We want to take the guesswork out of it for you, so before you go unload a bunch of coin decking out a slick home practice setup, read this list of training tools and their importance.
We’ve broken everything into 3 categories. Things you absolutely must have in order to practice beating this game, things you could survive without for a while, and things you just don’t need.
Pro Tip: before you fork out a small fortune to Amazon, we have Blackjack Training Kits in our store.
- A Six-Deck Discard Tray. This is probably the single most important piece of equipment you will own as a card counter. You will need it to practice deck estimation. Most of card counting is a mathematical or mental skill, but in this case you will be practicing a visual skill as well. All the games you will be playing will have a discard tray so you will need to practicing looking at one and estimating the number of decks left so you can calculate the true count. You’ll need at least a six-deck tray but an eight-deck tray will give you more versatility.
- Six Decks of Cards. “Why not 1 deck? Or two decks?” Glad you asked. Single and double deck games are not as common as 6 deck games and in a lot of ways they are a little more challenging to beat than six-deck, and far less forgiving on mistakes. That’s why we teach you how to beat six-deck games first. Once you’ve mastered the six-deck you can learn the other variants. Since you’re going to need to practice six-deck you’ll need the cards (all 312 of them). Many casinos (not all) will give out their used decks for free or they will sell them in their gift shop.
- Printed Strategy Charts. You will need to have your charts handy as you’re dealing cards to yourself and practicing. Basic strategy cannot become second nature overnight. Keep a chart in your desk at work. Keep one in your car. It will take some time to master it. Even if you can commit it to memory overnight it will take a significant amount of practice to make it fluid. If you are not checking your accuracy on your charts you may be reinforcing bad habits.
Significant Training Improvements:
- Blackjack Felt. There is a reason casinos deal games on a felt. If you haven’t already discovered this, you will quickly learn that cards don’t like to be picked up off of perfectly flat surfaces. If you deal the cards on a felt, it serves as a spacer between the cards and the table. The tiny fibers slightly elevate each card above the table, just enough to allow another card to slip under or to allow your fingers to grasp the cards and sweep them up easily. This mitigates endless frustration. You can simulate the same effect with a bath towel, blanket, or table cloth. The other advantage of a real felt is that it has betting circles and the full blackjack layout printed already so you can more accurately simulate a real game.
- Deck Ruler. When you’re practicing deck estimation it can help to have a ruler you can use to check and see if you are estimating the correct number of decks remaining. You can get one in our store or you can easily make one with a pen and an index card. The important thing is that you don’t want to write marks directly on the tray itself. If you write on the tray itself you’re not really training your brain to estimate decks, you’re just training your brain to read a ruler. This is why having a separate ruler to check your answer comes in handy and is much better for your learning process.
- Chips. Many people will use chips to keep score on how well they are doing in home practice. We don’t recommend using chips for that. Chips are good for practicing placing correct bets and getting familiar with what odd blackjack payouts should look like in chips. Chips aren’t absolutely essential to a home setup but can add another layer of practice. If you plan to practice with a friend, chips can come in handy to test each other on correct payout knowledge and proper betting deviations.
- Cut Card. That little plastic card the casinos use to cut decks off the back of the shoe can be used in practice but is not really that necessary. It’s more of a novelty for a practice scenario. The dealer will decide where the card goes in a real game and there is no skill to cutting the shoe before the start of a game, so a cut card is really just there to make you look cool for having casino stuff in your house. Not essential.
- Dealing Shoe. We thought about adding a 4th category for this item because we recommend intentionally avoiding this purchase. Just trust us. It’s a waste of money. Even dealers in casinos hate them. They constantly get clogged and they are totally unnecessary for a home training setup. Casinos use them because dealers cannot physically hold six decks in their hands while they are dealing. The shoe provides an organized way to keep the cards in order, on the table, and in view of the cameras. None of those things apply at home. At home you just grab a stack and start dealing the cards from your hand. Trust us; if you buy a dealing shoe you will quickly abandon it. That’s why they don’t come in any of our training kits.
That’s all you need to know about home training tools. If you haven’t already picked up the essentials, we recommend checking out our Kits in the BJA Store when you’re ready. The casino’s money is waiting!
If you have a cool home training setup you’d like to show the community send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “Check out my kit.”