Have you ever wondered why blackjack has been the most popular table game in casinos for the past 50 or so years? Its popularity arises for these four reasons.

  1. You can reduce the house edge to less than 1%
  2. You can reduce your monetary loss by taking advantage of comps
  3. Learn when to bet more, and when to bet less
  4. You can get the edge in blackjack tournaments by playing better than your opponents play


Most other table games in casinos have house edges greater than 1% (in some cases much greater), and except for a technique known as dice control for craps (which is difficult to master), there isn’t much you can do to reduce the inherent house edge. However, with blackjack, all it takes is knowing, and using, the basic playing strategy. By doing so, it’s possible to lower the house edge to only a half percent (and sometimes lower depending upon the playing rules).

I know most players abhor learning the basic strategy. They want to have fun when they play and memorizing a bunch of strategy decisions seems like too much work. If you happen to be one of these players, I have some good news to share with you. In Chapters 2 and 3 in my Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide, you will find tables and charts that contain the basic playing strategy and tips on how to learn it (Chapter 4). Moreover, here’s the best tip of all: you can bring a strategy card with you and refer to it when you play blackjack. They are casino legal; however, for security reasons, don’t place the strategy card on the table, instead place it in your lap or hold it in your hand and refer to it to make the correct playing decision on every hand. If you do this, you can lower the house edge to less than 1% without a whole lot of effort. (Note: Keep in mind that to achieve the approximate 0.5% house edge with basic strategy, you must play a blackjack game with a mix of player-favorable rules. See Chapter 2 in my Guide for more details.)


Here’s how this works. Most casinos assume a 1‒2% edge over the masses of players who play blackjack. That’s pretty close to the majority of blackjack players who use a seat-of-the-pants playing strategy. However, the smart basic strategy player faces only a half-percent (or less) house edge. The difference between the casino’s perceived 1‒2 % advantage vs. your 0.5% disadvantage  using the basic strategy often results in the basic strategy player’s getting more comps than the casino thinks they will win from the player. All you need is a casino player’s card (free to obtain), and just hand it to the dealer when you sit down and play. The floor supervisor will keep track of how much money you wagered and how long you play to determine the value of your comp. The bottom line is that most basic strategy players should be able to earn enough comps to lower their overall return from playing to nearly zero.  (For details on how to take advantage of comps when you play blackjack, read Chapter 5.)


I’m not talking about using a progressive betting system because it will not change the house edge one iota. No, I’m proposing using a simple entry-level card counting system.  Why? Because by using the latter, you will know when the edge shifts in your favor on the next hand and, therefore, that is when you will want to bet more. Likewise, these easy-to-use counting systems will tell you when the advantage shifts to the dealer so you would bet less. By betting more when you have the edge and less when you don’t, you can lower the house edge below a half percent, and depending on the playing rules, you could eke out a small advantage over the casino. The entry-level card counting systems are not very difficult to learn. (You’ll find the details on several entry-level card counting systems in Chapter 10. Once you become comfortable using one of these systems, I would suggest you consider trying a more advanced counting system such as Hi-Lo.)


blackjack chips



Not too many blackjack players are aware of the above and that’s unfortunate. Most casinos offer blackjack tournaments; some are one-day events, others, an entire weekend. The top prizes for finishing in the money in a blackjack tournament can be substantial, and your risk is simply the entry fee for entering the tournament. So how do you gain an advantage? In blackjack tournaments, your primary adversary is not the casino; it’s the other tournament players. Whether you win or lose bets against the dealer (i.e., casino) is not what matters. What does is whether you win more (or lose less) than your opponents. By being more skillful in how you bet, and how you play your hands compared to your fellow table players, it’s possible to gain an edge over them. There are specific tournament playing and betting strategies based on how much bankroll you have relative to your tablemates, especially in the last few hands in a tournament round. (For more details on these playing and betting strategies, consult Chapter 15.)


So there you have it, four reasons for blackjack’s popularity. Moreover, it is also an easy game to learn, and fun to play. Give it a try the next time you head to your favorite casino. (If you are a novice, I suggest you glance at the blackjack basics in my Guide.)

Henry Tamburin is one of world’s most respected blackjack experts and a world-class player. He is the author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide, and Blackjack: Take The Money and Run. He edited the monthly Blackjack Insider Newsletter, and was a featured blackjack columnist for Casino Player magazine, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, Gaming South magazine, Southern Gaming magazine, New England Gaming News, Jackpot, Bingo Bugle, and Casino City Times.