Learn to Earn Cash at Blackjack (Even If You’re Starting From Scratch)
Do you want to know how to make money playing blackjack? The simple way, of course, is by winning. Consistently.
Maybe you’ve heard some stories about people who bought big-ticket items like cars or houses with the money they make playing blackjack. That happens. But countless others have lost for everyone who has cleaned up at the tables. Consistently.
With that said, I can’t see you wanting to give up your day job to pursue a career in playing this game. But if you do, it’s your call. Some might not understand why you want to know how to make money playing blackjack, but I do.
So, here is a little about what you can expect from what I have laid out for you below. This post explains how the house gets its mathematical edge over the player while highlighting other interesting topics—ever wondered how card counters overcome that edge by taking advantage of how the deck changes throughout the game? Stuff like that.
It also explains the types of blackjack games that are extremely tough to make money at unless you get lucky. But for those with no interest in anything beyond good fortune? You might be better suited to playing other games when online gambling for real money.
Let’s get things going by first addressing one of the biggest questions you might have.
Can You Make Money Playing Blackjack Online?
The online blackjack industry would have suffered a brutal death long ago if some players didn’t win.
So, therein lies the answer. But for that industry to exist at all, real money blackjack sites and live dealer casinos need to make a profit. How do they make a profit? Right. By winning more hands of blackjack than its players.
You can win real money playing blackjack. But you can also lose. So, the logical step to mitigating your losses at the tables is to ensure that you cut out many of the mistakes that consistent losers make.
One of the most important ways to do this is to understand the game sure. And I most definitely recommend our guide to playing blackjack to get you started. But if you are playing online, don’t you think where you play matters? I do. Furthermore, I think it matters a lot.
Additionally, the top blackjack sites online provide access to more games and better software. And better software means third-party verified random number generators (RNGs) and games that can’t be rigged to rip you off.
Then, of course, there are bonuses and promotions you can avail of. They can bolster your bankroll and potentially help you make a profit. Add those to multiple banking methods, fast payments, and customer support, and you have a solid platform to get you where you need to go.
I’d recommend checking out the Betway casino for playing real money blackjack online. They are powered by Pragmatic Play and other providers, delivering an immersive experience that rivals anything.
I’m also a fan of Bovada’s blackjack rooms. They have some excellent titles that will satisfy the hunger of any player looking to get down to business in a slick and smooth manner.
How Do You Consistently Win at Blackjack?
Although this post has been written with beginner players in mind, all are welcome to read my tips on making money on blackjack.
It must be pointed out that experts of the game might not get as much out of it. You know, like the people who are already attending the Blackjack Ball. This is an annual event hosted by Max Rubin — its attendees are secrets, but half of the 100 or so regulars claim to be millionaires from their blackjack activities. Not you? Nah. Not me either.
Would they say blackjack is just another casino game? Probably not. But I’m sure they wouldn’t be as blind as to suggest that all casino games have an unassailable mathematical edge over the player. But that is not necessarily the case.
I don’t think you can find any reliable statistics about how many people play blackjack and what percentage of them are long-term winners. Stuff like that is unquantifiable as it would demand a level of access and honesty that is just not feasible.
Now, some statistics and figures point to who wins long-term when playing poker for real money. From that, perhaps we can make some guesses that aren’t too inaccurate about your probability of winning at blackjack in the long run.
According to some heads in the game, the number of poker players who make a consistent profit over a year sits between the 5% and 10% mark of those who partake. This is based on internet play, but I don’t see why similar numbers wouldn’t apply to brick-and-mortar poker.
And as far as making your living from blackjack goes, it’s hard to imagine that anyone except the rare minority wins enough money at blackjack regularly enough to make money at it.
A fair, educated guess is that your probability of winning at blackjack, in the long run, is less than 3%. It might even be as low as 1% or 2%. If only 100 people attend the Blackjack Ball each year, it’s easy to see that the percentage is small, even if there are ten blackjack winners out there who don’t get invited for every player who does get invited and shows up.
That’s because casinos actively try to thwart blackjack players from getting an edge. No such obstacle exists to prevent poker players from making a living, of course. And that’s probably the best divider of the two games.
