Want to know how to win at blackjack without counting cards?
It’s easier than you might think.
To win at blackjack without counting cards, you must use a different advantage play technique, negotiate better game conditions and rules from the casino, and/or get lucky. Other advantage play techniques include spotting dealer tells and hole carding. Negotiating better game conditions and rules from the casino usually requires a large bankroll. Getting lucky is something anyone can do, but you usually won’t.
If you want to learn how to win at blackjack without counting cards, one of the following probably applies:
- You might be afraid of the math involved with card counting.
- You might be afraid of the heat from the casino.
- Or, you might just be looking for an easier, softer way.
I’ll address each of these reasons in this post, but I’m also going to offer some suggestions about how to win at blackjack without card counting.
You Can’t Win at Blackjack without Counting Cards Unless You’ve Mastered Basic Strategy
The house edge in blackjack is famously low — 0.5% to 1%. What a lot of writers and gambling experts don’t mention, though, is that you have some work to do to enjoy that low edge.
What’s the house edge?
If you’re completely new to the concept, the house edge is the statistical advantage that the casino has over the player. It’s an estimate of how much the casino stands to win per bet — based on the difference between the odds of winning and the payout odds.
For most casino games, the house edge hovers around 5%.
In blackjack, if you don’t play your hands according to the correct strategy, the house edge is between 3% and 5%, too.
You lower that by making the decision with the mathematically best expected value in every situation.
Every decision you make in blackjack has a mathematically expected win or loss. Sometimes you get a lousy hand. Your goal is just to lose the least amount possible in the long run. Other times you get great hands and need to maximize your winnings.
Basic strategy is the path to that end. Here’s a great article about learning basic strategy in blackjack.
It should be obvious, but if your goal is to win at blackjack without counting cards, you need to get the house edge as low as possible.
Blackjack Rules and Game Conditions
Another aspect of blackjack that affects the house edge is the casino’s rules for how the game is played. Every change in the rules affects the house edge in one way or another.
Here’s an example:
Some casinos only pay 6 to 5 for a blackjack instead of 3 to 2. A so-called 6/5 blackjack game has a house edge that’s 1.5% higher than normal.
That’s a blatant game condition you should avoid, but other, subtler game conditions affect your probability of winning, too.
The fewer decks you’re playing against, the lower the house edge is. Look for single deck or double deck blackjack games, which are both dealt by hand. You’re likelier to win in hand-dealt games.
Also, try to find blackjack games where the dealer is required to stand on all 17s. If the dealer hits a soft 17, the house gains another 0.2% on the house edge.
If you want to read more about a blackjack player who won without counting cards, check out this article about Don Johnson, a high roller who won $15 million playing blackjack in Atlantic City.
Finding the best sets of rules for the blackjack game you want to win is critical to winning.
Other Advantage Gambling Techniques in Blackjack Besides Counting Cards
Counting cards is the best-known advantage gambling technique in blackjack. It’s easier than you think, too, and I’ll have more to say about that shortly.
But, for now, I want to focus on using other advantage gambling techniques to win at blackjack.
Dealer Tells and Hole Carding
A dealer tell is when the dealer gives away something about her hand when she checks her hole card for blackjack. This is possibly the least effective advantage play strategy in blackjack, but it warrants mentioning.
And I mention hole carding in the same section because it’s a similar concept, although more blatant.
When the dealer gets a face-up card of an ace or a 10, she has to check the hole card to see if she has a blackjack. Since dealers are human beings and not robots, they’ll sometimes exhibit certain behaviors based on the hole card they see.
For example, if the dealer likes the players at the table, she might be rooting for them to win. You might be able to infer that she has a stiff hand if she exhibits some kind of happiness when checking her hole card.
A stiff hand is a hand that’s liable to bust. A 13 through 16 total often busts when taking another card.
Dealer tells aren’t reliable or consistent. You can learn more than you ever thought possible about dealer tells in a book by Steve Forte called Read the Dealer. It’s a self-published volume, but if this advantage technique appeals to you, buy it in spite of that.
Hole carding, on the other hand, is a technique used to actually glimpse the hole card when the dealer looks at it. You must be able to do this in a subtle way, and many dealers are professional enough that they make it impossible to do so.
The bottom line here is simple, though:
Any time you know what the dealer’s hole card might be, you can make different decisions about how to play your hand.
Another advantage play technique that doesn’t involve counting cards is shuffle tracking.
Your goal is to track specific cards or clumps of cards through multiple shuffles. The simpler the shuffling technique is, the easier shuffle tracking becomes.
Shuffle tracking is a technique used in shoe games — blackjack games dealt from 6 or 8 decks, as opposed to hand-dealt games from 1 or 2 decks.
Most shuffle trackers are also card counters. The idea is that you identify a clump of cards with a higher percentage of aces and 10s than is statistically expected. When the cards start coming out of that clump, you raise the size of your bets. Since you have a higher probability of getting a 3 to 2 payout for a blackjack, you stand to gain by betting more.
Another Way to Win at Blackjack without Counting Cards Is to Just Get Lucky
One way to win at any kind of casino gambling is to stay out of the long run. The house edge is a phenomenon that only becomes likely over the long run. The more hands of blackjack you play, the likelier it is that you’ll lose the statistically predicted amount.
This concept has a lot to do with variance, the short term, randomness, and the Law of Large Numbers.
Basically, when the odds are stacked against you, the best way to win is to only play a few hands and quit while you’re ahead.
You’re still likelier to lose than you are to win, though. If that weren’t the case, the casinos wouldn’t stay in business.
If you really want to know how to win at blackjack without counting cards, try this:
Place one really big bet at the blackjack table. If you win, cash out and walk away.
Sure, that doesn’t sound like much fun.
But it increases your probability of doubling your money.
Counting Cards Is Easier than You Think, Though
I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that counting cards is the most reliable and commonly used technique for winning at blackjack.
And it’s easier than you think.
In fact, counting cards is probably easier than the other techniques I’ve mentioned.
You don’t have to memorize the cards that have been played to figure out which cards are coming next.
You really just need to come up with a rough estimate of the ratio of high cards (aces and 10s) to low cards. Since the deck is randomized, you’ll sometimes have a deck where a larger number of low cards than high cards have already been dealt.
Since the proportion of aces and 10s in such a deck is higher than usual, you have a higher probability of getting a blackjack.
You raise the size of your bets, and you wind up with a mathematical edge over the casino.
I’ll write another post tomorrow about the ace five count in blackjack, which is the easiest card counting system you could imagine.
Learning how to win at blackjack without counting cards is possible.
But it’s not necessarily the best goal.
Start by memorizing basic strategy so that you’re minimizing the house edge.
Follow that up with knowing how to find the games with the best rules.
Finally, consider some other advantage strategies like dealer tells, hole carding, and shuffle tracking.