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How to Win at Blackjack

You can win at blackjack. Yes, you. All you have to do is follow a few simple gambling rules while playing this fun game and the odds of winning can swing in your favor. Of course it helps to have luck on your side. This article will help you make your own luck - avoiding the simple mistakes and approaching the game like a pro.

Are you ready to begin? Great, then lets get started. 

Rule #1 - Learn how to play your cards.

Learning to play your cards correctly is the first thing you must do if you want to win at blackjack. In addition to helping you win, there is another important reason for mastering this part of the game. Unlike some other table games, with blackjack it isn't just you against the dealer. It is you AND every other player at the table against the dealer. And if you play your cards like a beginner (a "newbie"), you will lose your money and maybe cause the other players to lose their money too. When that happens, they may just leave the table OR scold you and ask you to leave the table. 

Once you learn how to play your cards correctly, you will see lots of ways of how NOT to play cards by others. In one of my recent blackjack "experiences" the man on my right split every pair of tens he got dealt - every time. Sometimes he won but usually he lost. The lady on my left and I both shook our heads.

Then she did something just as bad. She got dealt a pair of Aces and didn't split them because she "hadn't done well splitting Aces earlier". She took a hit and got a face card (a ten) for a 12 count. She took another hit, got another face card and went bust with a 22.

Learning to play your cards the right way takes a big stress factor out of the game. Your play will be smooth and confident, knowing you are doing what you can to tip the odds of winning in your favor without sitting and thinking about it. The other players, assuming they know how to play the game, will appreciate the fact that you are playing your cards the right way and not infringing on their chances of winning too.

The Blackjack Strategy Chart on your Strategy Chart for Blackjackright is pretty much the agreed upon strategy to use for correctly playing your cards. Your play is based on the cards you are dealt (along the left hand side), the dealer's up card (across the top) AND the belief that the dealer's down card is a ten. As an example, lets say you were dealt a six and a ten (jacks, queens and kings all count as ten as does the ten of each suit) for a total of 16. Looking at the chart, you can see it shows you should stand on your 16 IF the dealer's up card is a two, three, four, five or six BUT take a card if the dealer shows seven or higher. Can you lose by doing this? Of course you can! That's the nature of gambling. But you will increase your chances of winning by just following this strategy. That's what this chart shows - the best play based on the odds of winning. If you decide blackjack is your game, study and memorize this chart.

Let's go back to the two players in my story. The guy splitting 10s did exactly the wrong thing if you go by the chart which says ALWAYS stand or stay on a hand totaling 20. Since Aces count as a one or an eleven, depending on how best you can use them with the hand you were dealt, always split a pair of Aces and hope for a pair of tens or face cards for two 21 hands.

Now that you have the Blackjack Strategy Chart before you and have decided to take the time to study and memorize it, you should be ready to win big - right? Well not quite. Would it surprise you to know that most if not all casinos in Las Vegas sell pocket-size blackjack strategy cards like that above in their gift stores? And most even allow you to use the card while playing the game? That should convince you that there is more to winning at blackjack than just playing your cards right.

And that leads me to the second rule...

Rule #2 - Card Playing Discipline.

This is related to Rule #1 but it occurs so often, it deserves its own rule. Play your cards correctly consistently (card playing discipline)! Let me explain. Let's say your first two cards are a three and five for a total of eight. You take a card (a hit) no matter what the dealer's up card is (it's on the chart). You get another five and now have a 13. Now the dealer's up card comes into play. Let's say it is a nine. You take another hit and get a deuce for a total of 15. Now what?

Don't do what so many players do and stop there just because you now have four cards. Don't sit and think about it, hem and haw or look to others for advice. It doesn't matter how many cards you have in front of you - you still have a 15 with the dealer's nine showing so take another hit. Once you have taken the time to learn the basic card strategy, gamble that way consistently. The dealer doesn't have any decisions to make. He or she has to play consistently because the house tells them how to play. And the house says take a card on 16 or under, stand on 17 or higher. It is not that unusual for you to have four or more cards in order to get a "good" hand".

The guy I mentioned above was playing his pairs of tens consistently. The trouble is he was consistently WRONG. Don't split 10s - EVER. And the lady who played the pair of Aces sometimes the right way and sometimes the wrong way got what she deserved. I'll say it again - you always split Aces hoping for two 21 hands. 