Differences Between Blackjack and Other Casino Games
Let’s go back to that point about how casino games, including blackjack, all have an unassailable (at least in the long run) mathematical edge.
This is called the “house edge,” and it’s a projection of how much you’ll theoretically lose as a percentage of the money you bet. You can learn how the house edge works in casino games, broadly speaking, within minutes. But the intricacies of how it applies in certain games might take a little longer to understand.
Let’s discover a couple of quick examples of the basics surrounding the edge. Suppose someone says the house edge for a casino game is 5%. That means the casino expects to win 5% of every $100 their customers bet. This is on average and over time.
Your regular, off-the-street blackjack player who knows nothing about the game and probably makes bad decisions at least as often as good decisions will really work against a house edge of 5% or so. If that player bets $100 per hand and plays 50 hands per hour, the casino expects to win $250 from that player in the long run.
Some players come out ahead in the short term — throughout a single session or a single trip to the casino. This is called “variance,” and it’s a side effect of the game’s random nature. In time, if you play enough hands, your actual results will start to resemble the theoretical prediction. This is what mathematicians call the Law of Large Numbers.
In blackjack, the casino gets its edge by making you play your hand first. I’ll assume that even if you’re a beginner, you know how the game is played and that a total of 22 or higher is an instant loss. It’s called busting.
Since you play your hand first, if you bust, you lose — even if the dealer busts when she plays her hand later in the round.
Blackjack differs from other casino games, though, because the deck’s composition changes as you play. Until the dealer shuffles again, the cards that have been dealt are no longer in the game. Since the decks are shuffled and randomized, sometimes you’ll wind up with decks with more of some cards than others.
This is important in blackjack because a natural — a two-card total of 21 — pays off at 3 to 2. A fresh deck gives the house an edge of 0.5% to 1% against the player, assuming the player uses perfect basic strategy and that the casino uses more-or-less standard rules. But if a deck of cards has an unusually high distribution of aces and 10s in it — the only two cards you can use to make a total of 21 — you have the edge over the casino.
That’s where 80% of the mathematical edge most counters get over the casinos comes from — raising the size of their bets when the situation is right. They can also change the odds in their favor by changing their strategy decisions based on the ratio of high cards to low cards in the deck.
No other game in the casino gives you this opportunity to raise your bets when the odds are in your favor — at least no other game makes it reasonably simple to figure out when you have such an edge!
There is more to say about basic blackjack strategy and counting cards in this post, so keep reading!
Does Blackjack Strategy Help to Win Hands?
Again, ask any experienced player how to make money playing blackjack, and they will suggest limiting your chance of losing.
That might appear to be something of a ‘fobbing-off.’ But it’s not. It’s the foundation for you to employ the best blackjack strategy when playing for real money. Since there are a limited number of situations you can face in a blackjack game, the correct mathematical strategy for each situation is easier to determine and memorize than you might think.
This correct mathematical strategy is the one that gives you the highest expected value in each possible situation. How many possible situations are there? Well, the answer to this is based on the nature of the game.
We know the dealer plays with one card face-up and one card face-down. We also know that the dealer can have the following possible cards, each of which is one aspect of a “situation.”
- 10 (including jacks, queens, and kings)
So, if you made ten columns, one for each of the possible face-up cards the dealer might have, you’d have the beginning of a basic strategy chart. The other piece of the puzzle that you have is what you hold in your hand, but that’s more complicated because you have multiple possible hands.
For example, if you have an ace in your hand, you have a “soft total.” Here are the possible soft totals you might be holding.
These are called “soft totals” because you can count an ace as 1 or as 11. It’s impossible to bust a soft total for this reason.
You also have a lot of possible hard totals, which are totals where neither of the cards is an ace. But you should always hit a hard 8 or less, which means that some of those totals can be considered the same.
- Hard 8 or less
- Hard 9
- Hard 10
- Hard 11
- Hard 12
- Hard 13
- Hard 14
- Hard 15
- Hard 16
- Hard 17
- Hard 18
- Hard 19
- Hard 20
You also have the option of splitting pairs, so you must account for all the possible pairs you might have.
