Photo: Flickr / seandreilinger
Let’s be honest. You’ll probably never make it as a card counter.Still, blackjack offers relatively good odds for players who understand a few simple rules.
We tapped some experts to find out how rookies can win at the table.
Play basic strategy
Memorizing the right way to hit, stand, split and double down your hand is a must, says gambling expert John Marchell. You’ll cut the house edge from 1 to 2 per cent to 0.5 per cent.
Marchell offers this primer:
- Stand when your hand is 12-16 when the dealer has 2-6.
- Hit when your hand is 12-16 when the dealer has 7-Ace
- Always split Aces and 8s
- Double 11 versus the dealer’s 2-10
- Hit or double Aces-6
Bonus tip: Purchase a basic strategy card in the gift shop so you don’t have to memorize all this.
Don’t play insurance
Unless you’re counting cards don’t make this dumb move, which is essentially another new bet with new money based on whether the dealer has blackjack.
“Overall, the house has almost a 6 per cent advantage over the player with an insurance bet,” says Marchel. “And even if you have blackjack you will only win your original bet. If the dealer has a blackjack when you do, it’s a push—no win, no lose.”
Check the dealer’s up card
Before you take any action, check the dealer’s up card, says Marchel. Is it bad (2 through 6) or good (7 through Ace)? “What the dealer has makes all the difference on what action the player should take.”
Don’t sit in the first base seat
Marchel recommends avoiding the first base chair in case the dealer is rushing. Sitting further down will give you more time to review your hand and the dealer’s up card.
Don’t go firing on all four cylinders if you (or a new dealer) just arrived at the table. Start small to gauge the situation, i.e., whether the dealer is “hot” or “cold,” says Marchel. The casino never stops, but you do. “Hot and cold streaks can have a big effect on the player,” he warns.
Don’t buy into gambler’s myths
The decisions of other players at the table won’t impact your hand. You’re playing alone against the dealer, Scoblete says, and they don’t know what you have and vice versa.
And blow off the guy who claims to be an expert. “Just smile and play the correct game, i.e, basic strategy,” says Scoblete.
Don’t get burned
Set a cap for how much you’re OK with losing without limiting how much you can win, says Frank Scoblete, author of Beat Blackjack Now.
Scoring “comps,” or casino freebies, isn’t worth blowing your monthly mortgage.
“Numerous surveys over the years have found that 75 per cent of players in a casino will be winning at some point, but only 4 per cent go home a winner,” says Marchell.
If you’re on a losing streak, move on.