Let’s face it, if you love blackjack, there is nothing more exciting than sitting down at a blackjack table oozing with confidence! By simply applying a few key blackjack techniques, you can help to reduce the number of frustrating sessions and start to let the good times roll in.
Whether you are playing a virtual blackjack table game, physically sat at a blackjack table in a casino in Las Vegas, London, or Monte Carlo, or streaming a live dealer blackjack game via the latest ultra-HD webcam tech, knowing you have the strategic tools in your locker to give you an added edge over the house is priceless.
1. Play ‘Dealer Stands on Soft 17’ Rules
2. Look for Tables That Offer The ‘Double Down’ Rule
4. Look for Tables That Allow You to Split Pairs & Aces
5. Look for Tables That Offer the Surrender Rule
6. Play Single Deck Tables
8. Avoid the Insurance Bet Option
9. Avoid Bonus Bets or Side Bets
10. Avoid Card Counting on Virtual Blackjack Games
11. Implement Basic Strategy
12. Card Counting
What you will notice in this guide is that it is all about how to maximize your advantage!!!
However, if you are someone that wants to play optimal blackjack by reducing every percent (%) of the house edge possible, you will need to give up those super fun side bets and follow as many of the strategy tips outlined below!
Play ‘Dealer Stands on Soft 17’ Rules
Most blackjack tables these days will use the rule that forces the dealer to hit on soft 17. This small adjustment means that the house edge is increased by 0.22%. Now that may not seem like much, but to those looking for every possible angle to gain an edge over the house, it matters!
Therefore, to get the best value out of your blackjack games, look for tables that offer rules whereby the dealer must stand on soft 17.
· When the dealer stands on soft 17, you gain a 0.22% on the house edge
Look for Tables That Offer The ‘Double Down’ Rule
Double downs are another way to nip away at the casino’s house edge in blackjack. When you are given the choice to double down, make sure you bet the maximum possible simply because if you are playing by the rules of basic strategy, you will only double down in favourable situations. That means in the long run, your expected return will be in the green.
In most shoe games that use 8 decks, the house edge is only around 0.5% so double downs are worth your while.
You should also look for tables that allow you to ‘double down on 3 or more cards’ and ‘Double after Splits’.
Here are some additional percentages to consider:
· Double Down allowed only on 9, 10 or 11 increases the house advantage by 0.14%
· Double Down allowed only on 10 or 11 increases the house advantage by 0.21%
· Double Down allowed only on 11 increases the house advantage by 0.79%
· Double Down allowed after splitting increases your advantage by 0.14%
· Double Down on 3 or more cards increases your advantage by 0.22%
Play Double Exposure Blackjack
Although double exposure blackjack’s house edge is higher than most other variants of the game, it can be one of the best blackjack games in the casino if you play your cards right. In particular, this variant of blackjack is great for beginners because the dealer reveals both cards.
One of the key advantages to this is that when you know the dealer’s hand is already higher than yours, you have to take the risk and hit when in situations basic strategy would urge you to stand if one of the dealer’s cards was still face down.
Now in nearly all Double Exposure games, the dealer must ‘Stand on All 17s’ and you can only double down on a 9, 10 or 11, so you lose some of the house edge explained above.
Nonetheless, you can find basic strategy tables for this variant of blackjack and have a lot of fun playing even when you bust!
Look for Tables That Allow You to Split Pairs & Aces
Other rules that can eat away at your return to player (RTP) is when the table rules do not allow you to split pairs or split aces. In actual fact, the rules concerning splitting only affect the game very slightly.
These are the most significant splits that will change the house advantage:
· The house advantage increases by 0.16% when splitting ‘Aces’ is not allowed
· The house advantage increases by 0.45% -when splitting ‘Pairs’ not allowed
Look for Tables That Offer the ‘Early Surrender’ Rule
As with the rules that apply to splits, the surrender rule has very little effect on the house advantage apart from the ‘Early Surrender’ rule which gives you a whopping 0.61% advantage over the house!
· Early surrender gives you a 0.61% advantage over the house
Play Single Deck Blackjack Tables
Most casinos today like to use multiple decks. There is technically no limit to the number of decks that can be used but online and in land-based casinos, the maximum is 8. The official number of decks used can be between 1 and 8 decks.