So now you have 30 different possible hands to play against ten possible dealer hands, which sounds like 300 possible situations.
It’s slightly fewer than that, though, because many hands can be ignored. For example, you’ll always stand on a hard 17 or higher, so you don’t have to think about hard 18, 19, or 20. You’ll also always stand on a hard 19 or hard 20, which eliminates two more situations. And some hands also get played the same. For example, a hard total of 13, 14, or 15 is always played the same — you don’t have to memorize rules for playing each of them.
And often, the dealer’s total only matters if it’s higher or lower. For example, you’ll always stand with a 13, 14, or 15 if the dealer has a 6 or lower showing, and you’ll always hit if the dealer has a 7 or higher showing. So, you only have to remember two decision points for these three hands, dramatically reducing the basic strategy’s complexity.
The Importance of Basic Strategy in Blackback
It’s beyond the scope of this post to explain a complete basic strategy here, but I need to explain why it’s important to memorize basic strategy and use it every time you play.
The only way to make money consistently at blackjack is to play perfectly all the time. The edge you can gain against the casino is so small that you can’t afford to give up even 0.1%. It won’t be worth your time to play if you do that.
Even with a perfect basic strategy, the casino has a mathematical edge. You can gain 1% or so by counting cards, but if your basic strategy is so bad that you’re operating at a 2% disadvantage because you’re making bad decisions about hitting and standing, you’ll still lose money in the long run. And that’s the opposite of our goal of making money playing blackjack, right? Your journey must start with memorizing and executing the perfect blackjack basic strategy.
If you’re asked if blackjack is a game of skill or luck, I’m sure that you will point to many of the facts above to support your point. Sure, luck is central to winning any casino game—even blackjack. But given the element of skill involved, you should understand the fundamental differences at play here.
Tips for Card Counting in Blackjack
I’ve explained in more blog posts than I can count that you don’t have to memorize which cards have already been played to engage in card counting.
If you want to become a card counter, you must learn to execute a system for tracking the approximate ratio of high cards to low cards left in the deck. The easiest way to do this is to assign a +1 or -1 value to the low cards and the high cards, respectively. Every time you see a low card dealt, that’s one fewer left in the deck. Every time you see a high card dealt, that’s one less in the deck, too.
Remember, you want to raise the size of your bets when there are more aces and 10s in the deck than usual. You want to get more money into action when the probability of getting a 3 to 2 payout is increased. Every time a 10 or an ace comes out of the deck, the probability of that happening decreases.
But every time a card that’s NOT an ace or 10 comes out of the deck, the probability of that happening increases.
Understanding the Hi-Lo System in Blackjack
The basic counting system that most people who want to learn how to become a card counter start with is the hi-lo system, which assigns a value of +1 to 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. It also assigns a -1 value to the aces and the 10s — including the face cards (jacks, queens, and kings).
When the count is positive, you raise the size of your bets. The higher the count is, the higher you raise your bet. When the count is 0 or negative, you bet the minimum. Remember that you must try to conceal what you’re doing when counting. If the casino thinks you’re counting cards, they’ll start shuffling the deck every hand, eliminating whatever edge you might have had.
Or they might ask you to avoid their blackjack games and stick with their other games — where you can’t get an edge. Perhaps they will even ask you to stay out of their casino altogether. Or throw you out. And if you’ve seen that famous scene from the Scorsese classic Casino, I’m not sure a perceived cheater would be popular at the wrong joints.
Remember, you must also account for the number of decks in play.
The more decks the casino uses, the lower each card’s effect becomes. The ratio of one ace out of 52 cards dramatically differs from one ace out of 416 cards. To do this, you convert your “running count,” the number in your head, to a “true count.” You estimate how many decks of cards are left in the shoe, and you divide the running count by that number to get the true count.
Here’s an example.
You’re playing in an eight-deck game, and you estimate that there are five decks left in the shoe. You calculate that the running count is +10. You divide that by 5 to get a true count of +2. When you decide on the size of your bet, you use the +2 figure, NOT the +10 figure.
