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Blackjack is the game of choice for many players who are serious about gambling. Unlike slots, this is a skill-based game: you need to know all the rules and also be thorough with strategy to chalk up wins regularly; mere luck just won’t do.
There are a lot of players who play blackjack with real money, but for fun and as a hobby, the casual gamblers. They usually play with minimal bets and are happy to win every now and then. There are also players who are serious about the game and in fact make a living out of it; these are the professional blackjack players. On this page we will take a quick look at how to become a professional blackjack player.
Most of the stuff about blackjack strategy that you read online or hear about has to do with basic blackjack strategy; they are there in keeping with the ‘educating the masses’ methodology. They will not be of much use to you if you are looking to become a professional player. Here are 5 rules you can follow to become a professional blackjack player.
Know when to use the Doctor Pepper Rule. Another rule that players follow in blackjack is the Doctor Pepper rule: hit a hand of 12 consisting of 10 and 2 if the dealer’s face card is 4; stand for any other hand of 12 for the same dealer’s face card. Generically, this rule may work. However, when you break it down further, you will find that there are 4 permutations to forming a 12-hand: 7 and 5, 8 and 4, 9 and 3, and 10 and 2.
If your hand has a 10 and a 2, the probability of landing another 10 if you hit goes down slightly, and your chances of winning go up to 40%. However, for any of the other hands, say a hand of 7 and 5, the probability of landing a 10-value card increases, and your odds of winning while hitting therefore goes down a notch to 39.75%. In such a scenario, hitting may not actually work to your advantage at times.
Read the game carefully. You will have to dig deeper to understand the game; for instance, you will find that compared to what you get in a standard chart, there could a difference in approach to playing depending on the value of the cards in a hand. So if conventional blackjack wisdom is to hit instead of standing if you have a hand of 16 when the dealer’s first card is an Ace, that situation could very well vary depending on how many cards in your hand make up the 16 and what the dealer’s face card is.
Assume you have a hand of 16 – a 6 and a 10, while the dealer has a Jack as the face card. If you apply the law of probability here, the odds of winning remain almost the same regardless of whether you hit or stand – 23% for standing against 23.5% for hitting. This is because the 2 big cards that could contribute to a bust – the 10 and the Jack, along with the medium-size card that is 6, are already dealt and hence out of the deck; bringing down the possibility of busting.
Use the Rule of 45 wisely. Many times the way you play will actually vary also depending on the number of cards that make up your hand. To understand this better, let us again take the example of a hand of 16, with the dealer’s face card being a Jack. Conventional wisdom dictates that you hit. However, if your hand has 3 or more cards, the better option could even possibly be to stand because the odds of going bust go higher as the number of cards in your hand increases. In such a situation, the Rule of 45 may actually backfire, as it is meant to be used only when the dealer’s face card is a 10.
Ensure your bankroll matches your ambition. Blackjack is a game of skill and even as a professional who plays the game for a living you cannot expect to win all the time. Ensure that you have a bankroll that is able to help you tide over the times you lose. You cannot expect to win a 6-figure pay packet with a bankroll of $100 all the time, for instance; a big bankroll helps.
A good bankroll would be at least $40,000, for instance. Because assuming that the average bet in a regular game is about $4 to $5, you would need to bet way higher to be able to make a living out of blackjack, at least 300 times higher. Playing higher wagers also gets you juicy comps at the casinos you visit.
Card counting is an option. While blackjack strategy is one way to go about ensuring you win more often and lose lesser, another way, a little controversial one at that, is by counting cards. Card counting works well in land-based casinos: you keep track of the cards that have already been dealt and know the ones that are still to come; this helps you tweak your betting according to your analysis. It is not illegal, but casinos definitely do not encourage it because it allows the player a shot at lowering the house edge.
At the end of it all, it is about practice. You do not become a professional blackjack player overnight. The only way you take that leap forward is by constantly practicing. Play initially with family and friends, and then with small money. Then head into moderate and later big money play. A good way to practice is to sign up at one of the online casinos that offer blackjack and play in the free-play mode.
There are a number of fantastic success stories you read about when you look at professional blackjack players. One of the most iconic is the story of Don Johnson. Johnson was the founder of Heritage Development, a company that offered software-driven wagering programs related to horse racing, but he is globally known as the man who took the Las Vegas casinos for a whopping $15 million in the space of 6 months in 2011.
After negotiating with the casinos for healthy discounts, he struck a gold vein during the period mentioned and won close to $6 million at the Tropicana, almost $5 million at the Borgata, and over $4 million at Caesar’s.
Another great story is that of Josh Axelrad. He is a professional card counter who is now on to other things. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, he was part of a blackjack team that played in Vegas and won hundreds of thousands of dollars doing so. His experiences as a blackjack player in Vegas took the form of a memoir that was quite well received: Repeat Until Rich: A Professional Card Counter’s Chronicle of the Blackjack Wars, published by Penguin in 2010.
There are a number of books that advanced blackjack players can read. These are books by former blackjack experts and players and have, apart from information on technique and skill, a wealth of knowledge that you might not otherwise find. One back that you would find an interesting read is Playing Blackjack as a Business, written by Lawrence Revere, a professional blackjack player who was also a pit boss.
Armed with a math degree from the University of Nebraska, he wrote Playing Blackjack as a Business and was also responsible for putting together a series of card counting strategies, including the Revere Point Count, the Revere Five Count Strategy, the Revere Plus-Minus Strategy, and the Ten Count Strategy.
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