Now here’s the thing – the more decks used, the worse the house edge becomes.
· -0.34% for 2 decks
· -0.45% for 3 decks
· -0.5% for 4 decks
· -0.53% for 5 decks
· -0.55% for 6 decks
· -0.56% for 7 decks
· -0.57% for 8 decks
Although the percentage increases are low, if you want to improve your ROI while playing blackjack, then choosing only tables with the fewest number of decks should be a priority.
For example, it has been mathematically proven that in a 6-deck blackjack game versus a single-deck game you will land fewer natural hands, which is around 1.61% less, and if you need to catch a 10, your chances are 3.23% less in comparison to single-deck games. Those percentages speak for themselves!
Never Play 6-5 Blackjack Tables
One oddity that seems to be rising within the world of blackjack are tables that pay 6-5 odds on blackjack. These tables should be avoided at all costs because the payout for blackjack is undermined by a considerable margin giving the house all the advantage.
Just the comparison alone means there is not much need for an explanation as to why 2:1 blackjack is the only way to play. That said, if you are like us and a sucker for percentages then check this out.
· The house edge increases by 2% when playing 6:5 blackjack
Avoid the Insurance Bet Option
A trick of the blackjack table is to offer you bets you do not need to take, one of those bets is ‘Insurance’. Whoever the cunning Frenchman was that invented this bet, he was obviously planning on becoming the dealer because this bet mostly works in favour of the house.
The insurance bet is known as the ‘suckers bet’ in places like Vegas. When someone takes insurance, which the dealer will nearly always offer, the dealer knows the player is a sucker, the other players know the player is a sucker, and – well you get the picture. In all honesty, the insurance side bet can be fun, and it is only serious blackjack players that call it the ‘suckers bet’.
Now here comes the fun factual percentage figure that we all know and understand – the house edge for insurance bets is a whopping 5.89%!
If you are someone that uses the insurance bet to add an edge or element of excitement to your gameplay then by all means continue. In this case, only take this bet if your hand is 18, 19 or 20, and you are playing blackjack with 4 decks or more. Also, if you are card counting and the deck happens to be rich in tens, then insurance can work in your favour.
However, if you want to scrimp and save every penny so you can eliminate what poker players call ‘leaks’ in your game, then you need to end any love affair you have with the beloved insurance bet option.
· The house edge for insurance bets is 5.89%
· Insurance bets are used by card counters in some situations
Avoid Bonus Bets or Side Bets
Now bonus bets or blackjack side bets are fun, so if you want to spice up the action, and you enjoy a flutter with bets that can offer high rewards when you strike gold, then bonus bets are the way to go.
On the other hand, if you want to plug up those ‘leaks’ in your game, then you should avoid bonus bets altogether. In the long run, there is no profit in bonus bets unless you happen to be an incredibly lucky player. The odds of winning on most of these side bets is far less than the payouts in the long run.
Here are a couple of examples of side bets and the house edge that goes with them:
· 21 + 3 side bet has a house edge of 3.7%
· Perfect Pairs has a house edge of 3.4%
· Super 7s has a house edge of 5% or higher
Now in a game where the house edge is usually 1% and often as low as 0.5%, it seems a little foolhardy to take any bets that offer the house 5x the house edge of the main game – especially when you are looking to become a winning blackjack player!
Avoid Using Progressive Bet Strategies
Progressive bet strategies are when you increase the size of your bet after losing. While this may work for some players on ‘even odds’ outside bets on games like roulette, it does not work with blackjack. By all means, you could end up on a mega win streak but more often than not, when using progressive betting strategies in blackjack, you could end up losing large amounts fast.
In blackjack, Progressive betting is only used when card counting. If the shoe is 10-card heavy, then the card counters will increase their bet sizes because there is more chance of the dealer going bust or the player receiving a high-value hand.
Today card counting is not as prevalent because casinos now order their dealers to shuffle the decks regularly to throw card counters off the trail. That said, you can still use card counting to your advantage if you find a live blackjack table on which the dealer rarely shuffles the cards.
Implement Basic Strategy
Basic Strategy may sound boring and put a dampener on the fun of the game for some of you, but honestly, to become a blackjack winner or at least reduce the chances of losing it may, or may not, come as bad news to learn that from here on out you should find a way to implement basic strategy into your gameplay.
