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5 Blackjack Tips for Beginners

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Blackjack can be a fun and social way to spend an hour (or longer) and, if you play your cards right, is a game that doesn’t offer a large house advantage. As always, especially if you are on vacation, I believe that having fun should be high on your priority list. If you want to have fun with your friends playing a 6/5 table in the party pit, go for it. Only you can decide what kind of edge you are willing to let the casino have. With that being said, here are 5 simple tips that beginners can use to tighten up their play.

Learn Basic Strategy

Casino Strategy Cards

Playing blackjack without any knowledge of basic strategy is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. The easiest way to play using basic strategy is to use a basic strategy card. These can be purchased before you go on vacation or you can buy them from most hotel gift shops. Strategy cards are perfectly legal to use, however, if you are worried about your street cred and think that strategy cards are uncool, then you will have to learn some basic moves. One option is to memorize a simplified version of basic strategy such as the Wizard’s Simple Blackjack Strategy which will, more often than not, enable you to make the correct call. It’s a good place to start, but if you really want to minimize the house’s edge, you need to learn the nuances of true basic strategy. For example, if you are holding hard 12 (any two cards, besides an Ace, totaling 12) and the dealer is showing a 2 or 3 many simplified strategies will tell you to stay and hope the dealer busts, when, in fact, you should hit.

Practice For Free Before You Play For Money

Some of the basic strategy rules (like always split Aces and Eights) are easy to remember, but a lot of the intricate details (like not splitting a pair of nines when the dealer is showing a 7) are harder to remember, especially for a casual player. I find the best ways to help memorize basic strategy are writing rules down on paper and practicing using a simulator. Blackjack simulators are easy to find and the good ones will tell you when you make a move that is mathematically wrong. One I have used is http://www.hitorstand.net/. Let us know if you can recommend something better.

Try To Avoid 6/5 Tables

Party Pit Blackjack

One of the simplest and increasingly common ways casinos increase the house’s edge is to decrease the payout on blackjack, which happens when the player is dealt two cards totaling twenty-one. Traditionally, payout for blackjack is 3/2, or 3 dollars for every 2 dollars bet. That means a $15 payout on a $10 bet. With a 6/5 table, the payout for a $10 bet would be $12, which is $3 less than the payout at a 3/2 table. This simple change increases the house edge by over 1%. That may not sound like a lot, but over time it adds up so, all things being equal, it’s better to play on a 3/2 table than a 6/5 table.

Besides a 3/2 payout, other favorable rules to look out for include: tables that require dealers to stand on soft 17, tables that allow players to double after a split, and tables that allow players to surrender. If the payout for blackjack is not marked on the playing surface, check the display screen that indicates the minimum and maximum bets. Often the payout for blackjack will be displayed on here. On a recent visit, I saw three very active $10 tables displaying a 6/5 payout on the digital display next to an empty $10 table that didn’t indicate anything. It turned out that was a 3/2 table, so if in doubt ask the dealer.

Have Realistic Expectations and Don’t Bet More Than You Can Afford To Lose

Even with odds that are close to even, unless you are a professional card counter, blackjack is still a negative expectation game. If your goal is to make money, you are probably going to end up disappointed in the long run. The risk of losing your entire bankroll is very real and can happen surprisingly fast if the dealer is on a hot streak, especially if you are playing at a table that is too expensive for your pocket. You can expect to lose an entire $150 bankroll within 100 hands over 50% of the time at a typical $25 table, but if you take the same amount of money to a similar $10 table, the risk of losing it all within 100 hands is reduced to around 20%. The goal is always to have fun, but be realistic and find a table that fits your gambling budget.

Never Take Insurance.

Sure it will sting a little if the dealer turns over blackjack, but in the long run the math tells you that insurance is a sucker bet. Remember that you sat down for a reason, and that reason was to gamble lose as little money as possible, so politely decline insurance and hopefully the math gods will work their magic.

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