Sizing Your Bets in Blackjack
You first decide on your betting range in units in the hi-lo system. For example, you might decide to bet between 1 and 4 units per hand.
A unit is the amount you’re betting when the count is negative or 0. It’s your base that you start from. You might decide that $25 is your unit, so your betting range is $25 to $100. Depending on the count, you might bet $25, $50, $75, or $100. To decide the size of your bet, you add the true count to 1. For example, if the count is +1, you’d bet 2 units or $50. If the count is +2, you will bet 3 units or $75.
The most you’d be willing to bet is 4 units, or $100. Why would you limit your top bet, you ask? Well, there are two reasons for this.
The first is that counting cards isn’t a sure thing. You’ve increased your probability of getting a 3 to 2 payout with lots of money in action, but that’s no guarantee.
The second is that the bigger your betting range, the more likely you will catch heat from the casino. Plenty of recreational gamblers let bet rides or double the sizes of their bets, so they’re not necessarily counting cards.
But don’t forget that the dealers and pit bosses often know how to count cards, too. The trick is to get away with what you can get away with and move on. Don’t get greedy, or you might face the cattleprod…
I joke! Of course, that’s not going to happen when you’re playing smart and above board at reputable establishments and the safest online casino, rather than the one that looks like it was designed by a six-month-old panda with a machete.
To end on a sweeter point, you can use plenty of other strategies in blackjack. The hi-lo system is only one of several card counting techniques you can use. Different techniques are more straightforward or more complicated. The easier ones are sometimes less profitable, while the harder ones are sometimes more profitable.
But this one works just fine for beginners or intermediate blackjack players alike.
Can You Count Cards in Online Blackjack?
Can you make money playing blackjack by counting cards online? The short answer is no.
Unfortunately, counting cards will typically only work in brick-and-mortar casinos. Live dealer blackjack sites online, and the old-school RNG variants work in a manner that duplicates the odds you would see at a land-based casino with a real deck of cards. The problem is that they shuffle those cards back into the deck after every hand.
This eliminates the possibility of gaining an edge. But that doesn’t mean that playing blackjack online is a bad idea, far from it. You have numerous advantages over the land-based player, with convenience, more rooms to choose from, bonuses and rewards, and the opportunity to play from the comfort of your own home. Or on the go!
You might have heard of players in the past signing up to get a big bonus at an online casino. They would then use a basic strategy to keep the house edge low enough to fulfill wagering requirements and have a positive expectation. That was super common back in the day. But not anymore.
If you needed to wager your deposit plus a bonus to fulfill your turnover requirements, you could pull it off and show a profit. Perhaps some of the time. But if you need to make x350 times your deposit in addition to the bonus to meet wagering requirements, it will be much harder.
It’s not impossible, of course. But it would take a lot of time and effort to get past a system that has been designed to protect casinos from being fleeced. If you’re thinking of learning how to card count in online blackjack to beat a casino, I would recommend doing something more productive instead.
At the same time, read up on the reasons why online blackjack is not rigged. I’m not intending to put you off with what I am saying! I just don’t want you thinking that there is a way to successfully card count online while making away with an extortionate profit from bonuses!
You know how to make money at blackjack without resorting to get-rich-quick schemes that are all just pie in the sky!
How to Make Money Playing Blackjack – More Advice
Can you make money playing blackjack the right way? Yes. But only if you are willing to hone your craft.
Look, everyone would love to have a Rainman character beside them, counting cards like a supercomputer with a caffeine addiction. But it’s just not going to happen. Even if that did happen, the casinos would be on you like a vulture on roadkill.
Instead of looking for an easy way to win big at blackjack, focus on learning strategy and counting cards if you are in a land-based setting. There are tips for playing on your own and blackjack strategies for tournaments you can read up on, too.
Blackjack is a fun game. It should be, at the very least. Keep it fun by using good judgment and adapting your methods to suit the variant or the setting.
There are many places you can try different types of blackjack online. One of the casinos J.W. Paine recommends is MyBookie. Here’s what he had to say about their offerings!