Most people understand that casino games are designed in a way that the house always wins. While this is almost always true, this doesn't mean you can't do things to lose less in the long run.
Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games, and if you know what you're doing you can play with close to zero house edge.
When you play blackjack with good rules and use the best strategy you can reduce the house edge to less than a half percent. When you earn rewards for playing from the player's club it reduces the edge further by giving you things that you'd normally need to pay for.
By combining these things with the other tips below you can often play at a break even pace, essentially enjoying hours of entertainment for free.
Use the seven tips below to lose less while playing blackjack.
The most important thing you can do as a blackjack player is to learn and use the best strategy for each situation. This is usually called blackjack basic strategy.
Every hand against every possible dealer up card has a mathematically best way to be played.
By playing each hand correctly you give yourself the best chance to win and reduce the house edge as low as possible.
You never need to play another hand without using the proper basic strategy whether you play online or in a land based casino. Use a strategy chart or strategy card while playing. They list the best possible plays in every situation and you can quickly see each hand.
Each rule at the blackjack table changes the house edge of the game. Some rules are good for you and some help the house. By finding favorable rules you reduce the house edge, which gives you a better chance to win each playing session and reduces the amount you lose over time.
Before I get into the specific rules that are favorable to the player, you need to make sure you never play a blackjack game that offers less than three to two for blackjacks. Some tables only offer six to five, and this increases the house edge by such a large amount, over 1.3%, you can't play anywhere near a break even game.
If you can find a promotion or coupon that pays two to one on a blackjack you should take advantage of it. This doesn't happen often, but you can actually have an edge against the casino if they offer two to one for a blackjack and the other rules aren't too bad.
Here are the main rules to look for that favor the player. You won't be able to find games with every rule in your favor, so try to find ones that offer most of the rules listed below.
Surrender is a rule that lets you give up your hand and get half of your bet back. This isn't a common rule, but you can find it from time to time. If you have a hard 16 and the dealer has a nine, 10, or ace it's more profitable to surrender half your bet than to play the hand out.
Games where the dealer stands on a soft 17 are more favorable to you than when they hit. This is a small advantage so if the other rules are good for you this isn't a deal breaker.
Some blackjack games only allow you to double down on your first two cards. If you can double after splitting it's more favorable to you.
Sometimes when you split aces you get another ace on one of the cards you split. If the casino lets you split aces again this is an advantage for you.
Many games only allow a double down on your first two cards. If you can double down at any point it's better for you. If you start with a three and a four and receive another four as your third card for a total of 11 it's profitable to double against every dealer up car except an ace if the casino lets you double on more than two cards.
Almost every land based casino offers a player's club of some sort and many online casinos do as well.
Player's clubs track your play and offer rewards. Even low limit players can often earn free meals and higher limit players can earn cash back, free play, hotel rooms, flights, and more.
It's free to join the player's club and just for joining many casinos send out special offers and discounts.
Plus, anything you get for playing helps you lose less. Even if you only get a free $10 meal for playing it's the same as losing $10 less. You need to eat anyway, so instead of spending your own money you can eat on the casino's dime.
When you sign up for the club you usually receive a card. Make sure you present the card as soon as you sit down to play so all of your play is credited.
You have no excuse for playing without comps, so make sure you sign up before you play again. If you play online and don't see the player's club send a note to the support department asking if they have one. If they don't you might consider playing somewhere else.
While the focus when trying to lose less or win more while playing casino games is usually on lowering the house edge, it's almost as important to play fewer hands per hour. Many blackjack games approach 100 hands per hour in live play depending on the number of players, and if you play online you can play twice as many hands.
Your options are somewhat limited if you play live because you can't slow the game down too much. If you play in a land based casino you should play at full tables because you'll see less hands per hour.
The other option is to play online, but not as fast as you can. Take your time to make sure you're making the correct plays and take a few seconds between hands. If you reduce your play to 50 hands per hour instead of 100 you cut your losses in half on average.
This goes hand in hand with the last tip. If you reduce the amount of money you bet on each hand you lose less in the long run. Instead of playing $25 a hand, reduce your bet to $10 a hand, or even $5 a hand.
