dealer stands on soft 17.
2 – Double after Split
It’s better for your long term profits if you can double after splitting a pair. You won’t have many situations where you need to double after split, but the ability to do it is valuable.
When you use basic strategy, discussed later, it tells you when you should split and when you should double down.
The ability to double down after splitting aces is one of the most valuable you can find. You won’t find many games that let you do it, so when you do find one you should take advantage of it unless all of the other rules are bad.
3 – Splitting Aces
Most blackjack games let you split aces once, but if you get another ace on one of the split aces they don’t all let you split again.
The more times you’re allowed to split aces the better. The most common ace splitting rules are two times, three times, and four times.
4 – Double any Two Cards
Most blackjack games let you double down on at least some totals. If you find a game that doesn’t allow any doubling, you should find another game.
If the other rules are good, don’t worry too much about this one, unless you can’t double at all.
5 – 3 to 2 Blackjack
Most of the items on this list are suggestions. They’re all good suggestions, and you should follow as many of them as possible if you want to have the best chance to win. But two of the items on this list should be considered rules instead of suggestions.
This is one of the two rules. The other one is strategy in section 10 below.
You should never play at a blackjack table that pays less than 3 to 2 for a natural blackjack. More tables that pay 6 to 5 are popping up, but it simply costs you too much money to play on one of them. If you can’t find a table paying 3 to 2, simply don’t play.
6 – Bankroll
If you want to have the best chance to win playing blackjack, you need to have a big enough bankroll to ride out short term variance. Short term variance is the natural tendency of your results to go up and down.
You can determine your long term expectations if you know the house edge of the game, based on the rules, and how much you bet per hand and how many hands you play per hour.
If you play a game with good rules and use the best strategy, your long term expectation is negative, but it should be a small loss per hour because the house edge is low.
In the short term, you’re going to lose some sessions and win some sessions. This is true whether you have a positive or negative long term expectation. This means that sometimes you’re going to lose several sessions in a row, so you need to have a big enough bankroll to keep playing.
The bigger the bankroll the better, but I suggest at least 200 to 300 times the biggest bet you place in a session. This includes after splitting and / or doubling down.
7 – Comps
When you play casino games you can earn comps at most casinos, both land based and online, if you sign up for the player’s club. If you don’t see where you can sign up, ask someone who works for the casino.
Once you sign up, make sure you always have your club card and present it before you start playing. You earn free comps as you play. These can range from free meals all the way up to free hotel rooms and trips.
While comps usually aren’t in the form of cash, they still have value. I can only think of one reason why you shouldn’t collect comps every time you play blackjack.
If you’re a card counter and don’t want the casino to have your contact information you don’t want a player’s club card. But make sure you’re a good enough counter to make a profit before deciding not to play for comps.
8 – Online Bonuses
When you play blackjack online you can’t count cards. This makes it almost impossible to make a long term profit playing online blackjack. But if you’re not card counter, you can make up for this by collecting deposit bonuses.
Many online casino bonuses restrict the games you can play to slots. But you can still find a few that let you play blackjack.
9 – Fewer Decks
The most common blackjack games are dealt from a 6 deck shoe or an 8 deck shoe. A few casinos deal single deck and double deck games, but these are usually coupled with bad rules.
When it comes to your long term expectation, games with fewer decks are better for you. But this is only true if all of the other rules are the same.
The number of decks has only a small influence on the house edge, so always go for a game with better rules, even if it uses a 6 deck or 8 deck shoe.
10 – Strategy
When you play blackjack, every playing decision has a single best way to execute it. Every decision has one way the either wins the most in the long run or at least loses the least amount in the long run.
The best playing decision is based on mathematical facts, and can be determined using long hand math or a computer.
This is the second thing on this list that you should consider a rule instead of a suggestion. The other rule is to never play at a table that offers worse than a 3 to 2 pay out for a natural blackjack.
Always use the best strategy for every decision while playing blackjack. Don’t ever make a play based on a hunch or feeling. In the long run, the only way to play with the lowest possible house edge is to use the best strategy.
11 – Counting
Blackjack is one of the games offered by casinos where you can turn the tables and win in the long run. It isn’t easy, but if you find games with good rules and learn how to be a card counter you can win.
Card counters know that when the remaining cards in the shoe have more high cards than low cards the edge can swing in their favor. They bet more when this happens, which lets them overcome the house edge.
The edge is small when this happens, so you need to get as much money on the table as possible. This can be challenging and it’s another reason you need a big bankroll.
