# Blackjack Tips

## Fewer Decks is Best.

If the house rules are the same, games that use the least number of decks are more favorable than the games that use more decks. This is because the players will receive more blackjacks and win more of their double downs. The casinos know this and they usually have slightly less favorable house rules on their single and double deck games to offset this advantage.

## New cards are not a blackjack players friend.

When new cards are introduced into the game the players are at more of a disadvantage than if the cards have been in play for awhile. This is because new decks of cards are in a predefined order that contain 10-valued card clumps which are bad for the players and they are not completely broken up by the casino wash and initial shuffle. So when new cards are introduced into the game it is best not to play until the cards have been in play for awhile and shuffled for the second time. After the second shuffle the cards will be about as random as they will ever get.

## Hang on to your winnings.

Don’t over tip. The best playing strategies only offer the player between a 1% and 2% advantage over the house. If you are tipping the dealer one betting unit every 20 hands you are giving away 5%. It is almost impossible to make money when you give this much away.

## Where you sit, may not matter.

For players playing basic strategy, it doesn’t matter which seat you sit at, they will all yield the same advantage for them in the long run. This is also true for players who alter their bet size based on the true count. For players who alter their playing strategy based on the true count, however, third base will yield the best advantage.

## The fewer the players, the better.

For players who are playing a count strategy, the less number of players playing at the table the better. This is because they will get to play more hands during high counts when their large bets are out. In order to get even more of an advantage during high counts, some players play multiple hands when the count is high and only one when the count is low, thus resulting in a greater number of hands during favorable conditions.

## Deeper penetration is best.

For players who are playing a count strategy, the deeper the dealer places the cut card into the deck(s) to indicate a shuffle the better it is for them. This is because the true count tends to fluctuate more wildly as the number of undealt cards diminishes, thus offering the players more favorable playing opportunities. For players who play strictly basic strategy, the depth of the cut card has no effect on their advantage.

## Insurance anyone?

For anyone who is not counting cards, it is never a good idea to make an insurance bet. Many people automatically make an insurance bet if they have a blackjack or perhaps other very good hands. In reality it makes more sense to make an insurance bet if your hand does not contain a 10-valued card because this would be one more 10-valued card that could be the dealer’s hole card. Basically, you should only make an insurance bet if you know that more than 1/3 of the remaining cards are 10-valued cards. Many counting systems have a specific true count value that would indicate when it is beneficial to make an insurance bet.

## Betting strategies, do they work?

There are almost as many betting strategies as there are gamblers. Many people increase their bet when they get on a winning streak (thinking that the winning streak will continue). Many people increase their bet when they get on a losing streak (thinking that they are due for a win, or perhaps trying to recover their losses in a hurry). Many people have complex betting patterns based on the results of their previous hands. Many people base their bet size on hunches (they feel that they are going to win or lose the next hand). All these betting strategies do not work! In order for a betting strategy to be effective, you must know when the cards become favorable for the players. There are numerous counting strategies that can do this.

You get more of a benefit from altering your playing strategy based on the true count for single and double deck games than you would for 4 or more deck games.

## Don’t give others advice.

It is best not to give advice to other players who you do not know. If they end up losing the hand after taking your advice they probably will hold some animosity towards you and will let you know it.

## Learn the rules of the game.

Make sure you know the rules of the game before you sit down to play. Although the basic rules for playing blackjack are the same, there are slight variations between different casinos. The rules that govern blackjack play are known as the house rules.

## Learn basic strategy.

Statistically speaking, there exists only one best action a player can take for each of the possible hands he can receive versus each possible upcard the dealer may have. This set of actions is known as the Basic Strategy. It is very important for the player to become very familiar with the basic strategy because all winning systems are based on it. Also, a player playing perfect basic strategy is playing very close to even with the house, usually at less than a 1% disadvantage and in some cases may even be playing at a slight advantage if the house rules are favorable. You should review the basic strategy tables that corresponds to the playing conditions that you plan to play under. The number of decks used in a game and the house rules have a slight effect on the basic strategy. Here is an online program that you can use to test your knowledge of the basic strategy.

## Learn to manage your money wisely.

Even the best blackjack players in the world go through losing periods. It’s a statistical fact and there is nothing a player can do to avoid them. Many good players are not familiar with this “element of ruin” and make bets that are much too large in proportion to their total bankroll then they should. Inevitably they will lose their entire bankroll, even if they make all the correct playing decisions, and wonder what went wrong. A wise player will always leave room for a certain amount of ruin. A good rule of thumb is to use a betting unit that is 1/100 of your total bankroll. For example, if you have a bankroll of $1000, your betting unit would be $10. If you are playing with a 1.5% advantage over the house, there will only be about a 5% chance that you will lose your entire bankroll. As you increase your bet size, you increase your chances of winning more money but at the same time you increase your chance of losing your entire bankroll. Conversely, if you decrease your bet size, you decrease your expected winnings but at the same time you decrease your chance of losing your entire bankroll.

