Gambling is betting on something that if you win yields a reward. If you’re not sure where to put your money when you step into the casino this article is for you. Every choice we make is a gamble essentially. Some gambles are bold and have a high degree of risk and on the other end of the spectrum there is the gamble that is safe and low-risk. All of us, when faced with a choice, would essentially choose the gamble that produces the best results and in turn, gain ground in our pursuit of happiness. There is no doubt that most of us would risk it all if we knew that we were guaranteed the reward. But there are no such guarantees. However the more aware we are of the risk/reward ratio the better choice we can make when gambling with our life, love, career, and money.
I have worked in a casino for a total of four years. For more than three of those years I was a Blackjack dealer. I knew very little about casinos and the kinds of games they offered at that point. When I was twenty-one I went to the casino with $400 dollars and had no idea how I was going to use it. We all figure somewhere in our minds that when we go to a casino that we are going to be winners but that is far from the truth. Each and every game offers different odds and those odds can be improved or worsened depending on how much you know about that game. Of course I didn’t know this until I started working for a casino. During my first trip to the casino I would lose my $400 in two hours paying to learn the hard way.
When I became a blackjack dealer I ate it up fast and quick. I had always loved statistics and blackjack was all about taking advantage of the numbers. As I was trained for two weeks about the game, I constantly reflected on my first experience at the casino and was surprised by how much information about the game I didn’t know. The crazy thing about it was that there was lots of information to gain on the game just by reading a book or two about it. The first lesson I learned about bettering my odds was that everyone should know something about the game they are going to play before going to the casino. Just spending a couple hours may not make you a guaranteed winner but it most likely will keep you in the casino longer. Whether you’re going just to have a good time, perhaps with friends, and have already set a budget of money you have afforded to lose or whether you’re trying to take the House head-on you need to do some homework.
The first couple of weeks dealing cards for the first time are pretty intense. Most of your time is spent on your mechanics and learning the game. You engage in conversation with the customers but it’s hard to get caught up in it because the game is not second nature at that point. However, as time went on, I could literally deal cards as if I was breathing air. I became a sponge learning every aspect of the game; its history, the strategies professionals use, and the strategies regular folks use or didn’t use. Most people that are novice to the game of blackjack think the name of the game is to get as close to 21 as you can. Though the closer you get to 21 the more likely you are to win there are many instances in which actively doing this every hand reduces your odds. A second secret to sitting at the table longer is knowing when to take a card and when to stand your hand. The reason for this is that the casino has rules by which it must play its hand. Casinos are not trying to beat your hand. Casinos play their hands to stand on 17 or better. Because of this fact you need to play your cards based on that house rule. So the second lesson I learned quickly was that anyone who plays the game of blackjack needs to learn about Basic Strategy. Basic Strategy, though seems difficult to memorize at first, is an intuitive strategy once you get the gist of it. The best thing about it is that you don’t have to memorize it at all. Most casinos will have a Basic Strategy chart that if you ask for they will give you and you can refer to it as you play at the table. If only I had known that the first time I went to play. The casinos however won’t advertise that they have this little handy chart unless you specifically ask for it.
When you understand the game of Blackjack and learn Basic Strategy and you walk into the casino you are now armed with the knowledge to be at almost 50/50 odds when playing the traditional game, you will be playing the best game for your money when you are in the casino. That’s right, the best game for your money. You have a 1 in 2 chance of winning each and every hand you play. You will find no other game in the casino that will give you those kinds of odds, whether it is craps, baccarat, roulette, or slots (slots are the worst of them all).
Games like roulette or craps can get you closer to 50/50 if you know about the game. This again illustrates my point that knowledge of any game you play is the first rule for playing any game. You can increase your odds even more playing the game of blackjack just by adding a few more informational tools to your mental rolodex. From my experience when you take the human instinct out of the game and add fundamental knowledge you have a significantly better chance of leaving the casino with more money than you came in with, which obviously make for a more joyful outing for a night of entertainment. One more tool I want to add to your gambling chest, whether it be playing any game in the casino, is some casino rules to live by. What I have learned from watching people play is that 99% of the people who go into the casino lose because even though they have some knowledge of the game under their belt they have no rules for money management. Everyone needs a stop-loss limit. When you go to the casino you should be taking money you can afford to lose and that’s that. Whether it be $20, $50, $100, $500, or $10,000 it must be money you can actually say to yourself “I can afford to lose”. If that money is paying the bills then don’t play or you will wind up being between a rock and a hard place. On top of that what ever you do budget for the casino if you’re the type of person who can’t get up and walk away once that money is gone, do yourself a favor and leave any access to credit cards or bank accounts at home or far enough way that you have to leave the casino to have access to your funds. We are all emotional beings and our emotions are flying high when we’re gambling. When a person loses their money their first thoughts are “I need more money, I know I can win if I keep trying”. That is a quick way to leave yourself in a state of depression and bankruptcy days or weeks after your casino run. Besides having a stop-loss limit you should also have some sort of system for if you’re winning. You could have a stop-win limit, like double your money, or have a pocket rule. Every $20 over my initial money goes into my pocket that I will not gamble with in the future. If you started with $100 and go up $20 two or three times than no matter what happens to the initial $100 you will have $40 to $60 left after it’s all said and done. This may appear stupid but trust me the more rules/limits you set on yourself the more likely you will truly have enjoyed your night out to the casino.
You are now armed with some basic information about going to the casino, the best game for your money, and some valuable insights and rules based on my experience as a Blackjack dealer and player. Gambling doesn’t have to be a negative experience and can actually make for a wonderful memorable evening if you put knowledge and experience to use. I had to lose $400 to learn a hard lesson the first time I went to the casino. However, I got to deal cards and really learn the invaluable information for free when I got to be on the other side of the table. Education can be your single greatest ally in anything that you do and even though some of us go out to the casino pretending we don’t care if we win or lose in actuality you do and you will. Some of us have to learn on our own and pay for it and I hope you will be the one that learns by listening to what others have learned, and some have to learn the hard way, and others like me who get to learn on the other side of the table. When I started to play professionally, even with all my observations I still had to find out what mattered and what didn’t and eventually I fine tuned my experience. I wish you the best of luck and a wonderful night out if you decide to hit the casino up for a night of fun. Since I have learned all I did from the power of observation I have become a consistent winner since my first outing. I spent an entire summer playing at the casino, making money hand over fist, enjoying free meals on the casino, and free nights at their hotel and I know that what truly made the experience joyous and memorable was that I took the time to learn how to win.
By George O’Brien
George O’Brien is the owner of The School of Blackjack. He is currently enrolled in the Master of Entrepreneurship program at Western Carolina University. Webmasters and other article publishers are hereby granted article reproduction permission as long as this article is in its entirety, author’s information, and any links remain intact. Copyright 2010 by George O’Brien. Schoolofblackjack@gmail.com