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How to Become a Better Blackjack Player

15 December 2012

By Henry Tamburin

If you are a recreational blackjack player, you don’t need a Ph.D. to become a better blackjack player. You just need to know which games to play and how to play them. Here is a roadmap just for you on how to become a better player.

Game Selection

Nowadays, sitting at the first empty seat you spot at a blackjack table isn’t a smart thing to do. The reason is that not all blackjack games are the same anymore. Here are a few guidelines to help you pick the best game.

1. Do NOT play at any table where a blackjack is paid at 6-5 (or worse, even money). You should only play a game where a blackjack is paid at 3-2. (Usually the playing rules, including the blackjack payoff, are posted somewhere on the table, or, the payoff for a blackjack will be imprinted on the cloth layout. If you are not sure, ask the dealer.)

2. Do NOT play on any table that uses a continuous shuffling machine (known as CSM). You’ll know if the automatic shuffling device is a CSM if the dealer places the discards from every round back into the CSM (another hint is the table usually doesn’t have a discard tray). Play blackjack on tables where the dealer manually shuffles the cards or the table has a traditional automatic shuffler.

3. All else being equal, a blackjack game that uses a single deck or two decks of cards is better than one that uses six- or eight-decks. However, that is not always the case. You must check the mix of playing rules. Player-favorable rules include dealer standing on soft 17, double on any two cards and after pair splitting, surrender, resplit aces, and, of course, getting paid 3-2 for a blackjack. Rules that increase the house edge include using multiple decks of cards, dealer hitting soft 17, restrictions on what hands you can double down, and paying only 6-5 or even money for a blackjack. The house edge should be about 0.5% or lower for any game that you play. (If you are unsure what the house edge is, use the Blackjack House Edge Calculator located on the blackjack page at to compute the house edge for any game. Just key in the number of decks of cards and the playing rules and the calculator will compute the house edge).

Playing Strategy

If you want to a better blackjack player, you must learn the basic playing strategy. There is no other way.

The basic playing strategy tells you the correct way to play all of the 550 different possible hands that will arise when you play. You must memorize the basic strategy and be able to make the correct play with speed and accuracy. The basic playing strategy will vary slightly based on the rules and the number of decks of cards. You can get an accurate basic strategy for blackjack in the book Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge! by Frank Scoblete.

Using the basic playing strategy accurately when you play will make you a better player. However, if you do nothing else to enhance your skills, at the end of your playing career, you will lose more money than win. If you want to be a better blackjack player, you must take the next step and learn when to bet more.

When to Bet More

Many players use progressive betting systems when they play blackjack but they don’t work (never have, never will). You have to discipline yourself to increase your bets only when you have the edge on the next hand (rather than increase your bets based on whether you won or lost the previous hand). Here is one simple way to do this.

Learn to scan the cards

You can use this technique in single- and double-deck games. After a shuffle, there is a balance (or equal number)) of small cards (2s though 6s) and large cards (10s, picture cards, and aces) in the deck(s) of cards. This balance can change depending upon the mix of cards dealt from one round to the next. By scanning all the cards that have been played on each round, you will be able to get some idea whether there were a greater number of small cards compared to high cards played in previous rounds. If your scanning indicates that more small cards have been dealt out compared to high cards, then the remaining unplayed cards must be richer in high cards (inverse relationship). When the latter occurs, the edge shifts to the player and you should bet more. Scanning is not an exact science and it takes a little practice; however, if you only increase your bets when the unplayed cards are richer in high cards, you will be taking a big step towards becoming a better player.

The next thing you can do is to learn a simple card counting system like Speed Count (which can be learned in less than an hour), which will further improve your edge when you play blackjack.

I hope you will discipline yourself to incorporate some or all of the above tips when you play blackjack.

Henry Tamburin is the editor of Blackjack Insider Newsletter ( and host of For a free three-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter, go to
Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at

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