Advantage Play in Blackjack

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An view of a blackjack table, with casino chips, drinks, and playing cards on top of the table.
BetMGM Sep 29, 2023, 1:43 PM

It’s a well-known fact that the house always wins, in both land-based and online casinos. That’s not to say that punters never enjoy a win of their own, but the odds against players consistently beating the house are stacked in the house’s favor. But there are some casino games where you can improve those odds and still play within the limits of the law, including blackjack. Known as advantage play, these tactics can be employed by independent players or sometimes by groups or teams of players who collaborate to maximize their winnings.

What Is Advantage Play?

Advantage play is a way of decreasing what is known as the house edge — that’s the odds in the house’s favor of winning at any particular game. Whether it’s a random number generated (RNG) game or a live dealer blackjack game, the house’s odds are generally stacked at between 1% and 2%. By adopting a number of different methods, players can effectively reduce this to around 0.50%. 

It should be noted that although all these methods are legal, most casinos take serious exception to players who use them and may march them out of physical casinos (without their winnings) and slap them with a lifetime ban.

Common Advantage Play Strategies

Blackjack advantage play strategies naturally play out differently in land-based versus online casinos, but some can apply in both scenarios. If you’re unhappy with the on-the-table bets, of course, you can always resort to side bets, but the jury is still out on whether the risk is worth the reward. Instead, take a look at the different methods of advantage play you can use and when.

Card Counting

Card counting is the most common method of utilizing advantage play tactics. While it takes some mathematical skill, players don’t need to memorize every card that has been played. Rather, they calculate ratios of high- versus low-value cards, thereby informing the odds of the next deal. Card counting becomes difficult when more than one deck is in play and is definitely frowned on by casinos, which will act against any player they detect card counting.

Shuffle Tracking

Shuffle tracking is impossible for a lone player to manage and requires a team. Basically, all eyes are on the cards as the dealer shuffles, and players watch sections of the deck until the shuffle is over. Then they will claim they can identify which cards are in which part, or zone, of the deck. This is not a precise science and is based on the dealer shuffling cards clumsily in clumps.  

Edge Sorting

Edge sorting is a little like identifying an animal by its unique markings – a leopard from the pattern of its specific spots or a whale by its tail. Edge marking can only occur in a well-used deck where one or other of the cards has been previously dog-eared, torn, or nicked, or something else that can identify it in some way. This method definitely doesn’t work online and cannot be relied on in land-based casinos, as dealers call for new decks almost as frequently as tennis umpires call for new balls.

Hole Carding

This can only happen in land-based casinos, only from certain vantage points, and depends on a sloppy dealer. It assumes that a player has been able to take a peek at the dealer’s hole card, enabling them to make an informed decision on their own hand and bet accordingly. Rarely a viable option. 

Rebates and Comps

Using rebates and comps, which you can earn like loyalty points, is a more legitimate way of applying advantage play techniques. You can equate pooling all the discounts, complimentary games, and incentives that casinos award to frequent players to using coupons at the grocery store. Once you sign up with a land-based or online casino, they’ll start tracking your usage, time spent on casino online betting, and your wins and losses, rewarding you accordingly. Playing using double points, combined with any special promotions, can put you ahead of the house edge and is a tried-and-tested way of improving your likelihood of winning. Also known as comp hustling.

Software and Reference Sheets

If you’re playing online and are looking for a blackjack strategy to help maximize your wins, there are software packages and strategy charts that you can refer to since no one can see you. These help you figure out what your best call will be based on the card you are holding and the dealer’s up card. There are different charts for single and multi-deck games, so be sure you’re using the right one.

Be Sure That Advantage Play Is Really to Your Advantage

Unless you’re absolutely certain you’ve mastered the art of any of these advantage gameplays for blackjack, especially those requiring some mathematical skill, maybe spend more time perfecting your game and accepting the on-the-table odds. If you’re struggling to calculate the payouts for on-the-table bets, there are tools for that, too. 

Remember that online gambling is just that — a gamble. And that in today’s sophisticated casino environments with random number generators, high-tech surveillance, and game tracking, trying to buck the system is very difficult. It might be better to rely on your own game strategy and not on variable, and in some cases unreliable, external factors. Even in a game of online blackjack, live dealers are difficult to follow as they expertly shuffle and deal, making some of the strategies here almost impossible.

Fair Play With BetMGM

At BetMGM, most games’ outcomes are determined by RNGs. To find out more and to play in a safe, secure, and fair environment, register and see for yourself.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.