5 Keys to Winning at the Blackjack Table

Tips and Tricks for Success at Blackjack

Blackjack
Ppntori / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Blackjack is a fun game and it certainly has changed since Dr. Edward O. Thorp published "Beat the Dealer" in 1961 and gave us tips for optimal play at casino blackjack tables. Yet, like all games, the more you know, the better your experience will be.

To find success at the blackjack tables, there are a number of simple rules that you'll want to follow. From how to handle yourself in the casino to understanding the best way to play every hand, a few tips will help you reduce the casino's edge.

#1: Learn Basic Blackjack Strategy

Before you even hit the casino floor, brush up and study the basic strategies of blackjack. After all, you can't expect to win if you don't know how to play because luck can only take you so far.

Begin by reviewing the essential elements of how to play blackjack. Understand how the game is dealt, the values of the cards, and learn your way around the table. Even if you've played before, a quick refresher certainly can't hurt.

From there, you can study blackjack strategy. It's important that you know what to do when you have a hard hand or a soft hand (when you're dealt an ace). You also need to know when you can split and the best strategy for each scenario based on your two cards. 

Learn and employ these rules and you will be playing at less than one-half of a percent disadvantage to the house. That's a tiny amount—just five cents on a $10 bet—and it will allow you to win on many sessions of play.

#2: Read the Limit Sign

You would be amazed at how often a player sits at a table and doesn't know what limit, or even what game they are playing. Don't fall victim to this and scope out the table before you sit down.

Start with the obvious and make sure you are on a standard blackjack game. Then, read the table limits for the minimum and maximum you can bet in each hand.

You'll also want to make sure you understand any special table rules. Learn which first two cards you can double down on and which you can split as well as how many times you can do that. Find out if you have other options like a surrender and whether that can be done early or late.

#3: Find a Friendly Dealer

The dealer can make or break your casino experience. Find dealers that are friendly so you can enjoy yourself. Dealers work for tips and should be as nice to you as a good waitperson is. If they aren't, why are you still sitting at their table?

You can strengthen your relationship with a dealer by making an occasional "toke" bet for the dealer. This means that you put the dealer in the game and make a bet for them. A "toke" is another word for a tip and you can also simply hand them a chip for their efforts.

Also, you want to avoid being rude to the dealer and other players at the table who are trying to enjoy themselves just like you are. The dealer does not control the cards; you control what you bet, when, and at what table. Taking your frustrations out on others is pointless and, in most instances, your losses are not their fault.

#4: Know Your Limits and Play Smart

Remember that a casino blackjack table is not a video game where you're playing for imaginary money.

This is real money; it's your cash that you've worked hard for, so be smart and know your personal limits.

Find a limit that you are comfortable with. You will make better decisions if you are not worried about what you are betting. You can't win every time you play and it's important to play within your means. If you aren't in the mood to have fun and enjoy yourself, you shouldn't be gambling.

A good rule is to decide in advance what you are willing to risk. Put only a quarter of that amount on the table at any time. This will force you to consider quitting or finding another table if you don't do well with your first buy-in.

Remember that you are in complete control of how long you play. You should quit when you reach your pre-set win level or if you find yourself no longer enjoying the game.

It's okay to raise your bets a little when you are winning. However, don't take your frustrations out on your bankroll. Avoid the temptation to bet more when you are losing just to chase your money. That's a sure way to bury yourself and your bankroll. 

During the game itself, follow two basic strategies to protect your chips:

  • Don't take insurance unless you are playing with several people and see no 10's out on the layout. Otherwise, forget about this bet.
  • Don't use surrender except when you have a 15 against a 10 or when you have 16 against a 9, 10, or ace.

#5: Take Advantage of Perks in Moderation

Casinos want to lure you in so you'll put more money on the table and spend even more on all the extras they offer. The perks are good, but it's important to take advantage of them in moderation.

When you first arrive at the casino, ask at the valet or bell desk for the Player's Club or guest services. Each club offers free items in exchange for your continued play at their table games and slots. You might as well rack up some complimentary meals, free bets, match play coupons, and other goodies while you're playing. 

Try not to drink too much, though. It's tempting and the drinks are often free in Nevada or widely available at any casino, but they can also cloud your judgment. Enjoy a few drinks, but don't have so much that you can't make good decisions. Playing blackjack is fun; just try not to ruin it by keeping yourself from playing at your best.