7 Secrets of Blackjack Success

By Michael Stevens in Casino & Gaming on July 19, 2019

12

Minute Read

It’s easier to become a winning blackjack player than most people believe. You just need to learn a few secrets and follow the steps. The key is figuring out which secrets are useful and which ones you can ignore.

This page includes seven secrets of blackjack success. Once you learn what they are, all you have to do is put them in action. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can start making money at the blackjack tables.

1 – To Be a Winner, Do What Winners Do

I recently read an article that talked about a young man asking a successful business person how to make a lot of money. The business person took the young man aside and gave him one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard.

Here’s what he told the young man.

“If you want to make a lot of money, do the things that the people who make a lot of money do.”

At first, this might seem like the successful business person was brushing the young man off. I’m sure the young man wanted some inside secrets and a fast way to riches. But the advice the young man received was golden.

You can apply this idea to anything you want to do in your life. If you want to accomplish something, find people who have already accomplished the same thing, and then do what they do. How could you possibly come up with a better plan than this?

You don’t look for theories put forth by people who aren’t winning blackjack players, and you don’t try to come up with a new or better way on your own.

Everyone wants a shortcut to success, but when someone gives them a real shortcut, they either ignore it or decide that it’s too hard or that they don’t have enough time. The few that are able to make it to the top are the ones that make a commitment to accomplishing their goal and dedicate the time and energy to make it happen. They never give up, because in their mind, failure isn’t an option.

Successful people know that if others can do it, they can do it too.

They just need to follow one of the paths that have already produced the results they desire.

If you want to be a successful blackjack player, you need to do what winning blackjack players do. This is fairly easy to find out with a little bit of research, but I’m going to include everything you need to know to get started on this page.

Here are the basic steps that successful blackjack players follow.

  • Learn everything about the rules and rules variations
  • Find games with favorable rules
  • Memorize basic strategy and use it 100% of the time
  • Learn a simple and effective card counting system
  • Master the card counting system so they can play for hours on end without making any mistakes
  • Learn how to count cards without getting banned from the casinos
  • Manage their bankroll properly so they never run out of money
  • Look for advanced advantage play methods to boost their income

As you can see, there aren’t that many steps to follow. Each step can be accomplished by anyone who’s willing to put in the time and effort to do it. It’s not easy to master all of the steps, but the path is still simple.

Are you going to make a commitment to become a successful blackjack player and follow through?

If you make the commitment and follow through, you can become a winning blackjack player. The only thing that can stop you is if you quit before reaching your goal.

2 – Insurance

Insurance is almost always a bad bet when you’re playing blackjack. You can find many books and articles that claim that insurance is always a bad wager, but this isn’t true 100% of the time. Never taking insurance is good advice for most blackjack players because they aren’t doing everything in their power to win.

If you don’t count cards and/or use other advantage play methods, then you should never take the insurance bet that the dealer offers when she shows an ace. The casino wants you to believe that insurance is an even money bet, and it’s often called even money.

Blackjack Insurance

This comes from the fact that when the dealer has an ace showing and completes a blackjack, you lose your original bet and win the insurance bet, which makes you break even on the hand. This makes blackjack insurance sound like a good bet.

The problem is that the insurance bet is just a fancy way of creating a side bet that increases the house edge. When you accept insurance, the bet you’re actually making is on the value of the dealer’s face-down card.

When the face-down card is worth 10 points, you win the insurance wager, and when it’s not worth 10 points, you lose your insurance wager. Insurance pays 2 to 1, so for the bet to be fair, the odds of the face-down card being a non-10-point card versus a 10-point value need to be 2 to 1 also.

A deck of cards used in blackjack has 13 ranked cards, from two through ace. The deck has four cards that are worth 10 points and nine cards that aren’t worth 10 points. This makes the ratio 9 to 4. This ratio would need to be 8 to 4 to equate to the 2 to 1 payout on insurance, so this is a costly wager.

If this is true, which it is, how can taking insurance ever be a good wager?

In one of the following sections, I cover counting cards. It’s the most used path to blackjack success and the best one to use to get started. When you count cards, you track the ratio of high to low cards remaining in the deck or shoe.

When the ratio of high cards is much higher than low cards in the remaining shoe or deck, it occasionally reaches a point where insurance becomes a profitable option. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, the insurance bet should be accepted.