If you go from $25 a hand to $5 a hand if everything else remains the same you reduce the amount you lose to 20% of what you lost before.
Just make sure you don't end up playing at a game with worse rules. Many casinos have worse rules on the $5 tables than on the higher limit ones.
If you play online you can find many online casinos offering minimum bets of $1 per hand or lower. But remember if you play online you often play many more hands per hour than when playing live unless you consciously slow down your play. The good news is no one is rushing you while playing online so you can go as slow as you want.
Though it's not for everyone, if you learn how to count cards you can easily play a break even game against the casinos and stand a decent chance at a long term edge.
Don't dismiss the possibility of counting because you think it's too hard. You don't need to remember each card that's been played. You simply add or subtract one from a count based on whether the card you see is high or low.
One of the most popular counting systems is called the hi lo or high low. You start at zero and for every card you see with a value of two through six you add one to the count and for every card of 10 through ace you subtract one from your count. When the count goes up you bet more and when the count goes down you bet less.
If the remaining deck of cards has more high value cards than low value cards the house edge goes down and eventually can turn to your favor. So by betting more in these situations you have a better chance to win.
Starting with a count of zero your count moves up and down as you see cards.
Here's an example:
You see the following cards on the first round of play. You count all of your cards, the other player's cards, and the dealer's cards.
Two - four - ace - five - queen - seven - three - six.
The seven doesn't change the count; you subtract one for the ace and the queen, and add one for the two, four, five, three, and six. So your new count is plus three, or positive three. You quickly learn that when you have one high card and one low card they cancel each other out so you can ignore them for your running count.
If you don't want to do all of the work to learn and use a full-fledged counting system like the hi lo you can simply track aces and fives and play at a break even clip with a low bet spread.
Simply add one to your count for every five you see and reduce your count by one for every ace. When the count is plus two double your bets and when it's plus four or more double them again. When the count is plus one or less reduce your bets to your original amount. This effectively eliminates the house edge as long as you're playing a game with good rules.
If you start with a $10 bet, when the count is plus two or three you bet $20, when the count is plus four or more you bet $40, and when it's plus one or less you bet $10.
Of course there's a little more to being an effective card counter, but this is the basis of how and why it works. If you want to try card counting you must learn basic strategy to perfect accuracy first and then you need to learn more about how to count without getting caught.
While this is the most radical suggestion, the truth is that most players lose in the long run while playing blackjack. As a matter of fact, if you play long enough you'll lose too unless you find a way to play with an edge, like counting cards.
So the simplest way to lose less is by not playing. If you decide to stop playing but still want to gamble you can learn how to play poker. In games like Texas holdem and Omaha if you're a good player you can win more than you lose.
It takes a great deal of work to get good enough to win consistently, but it's possible. But it doesn't take more work than learning how to count cards, so if you're willing to work at it and want to play blackjack you should see the previous section.
You can also try your hand at sports betting or betting on horses or dogs. All of these activities can be played with an edge, but it's quite challenging. In sports betting the house has an edge because of the vig they charge on bets. When you bet $110 to win $100, the difference is called the vig.
Horse and dog racing wagers go into a pool and the track takes a percentage from the pool. The rest of the money is paid out based on the amount of money bet on each winning combination. As bets are made they change the odds and pay outs. This is called pari-mutuel betting.
This means when you bet on horses and dogs you can get an edge because you're betting against the other bettors, but you still have to win enough to overcome the percentage of the total money pool the track takes as profit.
The final option is you could play blackjack and other games for free online. This doesn't have the same appeal for many players as wagering real money, but it may be able to fill your need for action. Simply sign up for a free account at one of the casinos we list on the site and you can play most of their games for free.
Playing blackjack is fun, but there's no reason to give the casino more of your money than necessary. The house almost always has an edge, but by reducing the edge and the amount you lose per hour you can play longer and have a better chance to win any individual playing session.
Use the seven ways listed above and you'll lose less while playing blackjack. You might even be able to completely eliminate the house edge and enjoy free entertainment in the form of real money blackjack.