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The Easiest Ways to Get Better Blackjack Results Without Counting Cards

| July 25, 2018 12:00 am PDT
Blackjack Hand with Chips and Improving Blocks

Card counting is the best-known way to gain an edge on the casino. Countless professional players have made a fortune through counting, including Ed Thorp, James Grosjean, Tommy Hyland, and the MIT Blackjack Team.

Given card counting’s fame, some players feel like this is the only way to win money in blackjack.

And considering that it takes major effort to become a successful counter, these same players may give up on blackjack before they even get started.

But the truth is that you don’t have to become a skilled counter to win more often in blackjack. Instead, there are simple ways that you can improve your game and lower the house edge to microscopic proportions.

Keep reading as I discuss several means beyond card counting that will boost your chances of winning. By following these tips, you’ll lower the house edge under 0.5% and practically be on even footing with the casino.

Learn Rules That Affect the Blackjack House Edge

The first thing that you should do before playing a single blackjack hand is learn how the rules alter the house edge.

Casinos offer varying rules based on the type of edge they want. The greediest casinos give themselves more favorable rules and push the house edge towards 2%.

The 2% house advantage isn’t terrible in the overall scheme of things. But the main reason why people play blackjack is that they want to use skill to have a better chance of winning than with the average casino game.

Therefore, you want to find tables that have player-friendly rules. And the best way to find these games is by knowing what to look for.

Here are blackjack rules that can change based on the casino.

  • Payouts for a natural blackjack – A 3-to-2 payout lowers the house edge by 1.4% when compared to a 6-to-5 payout.
  • Double down – Being able to double down on any score lowers the house edge by 0.25% in comparison to only being allowed to double down on 9-11.
  • Number of decks – A single deck gives the player a 0.30% edge. Meanwhile, a 6-deck game increases the house edge by 0.54%, and an 8-deck game boosts the house edge by 0.57%.
  • Dealer’s action on soft 17 – The dealer standing on a soft 17 lowers the house advantage by 0.2% when compared to the dealer standing.
  • Double down after splitting – Being able to double down after splitting lowers the house edge by 0.17%.
  • Re-splitting aces – If you can re-split aces after splitting, the house advantage decreases by 0.08%
  • Late surrender – Although not commonly offered, late surrender lowers the house edge by 0.07%.

You can see here that the natural blackjack payout has the biggest effect on the house edge. You should make it a point to only play at tables with 3-to-2 blackjack payouts because any table with 6-to-5 payouts is ripping you off.

You won’t find many blackjack tables that offer both 3-to-2 payouts and make the dealer stand on a soft 17. But this is a great combination when you find it because a dealer being forced to stand on soft 17 also lowers the house edge.

You’ll also see that the number of decks plays a noticeable role in the house advantage. But almost every game that offers 3:2 blackjack payouts has six or eight decks.

Many Vegas casinos fool players by offering single-deck blackjack with 6-to-5 payouts. While the single-deck aspect makes this seem like a good game, it actually has a 0.83% higher house edge when compared to a six-deck table with 3-to-2 payouts.

Look for Land-Based and Online Casinos That Offer the Best Blackjack Games

Simply knowing blackjack rules is only part of the mission. You must also do research and find which online and land-based casinos offer the best odds.

The easiest way to find a good blackjack game is by playing online. The reason why is because you can quickly navigate to the best blackjack casinos, rather than being limited by your geographical area.

But anybody who lives around Las Vegas will have access to some of the best blackjack in the world. In fact, certain downtown Vegas casinos have just as good of rules and odds as the top online blackjack casinos.

Popular search engines like Google and Bing are your friend when researching the best blackjack games. You can use all sorts of terms to look for internet and land-based casinos with good blackjack rules.

But I can save you some research by covering the top brick-and-mortar and online blackjack games available.

Here are the best games at the time of this post.

Land-Based Casinos

  • El Cortez (Vegas) – 0.30% house edge; $5 minimum bet
  • Arizona Charlie’s Boulder (Vegas) – 0.34% house edge; $5 minimum
  • Boulder Station (Vegas) – 0.34% house edge; $5 minimum bet

Online Gaming Providers

  • Microgaming online casinos (single deck) – 0.31% house edge; $2 minimum bet
  • Betsoft online casinos (single deck) – 0.35% house edge; $1 minimum bet
  • Playtech online casinos (single deck) – 0.35% house edge; $2 minimum bet

The online blackjack games are listed by provider because these companies offer their blackjack variants across a wide range of casinos.

If you choose an internet casino with Betsoft software, for example, you’ll be able to play their blackjack game with a 0.35% house advantage.

Keep in mind that most land-based casinos outside of Vegas feature a house edge ranging from 1%-2%. The reason why is because they must cover dealer salaries, buy blackjack tables, pay pit bosses to watch blackjack games, and spend plenty on utilities.

