Blackjack is a favorite among gamblers who like using skill to win money. This game is also popular because you can reduce the house edge to less than 1% with proper strategy and the right rules.
Blackjack gives you around a 50/50 chance of beating the casino. Of course, even with these odds, you need some luck to win in any given session.
How do you get luck on your side in blackjack?
Find out as we cover more on blackjack luck, looking for the best rules, and everything else you can do to improve your fortunes.
Anybody who's played blackjack for a considerable amount of time has gone through winning and losing streaks.
It's common to win three or four hands in a row and get on a hot streak. It's also common to lose this many consecutive hands.
What is it that makes you go through these streaks in every blackjack session? The answer comes down to odds and variance.
Your chances of winning a given blackjack hand are 46.36% when not including ties. This isn't as good as the low house edge would make it seem.
But you can also perform actions that the dealer can't, such as doubling down and splitting hands. Casinos also give you a larger payout for natural blackjacks, worth either 3:2 or 6:5.
When you're on the wrong side of luck and losing several hands, it can seem like you're cursed. But your odds are good enough that you'll still win a fair number of hands.
Long story short, you'll experience almost as many winning streaks as losing streaks while playing blackjack.
Variance is the measure of how far results deviate from the statistical norm. In blackjack, this means measuring how far your results will deviate from your 46.36% chance of winning hands.
Blackjack gives you such a good chance to win in comparison to other casino games that the variance is relatively low.
In other words, you'll rarely have losing streaks that last 8 to 10 rounds like you would with a slot machine or video poker game.
The downside to this low variance is that you also won't win very big payouts in relation to your bet size. If you're wagering $25 per hand, you're only going to earn $25 in profit, unless double down, splitting, or natural blackjack opportunities arise.
I'm not saying that blackjack doesn't involve a fair amount of luck like other casino games do. But the low variance means that you won't go through wild swings, either.
Now that we've covered what luck is, it's time to begin discussing how you can improve your fortunes. And the best way to get luck on your side is by making sure that you take advantage of the best available rules.
Many blackjack games differ in terms of the exact rules they offer. And this is why one table can offer a completely different house edge than the next.
You want to make sure you're on the good side of these rules. That said, check out the variable blackjack rules below and what you should be looking for:
You can find good blackjack games with a low house edge in both brick-and-mortar and online casinos. And this becomes easier when you know what rules to look for.
You won't find any perfect blackjack games that offer the combination of a single deck, 3:2 payouts, doubling down on any total, and the dealer standing on a soft 17.
Most brick-and-mortar casinos feature some unfavorable rules that push the house edge towards 2%. But there are also casinos with good rules that cater to blackjack players.
The Las Vegas casinos El Cortez, Treasure Island, and Boulder Station offer excellent blackjack tables. El Cortez is especially good because they have low-stakes blackjack tables with a 0.30% house edge.
Of course, not everybody is going to fly to Vegas just to play the best blackjack games. But again, the key is that you learn the rules so you can spot favorable games in your area.
Another option is to look for the top online blackjack games, which is perfect when local casinos don't offer good rules.
Microgaming's single-deck blackjack (a.k.a. Vegas Downtown) is the best you'll find online because it has a 0.31% house edge. Betsoft and Playtech also offer quality blackjack games with a 0.35% house advantage.
Shopping for the lowest house edge is easier in online blackjack, since you can quickly navigate from casino to casino.
Blackjack gives you a large degree of control over what kind of house edge you're facing. In addition to looking for the most favorable rules, you can also use strategy to swing the odds more in your favor.
Obviously, luck and strategy are on opposite ends of the spectrum. But who wants to go to the blackjack table and give up several house edge percentage points by relying purely on luck?
What's more is that basic blackjack strategy is easy to learn. All you need to do is search for "blackjack strategy" through Google or Bing and head to the images section.
This will bring up a number of blackjack strategy charts, which show what decisions you should make based on the dealer's upcard and your score. You'll be using perfect basic strategy as long as you stick to the chart.
You reduce the house advantage when you make the correct decisions every time. And this also shortens the degree to which you're relying on luck to bring you blackjack winnings.