For those of you pained by this revelation and for those that knew it was coming, think about it like this – If there is a surefire way to ‘win more’ playing the game you love, then winning more/losing less will make your sessions a hell of a lot more enjoyable. It is much better than the alternative which is handing over between 2% and 5% of the house edge back to the casino.
Of course, there are plenty of blackjack players out there that will welcome the challenge, and for those that already know the importance of basic strategy, you are probably nodding your head in agreement as you read this!
Here are a couple of ways you can implement basic strategy:
1. Memorize the charts by playing and learning the correct actions to take
2. Use a strategy card that has basic strategy moves printed on it
4. Pull up the basic strategy charts on a dual-screen setup
Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are the easiest ways to learn basic strategy. You can legally take strategy cards into brick and mortar casino because they are not illegal, and you can hold it in the palm of your hand for reference. Meanwhile, those of you that play online, you can blow up the strategy chart to fill your entire playing area!
Card counting is fun to learn and can gain you a slight edge when playing on tables on which the dealer rarely shuffles the shoe. You can read our guide to card counting when we release it very soon.
If you do not know how to card count, then you should learn because it can give you a slight edge when you know the deck is 10-card heavy. And, although we advise against progressive betting strategies, we DO advise that you increase your bet sizes when the ‘True Count’ is high if you are using a card counting system.
Just to reiterate, you should only card count on tables the dealer rarely shuffles the shoe. That means when the show is reshuffled, you need to re-start your ‘Running Count’ which of course re-sets your True Count’.
· Only card count on live blackjack tables
· Use card counting when the dealer rarely shuffles
· Never card count on virtual ‘RNG’ operated tables
Why should you avoid card Counting on virtual blackjack games?
Surprisingly, there are still some blogs out there, and some online players that swear by card counting. Well, take it from us, save your money and don’t bother. Play live dealer games instead if you really want to card count.
Random Number Generators (RNGs) are used to make virtual blackjack games mimic a similar probability of results as a real-life dealer. Plus, as they are all sets of algorithmic code, they also need to be designed so that hackers cannot intercept the code to see what the next card will be (something that plagued early versions). To carry out both these tasks RNGs use a ‘continuous shuffle mode’.
To explain further, the only reason card counting worked back in the day is because dealers did not shuffle the deck. This made it easy to use the ‘Running Count’ and ‘True Count’ system to determine when the deck was filled with 10s. Shuffles were never part of the game and were only introduced to throw off card counters by resetting the deck.
Even when you are deciding your next move, the cards are shuffling and will only stop when you make a decision.
It is almost like pressing a button on a conveyor belt to stop. Whichever item is in front of you when the belt stops is the one you get to go home with. The same applies to RNG card shuffles. While live dealer tables offer you some chance of card counting,
Now you know that the card decks governed by RNGs are in a ‘continuous shuffle’ mode, hopefully, you can understand why card counting is never going to work on virtual blackjack tables.
· Virtual blackjack tables continuously shuffle the cards
· The concept of card counting is impossible on RNG games
Are You Ready to Become a Winning Blackjack Player?
There are only 12 tips in this guide that will help you look for every angle possible to reduce the house edge and give yourself the advantage. With all of Blackjack’s intricacies, it is easy to understand to see how casual players can suddenly become overwhelmed with percentages and stats when really delving deep into how the different rules on each variant of blackjack can make such a huge difference to the house edge.
Our advice is to take it all in slowly. Becoming a master of blackjack does not happen overnight. It takes a little time and dedication to learn the different rules. You can pick each one up one by one and after time, you will start to notice the difference in your ROI. Not only will you become a better player and make better decisions, but you will also know exactly which table rules will give you an edge.
Just remember that blackjack is a game of hands. The longer you play, meaning the more hands you play, the more you will shift through your variance. Beating the house edge is about consistent play over a long period of time.
You will get your ups and your downs, but if you play to the percentages, then probability will even itself out in the long run. By using these strategies and playing a disciplined game, you WILL reduce your losses and increase your chances of winning.
With all this in mind, the most important things to do are to bet sensibly, never stake more than you can afford, learn proper bet sizing and bankroll management (which we didn’t cover in this guide), and most of all you should have fun!