How to Play Blackjack Like a Pro
Becoming a pro-level blackjack player doesn’t happen by accident, and it doesn’t happen overnight. These players have a commitment to learning the game and its intricacies, applying complex strategies and building up rock-hard discipline.
But while mastering the game isn’t easy, laying out the steps it takes to get there is. So we’ve rounded up our expert advice on how to play blackjack at a casino – like a pro!
Play every variation of the game
One thing every pro player has in common is that they really, really know the game. They’ve played every blackjack variation at countless casinos and nothing can surprise them.
To be 100% comfortable at the table, you need that experience. If you’re a new player, devote some time to different games: double exposure, multi and single deck, European, perfect pairs, and so on. Use demo games where possible (to preserve cash) and just develop your familiarity with blackjack.
Adopt + learn basic strategy
The first step for any serious player is learning basic strategy. Basic strategy defines the optimum approach for every hand. To play blackjack like a pro, basic strategy is non-negotiable.
Getting started with basic strategy is actually surprisingly easy. All you need to do is download a basic strategy card, a colour-coded grid that tells you whether to hit, stand, split, or double for each hand.
Practice, practice, practice
Say you’re dealt a 5 and a 7, total of 12. Generally you’re going to hit. However, if the dealer’s up card is 4, 5, or 6, it’s mathematically correct to stand instead*. These are the subtle nuances which basic strategy will bring to your game.
*We won’t go into detail on why this is the best move. For now, you just need to accept that basic strategy does work and has been thoroughly vetted. The key now is to practice as much as possible using demo RNG blackjack or, if you can’t find that, the lowest stakes possible.
Start playing live dealer or higher stakes tables
Once you’ve got your strategy pretty well-honed, it’s time to put it to the test. Start with paid RNG games and see how low you can keep the house edge. As you improve, increase the bet amounts slightly (only slightly!) and then move onto live dealer blackjack.
Learn to count for live dealer games
Memorising the strategy card will make huge changes to your game – but it’s not enough to play like a pro. The world’s top players add something special on top of this: card counting.
We’ve put together a detailed step-by-step guide on how to count and how to improve at counting. Counting requires extensive training, concentration, and discipline to work.
But once you’ve memorised the values and got your head around running vs true counts, successful counting is all about practice. Find a live dealer table with appropriately low betting limits and get to work – you’re going to need many, many hours of practice!
Identify the tables which benefit you most
You’re now equipped to handle yourself at the table. One of the worst blackjack mistakes a player can make is to throw it all away by playing at the wrong tables. There are several keys to look for at any table:
- Soft 17 stand – You want a table where dealers stand on soft 17
- 3:2 payout – Many tables now offer a 6:5 payout for blackjack, instead of the traditional 3:2. This more than doubles the house edge with basic strategy, so avoid them at all costs.
- Doubling rules – Different tables have different rules for doubling and splitting. We sometimes want to double down and if it’s not in the rules, you’ll need to adapt.
- Number of decks – Fewer decks is better, but it’s important when counting to know how many are in play.
- Surrender – Some tables let you surrender (fold) your hand after seeing the dealer’s card, in return for 50% of your stake.
- Shuffling – Auto shufflers (CSMs) make counting impossible. Look for tables with manual shuffling.
The specific table rules are crucial to success in blackjack. If you want one pro tip for how to play blackjack at a casino, let that be it.
Core discipline rules to play like a pro
If you’re looking at how to play blackjack in a casino, tips and practicing your skills get you a long way. But even with this, something else separates the elite pros from everyone else: discipline.
It’s knowing how to behave at the table and what it takes, long-term, to be successful. Here are our main tips.
Don’t chase ‘quick wins’
Blackjack is all about the long game. A successful blackjack session will always be measured in hours, not minutes. Be sure to stick to your strategy and keep plugging away; you know you’re doing the right thing, it’s just a matter of staying cool, calm, and collected.
If you’re counting, remember to pick your moments for increased betting and don’t try to chase it too quickly.
Play with ice in your veins
There is no place for emotions at the blackjack table – not if you want to win consistently. Sometimes it’s frustration after a long run of lost hands or unlikely busts; other times players have a gut feeling that this hand is the one.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as inertia in blackjack. Keep calm, stick to the plan, and the results will come.
Only play alert and sober
If you’re exhausted from a lack of sleep, or have just had a few beers, don’t go anywhere near the table. You’ll make mistakes with your strategy and keeping the count will be impossible. Worse, you’re likely to make emotional, high-stakes bets that will cause heavy losses.
Never wager what you can’t afford
Bankroll management is an integral part of the professional blackjack player’s toolkit. Aim for a bankroll of approximately 50x the minimum bet at your table. You know what you’re comfortable betting by now and there’s nothing to be gained from joining high-stakes tables you can’t afford to lose at.