Tips for Playing Blackjack at a Casino


The most important decision a Blackjack player can make is where to play—not just the table or the game selected, but the casino itself. When choosing a casino, there are a number of factors that should be taken into account, including the following.

Incentives – Look for a casino that has an active Player’s Club, one that rewards loyal play with gifts, cash, and comps. Ask if there any special promotions, such as $25 in chips for a $10 buy in or free drawing tickets for every natural blackjack. Most large casinos have some kind of special offer going on all the time. Don’t miss out on it.

Comps – Whether the casino offers rewards through a Player’s Cub or not, all pit bosses have the power to offer comps at their discretion, from free food and rooms to show tickets. Ask around. Find out what’s available and what it takes to get it. Sometimes it is necessary to be “rated” as a player in order to qualify. That means requesting that the pit crew keep track of the initial buy in, playing speed, and average wager amount.

Stakes – Some casinos cater to high rollers, while others attract a less moneyed crowd. Choose one where the amounts being wagered are suited to the bankroll being carried. There is no point in entering a place where one cannot afford to play.

Credit – Many players don’t know they eligible for casino credit (markers) because they never ask. Credit is a function of the cashier’s cage. Getting a credit line will require a having a bank account and may involve a credit check, but for those who qualify, it is like having access to an interest free loan every visit.

Atmosphere – The casino floor can be full of distractions, from loud music and general noise to sports events shown on big-screen TVs, and crowds of visitors jostling around the pit area. Pick a casino that “feels” right. If one likes to drink while playing, make sure there are cocktail servers who take good care of the table games players. If one prefers clean air, choose a smoke-free environment.

Once the “right” location has been selected, picking at the “right” Blackjack table is not simply a matter of luck. Each one has its own version of the game. Dealers are different, too. It is important to know exactly what’s being played, what’s allowed and what’s, not before sitting down.

House Rules – Any member of the pit crew can answer questions about the various rules that are in effect. A dealer who has to stand on soft 17 will yield better odds of winning than a table where a draw is required. Single-deck tables may be preferable to multi-deck ones, but only if the rules have not been greatly modified, such as 6-to-5 payouts for blackjacks instead of the customary 3-to-2. Choose a table with the lowest house edge.

Dealers – Even if they all trained at the same school, no two dealers are exactly alike. It is quite all right to observe some hands before sitting down. Look for a dealer who is friendly, has a consistent speed of play, assists less-experienced players, and does not tolerate bad table manners.

Seating Position – As discussed elsewhere on this site, the last seat at the table, called “third base,” gives the player some advantage—being able to see all cards in play before making a decision about each hand. The first seat, “first base,” has a slight disadvantage. Those who do not mind sitting between two other players may prefer a middle seat, from which cards can easily be seen or two or more hands can be played.

Other Players – If everyone at a table looks happy and they all have large stacks of chips in front of them while the dealer’s chip tray is nearly empty, it’s a certain invitation to sit down. If everyone looks depressed and several are down to their last few chips, it’s probably a good sign to walk away. Again, before taking a seat, observe a few hands and see how the others play. Avoid tables full of novices just learning the game or “table bosses” who want to tell everyone else how to play their hands. And don’t pass up the opportunity to play alone against the dealer—for a good player, it can often be the easiest way to win big.