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15 Tips for Novice Blackjack Players

A better understanding of the basics can mean a world of difference

By Henry Tamburin


In the world of blackjack, knowledge is power, especially for novices eager to try their hand at the tables. Reprinted from the October 2014 edition of Casino Player magazine, the timeless wisdom shared here serves as a vital compass for those embarking on their journey into the world of blackjack. Whether you’re just dipping your toes into the game or seeking to refine your strategy, these essential tips are tailored to enhance your experience while maximizing your chances of success. So, sit back, absorb the insights, and let the cards fall where they may as you embark on your blackjack adventure.




Tip #1

You need to become familiar with the basic playing strategy for hitting, standing, doubling down and pair splitting. For novices, I recommend the Wizard’s Simple Strategy that you’ll find on the blackjack page on The strategy consists of 11 rules presented in a color-coded table that makes it easy to remember. The strategy isn’t 100% perfect but it is easy to use and sufficient to reduce the house edge to less than one percent.


Tip #2

Don’t play any game that pays 6-5 (or worse, even money) for a blackjack. Play only on tables where blackjack is paid at 3-2.


Tip #3

Don’t play on tables that use a continuous shuffler. These devices automatically shuffle the cards after each round, which results in more hands dealt per hour and more exposure of your bankroll to the house edge. Play on tables that have traditional automatic shufflers (where all the cards are reshuffled after 50 to 75 percent of them have been played), or where the dealer manually shuffles the cards.


Tip #4

Fewer decks is better than more decks. This means a single- or double-deck game has better odds than a six- or eight-deck game (assuming the same rules).


Tip #5

Scout the tables to find the most liberal playing rules. Besides a 3-2 payoff for a blackjack, the best rules are dealer standing on all 17s (including soft 17), you can double down on any two cards, and doubling after pair splitting is allowed. (If surrender is offered, better yet.)


Tip #6

Don’t make the Insurance wager no matter how much money you wagered on your hand. Insurance is a sucker bet. You are betting that the dealer will have a 10-value downcard to go with her ace upcard (thus giving her a blackjack). A winning insurance bet pays 2-1 but the odds of winning are worse than 2-1.


Tip #7

The playing decisions of other players on your table have no effect in the long run on your odds of winning. Blackjack is not a team sport. Always use the basic playing strategy regardless of how other players play their hand, how much you bet, and whether you lost or won your previous sessions.


Tip #8

Don’t use a Martingale betting system (double your bet after a loss). It’s best to bet the table minimum on every hand. If you don’t find that exciting, use a modest 1-2-3 win progression, meaning only increase your bets by one unit following any win. After three successive winning hands, or after any losing hand, drop back to a one-unit bet. (Note: This betting method will not change your odds of winning; use it only for fun.)


Tip #9

Get rated when you play. Always give your player’s card to the dealer to get rated for your play. Play on crowded tables or on single- or double-deck tables where there is frequent shuffling. (This will reduce the number of hands you play per hour, which will decrease the exposure of your bankroll to the house edge.)


Tip #10

Avoid playing blackjack in “party pits,” where blackjack games are dealt by attractive (and usually scantily attired) female dealers, with loud music and female dancers in the background. The playing rules in party pits are horrendously bad. (You will pay dearly for that eye candy.)


Tip #11

Don’t increase your bets because you feel you are due to win. The cards don’t know, and they don’t care, whether you are in the midst of a losing (or winning) streak. Regardless of what happened during your previous playing sessions, stay the course and continue to use the basic playing strategy.


Tip #12

Go easy on the booze. Alcoholic drinks are “free” when you play but too much booze will dull your senses and increase your chances of making a costly playing mistake. Stay focused on playing every hand perfectly.


Tip #13

Play in a blackjack tournament. Many casinos offer weekly mini-tournaments where you are competing against other players and your losses are limited to the entry fee. You can have several hours of fun at low cost, and with a little luck, end up finishing in the money.


Tip #14

Use table etiquette when you play. Once you place your chips in the betting spot, don’t touch them until after the outcome of your hand is determined. If the cards are dealt face up, don’t touch them; if they are dealt face down, pick them up and hold them with one hand, which you keep above the table at all times. Don’t enter a game in the middle of the shoe; wait until the dealer reshuffles the cards before making your first bet. Don’t blame the dealer or other players if you lose a hand (it’s not their fault). If the dealer has been friendly and helpful, it’s customary to give her a tip (or you can make a bet for her on your hand).


Tip #15

Go with money that you can afford to lose, and don’t bet more to recoup your losses. If you are ahead, set a stop loss so you don’t lose back your winnings.


Henry Tamburin is a gambling author with a background in mathematics and a doctorate in chemistry. He is best known for his book Blackjack: Take the Money and Run, which explains basic blackjack strategy, managing a bankroll, side bets and advanced tactics like card counting.

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