So you’ve decided to get serious about online casino blackjack. Congratulations!
Now the question is: where do you start?
For the blackjack beginner with aspirations to professional status, the first steps don’t always resemble those of an amateur beginner.
The world of online casino gaming is changing faster than ever, with new games and new tables popping up almost daily. Even in this rapidly evolving landscape, though, there are some fundamentals that every serious beginner needs to know backwards and forwards.
Basic strategy – Unlike other casino games, there is a very straightforward and consistent approach to the basic strategy that acts as a kind of baseline for skilled players. This must become second nature for serious players.
Card counting – Basic strategy is well and good, but to establish a real advantage over the house, card counting is absolutely essential. You should be able to count down a deck of cards in 30 seconds while safely driving on the highway, listening to the radio, and speaking coherently on the phone.
Index plays – Index plays are where these two ideas meet: guides to basic strategy based on the count. Changing tactics based on game conditions (like the count) is the mark of a serious player… amateurs simply can’t do this, but for a professional, it must be as natural as breathing.
What to Read
Professional Blackjack, by Stanford Wong – First published in 1975, this book is one of the bibles of blackjack. The author, whose real name is John Ferguson, created one of the first computer programs to analyze and determine statistically perfect play. His work is so influential that his pen name has become an everyday verb around tables worldwide! The practice of “wonging” refers to watching a game of blackjack without wagering any of your own funds… until the count turns to the player’s advantage, whereupon the player sits down and starts betting big. Preventing this practice is the reason some casinos don’t allow mid-shoe entry into a game.
Blackjack Attack, by Don Schlesinger – Another titan of modern blackjack, Schlesinger has made many contributions to the game… including team play, optimal betting, risk analysis, and floating advantage. For professional and serious players, the ideas and strategies in this book are absolutely essential.
What to Train
The above categories concern themselves with acquiring knowledge. These are essential steps in becoming an advantage player, but they won’t get the job done alone.
Blackjack mastery requires skills, too. These skills must be developed, honed, and trained regularly, the same way a professional athlete trains strength, agility, and endurance.
By far, the most important skill for a serious blackjack player is discipline. This is the force that allows players to make the right moves in microseconds, no matter how much pressure is on, no matter how long the session has been going on or the size of the potential bankroll impact.
Here’s how to train it.
First and foremost, discipline can be trained away from the tables by becoming familiar with discomfort.
Take cold showers.
Take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators.
Meditate every day (start with a simple, five-minute meditation if this is new to you).
Fast for 12 hours once a week, and for 24 hours once per month. (For an added bonus, force yourself to watch others eating your favorite foods while you continue fasting!)
Exercises like these will allow you to not only know what the correct blackjack play is, but also to execute it properly every single time – regardless of the situation, the stakes, or what’s going on in your personal life.
A Note on Bankroll Management
In addition to knowledge and skills, there’s a crucial element of executive thinking that’s necessary for a successful blackjack career: bankroll management.
Without attention to one’s bankroll, no amount of game prowess will lead to prolonged success. Proactively and patiently building a bankroll; establishing win and loss limits for each session; determining overall bankroll, then deciding how to spread it out over weekly and monthly sessions; and putting all of this together with expected value – these are the crucial steps in the path of a successful gambler over the long-term.
They may not make it into the movies, but make no mistake: they are indispensable. A player who neglects them is bound to come to grief sooner or later.
Keep game sessions short – 45 minutes at the most – especially at first.
Only play high-quality tables. Don’t play sub-standard games; don’t play if a better game is available across town; don’t play if the conditions will be better later that night.
Don’t drink while playing.
Don’t argue with other players, even if they’re rude; don’t offer them advice, even if they ask.
Be courteous to the dealer – regardless of your results.
Don’t tip the dealers! You can’t afford it as a beginning player, and it’s not culturally acceptable in blackjack anyway: you risk offending dealers more by tipping than by not.
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