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20 Free Tips For Winning At Blackjack
This is an article comprised of 20 free blackjack tips. I can't guarantee anyone that these tips will help you become a winning blackjack player; it's a game of chance. But blackjack is a card game where the decisions you make affect the outcome of the game. The tips and advice on this page are designed to help you make better blackjack decisions.
Please note that these are general blackjack winning strategies. They're not specific to a certain type of game - i.e., these winning blackjack strategies are for six deck blackjack games as well as single deck blackjack games.
20 Free Blackjack Tips - A List
20 Free Blackjack Tips - Explanations
Some of the free blackjack tips above might make perfect sense without an explanation. But depending on your level of skill, some of them might make little or no sense. So I've included an explanation of each tip below. Sometimes those explanations will point you to other resources.
Understand what the goal of a blackjack hand is. Your goal in a blackjack hand is not to get as close to 21 as you can without going over.
Your goal is to beat the dealer.
Misunderstanding this goal will cause you to make basic strategy mistakes.
For example, if you're dealt a hard 13, and the dealer has a 5 showing, the correct strategy is to stand, hoping that the dealer will bust. If you think the goal is to get as close to 21 as you can without going over, then you'll probably make a mistake and take a hit here when you shouldn't.
Winning blackjack players understand the difference between trying to get as close as you can to 21 without going over and trying to beat the dealer.
Know what the card values in blackjack are. All face cards are worth 10 points in blackjack. (Face cards are jacks, queens, and kings.) Numbered cards are worth whatever number is on the card, so a deuce is worth two points, a three is worth three points, etc. Aces are worth either one point or eleven points, whichever is more favorable to the player.
Your hand's score is compared to the dealer's hands score to determine whether or not you win. If you come closer to 21 than the dealer does, you win. If you go over 21, you bust, and you've lost. (Even if the dealer busts later - she acts last - you still lose your bet if you bust.)
A hand where you can choose whether or not an ace counts as one or eleven is called a "soft hand". A hand with no ace, or a hand with an ace that you must count as one in order to avoid busting, is called a "hard hand".
Know what your options as a blackjack player are in each hand. You have a limited number of decisions you can make during a blackjack hand, but not all of them are available in every situation. During a blackjack hand, you have the following options:
Winning blackjack players know all the options they have so that they can choose the best one.
Know what the dealer's choices are in a blackjack game. This tip's wording is misleading, since the dealer actually plays according to the house rules. She doesn't make any decisions about how to play her hand. But you still need to know whether or not the house stands on a soft 17 or not; different casinos have different policies. Generally speaking though, the house must hit a 16 or less and must stand on a 17 or higher. The dealer has no choice, but the house rules might differ.
If the dealer hits on a soft 17, that reduces the odds for the player. (It's a favorable rule for the casino, in other words.)
The dealer never splits or doubles down.
Memorize blackjack basic strategy. Good blackjack players know basic strategy. They never play hunches or guess. Every potential situation has a "best" way to play, and basic strategy is just a way of memorizing all of the best decisions in all of those situations. Some people use a chart, some people just memorize it hand by hand, but all winning blackjack players know and use basic strategy on every single hand. According to blackjack author Lawrence Revere, most people can learn basic strategy in four hours.
Winning blackjack players always use basic strategy correctly.
Practice free blackjack games online. Before you play in a live game or in a real money game, you should learn to play and practice a little bit with some free online blackjack games so that you're not confused by your options when you play for real money. Keeping up with where to place your bets and knowing what order the action takes place in will mean one less distraction when you're trying to remember the basic strategy decision for each hand.
Winning blackjack players practice.
Understand blackjack odds and expected value. I don't have enough space to explain this completely here, but you should learn about blackjack odds and expected value. Blackjack is a negative expectation game in almost every situation, unless you're a skilled card counter or shuffle tracker. But if you find a good blackjack game and use perfect basic strategy, blackjack has one of the lowest house edges in the casino. But to be a winning blackjack player, you should understand what the house edge is and how to overcome it. Most good blackjack books cover this subject pretty well. And one of my favorites is The Mensa Guide to Casino Gambling by Andrew Brisman. It explains other games besides blackjack too, but the explanation of odds and expected value in the book is excellent.
Winning blackjack players understand the odds.
Know how to distinguish between a good blackjack game and a bad one. The lower the house edge, the better the blackjack game. Things that lower the house edge include:
Conditions that increase the house edge, making the blackjack game worse, include:
Playing in good blackjack games instead of bad ones will increase your chances of being a winning blackjack player.
Play blackjack within your bankroll. If you're not a card counter, then you almost assuredly won't have an edge over the casino. So you might be better off taking a "maximum boldness" approach to blackjack. The "maximum boldness" betting strategy means that you improve your chances of doubling your money by betting your entire bankroll once. If you win, you double up. If you lose, you're done. That's not much fun, but it's the mathematically best way to double your money if you're playing a negative expectation game.