After you learn how to count cards, you need to learn the advanced strategy that improves your results. Each card counting system has some advanced plays, usually called index plays or indexes, which you use to adjust the basic strategy at certain counts. This is where you find the information about the only times you should accept the insurance wager.

3 – Straight Math

The reason that blackjack is one of the few casino games where you can win is because of the way the game is designed and the underlying math principles of the game. Edward Thorp published a book called Beat the Dealer that included a great deal of research about the math behind the game of blackjack and how you can use this math to get an edge.

Others have used Thorp’s work to learn more and develop better counting systems, but he laid the groundwork for being a successful blackjack player.

One of the groundbreaking things that Thorp included in his book was how the removal of cards by rank changed your chance to win. This forms the basis of how card counting works.

You can learn more about card counting in section five below.

Once you see how math dictates everything that happens at the blackjack table, you can understand that there must be only one best way to play any hand that you start with. By comparing your starting cards and the dealer’s up card, you can determine the single best play mathematically for every possible combination.

This is called basic strategy, and the great news is that you don’t have to run the numbers on all of the possible combinations because others have already done it. People used to develop the best strategy by hand, but now they use computer power to run millions of hands to determine the best strategy.

Basic strategy is now found on little strategy cards available online and in casino gift shops. You can print off a strategy card online that’s designed for the exact game with the same rules variations for the table where you’re playing.

You don’t have to memorize basic strategy before you start playing blackjack, but you should always use a chart or card until you do have it memorized.

When you use basic strategy for every possible combination of hands, you lower the house edge and will quickly start remembering the most common strategy plays.

With just a little more work, you’re going to have the entire chart memorized.

4 – Have Enough Money

Have you ever heard the saying that the easiest way to end up with a million is to start with two million? This is how most players end up with their money when it comes to blackjack. Any casino games that you play that have a house edge slowly drain your bankroll.

You know that blackjack is one of the few games offered in casinos that can be conquered, but even when you can turn the tables on the casino, you need to make sure you have a large enough bankroll to overcome short-term losses. Even the top advantage blackjack players in the world have losing streaks.

The best bankroll for a successful blackjack player is one that’s big enough so you can play in any game that offers favorable rules and make the highest bets allowed when the count is in your favor. Most of us don’t have an unlimited bankroll, so you have to limit your play to make sure you don’t go broke when you experience a downswing.

Blackjack Tips - Have Enough Money

You can find a wide range of bankroll guidelines in books and in articles, but I always fall on the conservative side. I want to have hundreds of times the largest bet I’m going to make in my bankroll because I never want to have to worry about the size of my bets while I’m concentrating on playing.

You don’t have to carry your entire bankroll with you, but you should always take enough to the casino so you don’t run out, even when you have a poor playing session.

The problem with having hundreds of big bets for your bankroll is that it makes your top bet fairly low, or requires a huge bankroll.

Here’s an example.

If your bankroll is $10,000, and you want to have 100 times the top bet you make, this means that you can only bet $100 per hand maximum. It’s hard to make much money, even as a great card counter, with $100 maximum wagers.

The truth is that most blackjack players don’t use such a conservative approach to their bankroll. And if you’re a good card counter, you probably don’t need to either, but you do want to make sure you have a big enough bankroll to not go broke during downswings.

5 – Card Counting Made Easy

While there are a couple other ways to be a successful blackjack player, which I cover in the next section, the most common path is to count cards. It’s not actually that hard to learn, but most players don’t even try because they don’t think they can do it.

The fact is that anyone who can learn about the blackjack rules variations and memorize basic strategy has the skills to count cards. It just takes some work.

Here’s a quick tutorial to help you get started counting cards.

The first thing you need to do is choose a strong counting system that’s not too hard to learn. Card counting systems are often classified by levels, based on the maximum amount you have to add or subtract to a running count.

A level-one system requires adding and subtracting one from a running count, and a level-two system requires adding or subtracting one or two from a running count. You can find several good level-one systems, so I suggest starting with one of them.

The power of card counting comes from keeping track of the ratio of high and low cards remaining in the shoe or deck. You keep track of this ratio by tracking the cards that have been played. When low cards are played, you add to a running count, and when high cards are played, you subtract from a running count.

As the count gets higher, the edge moves more in your favor. When the count gets lower, the edge moves in the casino’s favor.

The most popular card counting system is the hi lo. It’s a good system, and if you decide to use it, you can learn it as easily as most systems, and it’s powerful enough to use for the rest of your life. I recommend the system developed by Arnold Snyder called the Red 7 system.

