How to Play Professional Blackjack: Tips, Tricks and a Short Guide

How to Play Professional Blackjack

If you are asking this question, you have probably played your fair share of hands at the blackjack tables.

If you're doing quite well playing blackjack at the casino, you might be thinking of becoming a professional blackjack player.

Great! We're here to tell you that it's possible to make a living from playing blackjack as long as you know all the right things and you are lucky enough to win your games.

However... despite how it looks in the movies (and how accessible pro blackjack has become), it still takes commitment, a stellar ability to count cards in blackjack, solid money management skills, and a lot of luck (amongst other things).

Playing blackjack games for fun is good, but if you want to make some cash, we have some tips for you.

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How to Become a Professional Blackjack Player

So you know how to play blackjack, you know you're good enough to make a full time living, you just need that extra push and a plan.

There are three significant steps in becoming a professional:

  • Commit time and energy to understand the basics of blackjack.
  • Learn how to count cards. Do it phenomenally.
  • Blackjack bankroll management, and how to do this well.
  • Developing a winning mindset.

Let's take a closer look at each of those.

Understanding the Basics of Blackjack

Before you can conquer the blackjack tables, it's important to understand and practise the basic rules and strategies of the game. We know that luck is a major factor when you play blackjack, but if that's what you've been counting on and winning up until now, that does not ensure success if and when you decide to become a professional blackjack player.

However, if you're willing to learn the blackjack strategy, then earning a healthy living is doable.

Some fundamental blackjack strategies to learn include: always splitting aces, never splitting tens, and adhering to basic strategy. You should also gain an understanding about the impact of game variations on your strategy.

Familiarity with the game’s intricacies equips you better to face the challenges ahead in your journey towards becoming a professional blackjack player.

If you don't already have this basic understanding, we suggest you start with our FREE blackjack cheat sheet or look up a blackjack basic strategy chart online.

Casinos offer different types of online blackjack games. It's a good idea to practice on the different versions of blackjack so you know which one to play if you're committing to a more serious blackjack game.

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Essential Strategies for Pro Blackjack Success

Employing a variety of strategies is a must for players to achieve lasting success in the world of professional blackjack. These include card counting, bankroll management, table selection, and advanced play techniques. By mastering these strategies, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the challenges of professional blackjack and consistently come out on top, whether you're playing online, on the Vegas strip or the bright lights of Atlantic City.

Mastering Blackjack Card Counting Techniques

Compared to most other games played at casinos, blackjack has a small house edge. Turning that house edge in your favour is the most critical way to make money at the blackjack table, and this is where card counting comes in...

Card counting is a critical skill in the arsenal of a professional blackjack player. This technique involves keeping track of all the cards that have been drawn from the deck, allowing you to gain an advantage in the game by predicting which cards are likely to be dealt next. Attaining an edge and achieving success as a professional blackjack player and card counter necessitates mastery of card counting techniques, making one an adept card counter.

The standard card counting method for card counters typically involves assigning numerical values to cards and adjusting your bets based on the current count. Honing this skill allows you to turn the odds in your favor, and hopefully increasing your winnings on the table.

It's important you try to get to that higher level. You might not need to be as good as the MIT Blackjack Team, but you need to be pretty good at card counting if you are to make a living from blackjack.

Now let's talk numbers.

Don't get all scared by thinking that you need to remember every single card that has been dealt - that's not card counting. Helpfully there is a system that keep it simple.

Assigning numerical values to cards helps a player count cards. For example, value cards 2-6 are put as +1, 7-9 as 0, and face cards and aces are counted as -1.

It's a standard card counting method used by blackjack players, so give it a try and see how it works for you. You won't be able to master card counting overnight, and it can be an expensive lesson. But it's a crucial one.

Don't forget - losing at blackjack from time to time is inevitable, especially when you're practicing something new. It's a tough game to win at, so when you're learning how to count cards, we suggest lower-limit tables to start and a conservative attitudes when it comes to blackjack side bets.

The more you play, the better you become at predicting cards. A card counter can never perfect their craft, but all the best blackjack professionals are pretty darn good at it. And you should be as well.

Since the number of decks in play affects the difficulty of card counting, you should always look for games of single deck blackjack.

In these, you can apply all the principles of the single deck blackjack strategy and increase your winning chances to fight the 'luck' factor.

Bankroll Management for Blackjack

For professional blackjack players, bankroll management is vital as it aids in minimizing risk and maximizing profits. A general recommendation is to have at least 100 betting units for a 4-hour session. Establishing a win goal and a loss limit is also important to ensure the preservation of your bankroll and prevent excessive risk-taking.

While that might not be the most exciting part of a professional blackjack player's day-to-day routine, careful management of your money and bankroll enables you to make the most of your winning streaks and withstand the game’s inevitable downturns.

Blackjack money management also includes understanding your tolerance for risk so that you don't go broke all of a sudden.

Look at it this way - adjust the size of your bets based on the bankroll you have available for playing and never bet more than you can afford. If you stick to this, you'll have a chance to earn back the money you lost on a couple of bad bets and it will keep you afloat even if the luck is not on your side (which will inevitably happen once in a while).

As your bankroll grows, you'll be able to move up in stakes, and you'll be able to make more money.

It's a process though, so don't just go all in with everything you have or you might as well find yourself opting out of this whole professional blackjack player thing.

You need to take emotion out of the equation and stick to your strategy. Otherwise, you'll spend hours chasing your losses.