On the other hand, if you want to have more fun, play at stakes where a long losing streak won't end your fun early. And if you count cards, you need a big enough bankroll to avoid going broke just because of variance. If you're a good enough card counter to have an edge over the casino, you should be using a "minimum boldness" strategy. You minimize your chance of going broke by betting a small percentage of your bankroll each time.
Winning blackjack players play according to their bankroll.
Learn to count cards. Counting cards isn't as easy as it used to be, but it's still possible, and a lot of casinos still offer favorable games for card counters. You can achieve an edge of 0.5% to 1% over the casino by using a card counting system, but you have to be able to keep count, range your bets, make the appropriate strategy adjustments, and not get caught. Counting cards in blackjack is legal, but casinos can and will refuse to let you play blackjack if they think you're a good card counter.
You can't count cards online.
Winning blackjack players count cards.
Ignore other blackjack players' advice. 95% of the people you meet at the blackjack table think they have it all figured out. Most of them don't. Winning blackjack players ignore other players' advice. Winners have a strategy before sitting down to play, and they don't deviate just because some rube has an opinion. Even if I were sitting next to a famous blackjack player, I'd ignore his advice in person. Who knows what a pro is up to when he's sitting next to you? And if he's really a pro, he probably doesn't want to draw any attention to himself.
Read some good blackjack books. No one was born knowing how to play blackjack, and no one was born knowing how to win at blackjack either. Some people might watch DVD's or listen to CD's about how to win at blackjack, but I think that few methods of learning match reading a good book closely. Here are some recommended good blackjack books for winning blackjack players:
Some of those books are older than others, but each of them will help improve your perspective on blackjack, especially if you're interested in learning to count cards.
Never use a progressive betting system in blackjack unless you're counting cards. A progressive betting system is a betting system where you progressively increase your bets in an effort to make up losses. Counting cards involves raising your bets when the deck is rich in aces and tens compared to other cards, so you have a better chance of hitting a blackjack. Putting more money into play when you're more likely to get a higher payout makes sense. But systems like the Martingale are for losers.
Winning blackjack players don't use the Martingale system. Ever.
Learn to take advantage of a blackjack dealer's tells. I don't have a lot of information about how to do this to share. But Steve Forte wrote a book about blackjack dealers and blackjack dealer tells called Read The Dealer. I think it's out of print, but you might be able to find a copy of it on eBay sometime. Reading a dealer's tells is just one more winning blackjack strategy to add to your arsenal though.
Learn shuffle tracking techniques. This is another really advanced winning blackjack strategy for people who have already mastered counting cards. You can learn a bit about shuffletracking in blackjack in Arnold Snyder's Blackbelt in Blackjack. Another good book that focuses exclusively on this technique is The Shuffle Tracker's Cookbook, also by Arnold Snyder. It's $50 or so, but you can make that up in one winning blackjack session.
Take advantage of casino comps unless you're trying to stay anonymous. If you're a real advantage player, you probably avoid having your play tracked, but if you're just a recreational player, you should always take full advantage of as many comps as you can get. The value of free food, free drinks, free travel, and free accommodations is part of your blackjack winnings. If you break even for a trip, but you get a free room as a comp for playing so much blackjack, then you've won at blackjack, even if only in a small way.
Stay sober at the blackjack table. Drunks lose at blackjack. That's just a fact. If you're a card counter, and you get drunk, you'll lose track of the count. If you're a recreational player, you'll blow more money than you have budgeted to play with. I'm not a teetotaler, and I think you should drink if you enjoy it. Especially since the drinks are the lowest level of comps. But know when to quit.
Winning blackjack players don't get drunk unless they're not playing blackjack.
Tip the blackjack dealer from time to time. If you're counting cards, you want the dealer to shuffle less often rather than more often. Tipping well couldn't hurt.
Also, there's more to winning than pocketing cash. Being a generous, decent human being is also a "win", even at the blackjack table. Another measure of "winning at blackjack" is how much fun you're having. If you never tip the dealer, and the dealer hates you as a result, you won't have much fun.
Join a blackjack card counting team. This is where the real blackjack winning gets started. The MIT Blackjack Team is probably the most famous blackjack card counting team, but there's no reason you can't find and join a team yourself. Or you could even start your own blackjack team. Spend some time on some of the better advantage player forums, and you can make the connections you need in order to join or form a blackjack card counting team.
Understand what your goals as a blackjack player are. Being a winning blackjack player means different things to different players. You might just want to be good enough to break even and get comped tickets to the big fight. Or you might want to win a few hundred dollars from time to time. You might want to become a professional blackjack player and earn your living playing blackjack. But understanding what your goals as a winning blackjack player are is the first step in understanding how to achieve them.
Good luck at the blackjack tables. I hope some of these free winning blackjack tips have been helpful. If you ever get sick of thinking about basic strategy decisions, you can always try out a couple of free slots games like the ones at this site: Free Slots 4 You. They're free, play money slots games that don't require a deposit or a download.
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