12 – Camouflage
When you count cards you need to do it without getting caught. Casinos can tell you that you can’t play any more if they think you’re counting. You can do some things that help you hide the fact that you’re counting.
When you try to mask your abilities, it’s called camouflage.
Common camouflage techniques include:
- Switching tables often
- Jumping from casino to casino so you don’t play anyplace too long
- Changing your appearance and / or wearing disguises
- Playing as part of a team
If the casino does ask you to stop playing, don’t argue or make a fuss. Simply collect your chips and leave as quickly as possible.
13 – Hole Carding
Do you think you could beat blackjack if you knew the value of the dealer’s down card? If you know the value of both the dealer’s cards you can make the perfect strategy decision every time.
Most blackjack players think it’s impossible to know the value of the dealer’s face down card without cheating. And in many blackjack games this is true.
But if you know what to watch for you can find games where you can see the value of the down card sometimes.
You need to get your eyes as close to table level as possible without arousing suspicion to have the best chance to see the flash. The best way to see hole card values is to watch the dealer on every deal. Once you find your first sloppy dealer, you’ll learn what to watch for.
14 – Shuffle Tracking
Shuffle tracking is when you see a group of high cards go into the discard try close together and then following this slug of cards through the shuffle.
It only works in hand shuffled games, and it takes a great deal of practice. Some players never learn how to do it well enough to make a profit, but with a lazy dealer you can follow a slug through the shuffle.
When you follow a slug of high cards through a shuffle, you make higher bets when the slug is getting ready to be dealt.
If you can cut the cards so the slug is close to the top of the shoe, you can start the round betting a high amount and have a chance to play with an early edge.
15 – Ace Tracking
Ace tracking, also called ace sequencing, is much like shuffle tracking, but you only track aces that are close together through the shuffle. Any hand where you have an ace as one of your first two cards shows a long term profit.
You can practice this every time you play until you get better. Then start making bigger bets when you’re likely to receive an ace.
16 – Avoid Superstitions
Gamblers seem to have a higher rate of superstitious activity than normal people. This isn’t a scientific fact, but if you spend much time around gamblers you can notice of them doing funny things.
One of the things you can see at the blackjack table is players complaining when the last player to act takes a card that would bust the dealer.
No one at the table knows the value of the next card to be dealt, and the truth is that every remaining card has the same chance to be dealt. So anyone who believes that the actions of another player change their chance to win is simply wrong.
The only way to play every hand at the blackjack table is the one that gives you the best mathematical chance to win. Playing any other way, including based on any superstition, only makes you lose more in the long run.
17 – Side Bets
Most blackjack side bets have a higher house edge than the base game. Unless you know exactly how a side bet works, know it offers a low house edge, and know exactly how to use it for your benefit, you should avoid all side bets.
The easiest thing to do is never play one of the side bets. Concentrate on playing the base blackjack games as well as possible, and forget about everything else.
18 – Insurance
Insurance is always a bad bet, unless you count cards. Even when you count cards, rarely is it a good play to take the offer of insurance. While insurance seems like a part of the game of blackjack, the truth is it’s simply a side bet.
Never take insurance while playing blackjack. Once you’re a profitable card counter, you can learn about the small percentage of times that insurance becomes a good bet.
19 – Free Practice
One way to get better at any game is to practice. If you can practice for free, it’s even better. Blackjack is one of the easiest games to practice for free.
You can deal hands yourself to practice basic strategy and counting, or you can play for free online. When you play free online blackjack it’s a great way to practice and learn the best strategy.
Use your strategy chart or card on every play until you have it memorized.
20 – Tips
Casino dealers make most of their money from tips. I usually tip good dealers when I play in land based casinos, but if your goal is to make as much profit as possible, you need to understand that every time you tip the dealer it reduces your profit.
I’m not telling you to stop giving tips, but make sure you don’t overdo it. Tips can eliminate your profit for an entire session, or increase your losses by a large amount.
21 – The Big Decision
The truth is that you can beat the game of blackjack. It requires quite a bit of work and a little skill, but most players have the ability to do it if they want it bad enough.
If you want to be a winning blackjack player, learn everything on this list and start practicing. It all starts with a decision to dedicate enough time and work into winning.
Are you ready to make the commitment to become a long term winner?
Blackjack profits are possible if you’re willing to do what it takes to grab them. But even if you simply want to improve your play without learning advanced techniques like card counting, this list of 21 steps to blackjack profit can help you reach your goal.