How to read blackjack dealers, a guide to blackjack tells

Any reasonably experienced poker player will be familiar with the concept of ‘tells’. Many players are prone to giving out little ‘clues’ when they get a particularly good or bad hand. This could be as simple as a faint smirk or frown. Older hands will try to keep their emotions in check, but many still offer unconscious hints – scratching their ear or blinking when they get a strong deal, for instance.

21 blackjack dealer By watching the other players for long periods, you can often start to decipher their body language and facial ticks, and picking up on the tiniest of hints could be the difference between winning and losing. That’s all very well if you’re a poker player. But what if your poison is blackjack? You’re not up against the other players, so where are the tells going to come from? Well, many players (such as Steve Forte, writer of the highly influential ‘Read the Dealer’) believe that the dealers themselves can give the game away. By getting to know one dealer particularly well, you may be able to spot apparently hidden signals that may tip you off when they have a particularly strong or weak hand. Obviously, dealers are professionals, and will be trained not to betray emotion. However, many will still exhibit signs at key points, particularly if they’re inexperienced or tired.

Also, because blackjack dealers aren’t putting their own money at risk, they may not be as careful when it comes to hiding their inner thoughts – poker players, on the other hand, know that their fellow players will be scrutinising everybody else for tells, and so do their very best not to let the others extrac any clues.

Peeking at the Hole Card

The best time to get tells come at those moments when dealers take a peek at their hole card. They’ll try to do this without showing any reaction. However, many dealers will still reveal a flicker of emotion if they get a particularly good card. Alternatively, they may turn their face away from the table if they feel they can’t trust themselves not to give off a ‘tell’ – this is often a pretty big tell in itself, and is particularly common when the dealers are relatively new.

blackjackchipsFar more pertinent, though, is the amount of time it takes for a dealer to actually register the value of the hole card. Some cards are very fast to read, while others take much longer to work out. In the latter cases, the dealer will have to bend over further in order to be sure of the card value. (You can probably experiment with this at home.)

Typically, higher cards are easy to see, and those with a value between 7 and 10 will generally require no more than a quick glimpse. Picture cards are even faster to fathom, as the dealer only needs to catch sight of the ornate decoration to know that the card is going to be worth 10 – regardless of whether it’s a jack, a queen, or a king.

Lower cards, though, particularly those going from 2 to 6, will require more of an effort, and you should expect the dealer to linger slightly longer on such hole cards. The 4 is particularly difficult to make out, and at first glance is easy to confuse with an ace. Typically, the dealer will spend the longest time of all looking at the 4.

Focus not only on the length of time the dealer takes to look at the hole card, but also the extent to which they fold back the card. That difficult-to-read 4, for instance, will probably be folded back considerably more than a straightforward picture card. By combining time and folding height, you can often get some useful clues as to whether the card is high or low.

It’s worth noting that many modern casinos use techniques to foil tells like these, and major houses will frequently employ electronic systems that eradicate the need for the dealer to peek at the hole card. Smaller establishments, though, tend to lack such sophisticated aids.

Know Your Dealer

Whether you’re trying to determine the value of the hole card, or are looking for more general signs, it’s crucial that you know your dealer well. Some dealers will remain inscrutable unto the end. Others, though, will regularly send out exaggerated movements and hints that make them easy to decode. You definitely want to be concentrating on dealers that fall into the second category, and staying away from those who fall into the first. You can only get to know these habits by watching the dealers for long periods. Also, bear in mind whether the dealer seems to have been working the tables for a long period – the more tired the dealer, the less likely they are to be keeping their guard up.

facing dealer

Consistency is key. But you also need to allow for the fact that some dealers will react differently according to the player they’re facing. Some male dealers, for instance, will be more likely to let clues drop (whether consciously or not) when the player is female. Even if you don’t get the same treatment, you can still benefit from this by positioning yourself to the left of the favoured player, and looking for any hints the dealer is feeding to them. You can then make your play armed with extra information. Indeed, if you’re relying on tells, it’s often a good idea to sit so that you have to make your play last of all. This way, you can watch the dealer as they interact with the other players, looking for clues that the dealer has less or more confidence about their hand than normal.

Advanced Blackjack Strategies

So you’ve mastered Basic Strategy. You know roughly when to hit, and when to stand. You understand probabilities, and have a sense of what you’re trying to achieve. You may even have started to explore card counting. So where do you go next? Well, we’ll give you a few glimpses here, and we’ll be elaborating on these and other strategies in the coming weeks. If you want a lift to the next level of blackjack play, we’ll be happy to supply you with the tools.

Advanced Card Counting Systems

Most books designed to get you winning at blackjack will focus a lot of their fire on card counting systems. There’s a very good reason for that – they work damn well. Indeed, use them carefully, and you can turn that typical 0.5% edge for the casino into a 2-3% edge for you!

