I may have mentioned before, but I do like to play blackjack occasionally. I don’t like to gamble, I just like to play the game! So when we saw there was a casino only 15 minutes from our current location, I just had to check it out.
The Silver Reef Casino is owned by the Lummi People, one of the First Nation Peoples in this region. It’s a medium size facility with a hotel, spa, several restaurants, and a bright, modern casino. Upon investigation, we found a blackjack table with low stakes ($3 minimum) and good rules. I was in business!
Since we are here for a few weeks, it made sense to join their players club. Mondays are Golden Groovy Days with special promotions for us gray-hairs over 50. Here’s how our Monday goes: We check in at the members kiosk and receive our $5 food voucher and $5 free slot play. Then it’s off to the tables for an hour or two of game play. This casino provides free soft drinks / coffee only (no free alcohol), which is perfectly fine with me. (I think it makes for a nicer environment and who wants to drink at 10 am anyway?!) I cash out a few dollars up and we head for the lunch buffet. With our vouchers, we enjoy a nice buffet lunch for less than $10 (total!). Then back to the tables to play for an hour or three. I quit when I’m up a few bucks. Somewhere in there we use our promotional slot dollars – often I just lose it, but sometimes I get lucky and cash out a few dollars. At the end of the afternoon, we stroll away comfortably full, entertained for the day, with $10 – $30 more in our pocket than we started with.
That all sounds good, but how is it that I can consistently win? It IS called gambling after all, and the house always wins, right? OK, I don’t ALWAYS win, but I do seem to end up winning more often than not. So, I’m going to give you my winning secrets!
One reason I can win more than lose is that I like to play blackjack, not slots or the other casino games. Blackjack has the lowest house edge of all games – only 0.5% IF you play properly and IF you find a table with favorable rules. Those are big “ifs”.
I have observed many really bad blackjack players lose a ton of money fast. If you’re going to play, please learn basic blackjack strategy. Casinos sometimes give classes, websites like Wizard of Odds explains strategy, and there are even apps you can download that will drill you on correct play. Once you’ve mastered the basics, then you can learn advanced strategies such as when to double down on soft hands, when to surrender, and how the strategies differ if you are playing with 2 decks versus 6. I did OK when I followed basic strategy, but I did better as I learned the advanced strategy nuances. If you’re a newbie and not sure what to do – ask the dealer! They know the game and can advise you what the “book” says to do in different situations. One thing I don’t do is try to count cards – I’m not that fast at calculating. I just try to play really good strategy based on the odds charts.
The second key is to find a blackjack table with the rules that favor the player as much as possible. The table’s rules impact the house edge, sometimes substantially. Table rules define the bet minimum and maximum, whether the dealer stands or hits a soft 17, and the blackjack payout (usually 3 to 2). There are also such nuances as whether you can double down on any two cards (or just 9,10 or 11), whether you can re-split aces (or not), how many times you can re-split pairs, and whether you can surrender. Some of these are advanced topics, so I’ll just give you one piece of good advice — ONLY play tables with blackjack payout of 3:2. Many of the low stakes Vegas Strip blackjack tables have a 6:5 payout which doesn’t sound that much different, but it is. That one rule difference improves the house edge by 1.39%, bringing it up to at least 1.9% or more, depending on the other rules. Just. Walk. Away. Maybe if enough people refuse to play, they’ll eliminate that despicable practice. Nah, unfortunately there’s always people who don’t know better and the casinos are happy to take their money.
Normally, if I find a “good rules” table and play as correctly as possible, I’ll win and lose in a cyclical fashion. Sometimes I’ll have an exceptional run of bad luck with the cards that no amount of correct play can overcome. I had a losing streak like that a few months ago in Vegas. In that situation I may lose my budgeted daily gambling allowance and that’s it for the night. But usually, I’ll go just up and down. My trick is to play a while and then quit when I’m ahead, even by just a few dollars. I’m not trying to make a killing, I just don’t want to lose money. More often than not – it works!
And that’s my secret to winning at blackjack. Hey, it’s Monday – off to the casino for cheap food and fun!