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Dan Ippolito

As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and he writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports.

More about Dan Ippolito
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Top 10 tips for blackjack newbies

13 May 2024

By Dan Ippolito
If you are new to table games at casinos, it can sometimes be intimidating because you don’t want to make a costly mistake. Totally understandable and every gambler has probably felt this at some point when they first started, including myself.

With several years under my belt and thousands of hands played, you learn from experience and from the other players and dealers around you. Before you hit the blackjack table for the first time, take a look at these 10 tips to give yourself an idea of what to expect, and what you should do.

10. Play for entertainment
This piece of advice is for most gamblers, especially newbies. You must understand that you are playing for entertainment and not looking for another source of income or a way to make money. The saying “the house always wins” may be cliché but it does get the point across that in every casino game, the house is going to have some sort of advantage over the players.

If you, as a new player, think you are going to be able to take down the house, then you need to reconsider. Now, that is not to say you have no chance of making some money along the way. Learning basic strategy and playing the right way will help your chances, but players need to have the mindset that it is very possible that their chips could end up on the other side of the table and if you aren’t willing to lose that amount, don’t risk it.

Choose your table wisely.

Choose your table wisely.

9. Don’t pick an empty table
Choosing a table to play at is always something I take seriously when going to casinos. I tend to always avoid empty tables because going 1 vs. 1 against the dealer can get ugly fast.

The more decisions you have to make and the more hands you play, the higher the house edge is going to get. Therefore, if you are alone at the table, the house edge will eventually catch up to you and you could see your chip count get sucked away before your drink arrives.

Look for a table with a couple of players at it already who seem fun or social because if you are new, you don’t want to pick a table where every decision you make you will be nervous how the others are going to react.

8. Don’t sit down right away
Something to also consider before you take that seat at the blackjack table is how are the players doing?

I don’t mean ask them if they are winning big or anything like that. But see a hand or two and if the table keeps winning, wait to sit down until you see a couple of losses because nothing is worse then when you are running hot and someone sits down to break up the flaming hot shoe.

I also tend to ask the players if they mind if I join and don’t be offended if they ask you to hold off until the end of the deck because that most likely means they are on a good streak and want to keep it going until the next shuffle.

7. Don’t let others influence you
Since you are a new player, you should start yourself off at a lower minimum bet table and get the hang of things before you head to higher stakes if your bankroll allows it.

When you are at the tables and get to a hand where you may not be 100% sure what your play should be, you can ask the dealer what the book says you should do and they will give you a hand.

You are inevitably going to run into some players that are going to have opinions on how you player and the choices you make. Now, they have their own style of play just like you will, and that doesn’t mean they have all the right answers so when they do say something or react to how you play, don’t let it get to you.

Learn your basic strategy, try to follow it as best you can and only take dealers’ advice unless you ask another player. Don’t let them butt in and influence how you play.

6. Hitting soft 18s
There are plenty of hand combinations to memorize what to do and you are bound to have difficult hands to decide what to do on.

With the goal of getting as close to 21 as possible, if your first two cards add up to 18, you might automatically think you are good to stand, and that isn’t always the case. If you are dealt and ace and a seven, while that is a solid hand, you may not always want to stand.

Something to remember is you should assume the dealer’s down card is always a 10. So, if the dealer’s up card is a seven or an eight, then yes, you are supposed to stand on your soft 18 since you would beat a 17 and tie against an 18.

Now, if the dealer’s up card is a nine, 10 or face card, you are going to actually want to hit, which could ruin your 18, but it is actually a free hit because you can’t bust with a soft 18. You have a chance to improve your hand by getting a small card, or even getting a 10 and still remaining at 18. If you get a four through nine, then your hand has gotten worse, yes, but you can still attempt to salvage it.

5. Splitting 8s
Another example of a tough decision to make is when you are dealt two eights. The basic strategy book tells us that when you are given this hand, you are going to split against any card the dealer has, which will double your bet.

Yes, that also includes against a face card or an ace. It is tough to get yourself to do that sometimes because you are going to assume the dealer has 20 when they hold a face card as the up card. However, if you have a 16, you are probably going to bust if you hit on 16. By splitting eights, you have given yourself a chance to maybe put together a couple of 18s with face cards, or even give yourself a double down situation by landing a three on top of one of your eights.

4. Knowing when to get up
Taking breaks or moving tables is apart of gambling. An even bigger part of gambling sessions are streaks. Eventually, you are going to go on big winning streaks, and sadly, you will experience losing streaks where it feels like no matter what you do, all that comes to you is losing hands.

During those losing streaks, don’t try to survive it to see if a winning streak is right around the corner. Color up your chips, and go take a break or maybe look for a new table. You will feel much better knowing you got up when things started going south rather than waiting another 30 minutes to find your bankroll is gone and your session was fried because you just couldn’t get up.

3. Managing chips
On a more positive note, you will have shoes that are the opposite and you are getting paid on every hand. When this happens, you might start raising your bets and see your chip stack grow.

You will have no idea how long this hot streak will last so be prepared for the tides to turn and don’t let your big streak go to waste for nothing.

Let’s say you bought in for $500 at a $25 minimum table. You might see yourself double your money if you are on a good streak for a bit. My suggestion would be to pocket your original buy-in along with maybe $100 or $150.

By doing this, if a losing streak comes, and you get cleaned out, you have not only survived the shift change, but also manage to leave with some sort of profit.

Manage your money.

Manage your money.

2. Don’t chase losses
If you have played blackjack for a few years, you are bound to see some players who let their emotions get the better of them. You may have even had this happen to yourself and learned from it.

This goes back to taking a break as well, because some of those losing streaks may trigger players and put them on tilt. When this happens, you may see players who were betting $25 per hand, angrily slide $100, or sometimes even more, to try and win a hand to get a chunk of their losses back.

Sure, you may get lucky and win that hand, but this is not the way to play at all. You could easily lose two or three of those hands in a row and your losses could increase 10x before you realize it.
Stay within your bet size and only increase when you are up and winning, don’t get frustrated and try to make it all back in a couple of hands.

1. Staying within budget
I will always stand by this rule to live by no matter what your experience/skill level is in gambling. When you go to a casino, whether it’s for several days on a trip to Las Vegas, or just hitting a local casino for a couple of hours, have the amount of money you want to gamble with in cash on you.

This amount should be what you are willing to lose. Never gamble with more than you can handle losing because, as I already said, gambling is entertainment and not a way to make money.

If that money lasts you a few days or is gone within minutes, don’t let the amount of time you gambled for change your budget. After that amount of money is gone, don’t find yourself having the gambling itch and head to the ATM to take out more because that is a habit that can lead to some issues.

Hopefully your bankroll doesn’t dwindle down to zero, but it can happen and you need to be prepared for that.
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