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Blackjack strategy: 10 rules and tips to gain an edge

Blackjack Tips

Blackjack beginner? These tips will help you learn the game.

Whether playing blackjack online with a live dealer or in the casino, you need these insider tips to make the most of your time at the table.

From basic strategy to extending your bankroll, blackjack players should keep a few general rules in mind before sitting down to play. The casino — whether you're gambling online or in person — may have an edge at the blackjack table, but if you play your cards right, it might just be your night.

It’s time to break the casino — or at least hopefully bring home a few more bucks than you started with. Here’s a look at some pro gambling tips to remember next time you head to the casino or play online.

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1. Learn basic strategy — This may sound like beating a dead horse when it comes to this game, but memorizing basic strategy will put you in such a better position to actually win in the game. This method is tried and true, and can help you cut the house odds significantly.

2. A lesson learned? — Many casinos offer free lessons on how to play the games. But does a casino have a real incentive to teach the best advice on how to play? They are in the business of separating you from your hard-earned cash. A book or online source with basic strategy is a much better option than relying on the property to show you the way. This also allows for more time to master the game.

3. Avoid the dreaded blackjack ante — Some tribal casinos require an additional ante along with each bet. That ante is usually 50 cents, but can be as high as $1 per hand. That isn’t a bet; it goes right in the casino’s pocket. A bettor spending 50 cents a hand for an average of 60 hands per hour is already down $30 an hour. Overcoming that house edge is near impossible. Find a better game.

4. Deck check — The house edge is hard to overcome, but getting in games with fewer decks helps the player in the long run. Most blackjack shoes utilize six to eight decks, but players can find more favorable games at higher stakes in games with two decks or even a single deck. That can include 3 to 2 payouts for blackjack instead of 6 to 5. Do some homework and find a casino that is the best fit.

5. You booze, you lose — A few martinis or Coors Lites may sound nice, but don’t overdo it. Nothing is free and there’s a reason casinos offer free cocktails as long as you’re playing. Overindulging often lowers the inhibitions and sends players back into the wallet when they otherwise wouldn’t. Be careful and stay alert. Booze too much and you lose too much!

Blackjack Tips for Beginners6. Leave those 10s alone — It’s an easy rule to remember, but broken all the time. Don’t split a winning hand into two potential winners. Only a 21 beats you when dealt that 20. Don’t risk busting two hands or turning one hand of 20 into two hands of 17.

7. Don’t be soft — It does no good to stand on a soft 17 (ace-6); you must always take a hit. An extra card will not bust this hand, but staying only wins versus a dealer bust. The best result is a push. The most likely result is a loss.

8. Comp control — Everyone likes free stuff. At a casino, the longer you play the more reward points you earn. So if you’re angling for a free room or some free slot play down the line (or even more free cocktails, but remember tip No. 5), take a seat at a table with more players, whether at the casino or online. The action will go slower, ensuring that your bankroll won’t feel the squeeze in a short time — helping you rack up more reward minutes. No hurry? No worries.

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9. Avoid double trouble — Many players just assume you should double down on a 9, 10 or 11, but that’s not always the case. Other times you should double on totals even less than those. Some players know this, but pick the wrong spots to make this move. For example, don’t double down on 4-4. According to basic strategy, this is only a hit or a split against a 5 or 6. Keep your cash and don’t be tempted to double down with double fours.

10. Know when to fold ’em — Yes this a poker phrase, but it’s important to know when to walk away. Have a limit you can afford to lose and head to the exit doors if you reach that limit. Those casinos aren’t going anywhere and there will always be another opportunity.

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Bet with your head, not over it. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER.