What is the Trick to Blackjack?

Player Moving Chips on a Blackjack Table

I’m always shocked to dig around in Google Search Trends. I get a kick out of looking up gambling topics and reading the questions people are looking to get answered.

I’ve been seeing a trend lately – more people than ever are asking a very specific question about blackjack. Specifically, they want to know “what is the trick to blackjack?”

When people say, “what’s the trick to ____,” they mean “what’s an easy way I can get to my desired result?” I think there are many ways to play blackjack well, not just one special tactic.

In no particular order, I’d say the trick to blackjack is to find the best game rules, play according to basic strategy, ignore the vast majority of what you read about blackjack online, and be sure to enjoy yourself.

This post is aimed at all those people lining up to ask Google what the trick is to winning at and enjoying blackjack even more.

The Trick to Blackjack is to Be Really Really (Really) Rich

I wanted to mention an unsung trick to being good at blackjack – bring a lot of money to the casino and tell the casino about it ahead of time.

If you’re a really rich guy and you are willing to gamble a million dollars over a weekend, the casino will treat you like a king.

You may even get to set up your own VIP blackjack table, set your own rules (within reason), ask for things like loss rebates, and basically be the Biggest Thing in Blackjack for a couple of days.

Since most of us are never going to know what it feels like to gamble away seven figures over a weekend, I wanted to get this (mostly a joke) trick to winning at blackjack out of the way right at the top.

The Trick to Blackjack is Finding the Best Rules Possible

Let’s start this section with a little parable. On my last trip to Vegas, I stayed almost exclusively downtown. It’s not a normal thing for me, but due to the circumstances of my trip, I didn’t set foot anywhere near the Strip.

I spent most of my time the first night playing blackjack at Four Queens, thanks to a promotion I needed to cash in and a couple of friends who happened to be playing there at the same time. I wasn’t super happy about it – the best game I could find was a 2-deck shoe with a $15 minimum, but the house rules only allow doubling down before splitting, so it gave the casino an edge of almost 0.7%.

The next day, I walked over to The D, having heard from some players at Four Queens that they had way better blackjack rules available. I was shocked to find nothing but 3:2 blackjack at The D, and the games were either 2-deck or 6-deck shoes with a $10 bet minimum. The best-odds table at The D gave the casino an edge of just 0.46%, at least by my own calculations.

Closeup of Blackjack Table

I told you all that just to say this – sometimes you can walk 50 yards up the street and find a game with much better rules. In a city like Las Vegas (or Atlantic City or Tunica), there’s no reason to play an inferior game. Don’t settle for a game with garbage rules. In most US gambling jurisdictions, you can easily find a better table.

The Trick to Blackjack is Playing Perfect Strategy

Blackjack offers the player so many advantages.

We get paid extra for a natural blackjack, while the house doesn’t. Splitting pairs lets us improve weak hands and take advantage of a weakness on the part of the dealer. We have total freedom in terms of what moves we can make with our hands – the casino doesn’t have that luxury, bound as it is by the rules of the table. We can double down in certain circumstances, doubling our stake when it’s to our advantage – another thing the casino can’t do.

The existence of basic blackjack strategy is another feather in the player’s cap.

Perfect strategy for various blackjack rules has been worked out for decades. Charts showing you the ideal move for every hand in the game are ubiquitous, free online and cheap at the casino’s gift shop.

People way smarter than me have codified exactly how much playing perfect strategy helps gambler’s odds. At a typical US blackjack table, a player not following basic strategy gives the house an edge of about 8%. That same player, following a blackjack strategy chart, gives the casino an edge of just about 0.5%.

That’s a massive difference in odds, especially considering the low cost (literal and figurative) of following basic blackjack strategy.

The trick to blackjack is acquiring a set of blackjack strategy charts and then using them when you play. Your bankroll will last longer, and you’ll enjoy yourself more.

The Trick to Blackjack is Ignoring Bad Blackjack Advice

If you believe everything you read on the Internet, any idiot can stumble into a casino and walk away a millionaire. They make beating blackjack look as easy as beating a dead horse.

You can still buy slot machine-defeating gizmos on Amazon. eBooks promising untold riches from the manipulation of video poker games are as popular as ever. And blackjack strategy promising “can’t-lose” betting tactics is still separating fools from their money.

The world’s best blackjack players don’t play with a positive expectation – they take advantage of the wild and frequent luck swings built into the game’s rules, as well as advanced knowledge of the makeup of a blackjack shoe, to occasionally turn a profit. The math that makes up the game is designed to produce a profit for the casino, even against players armed with strategy charts and other strategies.

If the mathematics behind the game don’t convince you, think of it this way – why would any casino, operated by businessmen and often supported by boards of directors and stockholders, host a game that consistently cost them money? They wouldn’t – they’d simply shut it down and replace it with another dozen slot machines.

Blackjack Bets

You can’t beat blackjack by playing only during the day, or only at empty tables. You can’t beat blackjack by manipulating the size or frequency of your bets. You can’t beat blackjack by palming chips or cards – this tactic is particularly dangerous, as you could be committing a serious felony along the way.

Are there people who make their living playing blackjack? Probably not anymore. The rules are too tight and casinos way too aware of the tactics once used by teams of blackjack players to come as close to guaranteeing a return as you can. Rule changes and increased casino oversight make the playing conditions less than ideal.

Attempting to beat blackjack using a trick or betting tactic is a great way to hand even more of your bankroll over to the casino than you would playing the game the right way.

The Trick to Blackjack is to Enjoy Yourself

This is the ultimate trick, the tactic that can turn a losing session into a winning one.

If you have a great time, you won’t care how much you lose (within reason).

A memorable night with friends, around a high-energy blackjack table, with drinks flowing and everyone enjoying themselves – that’s memorable and desirable no matter the cost.

Think about it like this – if I take four buddies to play a round of golf at a decent course, we’re going to spend a lot. Between the greens fees, breakfast before and lunch after, and all the rest, we’re easily going to spend $150 or more apiece. We play and hang out for four or five hours, then it’s over.

That’s not very different from a night playing at a busy blackjack table at $5 or $10 a hand.

The people who figure out how to have fun playing blackjack are the ones who have truly figured out the trick to the game. The money you spend playing blackjack isn’t about chasing that winning streak that puts you over the top, it’s about the laughter and the jokes and the low stakes ups and downs along the way.

If you want to really beat blackjack, try increasing the entertainment value of the game. That may mean placing minimum bets. It may mean finding a table with a truly entertaining dealer. It might mean buying rounds for the group and really tying one on – safely, of course.

Whatever fun looks like for you and yours, whatever you can do to increase it is a winning tactic at the blackjack table.

In Summary

There’s not one trick to beating blackjack – there’s a bunch of them.

Following basic strategy, ignoring voodoo gambling strategy, and going out of your way to improving the entertainment value of your bankroll are the most powerful things blackjack players can do right away to beat the game more consistently.