The first time you take your seat at a blackjack table in Las Vegas, it can be a little overwhelming. Between the quick pace of play, the seemingly experienced players around you, and the temptation to bet a little too much can all contribute to feeling a little lost.
The good news? Blackjack is one of the easier games to learn…at least on a level that will allow you to blend in with the rest of the Vegas gamblers at your table. In this article, I’ll provide some tips to that can have you feeling more confident next time you walk in the casino.
1 – Manage Your Bankroll
Your bankroll is more than just the amount of money you walk in with. It should be made up of a specific money set aside for the explicit purpose of betting. Another number, aside from the overall amount of money you’ve set aside, you need to consider is a percentage. As in, a percentage of your bankroll you’re willing to put on any bet.
The reason for determining a percentage of your blackjack bankroll you’re willing to bet on any one play is that it will prevent you from taking a crushing loss that forces you to walk away empty-handed. If you want to go even a step further, figure out a percentage-range that you can bet within based on your risk tolerance.
Most experts would recommend keeping any one bet below 10% of your overall bankroll. Depending on your total pool of money, you can find out the right number for your situation.
2 – Learn the “Rules”
I put rules in quotes because I’m not talking about the literal rules of the game, but rather the commonly-known “do’s” and “don’ts” – the rules of thumb if you will.
Because there are so many to learn and memorize here’s a list of a few that you can commit to memory quickly and easily.
5s or 6s
Keep in mind that while this is a rule, there are always exceptions to the rule. Effective gambling, especially in cards, means playing the percentages and accepting that the right move doesn’t always result in a win.
When a dealer is showing a 5 or 6, they’re more likely to make a good hand than they are to bust. If you find yourself with a 7, don’t try to double it because you think you have the advantage over the dealer.
Play the Hand, Not the Money
Even if you’re making your biggest bet of the day, don’t throw your strategy (or your common sense) out. For example, if you have 14, don’t decide you’re going to stand because you’re afraid of busting and losing your big bet.
Don’t Take Insurance
Regardless of how much you’re betting on the hand or what cards you have, insurance is never a good idea. Just 4 of 13 cards will result in the dealer getting a blackjack under the ace. This is roughly a 30% chance of hitting blackjack, whereas you’ll only get paid 50% (not 70%) for your insurance. Unless you’re counting cards and know the exact times to do it, insurance isn’t the way to go.
If you’re new to the casino altogether, you might not be aware, but casinos do reward frequent players. Often times, the rewards are based off the time you’re at the table. If you want to rack up more favor with the casino but don’t want to take the risks of a high roller, play at a crowded table. You’ll be able to play for a longer period of time without risking more money.
3 – Play Online First
Nobody likes walking into a scenario where you’re the least-experienced person at the table. One way to ease the anxiety is by learning blackjack by playing online.
Plenty of gaming options exist for players of all levels, but the most important thing is that you’re finding a game feels comfortable for you. For example, you probably don’t want to go into your first few hands at a site that requires high minimum bets.
Not only will you learn a little more about how the game works, but you’ll be much more comfortable upon taking your seat the casino.
4 – Know When to Split
If you don’t already know, when you’re dealt two cards of the same number, you have option to split them and play as two hands or keep it as one. Here’s a list of when to split, and when not to split:
Hand of two 10s: Don’t Split
If you’re dealt two cards that give you 20, one short of the perfect 21, don’t mess it up by trying to split them up. The only possible way you can lose if you’re holding a 20 is if the dealer hits 21…a statistically unlikely proposition.
Hand of two Aces: DO Split
If you’re dealt two aces, it’s a good idea to split them up. It increases your chances of not just hitting a 21, but at least landing more favorable numbers.
Hand of two 5s: Do Not Split (but do double down)
If you get a pair of 5s, don’t split them. Instead, keep them and double down (double your bet). It’s better to have an okay hand that you can win with than two that are unlikely to win.
5 – Mind Your Manners
As an adult, you shouldn’t really need an incentive to be on your best behavior, but the casino will give you a few reasons anyway (mostly in terms of comps). Here’s a list of casino etiquette basics that you should keep in mind when you’re at the blackjack table:
Respect the Dealer
It doesn’t matter if you’re losing every hand – it’s not the dealer’s fault. The dealer doesn’t have any control over the wins and losses, and most of the time they want you to win so you’ll give them a bigger tip.
Speaking of tips – always make sure you leave a few chips for the dealer when you walk away. You’ll receive your share of funny looks from the other participants if you stiff the dealer upon departure.
Don’t Hand Money to the Dealer
This one might be tough for beginners who simply aren’t aware of the casino’s security protocols. When you sit down and give your cash to the dealer in exchange for chips, lay your money on the table. That way the casino’s cameras can monitor the amount of money being exchanged.
Keep Cards on the Table (and use one hand)
Chances are you aren’t looking to cheat the casino out of money, but rules are rules. Never take your cards off the surface of the table and don’t handle them with two hands. Both of these rules are simply designed to keep anyone from switching cards.
Know When You Can Touch Your Chips
Once the cards are dealt and all bets are locked in, don’t touch your chips until the hand is over. If you lose, the dealer will handle taking your chips. If you win, feel free to take them yourself. These rules are in place to make sure players don’t attempt to change their bets during the hand.
Use the Dealer as a Resource
This one might surprise you, but the dealer is usually more than happy to help give you some advice! As previously mentioned, the more you win, the more you’ll (theoretically) tip. It might seem as if you’re on different teams, but that’s really not the case.
Blackjack is a casino staple in terms of table games, and actually provides decent odds if you know what you’re doing. Take these tips, try out real money blackjack online, or take your skills into the Las Vegas casinos and see if you can leave with some money in your pocket!