Let's discuss more blackjack strategy concepts worth considering below.
Another tool that you can use to improve your blackjack skills is a trainer. These free programs point out when you make incorrect decisions while playing blackjack games.
The goal is to gradually reduce the number of mistakes you make and learn through repetition. Blackjack trainers are especially nice when you play in land-based casinos and don't want to refer to your strategy chart every time.
Many blackjack players have experienced sessions where they win a lot in the beginning, only to keep playing and lose everything. This leads to the common phrase "I should've quit while I was ahead."
Blackjack makes this difficult, though, because it gives you the false assumption that your winning streaks will continue.
But as we discussed earlier, the casino has an edge on blackjack players. And this is why you eventually lose the more you play.
It's wise to follow the old adage of quitting while you're ahead when winning by a comfortable margin.
The general population has a misconception that blackjack card counters win all the time. The truth, though, is that card counters need luck almost as much as casual players.
Successful card counters only have an edge ranging from 0.5% to 1.5%.
This means that even with their skill, card counters have a very thin margin over the casino. They're almost as likely to lose in a session as they are to win.
If you ever become interested in pursuing card counting, note that this isn't a continual gold mine every week. Instead, you'll be dealing with plenty of variance as you look to make long-term profits.
The two most notable seats at a blackjack table are first base and third base.
First base acts first in a blackjack hand, and their seat is to the dealer's immediate right. Third base acts last in a hand, and their seat is to the dealer's immediate left.
The reason why beginners shouldn't sit at third base is because this seat affects players' short-term luck. Furthermore, making a bad play that helps the dealer win at third base will draw the ire of the table.
Let's look an example:
It's worth pointing out that third base doesn't actually affect your long-term chances of winning. The reason is because a bad third base player is just as likely to help the table win as they are to hurt everybody's chances.
But it's only the times that third base foils everybody's chances of winning that it becomes noticeable. Again, it's best to stay away from this seat until you master the strategy.
Many blackjack players mistakenly believe that's they can improve their luck through pattern betting.
Based on the gambler's fallacy, pattern betting revolves around the assumption that you can track past hand results to make better future wagers.
Here's an example:
It seems logical to assume that winning and losing streaks will stop in the immediate future. But this is no reason to double or triple your bet.
The key thing to remember with pattern betting is that past results don't affect future odds.
As I've mentioned several times, you have a 46.36% chance to win a blackjack hand. This doesn't change just because you're on a hot or cold streak.
Blackjack is full of ups and downs. And one way to avoid suffering when your luck goes south is to exercise good bankroll management.
The best place to begin is by deciding how much money you can afford to play blackjack with.
This entails figuring out your personal finances and expendable income. You can then draw a blackjack bankroll from your expendable money.
I don't suggest using every free dollar you have on blackjack games. But it doesn't hurt to put some of this money towards blackjack.
An example would be taking half of your expendable income for a week or month to seed your bankroll.
You may even want to wait a few weeks until your bankroll has grown before playing real-money blackjack. In the meantime, you can play free blackjack games while your roll grows.
Once you decide how much money you can dedicate to blackjack, the next step is to convert your bankroll into units. Many experienced players do this because they find it more convenient to work with generic units instead of money.
The unit size can be whatever you want it to be. But two easy ways to do this include making units worth the minimum table bet, or your average bet size.
Now let's look at an example of breaking your bankroll down into units:
How you choose to bet these units is optional. But the best way to stay in the game is by wagering one unit per hand.
The final step to blackjack bankroll management involves figuring out your theoretical losses. You need to know your average bet (unit) and rough estimations of the hands per hour and house edge to do this.
Here's an example:
The goal in blackjack is to win money. And you have a good chance in this game, thanks to the low house edge.
But you also need to prepare for the event that you won't win by calculating theoretical losses.
One of the best things about blackjack is that you don't have to leave everything up to chance. Instead, you can take steps to improve your luck and win more often.
Simply choosing a table with favorable rules is enough to greatly improve your luck. And you can find good rules in both land-based and online casinos.
Another smart move is to study strategy so that you can lower the house edge further. The lower the house advantage, the more often you'll experience lucky winning streaks.