The reason I suggest the Red 7 count is because it eliminates the need to convert the running count to a true count.

The truth is that once you learn how to use your chosen counting system, you won’t have any trouble making the conversion required in a system like the hi lo, so the system isn’t as important as learning how to use it without making mistakes.

Each card in the deck is assigned a number. Some cards are +1, some cards are -1, and some cards are 0. As you see cards, you add or subtract the number assigned to them to or from your running count. Most running counts start at zero, but if you don’t like to use negative numbers, you can adjust your starting count to 10.

Once you choose your system and assign the numbers to each card, start practicing with a single deck of cards. Flip cards over one at a time and keep your running count. Keep practicing until you can keep the count while turning the cards over as fast as possible. Then add more decks of cards until you can count down an eight-deck shoe as fast as you can turn the cards over.

The next step is to turn the cards over in two, three, and four card hands. Keep doing this until you have the running count mastered. This doesn’t take as long as you might think. With just a few hours of practice, you can learn to keep the running count well.

One quick tip is that when you turn cards over in hand sizes, you learn the high and low cards cancel out, so you just treat them as zero.

A hand that has a two and a queen means that you add one and subtract one, so they cancel each other out.

After you master the running count, learn how to convert it to a true count if your system requires a conversion. You learn this the same way as you learned how to count: practice.

The final step is to learn the index plays for your system. Don’t worry about these plays until you master counting, and the best way to memorize them is to learn them one at a time.

Once you have all of these things done, you’re now a card counter. Go to the casino and practice your new skills in live play. If you followed the steps, you won’t have any problem keeping up with the pace of play.

Your system also has suggested bet spreads to maximize your profit. By betting higher amounts when you have an edge, you can overcome the normal house edge and show a profit. You need to learn the best bet spreads for your system while also keeping them reasonable enough to not get banned from play.

You can learn a little more about this in the final section of the page.

6 – Advanced Tips

Congratulations! If you’ve followed the steps presented on this page so far, you can be a winning blackjack player. The secrets to blackjack success aren’t really anything special, and now you know all of the important ones. You can also see that anyone can use these secrets to improve their results.

Blackjack

Once you master card counting, there are a few advanced secrets that you can use. These aren’t as commonly available as card counting opportunities, but if you can find these opportunities, they can improve your results more.

Shuffle tracking and ace sequencing are both advanced techniques, and they’re related. In hand-shuffled blackjack games, you might be able to track a section of discards that have a high number of aces and/or 10-point cards through the shuffle.

The way to do this is to track where slugs of cards that have a lot of high cards get placed in the discard tray. Watch this slug of cards as the deck gets shuffled. If you can track the slug, you can predict when the high-card slug is likely to be dealt.

Ace sequencing works much the same way. When three or more aces are put into the discard tray together or close together, you can watch for when they start coming back after the shuffle. By knowing when an ace or high card is likely to be dealt, you can increase your bets. When you have a higher chance of receiving 10-point cards and aces, it increases your edge.

The other advanced tip is called hole carding. Hole carding is possible when a dealer isn’t trained well and shows the value of their face-down card sometimes. You have to pay close attention to catch this, and it helps if you sit directly in front of the dealer or to the opposite side of their dealing hand.

These advanced techniques aren’t possible in many games, so you shouldn’t worry about them until after you master card counting. But once you learn how to win counting cards, you should look for opportunities to use these advanced tips.

7 – Don’t Get Banned

The only thing between you and blackjack profits once you master counting cards is being able to play in the casinos. Casinos don’t like card counters, and when they think you’re counting, they will ban you from playing.

You can use many different techniques to avoid getting banned, and you should use as many as you can. One way the casinos identify card counters is by watching their bet spread. The higher your bet spread, the more heat you’re going to come under. But if you don’t use a big bet spread, it reduces your profits.

One way to reduce your chances of getting banned is to move around often. Change tables and go to another casino to play. This reduces your time at the tables, but if you get banned, it reduces your playing time even more.

Develop camouflage techniques as you play and always watch for extra attention coming your way from the pit boss and other casino personnel. If you start feeling the heat, get out as fast as possible without making a scene.

Conclusion

To become a successful blackjack player, just do what other successful players do. Now that you know exactly what you need to do, the only thing stopping you from blackjack profits is not taking action.

Use the seven tips on this page, and you’re going to see immediate improvement in your results.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016.

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