It’s mathematically impossible for either the house or the player to always win at the game of blackjack if both are playing a perfect game. It also comes down to how you interpret the phrase “always win.”
Is it possible to win every hand in blackjack without cheating? No, not even if the other player makes the worst choice on every hand (hitting on anything other than a 21). If both players draw 21, the push negates any win or loss.
By that reasoning alone, a cheater would have to control the deal to prevent the other player from ever drawing a blackjack.
For the sake of reasonable discussion, I’ll interpret “always win” to mean “leave the table with more money than you took in.” I still can’t offer any guarantees, but the following strategies improve your chances of always leaving the table a winner.
1 – Set a Hard Limit on Earnings
Although card counting doesn’t perform the magic people expect, as you become more experienced at counting cards you should see some improvement in your win/loss ratios. This is why, despite all the precautions they take, casinos still pay attention to card counters.
The basic idea in good gambling practice is to only risk losing money you don’t mind losing. If you really want to get ahead, then your thinking should become more conservative as you accumulate more money.
Rather than change your playing strategy, which is why you’re ahead, just call it quits before you’ve won too much.
How much is too much? If the pit boss is paying unusual attention to your table, that could be a sign you should take a break.
2 – Practice Every Chance You Get
Some of the best blackjack experts in the world say they ran through memory exercises for months before taking on the Vegas casinos.
You need to memorize two things to be successful in blackjack—the rules of the game (including table rules) and the best blackjack strategies for each card you’re dealt.
The basic rules of the game are easy to learn. Casinos add their own rules to limit players’ chances of success or to limit their winnings. The change from 3:2 payouts to 6:5 payouts is an example of how casinos are limiting winnings.
You need to react instinctively to the cards on the table. You need to know what you can do and what you should do in every situation.
You won’t get there by losing your money for months or years on end.
3 – Pick Your Tables Carefully
Because casinos have changed many of the old school blackjack rules, standard advice that people followed 10, 15, or 20 years ago doesn’t always apply any more. The old classic blackjack strategy books were great resources in their days, but the world has changed.
Choosing the best blackjack table may be easy. You could walk into a casino that still offers the basic game. You may have to visit a few casinos in your area to find the best game.
Because finding a good table is so hard, some players now prefer playing online blackjack games. They can choose from a variety of casinos, and because of the competition, online casinos offer a lot of different blackjack variations.
When you know the table rules you want to play by, they become part of your strategy as much as part of the house’s strategy.
4 – Bet in Consistent Patterns
Standard card counting technique says you should increase your bets when the deck is favorable. Because everyone shares this advice in books, video tutorials, and articles, it’s not a secret to the casinos.
Varying your bets when the cards are favorable may lead to the unfavorable reaction by the casino—they shuffle the cards.
Although many card counters still swear by the practice, they concede it’s much harder to win this way than in years past. The solo player is less likely to win much money over all than a team.
Instead of trying to win as much as a team wins, be more consistent in your betting. A little bit of subtlety in your patterns may give you the psychological boost you need to keep playing.
How can you be consistent and subtle?
5 – Only Play When the Crowd Is Small
This is more a matter of personal preference. But having spent some time at the blackjack tables, I find it disruptive when people constantly come and go.
That is the exact reason why I stopped trying to count cards.
If you want to socialize, then chat away if the other players are willing to do that. But if your goal is to win, then treat the game like it’s your job. Do the work when you have the fewest distractions.
If you’re a regular high roller, you might be able to request a private table. And this is another reason why some people prefer to play online blackjack over a game in a casino. Whether it’s a live dealer table or a computer game, if you have the table to yourself, you can play without distractions.
6 – Ignore the Extras in the Game
You might be tempted to play a progressive blackjack game or to take insurance. I’ve done both, but in the long run, these game options just suck your money away from you.
The casino throws in extra options to make the game more interesting, but they’re also after your money.
Surrendering is a borderline practice. If you have the option of surrendering, some experts recommend you only do this when the cards are clearly against you.
Some casinos require late surrender, meaning you must wait for the dealer to check for a blackjack in her hand. Some games allow early surrender where you can forfeit based on the cards you see in your hand and the dealer’s face card.
Some surrender articles speak in terms of probabilities.
Your decision to surrender preserves capital. You should take into consideration what the face up cards show, what the table’s rule for dealer stands is (soft 17 or not), and the number of decks in the shoe (4 to 8).
Players usually surrender on a hard 16 if the dealer shows a 9, 10, or ace. They usually surrender on a hard 15 if the dealer shows a 10 or ace.
Some players criticize a player who surrenders. It’s your decision, not theirs.
As a player you want to enjoy what you’re doing even if you’re there to win. It’s hard to concentrate when you feel like every hand is against you. The psychological side of the game is important.
It’s just like going to work every morning, do you love your job or not?
Unless you’re there as part of a team, you don’t have to keep playing if the game isn’t fun anymore. Choosing to play only when you have a good time builds your confidence.
Confidence doesn’t contribute directly to winning, but you’re more likely to trust your choices when you’re confident. Winning makes you confident but winning can be the result of random chance.
Your job begins before you make the first bet. Study the rules, practice good strategy, and set a goal of achieving perfect play through instinct and experience.
Whether you count cards or not, the better you play the game, the more likely you’ll leave the table a winner.