Table Selection and Game Variations

Choosing the right table and understanding game variations can significantly impact your chances of winning in blackjack. Different tables may have different playing rules, so selecting a table with advantageous rules can give you an edge. Additionally, being aware of game variations and adjusting your strategy accordingly is essential to maximize your potential returns.

Selecting your table carefully and adapting your strategy based on specific game rules can increase your odds of success and enhance your playing experience.

Advanced Play Techniques

Advanced play techniques, such as shuffle tracking and hole carding, can provide professional players with an even greater edge over the casino:

  • Shuffle tracking involves monitoring certain cards or card sequences throughout the shuffle of decks, allowing you to predict when advantageous cards are likely to be dealt.
  • Hole carding, on the other hand, involves obtaining knowledge of the dealer’s hole card to gain an advantage in the game. Mastering these advanced techniques can further tip the scales in your favor, increasing your chances of significant winnings.

Developing a Winning Mindset

A winning mindset is a key component of professional blackjack success. This involves cultivating discipline, patience, and the ability to handle the ups and downs of the game. Patience in blackjack enables players to make informed decisions based on the cards they have been dealt, preventing impulsive and risky actions.

Emotional intelligence is also an essential factor, as it helps players recognize and manage their emotions, as well as those of others, at the table. A winning mindset better equips you to navigate the challenges and reap the rewards of professional blackjack.

How Much Do Professional Blackjack Players Make?

How much a professional blackjack player makes depends on many variables. Factors such as bankroll, table limits, number of hands played, and the counting system all play a significant role in howmuch blackjack players can clear.

Some professionals make upwards of $150,000 a year at casinos.

Professional blackjack games aren't for the faint of heart. Gambling for a living is one of those professions where you can lose money on a day-to-day basis.

You are not guaranteed a salary, and you have to commit your time and expertise to the game. A professional blackjack player comes in many forms, so try not to get disillusioned by a player making thousands each week.

The reality is that playing blackjack at casinos is a grind, and the same goes for an online casino. Some play upwards of 200 hands per hour, which can be taxing on your mental well-being and financial well-being.

Tips from Professional Blackjack Players

Every blackjack player offers similar advice on how to become an expert.

We have collected the best tips from professional blackjack players to help you take your game to the next level:

  • Find your groove. A table you feel good at will help you keep your emotions intact.
  • Play at casinos that offer excellent odds when blackjack is struck.
  • Fewer decks are preferred over more decks. The more decks, the harder it is to count.
  • Find tables with the best rules, such as Soft 17, and surrender rules.
  • Find the right table limit for your bankroll, especially if you play online blackjack with a live dealer. If you have a small budget, try smaller limit tables at first.
  • Don't get frustrated. Keep a level head.
  • Don't drink and play. It might seem simple, but professionals don't let outside factors affect their game.
  • Don't play based on emotions. The cards won't magically change, so stay within yourself and trust your ability.
  • Control your money. Don't double your bet because you lost the previous bet. Keep calm and stick to your strategy.
  • Whenever possible, play blackjack surrender.

Who Are the Best Professional Blackjack Players?

Unlike poker, we don't hear much about the best blackjack players in the world. Why? Because it's not a game that is heavily televised, so the media usually doesn't cover the big events.

That being said, there have been some high-quality and hugely successful blackjack players in the history of the game. Let the inspiration sink in.

At the top of the list is none other than Bryce Carlson. A pro since the '70s, Carlson knows all about the ups and downs of blackjack.

He once went on a losing streak that lasted 47 hours. However, through developing custom strategies and perseverance, he has been able to win consistently throughout his career.

Arnold Snyder is another famous name in the world of blackjack. He has authored many books on how to play blackjack, which looks at card counting and shuffle techniques.

He believes there's always a new angle to explore, and that's always great when you're looking to bring in some fresh strategies into your gameplay.

We also feel like we need to mention the man who literally wrote the book on 'Professional Blackjack', Stanford Wong. This book, first published in 1974 under the pen name of John Ferguson, is held up as the definitive manual on playing blackjack for money. Wong also developed a computer program, 'Blackjack Analyzer', was one of the first computer programs used for analyzing blackjack odds that was available for blackjack players to buy.

Still unsure if you can handle the pressure of pro blackjack arena? Go practice blackjack online at one of the top casinos, test your strategies, mental strength, and find out for yourself!

Professional Blackjack FAQs

Is there professional blackjack?

Yes, it is possible to make a living playing professional blackjack. You need dedication, skill, and luck to be successful at this, but the potential rewards are worth the effort. Furthermore, online gambling has opened up opportunities for professional blackjack players.

How much does a professional blackjack player make?

Professional blackjack players can potentially make around $150,000 per year, depending on how much they play.

Do professional blackjack players count cards?

Yes, professional blackjack players do count cards in order to gain an advantage over the casino. This involves tracking the ratio of high to low cards remaining in the deck or shoe and adjusting their betting and playing decisions accordingly. Becoming a pro is possible with commitment, card counting abilities, money management skills, and luck.

How do you win blackjack like a pro?

To win blackjack like a pro, learn and follow basic strategy, double down when your first two cards total 11, never split 10-value cards or 5's, be aware of streaks, and take advantage of casino rewards programs.

This article was original published in March 2020, it was last updated in October 2023.

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Daryl Curnow
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Senior Casino & Gaming Manager
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