A player who has mastered basic strategy and studied betting systems, one who can count cards and knows how to manage a bankroll, stands a good chance of being successful at the Blackjack table. There are, however, many other factors besides cards and chips that can influence the outcome of a Blackjack game, many which relate to the player’s own approach and some which involve other people.
Being prepared to play Blackjack is almost as important as playing the game itself. Long before sitting down at a table, a player should make some very basic decisions and set a few parameters. These include:
– How long will I play?
– How much cash will I take with me?
– How much am I willing to lose?
– How much do I want to win?
– What will I do if I win or lose a lot quickly?
– How will I know when to quit playing?
Far too many players leave home without giving these questions sufficient consideration. The best players set a limit on play—a certain number of hands, a specific length of time, or a monetary indicator such as a profit objective or stop loss limit. It is always possible to play again another day. Knowing when to stop before starting is the key.
Follow the Rules
Much has been written about Blackjack odds and how slight changes in the Basic Rules can have a huge impact on the house edge. Players will always want to seek out the tables that give them the greatest opportunity to win, of course, but sometimes it is impossible to find the rules posted. How can one compare one table to another?
The simple answer is to “ask.” Pit personnel are there to answer questions as well as oversee the games. There is no harm whatsoever in asking one of them to clarify the rules for any of their tables. If a player knows exactly what he/she is looking for, it is best to ask specific questions, such as: “How many splits are allowed?” “Is it possible to double down after a split?” “Can I double down on any two cards?”
These questions are best asked before sitting down. By learning the answers beforehand, there will be no need to bother asking the dealer when situations come up, only to learn that a preferred method of play is not allowed.
Get a Good Seat
Table limits, both minimum and maximum, should be considered before sitting down at a Blackjack table. A player whose average bet is $25 may be well advised to sit at a $5 or $10 table than a $25 table, so that backing off on wagers is possible when the deck is lacking favorable cards. Those who follow a progressive betting system may also wish to look for tables that offer a wide spread between the lowest and highest bets the table will allow.
Some players are comfortable sitting at “first base.” They like to receive their cards before other players get the opportunity to make any decisions. Others feel better at “third base,” where it is possible to see everything that has been played before being the last one to act before the dealer. And many prefer to be seated in the middle of the table, where their play draws less attention. Those who have a preference for a certain position at the table are advised to wait until it becomes available. Sitting in an uncomfortable position can easily throw off a player’s game.
Timing Is Everything
A good player will not sit down just because a seat is open. Many prefer to join a game immediately after the shuffle in order to begin with a “neutral” deck. But joining mid-deck has advantages, too. Watching several hands played before taking a seat can help identify not only a “rich” or “poor” deck but also give the player some insight as to how experienced the others at the table are.
Regular Blackjack players may also observe certain “traffic” patterns that aid them in deciding when to play. For example, weekends may attract a tourist crowd with money to burn and not much practice in playing cards. Late in the evening, heavy drinkers may dominate the tables. Early mornings may be best for playing alone against the dealer. And lunch hours or early evenings may have their own “regulars” who are good to play with during the week.
Table limits tend to be lower when the casino floor is less crowded. And finding out when a “good dealer” has his/her shift can be worth its weight in chips, too. That’s not to say some dealers inherently lose more often than others, but some control the game better or brighten the mood of the table with their personalities. They may also help beginners play “according to the Book” and protect serious players from being seated next to troublemakers.