Winning at Blackjack

Blackjack is one of my favorite casino games to play because the casino has a small edge. And with a little bit of diligence, you can reduce that edge even further, if not eliminate it altogether. How cool is it that you can play a fun game, and hardly lose any money in the process?

I can answer that for you — it’s very cool.

What’s not so cool are the things that players do that prevent them from winning at blackjack. I want to show you what those things are and what you should do instead, so that you can maximize the amount of money you win playing blackjack and learn how to win at blackjack properly.

11 Reasons Why You Lose at Blackjack…

… and What to Do Instead

1. You use crazy betting systems or strategies.

A common example would be the Martingale system. The Martingale system tells you to start with a bet of $1, and if you lose, to double your next bet (and each subsequent losing bet after that). For example, if you bet $1 and lost, your next bet would be $2, then $4, $8, $16 and so on. The idea is that you’ll cover your losses when you win, plus be up one unit.

There are several problems with this strategy, but I only want to highlight 2 of them:

  • It is possible to lose multiple times in a row. You can bust your bankroll quickly this way.
  • This system has no "strategy" to it — it just relies on luck.

What I suggest doing instead is learning basic blackjack strategy, and if you’re up for it, advanced (card counting) strategies. That way you’re not relying on (only) luck, but your own skill set.

2. You pay for insurance.

Insurance is a suckers bet. It increases the house edge to between 2% to over 7%. So you should never take it.

What you should do instead is avoid blackjack dealer insurance like the plague, or learn how to count cards. Only then could you ever determine the situation where it would make sense to take insurance.

3. You copy the dealer.

The idea behind this strategy is that since the house has the advantage, you’d create an advantage for yourself copying the dealer. The problem, though, is that dealers stand on 17, can’t split, surrender or double down — all things you do to try to increase your winnings.

The worse part? Copying the dealer increases the house edge to 5.5%.

What you should do instead is stick to basic blackjack strategy.

4. You manage your bankroll poorly.

Managing your bankroll poorly can mean a number of things — you use systems like the Martingale, you increase your bet sizes because you think you’re on a hot streak, or you play $25 per hand blackjack when your bankroll is only $500.

What you should do instead? The opposite, obviously. Don’t use betting systems, stick to the same number of units for betting and play games that are within your bankroll. Remember that your bankroll is your lifeline — without it you can’t play blackjack.

5. You play at 6:5 tables.

Avoid 6:5 payouts on blackjacks whenever possible. It adds 1.4% to the house edge. If you want actual numbers, betting $10 per hand over 100 hands per hour, means that you’ll lose approximately $14 per hour, as opposed to only $2 per hour at 3:2 games.

What you should do instead is play at the 3:2 tables, even if that means playing multiple deck blackjack (as opposed to single deck). You’ll still come out ahead.

6. You gamble (for example, hit on a 19).

Blackjack doesn’t have to be a gamble. If you play near perfect strategy you don’t stand to lose more than 1-2% per hour. So betting on a 18, 19 or 20 because you like to gamble is dumb, and is throwing your money away.

What to do instead? Look at basic blackjack charts. On all of them you’ll see that you should be standing on 17-18+, with a few exceptions here and there.

7. You play while (stupidly) drunk.

I’ve played blackjack before. I’ve been to casinos before. I’ve had a few drinks before.

My point? I understand that drinking and gambling go hand-in-hand for a lot of you.

That’s cool. What’s not cool is getting drunk to the point to where you’re not using any kind of logic. You gamble, maybe try some systems or do something really stupid like try to cheat. Ultimately you light your money on fire.

What you should do instead is limit your drinking while you play. If you’re already drunk, I recommend sleeping it off. Come back to play once you’re more levelheaded. Your bank account will thank you.

8. You cheat.

Duh. Cheating is not a good idea. It’s morally wrong (for most of us), it gives you a bad name and the consequences can be severe. It can cost you months or years of your life, not to mention thousands and even millions of dollars.

It should be obvious what to do instead. Don’t cheat, or don’t bother playing. There are several blackjack strategies where you can minimize your losses. You could even win.

9. You don’t use optimal strategy.

I’m guilty of this. I don’t play blackjack very often (I prefer poker), but when I do, I don’t use basic strategy.

However, by not utilizing (free) blackjack cheat sheets online, that tell me when to stand, hit, split, etc, I’m just costing myself more money. It’s not that I want to become a blackjack badass ninja and make tons of money (I’ll take it and the title, though). For me, using proper blackjack strategy comes down to prolonging my bankroll, and in turn, my entertainment.

If this sounds like you, what you should do is visit our charts page and become familiar with the basic strategies for your preferred game.

10. You sit down at any table (need to find good tables, rules, odds, etc).

Another mistake that prevents you from winning at blackjack is not being aware of the table you’re sitting down at; being aware of the rules, variations, payouts and so on. It can make a big difference. For example:

  • Payouts of 6:5 increase the house edge 1.39%.
  • Dealer hits on soft 17 increases the edge by .22%.
  • Single deck games improve your odds .48%.
  • Play can double on any number of cards increases your odds .23%.

….and so on. While some of these edges might not seem like a big deal, remember that’s relative. Blackjack is a small house edge game anyway, so half a percent, or even a whole percent is a big deal.

All you need to do is pay attention to where you sit down at.