It’s one of the most popular casino games of them all, but can you actually win at blackjack? The answer is yes, in the short term at least, because anyone can get lucky over a few hands, make a profit, and walk away from the table.
However, in the long term, statistically, you can not win at blackjack. It’s not all doom and gloom because following some basic blackjack strategy can increase your winning chances in the short term and help you lose money more slowly over the long term.
The reason you cannot win over time is the same as it is for any other casino games, including roulette, video poker, baccarat, and slots – the house edge. The house edge is the amount that the odds are stacked in the house’s favor. While it might be natural to call this unfair, the house edge is essential when you think about it. Without it, the casino could not make any money. With bills to pay, like premises, staff, licenses, equipment, and more, casinos would soon go bust, and nobody would have anywhere to play. The same goes for online casinos. They must make a profit to survive and remain open to your business. Always read up about online sites before making a decision about which one to join – this is a good site that gives some good recommendations.
The good news for players is that blackjack has one of the lowest house edges in the casino. For new, unskilled players, it is around 4%. That is how much you are expected, according to the statistics, to lose when you play. So, gamble $100 over several hands of blackjack, and you are expected to end up with $96.
By following a solid blackjack strategy (more of which later), you can bring that house edge down to around 0.5%. It’s a major improvement, and while it still amounts to a loss over time, it does vastly improve your chances of making a profit in the short term or over any given blackjack session.
Let’s look at how to follow a basic blackjack strategy so you can bring that house edge down in your favor. We will also look at betting systems, which some players swear improves their likelihood of making a profit (short answer, no, it doesn’t).
Unlike most sports and video games, blackjack is a game of chance since the cards are shuffled before the dealer gives the players and himself two cards. However, the trick to playing better is understanding the probability of what card you will be dealt next or what card the dealer has face-down under his upcard.
When you consider that all cards hold their face value in blackjack, except for picture cards, you will see that it is more likely the turn of a card will be a ten than anything else. You have four tens, jacks, queens, and kings of that value, after all.
With that in mind, you can make a better decision on how to play your hand. Before you consider anything else, however, look at the dealer’s upcard. If you now reason it’s highly possible his downcard is a ten, you can assume his current total and make your decision accordingly.
So, for example, if the dealer shows a 4, 5, or 6, you might reasonably believe his total will be 14, 15, or 16, in which case he will need to take another card, one which will very likely make him go bust. With that in mind, you can take fewer risks with your own hand. You will always take another card with a total of 11 or fewer since there is no risk of busting – but if you have a total of 12 upwards, you might decide to stand. You cannot bust, and you hope the dealer will go over 21, winning you the hand.
More advanced players will double down if the dealer shows a weak upcard, getting more money on the table because they see it as statistically more likely that the dealer will bust.
Use the reverse strategy if the dealer has a high-value card like a nine or a 10. In this case, you will reason his total might be 19 or 20, so to be in with any chance of winning the hand, you must take another card in the hope of making a good enough score to win.
Following the simplistic strategy above will help reduce the house edge in your favor. It’s advisable to download a blackjack hand chart from the internet, which will give you clear instructions on what to do with any hand you hold in relation to the dealer’s upcard.
Some players believe following a betting system like the Martingale System will increase their chances of making a profit at the blackjack table. It works like this: If you lose a hand, you double your stake on the next hand. Lose that, and double again and keep doing so until you win a hand. You then start back at your original stake, pocketing the profit when you win, and staying on the same starting stake until you lose and need to double again.
The system might work if you have a bottomless bankroll because it’s easy to go on a losing streak, and the stakes will rocket up fast! Even then, the casino might put a limit on the stakes, so you might find the system falls down anyway.
Far better to play a solid game strategy, enjoy it, and recognize that while you might profit from the occasional session, the house will always win in the long term.