Blackjack is the #1 table game in any casino, and it's probably more popular than any game besides the slot machines. The good news is that with a little bit of effort, you can learn how to play at an expert level without ever having to go to blackjack school. But it's nice to know that such resources exist for those who want to take advantage of them.
I started playing blackjack online, but I've since graduated to counting cards at real casinos. I learned everything I need to know from books and websites. I did not spend money on a blackjack school. But that doesn't mean investing in such an education is a bad idea.
I just wanted to point out that you don't NEED a school for this purpose.
Not every player is interested at playing at a professional level or even getting an edge when playing against the house. Plenty of recreational players are happy to just play one of the few games in the casino with a house edge of less than 1%. Recreational players DEFINITELY don't need any kind of formal education in the game.
The rest of this post takes a look at some of the many resources available that cost very little when compared to online schools.
Not everyone has the self-discipline to learn everything they need from reading a book about blackjack. But if you're a good reader and studious, you can learn what you need to know about the game. Read the book, practice at home on your computer (or at your kitchen table), then take a shot at the casinos.
I'm especially fond of books by Stanford Wong and Arnold Snyder. Sklansky on Blackjack by David Sklansky is also excellent—in fact, it contains my favorite approach to learning basic strategy.
You can avoid the cost of a blackjack school by using some of the free trainer programs available online. These are usually playable games that use your browser. You don't need to download any software to take advantage of these games.
Other trainers are downloadable apps that you can use on your laptop, desktop, mobile phone, or tablet. These offer several advantages—usually in the form of more robust training. Many of these are free, but you can also find some trainers that cost a little bit of money. It's cash well spent if you can learn how to improve your game from it.
For the most part, these trainers are programmed to improve your ability to use basic strategy. But you can occasionally find software to help you with card counting, too.
Most online casinos offer free blackjack games as well as their real money games. This enables you to practice in a realist environment without having to risk any of your own money. I'm a big fan of this practice, and most modern Internet casinos deal a fair game that plays out as if you were using a real deck of cards.
The only drawback to these games is that they ARE marketing tools for the Web casinos. After you play for a while, especially if you're winning, the program will encourage you to sign up for the casino's real money games. If you have trouble saying no to such ads, you might want to avoid these kinds of free games.
On the other hand, I like to play blackjack for real money online, too. You can find plenty of options, even if you live in the United States. And I don't know anyone who has EVER been indicted, arrested, or convicted of a crime related to playing blackjack online for real money.
One type of Internet blackjack that is never available for free is the new live dealer style game. The casinos have to pay these dealers, so it's just not worth it to them to let you play for free. You can always play the games that are animated and dealt by a random number generator.
If you do play in a live dealer casino online, be sure to take full advantage of the chat functionality. That's a big part of the fun. I love interacting with other players from around the world.
If you want to accelerate your learning, or if you're having trouble using a combination of these other educational techniques to get your game to where you want it to be, investing in a blackjack school might be a sound investment. The surest way to lower the house edge is to get real instruction from a real expert.
Of course, you can attend some of the classes that the casinos hold explaining how to play their various table games. But these kinds of classes aren't going to show you how to count cards or get an edge over the casino. No casino manager in his right mind would allow his dealers to offer something like that.
Most schools offer a similar curriculum. You first learn the basics of how to play. Then you study basic strategy. Then you learn why card counting works. Finally, you study card counting and go into action.
These schools cover other topics you might not even think of, like how to manage your bankroll or how to manage a card counting team. And counting cards isn't the only advantage play in blackjack. You can also use techniques like shuffle tracking and dealer tells to get an edge over the house.
Blackjack schools can shorten your learning curve, but you can learn everything you need to know about playing and winning blackjack elsewhere for less. Attending some kind of school, even an online school, costs money, time, and effort. So do books. And even if you only use free resources to get the education you need, you're out the time spent on those resources.
I think blackjack is a worthy avocation, but only you can decide if getting better at the game faster is worth the extra effort and cost involved.