How to Win at Blackjack - EVERY TIME
It can be incredibly frustrating. Everything you’ve read says that blackjack is the casino game with the best odds, and that by playing optimal basic strategy you’ll do no worse than break even – and often will come out a winner if you know how to win at blackjack.
It doesn’t always work that way, does it?
Blackjack is enormously enjoyable, especially when the dealer is on a losing streak and the table is winning; the laughing, shouting and high-fives are intoxicating. But what’s even more fun is sitting and watching your chip stack grow, no matter what’s going on around you.
Everyone will have some blackjack sessions that are more profitable than others, and you’re never going to hit an enormous jackpot like you might (theoretically, anyway) at the slots, unless you’re betting hundreds of thousands of dollars per hand.
But there’s no reason to look at your casino stake as just “entertainment money” – and simply shrug off all of your losses by saying “Well, I had a good time.” After all, the goal of the game is to win.
Here’s how to do it.
How To Win at Blackjack: The Obvious
Blackjack is a game based on mathematical probability. The first thing you always read about playing blackjack properly is that you must learn basic strategy.
That is 100% correct. If you don’t use basic strategy, you’re just throwing money onto the table and playing hunches – exactly what the casino wants you to do. You might hit a lucky streak and win a few hands. But they love players who don’t know what they’re doing – that’s how they make all their money.
Learning the best blackjack strategy doesn’t take a long time, and many casinos will even let you bring cheat sheets with you so you can check to see whether you should split those 8’s (you should, always) hit your 15 (never!) or double down on 10 (it depends on what card the dealer is showing). But if you intend on winning every time, you haven’t got a chance unless you’re playing with optimal strategy.
We’ll move on to the real secret of winning at blackjack under the assumption that you already know basic strategy. If you don’t, go back and read this paragraph again and again until you give in and learn how to play properly.
Ready To Win Every Time? Here Are The Two Ways To Do It
You’ll probably be surprised at our first method of winning blackjack play, because it has nothing whatsoever to do with when you hit, when you fold, or when you double your bet. It has to do with something much more basic: when you sit down and when you stand up.
1. Simon Says: Pay Attention
Every mathematician and serious blackjack player will tell you the same thing: if a game is on the level, over the long run you can’t beat the odds. But if they’re being honest, they’ll also tell you that streaks of good cards and bad cards are very real.
After all, if you flip a coin 100 times, it won’t come up in a pattern of heads-tails-heads-tails-heads-tails all the way to 100; there will be streaks of heads and streaks of tails. Your job is to look for tables which will make those streaks easier to predict, and to recognize when those streaks are happening.
How Many Decks? Single deck games are rare in most casino these games, but the fewer decks being used in a game, the easier it is to keep track of face cards in your head. Look for the table where the fewest decks are in play; while rigorous “card counting” is illegal, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a general count of how many face cards have come out – and getting a little more adventurous with your play if lots of them have yet to be shown. Tables with one or two decks make that doable and profitable.
Study The Table. All of the stuff they put on a blackjack table really can tell an important story. A table paying blackjack at 3 to 2 odds is going to make you more money in the long run than a table paying at 6 to 5. A table requiring the dealer to hit on a soft 17 will make the house more money – out of your pocket. You’ll do better if table rules let you surrender a poor hand against a dealer’s powerful up card. Choose where you sit down based on the table’s rules – not whether the dealer is pretty or handsome.
Don’t Settle In For The Night. Players often look askance at those who sit down at a table, play a few hands, and then get up and leave; they seem like they’re not sociable. In fact, they’re probably just smart. Remember, streaks do happen. Before you even sit down, casually ask the other players how they’re doing.
"The dealer is killing us," doesn’t portend well, nor does sitting down and having the dealer immediately hit three blackjacks in a row. Sure, in the long run things will even out. But do you have the enormous stake it might take for that to happen? If your gut tells you to leave, leave. Similarly, if you’re on a hot streak and the dealer and pit boss start noticing, that’s usually a good cue to cash out.
2. Don’t Play One Game – Play Lots Of Little Ones
People have made millions – not playing blackjack – but by selling blackjack “systems.” Since the game is based on probability, most of those systems are just nonsense. The only real system that works is one that doesn’t deal with cards – it deals with money management. It’s called Oscar’s System, and here’s how it works.
Instead of looking at a night of blackjack as one long game, think of it as a huge series of individual sessions. The goal in each session is to win at least one chip (whatever denomination you may be playing). As soon as you’re a “winner,” that session is over, and you start fresh.
There are four basic rules.
- Whenever you win, increase your bet by one chip.
- Whenever you lose, play the same amount you just bet.
- If you’ve made any money in the session, pocket your winnings and start the progression again.
- Never try to come out ahead more than one unit – in other words, if you’re down by one chip, your maximum bet would be two chips (which would still make you a winner).
Let’s see this strategy in action, starting with a one-chip bet. We’ll use the symbols (-1), (+1) and so on to indicate where you stand in the game.
|1||Lose||(-1)||We lost, so we’ll bet the same amount|
|1||Win||(0)||We won, so we’ll double our bet.|
|2||Win||(+2)||We’ve made money, so we stop this session with a two-chip profit|
|1||Lose||(-1)||We lost, so we’ll bet the same amount|
|1||Lose||(-2)||We lost, so we’ll bet the same amount|
|1||Lose||(-3)||We lost, so we’ll bet the same amount|
|1||Win||(-2)||We won, so we’ll double our bet|
|2||Win||(0)||Since we never try to come out more than one unit ahead, we’ll just bet one chip|
|1||Win||(+1)||We’ve made money, so we stop this session with a one chip profit|
The real advantage to this strategy is that you’re limiting your losses by not chasing them with bigger bets in an effort to recover quickly – and you’re never risking your winnings, only the money you brought to bet with in the first place.
Even better, it only takes a few wins in a row to recover any losses, since you’re doubling your bets after the first win. It’s possible to occasionally have to dig deep in order to build back to a winning session, but experiments with this system show that it happens extremely rarely.
That’s all there is to it. Pay attention, and break your play up into lots of small sessions with the goal of small wins – and you’ll win at blackjack, every time.
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