You can find plenty of articles about how great card counting is.
I've seen dozens of book on the subject and countless articles.
But what if you want to be able to beat blackjack without going through the trouble of learning how to count cards? Is there anything you can do?
I've compiled a list of ways to reduce, and in some cases eliminate, the house edge at blackjack.
If you're able to use some of the tactics listed below you'll be well on your way to beating the game of blackjack.
Every blackjack game has an exact strategy that can be used to reduce the house edge as much as possible. It doesn't matter how many decks are used, if the dealer stands or hits a soft 17, how many times you can split, or anything else. You can find the perfect strategy for the variation you're playing.
There isn't much difference between the perfect strategies between most variations, so most players learn a basic strategy for the game they play most and use it for every variation. For the most part this is acceptable, but if you want to squeeze every last tenth percent out of the casino you need to play the correct strategy on every single hand.
There's no way to know the exact difference between perfect play and the average person's play, but I've seen estimates over 2% between the average player and perfect strategy. If you wager $5,000 on blackjack during a playing session, 2% is $100.
Here's how easy it is to bet $5,000 in a short period at blackjack. You can bet $100 a hand for 50 hands, $50 a hand for 100 hands or $10 a hand for 500 hands.
Learning basic strategy only takes a few hours and you can use a strategy card or chart when you play online or at the table in a live casino.
Take the time to learn how to play perfect basic strategy because it makes everything else on this page work better.
Almost every land-based casino and many online casinos offer some sort of player's benefit or loyalty club. Different casinos call the club different names, but they all work along the same lines. Players receive rewards for playing casino games.
Some places offer cash rewards, food and room comps, bonus offers, free play, free entry into tournaments, and just about anything else of value you might think of.
Every single thing of value you earn through the player's club reduces the house edge. If you get a free comp for a $40 meal, it's the same as winning $40 more or losing $40 less.
Blackjack games come in a wide variety of rules and set ups. Some rules favor the dealer (or house)–other rules favor the player.
Here's a list of the rules that favor the player:
Find games that offer as many of these rules as possible.
When you combine perfect strategy with player's club benefits and only playing in blackjack games that offer the best rules, you can reduce the house edge enough that you're playing a break even game in the long run. Even if you can't completely eliminate the house edge, you should be able to get it well below a half percent.
With all of the blackjack games dealt around the world every day you'll find all kinds of dealers. Some are friendly. Others come across as grumpy. Others run a tight game with no nonsense while some seem to enjoy their game more. Some blackjack dealers deal in controlled crisp ways. Others seem to be quite sloppy.
The sloppy dealer is the one you want to keep an eye out for.
Players with a sharp eye can often take advantage of a sloppy dealer. Sloppy dealers often flash cards as they deal them or flash their hole card as they deal it.
How hard would it be to win a blackjack game on a regular basis when you knew what the dealer had?
If you know the dealer has 18, you would know you had to keep hitting until you had at least 18.
If you know the dealer has a 16 you would be more likely to stand on a hand of 12 to 16 because the dealer stands a good chance of busting.
Most sloppy dealers don't show every card.
But even if you can see one every once in a while it can make the difference between winning and losing.
It's also easier to see hole cards in different seats at the table depending on how the dealer operates. If you think you see a sloppy dealer try sitting in a few different seats to see if you can catch a few hole card flashes.
If you find a dealer you can read, don't tell anyone or act too suspicious. If the casino figures it out, they'll make the dealer correct their dealing or replace them. Your advantage will be gone.
Is it legal to try to see the dealer's hole card?
As long as you don't use any devices other than your eyes to see the cards, you aren't doing anything illegal. It's the casino's responsibility to protect the information.
But if the casino figures out what you're doing they can stop it.
They can even ask you to stop playing.
Even if something isn't illegal the casino has every right to deny service. They don't legally have to let you play.
Decks of cards used in casinos are supposed to have identical backs.
But some brands are printed in a way that creates slightly different patterns on the edge of the cards.
If you play where cards don't have identical backs, you can start sorting the cards in a way that can help you gain an edge.
The simplest way to do this is place all of the ten valued cards and aces pointing one way and all of the other cards facing the other.
Edge sorting is the popular name for this tactic. It isn't as easy as it sounds.
If you're playing with other players and you're the only one trying to edge sort, you won't be able to sort enough cards to make a difference.
If you're playing heads up you can sort half the cards, but the casino can still combat sorting by the way they shuffle or load the shuffle machine.
Edge sorting is an advanced playing method. So if you want to learn more, you need to do some research and practice.
If the casino figures out what you're doing, they can ask you to leave or not play. I've even seen a court case about edge sorting go against the player. So if you decide to edge sort make sure you don't get caught. In the court case the player didn't go to jail but the casino kept some of his winnings.
When dealers check to see if they have a blackjack, they bend the cards up. This can create warped cards. You can sometimes see these warped cards in the upcoming cards as a deck starts to wear.
The casinos have done a lot to make this method hard to use.
But you can still see them at times in hand shuffled and dealt games where they don't replace the cards often.
Many casinos offer coupons to try to get more people to visit and play. Some of them offer food comps and free slots play.
But sometimes you can find a blackjack coupon. Some of these offer a free ace or a free matching bet.
Any coupon can lower the house edge for the session where you use it. Always keep an eye out for blackjack coupons. Let all of your friends who don't play blackjack know to make sure they give you any promotions they see.
Shuffle tracking is when a high rate of aces and ten valued cards are bunched together in the discard tray. You follow the slug of cards through the shuffle.
Does that sound hard to do?
But if you practice and get good at it, you can raise your bets enough during the parts of the deal rich in aces and tens to create an advantage against the house.
This might sound extreme.
But if you can't figure out a way to beat blackjack, the only way to lose the least amount of money as possible is not to play.
Instead of not playing, consider dedicating the time to learning as many of the tips and tricks listed above as you can and/or start learning how to count cards. Anybody can learn how to count cards.
Most people who don't think they can count cards either don't know exactly what card counting means or have looked at a complicated system and decided it was too difficult for them. It's fine if you simply refuse to learn anything more about counting cards, but I wanted to introduce you to a simple card counting system that anyone can use.
This system has been written about in various places, so I don't know who to give credit to for developing it. Most systems have names with many of them named for the people who invented them.
The system I want to introduce to you is usually called the ace five count.
All you have to do when you use the ace five count, is add one to your count every time you see a five and subtract one from the count every time you see an ace.
When the count goes higher you bet more. When the count goes lower you bet less.
The two cards that change the chances of players winning and losing while playing blackjack are aces and fives. The fewer fives that remain to be dealt in the deck, the better the player's chances are to win. The fewer aces that remain in the cards that haven't been dealt, the better the dealer's chances to win.
See how easy a basic card counting system can be?
Even if you can't count cards, if you use the methods on this page you stand a good chance of beating the casino. Some methods– like using perfect basic strategy, only playing in the games with the best rules, and using player's club benefits–help you play as close to a break even game as possible.
Other methods, like finding sloppy dealers, looking for warped cards, and finding flawed decks of cards can actually turn the edge around and put it in your favor.
Start using everything on this list that you can starting today and give yourself the best chance to be a winning blackjack player without counting cards.