Maybe you love the land-based blackjack experience and are willing to face a higher house advantage. But if you’re serious about finding the lowest possible house edge, then you should look at the online gaming providers discussed above.

Use a Blackjack Strategy Chart and/or Trainer to Become a Better Player

Finding quality blackjack games can certainly improve your chances of winning. But you must also study basic strategy to make correct plays and lower the house edge even more.

This strategic element is what attracts many people to blackjack in the first place. But it can also backfire when you don’t have any concept of correct strategy.

Luckily, this is an easy issue to fix because there are different tools that can help you become a stronger player.

A blackjack strategy chart is the best place to begin.

Strategy charts show the correct decision to make based on your score and the dealer’s up-card.

As you may know, blackjack actions include standing, hitting, doubling down, splitting, and late surrender (if applicable). A strategy chart shows you exactly which of these actions to take in every situation.

Here’s an example.

  • You’re dealt a pair of 7s
  • The dealer’s up-card is 6
  • The strategy chart suggests splitting your 7s

The best thing about these tools is that they’re easy to find. All you need to do is google “blackjack strategy chart” and look in the images section to find one.

Strategy charts are perfect for developing a good overall feel for the game. And you can memorize perfect basic strategy by staring at one of these charts for long enough.

But some players learn better by doing. And the best tool for learning blackjack through your play is a trainer.

Blackjack trainers are free programs that point out correct and incorrect decisions as you play. Here’s an example.

  • I’m dealt a pair of 10s
  • The dealer’s up-card is 7
  • I split the 10s
  • The trainer shows that this is an incorrect decision

The goal is to develop the perfect basic strategy through repetition. The more you play and make mistakes, the better you’ll be able to identify these blunders and improve upon them.

Blackjack trainers are just as easy to find as strategy charts. Googling the term will bring up a variety of free programs that you can use to improve your game.

I highly suggest using a trainer if you play blackjack in land-based casinos. This is because dealers and other players frown upon anybody who refers to a strategy chart for every decision.

Furthermore, it’s easier to play amidst live casino distractions when you have a subconscious ability to make the right blackjack decisions.

Don’t Fall for Betting Systems and Trend Betting

I discussed in the introduction how using correct strategy and finding good blackjack rules gives you nearly a 50/50 chance to beat the house. And if you really want to go through the effort, you can learn and practice card counting to try and make a long-term profit.

One way that you WON’T beat blackjack is by using gambling systems and trend betting.

Betting systems are popular in many table games because they can manipulate short-term profits.

The downside is that betting systems are also volatile and can lead to rapid losses or blowing all your profits. These strategies call on you to use extreme betting patterns.

The two main types of systems include negative-progression and positive-progression strategies.

A negative-progression strategy sees you increase bets during a losing trend. A simple example is the Martingale, where you double bets following every loss until you win again.

Positive-progression systems involve increasing wagers when you’re on a winning streak.

A well-known example is the Paroli, where you double bets following every win. You continue in this progression until you get three consecutive wins.

Of course, many betting systems are more in-depth than this. The Labouchere (a.k.a. cancellation system) is a good example because it calls on you to create a string of numbers and cancel them as you win.

Here’s an example of how the Labouchere works.

  • Create a number sequence that adds up to your desired winnings (e.g., 4, 2, 3, 3, 5, 4 = $20)
  • Add the first number (4) and last number (4) to determine your bet ($8)
  • You win the $8 bet
  • You cross off the 4 and 4 – new number string is 2, 3, 3, 5
  • Your next bet is $7 (2 + 5)
  • You lose this wager – new number string is 2, 3, 3, 5, 7

One more wagering strategy that you want to avoid is trend betting, where you let winning and losing streaks govern your bet size.

Some bettors commonly wager more money when they lose several hands in a row. The logic is that they’re “due” for a payout because blackjack players win around half their hands (46.3%).

But past results never dictate future results when it comes to fixed odds. It doesn’t matter if you lose seven hands in a row, because you’re no more likely to win or lose the next hand.

I only suggest using blackjack betting systems if you’re doing it for fun. Don’t go into betting more money than you’re comfortable with just because you think these strategies offer a better chance of winning.

Don’t Take Insurance or Make Side Bets

One of the most common pieces of blackjack advice is to decline insurance. And this is good advice because blackjack insurance carries a high house edge.

Insurance is offered whenever the dealer is showing an ace (and sometimes a 10). Accepting insurance means that you bet half your original wager and have a chance to win a 2:1 payout.

Essentially, you’ll break even if you lose to the dealer blackjack and collect the 2-to-1 payout. This is where the term “insurance” comes from.

Considering that insurance has a positive connotation regarding your home or car, many players assume that it’s a good deal in blackjack too. But a closer look reveals that insurance is merely a bad side bet in disguise.

Here’s the math on why.

