How to Win at Blackjack

how to win at blackjackOur guide on How to Win at Blackjack will help players learn to play blackjack properly. It is one of the few casino games that players can win at, and possibly walk away with a profit. We show you an example of how to win at blackjack, with easy to follow steps to give you insight into how to play properly. Learn to get into the mindset of being a professional blackjack player, and look at our quick guide to reducing the house edge.

Check out the tips to win at blackjack, like taking advantage of the bonuses and rewards offered by the casinos. Card counting is a popular yet difficult strategy to win at blackjack, but it is very effective. Sadly, you can count cards at online casinos, but you can still do so at brick and mortar casinos. Breaking even is a debatable position to be in as a blackjack player. Should you aim to always get a profit or is breaking even enough? Follow this great guide on winning at blackjack and become a better a player.

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Example of Winning at Blackjack

#1

If you’re playing a game with good rules the house edge is around a half-percent (.005) if you play the best strategy. The good news is it’s easy to play perfect strategy. This leaves a .005 hole on every dollar you bet at the table.

#2

In this case:

  • You make a deposit of $500 and receive a 100% matching bonus, getting a total of $1,000.
  • The bonus has a 40-times rollover requirement so you have to make wagers of at least $40,000 to clear it.
  • You have to add the bonus amount and the deposit amount together before multiplying it by the play through amount.
#3

You can use any size bets to clear a bonus, but let’s use $20 per bet to keep the numbers easy to work with. This means you have to play 2,000 hands to clear the bonus.

#4

If you multiply $40,000 times the half percent house edge you have an expected loss of only $200.

#5

This means if you simply play perfect strategy and the short term variance doesn’t stray too far from the expected loss rate, you’ve made enough money from the bonus to overcome the house edge. When you add in a player’s reward scheme offered by many online casinos, the value is even better.

All of this seems easy, but the online casinos aren’t in the business of losing money on a regular basis. Bonuses like this one are hard to find, but not impossible. But even when players find a bonus like this, most of them play such poor strategy that the casino still ends up with all of their money.

By following the steps laid out in this article, you can learn how to win at blackjack.

Mindset

Use a DisguiseThough it’s rarely mentioned in discussions about being a winning gambler, if you want to beat the game of blackjack, you have to develop the correct mindset. Once you find a game like blackjack with a low house edge, you have to determine if you’re willing to do whatever it takes to win.

Most people would quickly say they’re willing to do whatever it takes. After all, what could be better than playing a game like blackjack every day and making money while doing it?

What if you found out you had to practice for 500 hours, travel 75% of your life, play blackjack until you couldn’t stand the sight of another table, and abandon your social life? Would you still be willing to do whatever it takes?

Some professional advantage players live this lifestyle. Fortunately, most online players won’t have to sacrifice quite so much to compete for a small edge.

However, unless you’re willing to change your mindset and make a commitment to learning how to beat the casinos, you don’t stand much of a chance to be a winning blackjack player.

Reducing the House Edge

blackjack shoeYou need to do two things to reduce the house edge as much as possible when playing online blackjack. The first thing you need to do is find games offering the best rules possible and the second thing is making the best playing decisions on every hand.

Blackjack games have a series of rules that are somewhat like switches. One way is good for you and the other is good for the casino. Your goal is to find games with as many switches pushed to your side as possible.

You won’t find games with every switch pointing your way because the game would be in your favor instead of the casinos. Here’s a quick overview of the rules you want to watch for and which way you want the switch pointing.

doubledown

Doubling Rules

The more opportunities you have to double down, the better. If you can double on any two cards, double after splitting, and double on Aces after splitting, you’ve found the best possible blackjack splitting rules possible. The reason doubling is so important is because it lets you get twice your money in play in many situations where you’re the long term favorite to win. You have to be able to do this to help overcome the many hands where you’re not the long term favorite.

split

Splitting Rules

If you can split any pair and re-split any number of times you have the best blackjack splitting rules possible. Common rules are you can only split up to four hands, three hands, or two hands, and some places won’t let you re-split aces. Splitting is important for the same reason doubling down is important. You can double the amount of money you have in play on some hands where you’re the favorite to win. For example, if you have a pair of aces and the dealer has a six showing you’re a huge favorite to win by splitting. If you’re allowed to double down after splitting the Aces it’s even better. You end up being able to get four times your original bet in-play as a big favorite.

dealer soft 17

Dealer Rules on Soft 17

This one isn’t a huge deal breaker. When the dealer has to stand on a soft 17 it gives you a slightly better house edge.

