My wife had never played blackjack before, and we were getting ready to go to the casino. She asked me to give her some tips, and my first thought was that I wished she’d told me a month ago. That way, I had time to teach her more. But I told her everything I possibly could in a half hour.
This article is a summary of the advice I gave her. If you want a quick summary of how to play blackjack without losing your shirt, you could benefit from this page. You can also use it as a beginners guide to playing blackjack if you need to help a newbie on their first trip to the tables.
If you’re an experienced blackjack player, this advice is going to sound simple. One of the problems that experienced players have is they forget what beginners don’t know. I struggle with this, so it’s not an insult. You just need to try to put yourself in the beginner’s shoes and start from the beginning.
When you keep things as simple as possible, you don’t run the risk of confusing a new player with too much information. Here are the five simple steps I taught my wife for her first real money blackjack experience.
1 – Finding a Good Table
It’s easy to get bogged down trying to figure out all of the different blackjack rules variations and how they change the house edge. But when you’re trying to figure out the best way to get started, you need to keep things simple.
Here are the two rules that I told my wife to focus on.
- Play at a table that pays 3 to 2 for blackjack
- Play at a table where the dealer stands on a soft 17
I also told her that if she can’t find a table where the dealer stands on a soft 17, she could ignore that rule.
I understand that if you want to play with a house edge as low as possible, you need to find games with other good rules involving surrender, doubling after splitting, doubling on as many totals as possible, and splitting multiple times. But all of this can quickly get confusing for a new player.
If you’re extremely limited for time, you can drop the second rule and simply make sure you’re getting 3 to 2 on natural blackjacks. The house edge goes up so much when the payout drops to 6 to 5 that you shouldn’t even play.
The difference in house edge between the dealer hitting and standing on a soft 17 isn’t as much, so it’s not as important. Many casinos with several blackjack tables have at least a few tables that pay 3 to 2 and have dealer that stand on a soft 17 rule.
Once you gain some experience at the blackjack tables, I recommend learning about other rules. This will help your long-term results. The best way to get started is to find a 3 to 2 table and start playing.
2 – Never Take Insurance
The second step is to never take insurance. Some dealers call the insurance bet even money because the casino wants you to believe you can break even when you take the bet. The problem is that the only time you break even is when the dealer has a natural blackjack. When the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, you still play your original bet out and lose the insurance bet.
The truth is that insurance isn’t really part of the regular blackjack game. It’s just a fancy way for the casinos to add a profitable side bet to the base game.
When the casino offers you blackjack insurance, the bet is really whether or not the dealer’s down card is a 10-point value card. Insurance pays 2 to 1, but the deck has nine cards that aren’t worth 10 and four cards that are. This is a ratio of 9 to 4, which is worse than the 2 to 1 payout, making insurance a bad bet.
3 – No Side Bets
Insurance is the most common blackjack side bet, but many casinos have other ones available. As a general rule, all side bets offered in a casino should be avoided. This is true for all of the most common blackjack side bets too.
Stick with the base blackjack game that pays 3 to 2 for natural blackjacks and never make any side bets, including insurance.
4 – Strategy Card
Blackjack is one of the games available in the casino where you can use strategy to alter the house edge. Some plays are easy to figure out, but many of them are difficult to figure out when it comes to the best strategy.
The great news is you can simply use a strategy card at the table. Sometimes, other players frown on players who use a strategy card at the table. But casinos don’t mind as long as you don’t slow the game down too much. And once you learn how to use a strategy card, you can quickly see the best play.
After you use a blackjack strategy card for awhile, you start memorizing the most common plays. This helps you make playing decisions faster.
Sometimes, a blackjack dealer will give you advice. If this advice is about the rules and how to play, you should listen to them. But if a dealer tries to tell you how to play a hand that doesn’t agree with your strategy card, you should politely decline their advice and follow the best strategy.
Here’s a link to some blackjack strategies you can print out and take with you to the casino. If you’re playing real money online blackjack, you can keep this chart beside your computer. You can also buy blackjack strategy cards in most casino gift shops.
5 – Make Minimum Bets
The base blackjack game has a house edge for the casino unless you learn some advantage plays like counting cards. The longer you play and the more you risk, the more you’re going to lose. In games with decent rules, the house edge is less than 1%. Some games have an edge of less than .5%. But you’re still fighting against an edge.
This is why you need to make the table minimum bet and stick with it. Many blackjack players ramp up their bets when they get down, basically chasing their losses. While this works sometimes in the short term, in the long run, it just means they lose more money.
If you’re playing $10 a hand at the blackjack table and play 60 hands in an hour, you’re risking $600. You can expect to lose $6 per hour on average at this rate.
The way to play as long as possible is to bet the minimum amount with the lowest possible house edge. I told my wife to take a break every hour and get a snack or walk around for a few minutes. This is one way to reduce the number of hands you play every hour and reduce the total amount you wager.
The five steps on this page can be covered pretty quickly. You can even write them down on an index card so you can take them along with your strategy card to the casino. By following these steps, you can keep the house edge low and make your bankroll last longer.
These steps also give you a chance to win your first blackjack playing session. The odds are still against you, and you’re going to lose in the long run unless you learn some advantage plays. But this simple system does give you a chance to win some sessions.