Blackjack can be a difficult game for some to become proficient in. Learning how to play blackjack optimally can be a little daunting.
Blackjack and all gambling is supposed to be fun. There are many people who just want to walk into a casino and play the game without practicing or studying their hobby.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of people who practice their favorite games and hobbies. Look to sports as an example.
Basketball players shoot hoops for fun to improve themselves for when they play competitive games with friends. Golfers go to a driving range to practice their hobby so they play better when hitting the links with friends.
Practicing golf makes a lot of sense so a player can be sharp when there’s money on the line when they play with others. Blackjack and other casino gambling are similar to golf in this way.
We always want to perform our best when there’s money on the line.
Learning To Practice Blackjack
When I first started gambling, I just hit the tables and did what I thought made sense. Experienced friends offered some advice to get me started.
I’m stubborn and like to practice games I enjoy so I can be better than anyone I know. Learning to practice blackjack takes some time and effort. I was willing to put in the work to be the best I could be.
I read about basic blackjack rules to get a general overview of how experienced players approach the game. That was just the beginning.
Learning everything about blackjack at once is overwhelming. Even thinking about making all of the mathematically correct plays can be stressful.
The way I got around this was to compartmentalize practicing. This involves learning how to tackle certain situations individually. This worked for me as this is like building a house of knowledge brick by brick.
For example, I practiced and read about the right time to double down. Then I did that by learning when to split pairs. When I felt as though I mastered one skill I moved on to something else.
All of this work helped me learn to play basic strategy at about a 95% rate of accuracy. That’s a great place for a recreational blackjack player who likes to enjoy a few drinks while playing.
My basic strategy accuracy falls off a little as the cocktails flow but it’s still much better than it would be without practicing.
Practicing basic strategy helps keep the house edge for the casino low. In turn, learning basic strategy should allow a player to stay in the game longer and possibly catch a hot streak of cards.
Here are a few pointers to look for when playing blackjack or just practicing at home with no money on the line.
Learn When To Double And Split
These are two tenets of how I started to improve my blackjack game. Last year I put together a handy overview on this topic.
All basic strategy moves are important but these two are particularly crucial for recreational blackjack players. A player must risk more money when doubling down and splitting.
We might as well learn the right move if we’re going to risk more money than expected. The risk comes with the reward of possibly getting paid twice. Learning this skill is an important tool for bankroll management.
Practice All Basic Strategy
Doubling down and splitting strategies are important but so are other plays. As I mentioned, compartmentalizing plays has helped me improve basic strategy skills over the years.
I’ve written about some of those plays I’ve practiced so much because they weren’t instinctive to me. I’ll never forget when to correctly hit on a soft 18. Similarly, I never forget to always double when I’m dealt an 11.
The only way to find your weak spot playing blackjack is to practice without the distraction of being in a casino. There are a lot of things that can get in the way of paying attention to blackjack with other people at the table, music, and cocktails.
Stick To What You Learn
For some reason, players like to offer unsolicited advice at the blackjack table. In addition to offering bad advice, some players that don’t know the correct basic strategy can get up in arms if you make a play that they don’t understand.
I get so many strange looks from people when I hit a soft 18. The strange looks come from dealers, strangers, and friends. It can be daunting to make the correct play when others aren’t aware that you’re making the right moves.
When you’re confident in your basic strategy skills just block out the noise. My favorite response is to tell people I made a certain play because that’s what my blackjack practice app tells me to do. That usually shuts people up.
Count Cards Or Don’t
When I was learning the basics of blackjack, I wanted to learn how to count cards. It seemed like the key to being a winning blackjack player. After all, that’s how the MIT team brought down the house.
Counting cards is certainly a tool to use for being a profitable blackjack player. The skill is difficult to learn and may not be for everyone.
Practicing card counting wasn’t fun for me. Trying to use it in a casino was nearly impossible as I’m a chatty gambler who likes to drink.
While basic strategy skills are reduced by distractions and drinking, counting cards correctly is impossible for me. Deciding to move on from counting cards allowed me to focus on perfecting my basic strategy play. That’s good enough for me.
Everyone is different and counting cards is a helpful skill if you can master it. If you’re like me, find what skills work best and get the most out of them.