Tables where they hit on a soft 17, tend to have a higher house edge.

surrender

Surrender

Some blackjack games offer the surrender rule. In a surrender game, you can forfeit half your original wager and fold your hand. You can find two types of surrender: early and late. Early surrender is when you’re allowed to surrender before the dealer checks to see if they have a blackjack, and late surrender means you can’t surrender until after the dealer checks for a blackjack. If you can play with surrender it’s favorable for you.

blackjack

Blackjack Pays

If blackjack doesn’t pay 3 to 2, the house edge is so large you won’t be able to overcome it in a regular blackjack game. You can find a few variations that have different payouts for blackjack that may have a small house edge, but you need to look at each game on a case by case basis. The most common payout for blackjack other than 3 to 2 is 6 to 5. Don’t play at a 6 to 5 table.

Making the correct decision on every hand is called basic strategy. When you have a total of nine against a dealer six, do you know the best play to maximize your long term profit? What about if you have a 16 against a dealer 10?

Every hand has a play that produces more profit in the long run or creates the lowest loss in comparison to all other plays. Only by making the best play on every single hand can you keep the house edge as low as possible.

We’ve put together an entire page dedicated to basics blackjack strategy and another page that covers all of the possible blackjack rules variations.

Bonus Chasing

Bet big then smallWhen you read the example in the opening section, did you start thinking about spending hours and hours chasing down blackjack bonuses?

The problem is most online blackjack bonuses aren’t as friendly as the one described above. You can find them from time to time, but most are not as good.

You have to find cashable or non-sticky bonuses that can be used to play blackjack. A sticky bonus is one that is deducted from your balance before you make a cash out request. Many bonuses are sticky, so make sure you read the terms and conditions before investing a big chunk of money to clear a bonus that ends up costing you money.

Non-Blackjack Bonuses

Some bonuses can’t be used to play blackjack. Many online casino bonuses are designed specifically for slot machines. Many that can be used to play blackjack have higher play through requirements than when you play slots. A common condition is that blackjack is only counted at a rate of 10% of the normal rate against your clearing requirements. This means you have to play 10 times as much to clear the bonus as you do by playing slots.

Blackjack Bonus Example

This example will use a play-through requirement that’s 10 times higher than normal.

#1
You accept a bonus that has a normal play through requirement of 25 times but has a blackjack requirement of 250 times.
#2
You deposit $500 and receive a $500 bonus, for a total bankroll of $1,000. This means you have to play $250,000 in wagers to clear the bonus.
#3
If you play perfect strategy and the game offers a house edge of a half-percent (.005), your expected loss on $250,000 is $1,250.
#4
In other words, on average you’ll run out of money before clearing the bonus. Even if the reward’s program reduces the effective edge to four tenths instead of one-half, in the long-run it costs $1,000 to clear the bonus, so you still end up losing all of your money and the bonus.

When you’re going to play online blackjack for real money, you need to find a cashable bonus because it gives you a larger bankroll. However, using a bonus hunting method to attempt to beat the online casinos is quite difficult.

Rewards Programs

Bodog casino rewardsReward programs for online casinos are as varied and different from casino to casino as they are in land based casinos. Some online casinos don’t even have a player rewards program.

You have to read everything the casino has on their player’s club so you can understand exactly what it is worth to you in the long run. Once you understand exactly how it works and what you get, you can determine how much money it’s worth per $100 wagered and how much it offsets the house edge.

Rewards Program Example

#1
A reward’s program gives you one point for every $10 wagered, and you can exchange 100 points for $1. This means you have to bet $1,000 to get $1 in cash rewards. This works out to .001 or .1%. Notice that this is point one percent, or one-tenth of one percent, not 1%.
#2
If the house edge playing basic strategy is a half-percent (.005 or .5%), this means that the rewards program basically reduces it to four tenths of a percent, or .4%.
#3
This may not seem like much, but this can be the difference between a bonus being profitable or break even and it is not being quite enough to push you into the black.
#4
This is a fair representation of what many rewards programs or player’s clubs offer. It’s much better than nothing, but it takes a long time to accumulate much of a rewards bank.

