27 Aug

How to Gain an Edge at Blackjack

Success at blackjack requires more than knowledge of the game. Consistent winners know that smart card play is only part of the formula for profiting at the tables. They base their blackjack strategies on a foundation of sound money management and taking advantage of all of the factors of the game within their control. And the very first step is to understand the financial limits imposed by the size of the bankroll available.

Casino Odds on Various Games

Begin with a Bankroll

In its simplest terms, “bankroll” refers to the total amount of money a player has for wagering. It is whatever the player is willing to risk during a single session, a day, or any other designated period of play. Most players will bring to the table a bankroll equivalent to at least the amount they would like to win and never more than they can afford to lose.

The size of the bankroll dictates the size of the bets that can be made. Specifically, the bankroll should be at least 50 to 100 times the player’s average bet. It is a major mistake to sit at a table where the minimum is too rich for the level of funds available. With $500 in hand, a player can comfortably wager $5~$10 a hand. But moving to a table with a $25 minimum requires a bankroll of no less than $1,250 and preferably $2,500 or more.

Managing Expectations

Once the bankroll has been established, the next step is goal setting. Of course, it is unrealistic to think $100 can be turned into $500 at a $2 table. Similarly, if one expects to earn a certain rate per hour of play, it will likely lead to disappointment, too. Instead, a reasonable and achievable objective should be set, such as doubling the bankroll or being satisfied to end up with a profit of 50% or more.

As soon as the goal has been reached, the original bankroll should be put away and not touched again until the next session. Any continued play with “house money” should be treated as a brand new bankroll.

Also, the player must be ready to limit losses. If half the bankroll has been lost, it may be time to call an end to the session, else move to a table with a lower betting minimum so that the size if the average wager can be reduced. Losing is as much a part of the game as winning, and smart players prepare for the eventually in advance of sitting down to play.

Location, Location, Location

Apart from financial considerations, the next most important decision a blackjack player can make is where to play—not just the table or the game selected, but also the casino itself. Does it offer incentives like a Player’s Club that rewards loyal play with gifts, cash, and comps? Are there any special promotions to take advantage of? Is credit available? Casinos are in competition for players’ action and it pays to shop around for one that does more than offer tables, dealers and cards.

Another consideration in choosing where to play is the atmosphere of the casino floor. Is it full of distractions, such as loud music, general noise or sports events shown on big-screen TVs? Are there crowds of visitors jostling around the pit area? Are complimentary drinks readily available at the tables? And what about smoke-free areas? It is important to pick a casino that “feels” right.

Turning the Tables

Then there is the question of where to sit down. Each blackjack table features its own version of the game. Dealers vary widely, too. Before taking a seat, it is important to know exactly what’s being played, what’s allowed and what’s not. Choose a table with the advantageous House Rules, such as a dealer who must stand on soft 17. Avoid those that pay only 6:5 for a natural blackjack instead of 3:2. The best players know exactly what game they want to play and will not settle for less than optimum conditions.

Beyond the House Rules, there is the human factor to be considered, starting with the dealer. It is advisable to seek out dealers who are friendly, have a consistent speed of play, assist beginners and do not tolerate bad table manners. But finding an inexperienced dealer that makes mistakes can also prove beneficial to players who know how to take advantage of situations that arise.

As for the other players at the table, does everyone look happy? Do they all have large stacks of chips in front of them? Or is everyone looking depressed, with several down to their last few chips? Before taking a seat, watch a few hands and see how they play. Are they novices who are learning the game, partiers getting drunk, or “table bosses” telling everyone else how to play? If so, move on. The best option may be to play alone against a dealer—and that should be considered as part of planning long before heading off to the tables.

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