  • 16 of the 52 cards in the deck have a 10 value (10-K)
  • This leaves a 30.7% chance (16/52) that the dealer will get an ace up-card and a natural blackjack
  • You’re making a 2:1 bet (33% risk)
  • Your risk is 33%, while your chances of winning are only 30.7%

Blackjack insurance has a 7% house edge, making it one of the worst bets in the casino.

Insurance isn’t the only side wager that you need to avoid. Plenty of blackjack tables have other tempting side bets that carry high house edges.

Players are tempted by side wagers because they’re cheap and offer a big payout. But your chances of winning are poor.

Here are some common blackjack side bets along with their house edges.

  • Super Match = 2.60%
  • Match the Dealer = 3.10%
  • 21+3 = 3.20% house edge
  • Perfect Pairs = 4.10%
  • Royal Match = 6.50%
  • Bust It Blackjack = 7.00%
  • Super Sevens = 11.70%
  • 21 Madness = 23.0%
  • Bonus Blackjack = 24.0%

The good news is that blackjack side bets are optional. Therefore, you can play at these tables without making the additional wagers.

But if you can’t keep yourself from trying side bets, then we recommend that you go with ones that give you a decent chance of winning, like 21+3, Super Match, and Perfect Pairs.

Handle Your Emotions at the Table

Blackjack can be an emotional game when considering the winning and losing streaks you go through. Unfortunately, some players aren’t prepared for these emotions and make bad decisions when things are going wrong.

One of the most common ways in which players let their emotions get the best of them is by chasing losses. This commonly happens when a player thinks that their luck must turn around during a bad session.

As I mentioned earlier, blackjack odds don’t change because you’re winning or losing. Therefore, you have just as good a chance to continue your losing streak as you do to turn things around and win lots of money.

A good way to keep your emotions in check is by understanding theoretical losses in blackjack.

Here’s an example.

  • You bet $2,000 total
  • The blackjack house edge is 0.5%
  • 2,000 x 0.005 = $10
  • Your theoretical losses are $10

I’m not saying that you can’t win lots of money in blackjack. In fact, I’ve experienced some hot streaks at $10 and $25 tables and ended up with thousands of dollars in winnings.

But considering that the house still has an advantage against everybody except card counters, you want to be realistic. You run a stronger chance of losing money the longer you play blackjack.

I recommend that you run calculations on theoretical losses and prepare accordingly.

This way, you’ll at least be ready for the worst if it comes. But hopefully luck goes in your favor and you book a profit.

Take Advantage of Blackjack Comps

One more easy way to improve your chances of beating blackjack is by getting comps at both online and land-based casinos.

You must sign up for the players club at a brick-and-mortar casino to begin getting blackjack rewards. You can do so either in person or through a casino’s website.

You’ll receive a players club card, which you can give to the pit boss (possibly via dealer) to have your play rated.

Being rated means that the pit boss looks at your average bet size and estimates the number of hands you play to determine your total betting action. Your comps will be based on a percentage of your total wagers.

Here’s an example.

  • You bet $1,000
  • The comp rate is 0.1%
  • 1,000 x 0.001 = $1
  • You receive $1 in comps for every $1,000 wagered

Blackjack comp rates aren’t very high in online or brick-and-mortar casinos. That’s because this game has such a low house edge, and the casino will lose money if they over-comp players.

But it’s still worth getting rewards on your blackjack play whenever you can. Luckily, you don’t have to try hard to do this at online casinos.

Most internet casinos enroll you in their VIP program as soon as you start placing real money bets. You’ll receive rewards points that can be exchanged for cash.

The only catch is that online casinos don’t reward players in the lowest VIP status as well as land-based casinos do.

Online casino points-for-cash programs usually offer between a 0.03% to 0.05% comp rate, compared to the 0.1% rate at land-based venues.

But internet casinos offer a saving grace in the form of deposit bonuses. These bonuses usually deliver what amounts to a 0.25% comp rate, provided you can meet the wagering requirements (40x on a 100% match bonus).

Nevertheless, you should always read an online casino’s terms and conditions page to ensure that blackjack qualifies for both rewards and unlocking bonuses. This isn’t always the case at every internet casino, which is why you need to read carefully to see.

Also, note that blackjack players don’t unlock deposit bonuses as quickly as slots players. But blackjack never offers the same rewards as slots players get in either a brick-and-mortar or online casino.

Conclusion

It’s possible to lower the blackjack house edge to 0.31% at select land-based and internet casinos. You can also find other casinos that offer tables with a 0.5% house advantage or lower.

Of course, you must keep several things in mind to accomplish this. The main tips covered above include knowing the rules, finding the best games, learning strategy, avoiding insurance/side bets, and getting comps.

This may sound like a lot of tasks. But what’s nice is that you don’t have to spend too much time finding quality games and learning strategy.

Doing these things can help you lower the house advantage by an additional 0.5% to 2.0%. And this gives you a stronger chance to win in the long term.

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