Of course, many rewards schemes are more complicated than this simple example. So, how do you determine the value of rewards that aren’t monetary?

Other Non-Monetary Rewards

Additional Casino Perks icon

If you can earn something you want, can use, or place some value on, you should assign a realistic value to it and then determine how much this is worth to you in relation to how much you have to wager to earn it. If the casino will send you a hat or shirt with their logo on it as a prize or award, this counts as a negative amount to us. You’re paying for your play and the house edge – and to give free advertising to the casino? It seems like they should give you the hat or shirt for free or offer an extra bonus if you’ll take a hat or shirt and promise to wear it.

Fake Reward Programs

The last thing you need to be aware of is what we like to call fake reward’s programs. A few online casinos like to advertise their great rewards program, but all they offer are additional bonuses. This may seem like a good thing at first, but calling a bonus with restrictions and play through requirements a reward’s program seems like quite a stretch.

You shouldn’t avoid playing at these casinos, but don’t think they’re doing anything special for you either.

Often casinos and players refer to the points or rewards as comps.

Card Counting

The main way professional players get an edge at blackjack is by counting cards. They have a few other ways that they can use at times if they’re among the best players in the world, but card counting is the most widely used system.

You need to know two things about card counting and professional blackjack players:

#1

The first thing is that they use many of the same aspects you learned on this page, in addition to counting cards. They always play the best strategy and find the best games. They also often take advantage of promotions and player’s club benefits.

#2

Sadly, the second thing you need to know is you can’t use card counting while playing online to gain an edge. The software that runs the blackjack game is designed to shuffle the cards after every deal, so card counting won’t work.

We’ve seen claims of card counting being possible in live dealer online blackjack games, but these casinos are aware of the possibility of card counting and also take measures to make their games uncountable.

If you’re like most players, you instantly want to know more about the other ways professional advantage players could possibly get an edge. As with card counting, none of the methods can be used online, but here’s a quick overview of a few methods some of the professional use.

Shuffling icon

Shuffle Tracking

Shuffle tracking is when you track a small cluster of cards through a shuffle to get an idea of when certain cards will be dealt. If you notice a large amount of aces and 10 value cards in the discard tray, you can try to keep track of them when the dealer shuffles the cards. You then can cut these cards to the top or track when they’re likely to be dealt.

You bet more when you have a higher chance to get an ace or 10 value card because you have an edge against the house.

This is a difficult skill set to master, and with the lack of hand shuffled games, it’s almost an extinct skill. A few players claim they have worked with automatic shuffling machines to follow shuffles through them, but many players find this hard to believe.

Hole Card icon

Hole Carding

The other method use by some professionals is called hole carding. Hole carding is when you can see the value of one or more cards held by the dealer. You can use this information to play your hands in a manner that gives you the best chance to win. This method can work on many table games if you know that a dealer flashes his cards.

When was the last time you saw the value of a dealer’s card while playing blackjack? Most players have never seen one, which explains why this is a rarely used advantage method. You just don’t find many opportunities to use hole carding.

Is Breaking Even Enough?

Breakeven icon

Only you can answer this question, but if you knew you could play as much blackjack as you wanted at an online casino and break even in the long run would you still play? If you’d play, how much would you play?

Most players who visit their local casino or play in Las Vegas would probably be thrilled to break even in the long run. So why wouldn’t the same players be willing to play online blackjack and break even?

Many players probably would like to break even in the long run. If that’s your goal, why don’t you just play the free blackjack games offered by the online casinos?

The answer might be found in some of the scientific studies that try to explain why people gamble. Most people who gamble get a level of excitement and entertainment when they risk real money on a game of chance.

Some people can become addicted to this feeling and can’t stop gambling. This is a bad thing, and anyone who thinks they may be in danger of this should see help immediately. However, millions of people gamble every year as a form of entertainment, and some of them even win.

You can use the advice on this page to have a realistic chance of breaking even in the long run at the blackjack tables. The same advice can be used to play at your local casino or an online casino.

Conclusion

Online casinos don’t purposely put things in place to lose money on a consistent basis. If you’re one of the few players who can figure out a way to make a small profit by playing online blackjack, you’re bucking the trend.

However, if you apply these strategies to your blackjack game, you will get much closer to becoming a winning player.