Blackjack is the only game in a casino that can actually be beaten over the long haul. But it’s not something that is mastered in a couple hours of practice. You need perfect skills, proper money management, and the right temperament to be a winning player.
I’m going to break down how to practice the first three steps needed to beat the house.
But first, if you’re still not 100% clear on what card counting is and how it works, take a few minutes and watch this video:
Practicing Blackjack Part I: Basic Strategy is the Foundation
A lot of people say, “”I know about 95% of basic strategy. Show me the deviations, get me to a table, show me how to bet! I’m ready to play!”
But if you are still making ANY Basic Strategy mistakes, or having to use much mental energy to make your playing decisions, then you’re in trouble! I don’t care how well you can count and how many deviations you memorize… if you make Basic Strategy mistakes, you will never have the advantage over the dealer.
If, however, for every playing decision, the correct Basic Strategy answer comes quickly, then counting, deviations, and betting will be MUCH easier.
Ok. So how do I get better at Basic Strategy quickly?
1. Recite the chart. I recommend talking through the entire chart every day, a few times a day. Start with Splits, and say “Aces always split. 10’s never split. 9’s split up thru 9, except against a 7.” etc. You should be able to effortlessly run thru the chart.
2. Use our (FREE) Basic Strategy Drill. IF you can recite the chart, it’s time to start practicing PLAYING basic strategy. Our free drill is a great way to efficiently put basic strategy into practice.
3. Practice on our iOS App. If you’re an iOS person, we also have an app to drill your basic strategy (and counting, and everything else), called “Card Counting Trainer Pro“. The bottom line is that you need to drill yourself on basic strategy decisions until you can play Basic Strategy perfectly. (Sorry, no Android or Windows Phone app).
4. Keep reviewing. Basic Strategy is sort of an abstract thing. So you won’t retain it if you don’t keep practicing and reviewing it. You might go 10 hours of playing blackjack without seeing some decisions. But when you DO see it, you want to know what to do instantly.
Practicing Blackjack Part II: The Running Count
If you haven’t read it yet, I recommend starting with our all-encompassing “How to Count Cards” guide.
But if you’re familiar with the running count and simply want some practicing tips, here’s what you should focus on.
1. Count through a deck of cards. The first step is to take a deck of cards and count through it, one at a time. If you don’t end up at zero, then you did something wrong. This will help you in creating new associations with cards, essentially “learning the language” of card counting. When you’re playing at a table, you want to see a 4 of clubs primarily as “+1”, not as a 4 of clubs. After time, you’ll start to see cards simply as +1, 0, or -1.
2. Practice with our FREE Card Counting Training Drill. After you’ve begun “learning the language” of card counting, it’s time to practice counting the way it’s actually dealt at the tables. We have this free drill so you can efficiently begin practicing card counting. The goal is the same as basic strategy… begin slowly, but accurately until you can play 100 hands perfectly.
3. “Back Count” at a Casino. If you’re ready for some real-world experience, you can practice by going into a casino and standing behind the table, and just watching. DO. NOT. PLAY. You’re not ready yet. BUT, if If you can get thru an entire shoe without dropping the count, missing a card, or getting mentally fatigued, then you are one step closer to actually trying to play while counting.
Practicing Blackjack Part III: Practicing How to Get to the True Count
A lot of people begin having issues when they start dividing to convert from the running count to the true count, but if you separate the individual processes and master them, it’s not too complicated to put it all together. So here’s some tips to practice the individual process of converting from running to true count.
1. The old Fashioned Math Practice Approach. Assuming you’re practicing for a 6 deck game, get out your discard tray and 6 decks of cards. Then write the numbers 1 to 30 on scraps of paper and place them in a hat, cup, whatever. Then, starting with less than 1 deck in the discard tray, start pulling numbers out of the hat and practice dividing the number by 6 (the number of decks remaining). Do this 20 or 30 times. Then, put one full deck in the discard tray and start over, dividing by 5. Do this for every deck increment until you’re dividing by 1 deck remaining. Wash, rinse, repeat. Over and over.
2. Use our True Count Drill. This is a much more efficient way of doing the drill I describe above. Yes, you need a paid membership to our site to do this, but if you’re serious about card counting, our Membership is the best way to learn, train, and connect with a community of card counters who have taken Millions out of casinos.
3. If you want to practice throughout the day, then while you’re driving, exercising, taking a shower, whatever, just start dividing random numbers by 6, then 5, then 4, 3, 2, and 1. Before long, with these drills, you should be able to divide any running count by any true count. The goal is to be able to do so in a quick second, without having to take too much energy away from keeping the running count and making your basic strategy (and eventually deviation) decisions.
Be Aware that There’s MORE!
These drills are the first step to being an effective card counter. There’s still deviations, betting, bankroll management, avoiding heat, and a lot more.
Not only have I taken over $600,000 from casinos and co-managed a blackjack team that took nearly $4Million from casinos, but through Blackjack Apprenticeship, we’ve trained more successful card counters than anyone.