## Pick a counting system and learn to count cards using this system.

Most people who play blackjack do not go beyond basic strategy. For the serious player, however, there are ways to increase your advantage over the basic strategy player. It has been proven that by counting cards you can gain an additional edge and actually maintain an advantage over the casinos. There are many different counting systems, however, and generally speaking, the more complex it is, the more of an advantage it gives the player. But it does not have to be complex in order for you to gain an advantage over the house, and you should note that it only takes one or two mistakes in every 100 hands played to cancel out your advantage. Therefore it is much better to play a simple system perfectly than it is to play a complex system almost perfectly. A very simple count definition that works is to assign the value of 1 to the cards 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; assign the value of 0 to the cards 7, 8, 9; and assign the value of -1 to the cards 10, Ace. This is called the HI-LO system. With these values assigned to the cards, by keeping a running count as the dealer deals the cards out, you can determine when the deck is favorable and when it is unfavorable. To keep the running count you only need to keep track of one number. When the cards are shuffled the running count should be reset to 0. As the dealer deals cards you add the count value of the card to the running count. If, for example, the dealer deals a 7, 10, 2, 5, 9 using the count definition mentioned above the running count would be: 0 + -1 + 1 + 1 + 0 = 1. When the running count is a positive number it means that the remaining cards are more favorable then average for the player. A negative number would mean that they are less favorable then average.

## Learn to estimate the true count.

Once you have learned how to keep the running count and can do it fast enough to keep up with the dealer, it is time for you to learn how to calculate the true count. The true count is the running count divided by the number of decks of undealt cards left. The true count gives a better indication of how favorable or unfavorable the remaining cards are than the running count and only needs to be calculated when you want to perform some action (such as betting) based on it. Since it would require too much counting to keep track of the number of cards that have been dealt, the best way to estimate the number of decks that remain is to estimate the number of decks in the discard stack and subtract this number from the total number of decks used in the game. Usually an estimation within 1/2 to 1/4 deck is accurate enough to produce good results. The more decks used in the game the less accurate this estimate needs to be.

## Learn to adjust your bet size based on the true count.

The single factor that a player can do with the count that yields him the biggest advantage is to base his bet size on it. As the true count goes up, so should your bet size. As the true count goes down, your bet size should also go down. Over the long run you’re going to lose more hands then you win, therefore in order to make money at this game you must bet more money when you have a higher expectancy of winning. Your maximum bet should be at least three times that of your minimum bet. The greater the range is between your maximum bet and your minimum bet the bigger your expected winnings will be, however casino pit bosses know that the game of blackjack can be beaten using this technique and you may get some casino “heat” if your betting range gets too big. Casino heat can come in many forms. The first thing that usually happens is that the pit bosses start watching you. If it looks to them that you are counting cards and varying your bet size on this count they may take a number of actions. They may change dealers, tell the dealer to deal faster, tell the dealer to shuffle more frequently, and you may even get barred from the casino.

## Learn to adjust your playing action based on the true count.

You should know that you can gain an advantage over the house without doing this, however the people who either make a living playing this game or many people who use this game to enhance their income use the count to adjust their playing strategy to gain an additional edge. Although the basic playing strategy defines the best possible action to take for each possible situation when all you know is your hand and the dealer’s upcard, if you know additional information it may be beneficial for you to make some deviations from this strategy. If, for example, you are counting cards and you are dealt a 15 versus the dealer’s 2. There is only one card left to be dealt and your count is -2. This tells you that both the dealer’s hole card and the remaining undealt card have to be 2 – 6 (if the count definition used is the HI-LO). Basic strategy dictates that you stand, but since you know that it is impossible to bust, you hit. This is an extreme example but it demonstrates how the count may be used to alter your playing strategy. You can view the count adjusted tables to see when the best strategy deviates from the basic strategy based on the HI-LO count strategy.

## Scout casinos in the immediate area for the most favorable house rules.

This is a very important point, but obviously cannot be done if there are no other casinos nearby. The reason that this is so important lies in the fact that the house rules dictate what your advantage is. The better the house rules are, the more money you can expect to win in the long run. Also, there is a great disparity of house rules between the casinos, even between casinos next door to each other. One way of putting this concept into perspective is to think of playing blackjack as an investment. You want to find the casino which has the best chance of the highest return on the money you risk.

## Leave the game when you start feeling fatigued.

This goes back to the fact that you can maintain only a slight edge over the house and it doesn’t take many mistakes to lose that edge. As fatigue sets in, players tend to make more mistakes. This may happen without you even knowing it.

## Never drink alcohol while playing.

The reason most casinos offer free drinks to the gamblers is because they know that it can adversely affect their judgment. Drink coffee or some other nonalcoholic drink.