Blackjack Series: Table Selection

In the last article in this series, we discussed how to play basic strategy for ideal odds of winning. Today we’ll discuss exactly what casinos to choose and which tables to play at those casinos.

Before we get into that, I’ll go over my most recent blackjack results. I recently went to Vegas so I played a lot more in March than I do typically.

March 18th
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 16 minutes
Ending Pot: $512
Result: Won $12

March 22nd (in Vegas)
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 18 minutes
Ending Pot: $600
Result: Won $100

March 23rd (in Vegas)
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 26 minutes
Ending Pot: $635
Result: Won $135

March 24th (in Vegas)
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 27 minutes
Ending Pot: $750
Result: Won $250

Second time, March 24th (in Vegas)
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 16 minutes
Ending Pot: $525
Result: Won $25

March 25th (in Vegas)
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 24 minutes
Ending Pot: $625
Result: Won $125

March 31st
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 14 minutes
Ending Pot: $555
Result: Won $55

April 9th
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 20 minutes
Ending Pot: $535
Result: Won $35

As you can see, I’ve been on a very fun winning streak. Eight games in a row and in all eight I won, though in many I won just a tiny bit. This is usually because I was losing and at a negative starting pot (a balance of below $500) during most of the game, and as soon as I recovered my money (just over $500 again), I immediately stopped playing and left. This, as I’ve said before, is the single most important move in blackjack, but we’ve discussed that already.

So since March 18th I have made a profit of $737 playing blackjack. If you track all the wins and losses since I started playing blackjack back in early February, I’ve made a nice profit of $1325 so far this year. That’s a for-fun hobby that nets me an average income of $441 per month (so far this year anyway). Not too shabby.

Table Selection

Table selection is an extremely important factor to your blackjack success. Within any decent-size casino there will be blackjack available on many different tables. The problem is most of these tables will have a card and rule configuration that is favorable to the casino instead of you. Granted, all blackjack tables give a slight edge to the house (“house” meaning the casino), but most people have no idea that certain tables grant the house less of an edge than others.

These are the tables where you want to blackjack, and you must completely ignore all the other tables.

Number of Decks

The first thing you need to evaluate is the number of decks in play at a given table. Most blackjack tables play the game with six decks, or 321 cards (52 cards per deck). Some other tables play with eight decks, four decks, two decks (called “double deck”), or one deck (called “single deck”). The rule of thumb is that the more decks in play, the better the odds for the house, and the worse odds for you.

This means you never, ever play at an eight, six, or four deck table. If you can, only play at a single deck table. If that’s not available, play at a double deck. If single deck or double deck isn’t available, you don’t play.

Let me make that clear. If I go to a casino and they don’t have any single or double deck tables (or they do but the tables are all full), I don’t play blackjack there. I leave and go home (or find a different casino). The odds just aren’t in your favor at higher-deck tables. It also makes card counting more difficult. But card counting or not, always refuse to play at any table higher than double deck (unless you’re just farting around with friends or playing completely for fun and you don’t care if you lose money).

Table Rules

Once you’ve found a single or double deck table, you need to make sure the rules for that table are contusive to the least-bad odds for you. Here are the rules you want:

-Dealer stands on soft 17
-Player can double after split
-Player can double on any two cards
-Player can split any two cards
-Player can split after split (to up to 4 hands, the more the better)
-Player can double after split
-Surrender allowed
-Blackjack plays 3 to 2 (instead of 6 to 5)

If a table has all the above rules, and it’s single or double deck, that’s a fantastic table to play. Go for it.

If a table has the vast majority of those rules, but not quite all of them, it’s still okay to play (as long as it’s single or double deck). A handy calculator is located right here. You can plug in the rules of a table and it will tell you exactly what the house edge is. Remember, you want this number to be as low as possible.

For example, some tables will have all the above rules except the dealer must hit soft 17. That’s fine. Other casinos have single deck games with all the above rules except blackjack only pays out 6 to 5. This is also fine.

But! If a table doesn’t have most of those rules, you need to find a different table. If none of the tables in the casino have most of those rules, then you’re in the wrong casino, and you need to leave and go find a different one. Seriously. Don’t play there. The odds for success in blackjack are so razor-thin that you need every variable in your favor, or you’ll likely lose.

Go for More “Shitty” Casinos

Generally speaking, the bigger and fancier the casino, the more likely it’s going to have crappier rules at its blackjack tables. Many of the big, fancy, fun casinos in Vegas (for example) have terrible blackjack rules (though there are exceptions).

Often you’re better off at playing at the smaller, more hole-in-the-wall casinos. These tend to have more favorable rules for the player. I’m lucky enough to live within a 20 minute drive of a small grouping of tiny, somewhat crappy rural casinos that have utterly fantastic player-friendly rules. I usually play at a double deck table that has every rule listed above except for the deal hits on soft 17s. Great odds for me (as compared to most other blackjack tables).

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  • noob
    Posted at 01:19 am, 15th May 2015

    hey I’m really enjoying & looking forward to these BJ posts.

    From your other blog: ‘I purchased several books, ebooks, and training programs written by professional blackjack players who make their living and pay their bills solely by playing, and winning, at blackjack on a regular basis. I’m talking serious, hardcore guys who regularly get banned from casinos because they (the guys) win so often, like Avery Cardoza (my favorite), Colin Jones, Ken Uston, and others.’

    I picked up the blue book from Avery Cardoza because it emphasized on the non-card counting and apparently he’s you fav.
    Which other books can you recommend or helped you? search yields so many choices, a lot of them are about card counting too. Thanks

  • Caleb Jones
    Posted at 09:50 pm, 15th May 2015

    Cardoza is definitely my favorite and just about 70-80% of what I do is based on his core teachings. So anything written by him is awesome. Other good ones for basic beginners:

    New Ways to Win More at Blackjack by Richard Harvey
    Bettting on Blackjack by Dunki-Jacobs

    Two good online resources:

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