So to summarize this rule: play your cards the right way consistently. Don't worry about how many cards you have to take or what happened the last time you split Aces, or eights or anything else. Following this rule adds to your confidence and shows others you know how to play the game. Casinos love players who don't follow this rule and gamble at 21 the wrong way.

Rule #3 - Find The Cold Dealers.

You don't see this rule talked about much by the "experts". But every time I have searched for a cold dealer, found one and sat down to play - I made money.

Just like you and I, dealers have hot and cold streaks. And just like you and I, when they are cold they are REALLY cold. I'm not talking about winning a hand or two, losing one, winning the next three, losing the next two, etc. I'm talking about a streak of 10, 12 or more losing hands in a row. That's how you can make some real money.

There is no better place to shop for a cold dealer than Las Vegas. Your chances of finding one or a few cold dealers are better when there are a larger number of dealers to pick from. Trying to find a cold dealer among a small number of blackjack tables may be difficult. You may get lucky and find one but cold dealers can be a small percentage of total active dealers. 

The coldest dealer I ever saw was a lady dealer at Circus Circus. She couldn't get a winning hand to save her butt - going bust hand after hand. When she didn't go bust (go over 21) she was getting 17s or 18s. The players at the table were having a blast. The pit boss (being no fool) placed her at the lowest stakes table in the casino where she could do the least damage. Just one problem... 

There were no empty spots at the table. And to make it worse, it was full of "players" who were putting down the minimum bet, winning the hand, pulling back their winnings and leaving the minimum bet there for the next hand! What a waste.  

I had better luck at the Lady Luck (now the Downtown Grand Las Vegas) in downtown Las Vegas. This dealer was so cold, he was getting nervous about losing his job. It was great fun for me and the other players. Our winning streak (his losing streak) went for several hands before he finally won a hand. This is what you are looking for. This cold dealer could have easily started another long losing streak after winning one hand. I had to meet up with someone so I took my winnings and left. 

When you shop for a cold dealer, don't be concerned with how the  players are playing or what cards they are getting. Concentrate on what cards the dealer is getting and make your decision to sit or move on based on that.

If you are going to play blackjack at the higher stakes tables ($25 and higher), you can be pretty sure the dealers were placed there because they are on a winning streak. And if they really are on a winning streak, you had better be red hot!

Rule #4 - Bet Smart To Win.

In this last section I want to give you some guidelines on how to bet. This won't be specific because I don't know your money situation, how much you set aside per blackjack "session" or what risks you are willing to take. 

Developing your own betting strategy, one you can be comfortable with, is most important. Your goal is to be playing with the casino's money as soon as possible. How do you do this?

First, assuming you understand and are following the first three blackjack rules, you want to be steadily increasing your bet as your winning streak continues. When you first sit down, it may be okay to play the first few hands with the minimum bet just to convince yourself you really do have a cold dealer on your hands. But don't stay in this mode. If you won with a $10 bet, bet $15 on the next hand. If you win, go to $20 or $25.

Second, the fast path to making money is to take advantage of every opportunity to split pairs or double down. The Blackjack Strategy Chart shows you 50 double down situations and 52 split pair situations. Learn them all and follow them consistently.

Third, don't bet so much money per hand that you won't be able to take advantage of every double down or split pair situation that comes your way. Let's say you have a $40 bet on the table and get dealt a pair of eights. You are always supposed to split eights but would you plunk down another $40 and feel okay about it? What if you split eights and your first card is another eight. That's a $120 bet. This is not that rare.

Fourth, set a limit per blackjack session - one you can live with if you lose it all. And don't go over that limit. You have done everything you can to win but some things are out of your control. Maybe the dealer got on a hot streak. Or another player sat down and stopped your winning streak cold. Or some player(s) didn't take a hit when they should have or took a hit when they shouldn't have.

Last, but not least, know when to leave the table and end your blackjack session. If you are up a few hundred and things go against you. Don't hang in there and give it all back . Take a break for awhile then go scout for another table, even if you have to leave and go to another casino.

"You have to factor all of these things into your own personal blackjack betting strategy. The last thing you want to do is leave the blackjack table feeling terrible  because things "got out of hand" and you lost lots more than planned. " 

Wishing you the very best of luck at the blackjack tables.

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