Card counting involves assigning numerical values to different cards. As each card is turned up, you may add or subtract that card’s value from the running count. The more frequently cards with low values are being turned up, the higher the running count will get. Conversely, the running count will go down as cards with higher values come up with greater regularity. When the running count is at a particularly high or low point, this tells you a great deal about whether cards in the near future are more likely to be high or low themselves. Armed with that information, you can then adjust your bets accordingly. If you know a lot of high cards are due, for example, you should be raising your bets, as the likelihood of scoring blackjacks (and consequently the player-friendly bonuses dished out such hands) are much increased, thus giving the player a temporary edge over the house.

Many card counters start with the ubiquitous Hi-Lo System. Popularised by Edward O Thorp in Beat The Dealer, this simplistic method offers a nice introduction. However, it is rather limited, and doesn’t give you more than basic information. Lance Humble’s Hi-Opt I builds on Hi-Lo, and makes for a more effective (if also more complex) approach. We’ll be looking at this and a range of other card counting systems. These will include REKO, KISS, the Zen Count, the various strands of the Uston systems, and others. We’ll show you which ones are simple, and which ones demand more studying time. And is the extra effort worth it?

Variations from Basic Strategy when Counting

Card counting isn’t just about knowing when lots of high cards are imminent. Basic Strategy tells you what to play in each situation in order to achieve optimum success. However, Basic Strategy assumes that the information available to you is rather shallow. If you have the benefit of knowing whether the running count is high or low, this allows you to modify your strategy in order to increase your chances of success. Given that you typically start off at a disadvantage of just 0.5%, the improved strategy is another reason why card counting can turn everything in your favour. We’ll be looking at modified rules, such as the Illustrious 18, and explaining how to raise your game further still, even with relatively basic card counting skills.

Deck Penetration

Many players will spend long hours practising card counting again and again. However, unless you understand the importance of deck penetration, and know how to assess it, you’ll probably waste a lot of time counting cards in games where even the best techniques are of little to no use. Dealers tend to deal out a certain number of cards before reshuffling the pack. The deeper the penetration, the better it will be for card counting. But the reverse situation can eradicate any advantage that the player may have had. We’ll show you how to calculate deck penetration, and when the odds are very much in your favour, and when they render the game essentially unplayable from the point of view of a counter.

Stealth Card Counting

Casinos like losing players. They don’t, though, have the same affection for card counters and other players who may eat into the juicy house edge. If you are a card counter, then, how to avoid detection should be at the forefront of your mind. It’s no good working out how to beat the house, if the house can simply sling you out on your ear as soon as you’re ready to suck in profits. We’ll look at the ways you should be dressing, the reactions you should be practising, and giving you general hints on how to seem like an amateur rather than a player with purpose. We’ll also show you how not to overdo it. Blending in and not being noticed is the key to staying around long enough to claim your prize.

Don’t Get Cheated

Even with that glorious house edge, there’s still a temptation for casinos to cheat. We’ll uncover a few of the more obvious methods (dealer peeks, short shoes etc.) the house can use to ensure that they really do always win, and will show you how to spot them when they occur.

Single and Double Deck Play

Increasing numbers of casinos are trying to suck players into one-deck and two-deck variations of blackjack. Sometimes these games bestow considerable advantages upon players. At other times, they’ll work against them. We’ll tell you how to spot the low-deck variations that you should be chasing after. We’ll also let you in on the many subtle differences in play that can increase your success rate when playing with only one or two decks.

Top 20 Tips For Winning At Blackjack

Know Your Strategy

1. It may be the 0.5% house edge (0.4% according to some) that attracts many to the tables, but you won’t get an edge that low unless you’re playing optimum strategy. Indeed, play poorly, and the edge could easily go out to 4 or 5%. So test yourself again and again and again until you’re sure what to do in almost every situation. Look for simulators that can train you to play optimum strategy. If you have a smartphone or tablet, for instance, you might want to consider Blackjack MH (Apple) or BlackJack 21 (Android).

2. We’re going to reiterate this point, because it’s so important. Know your strategy and know it very well. Successfully playing a casino game for long periods is as much a test of nerves as anything. If you’re not totally on top of your strategy before you start playing, you’re going to make some big miscalculations once the pressure is truly on.

Correct Strategy

blackjackcashpounds3. So what is correct strategy? Your actions should be decided partly on what the dealer has. If they draw a lower card (6 and below), there’s a much higher chance that they’ll go bust trying to get to 17. The 5 is the most dangerous card from the dealer’s point of view, as there’s a 43% chance they’ll go bust if they start by drawing this card, and a 42% chance in the case of the 6. These figures fall to 35%, 38% and 40% for the 2, 3 and 4 respectively. If the dealer has a 6 or lower, you can stand on a relatively modest hand of 12 or 13, as there’s a good chance of the dealer going bust.

4. Don’t fall into the fuzzy thinking that says that 15 or 16 is a better score than 12 or 13. The dealer must generally reach 17, or go bust trying. Therefore, if you have less than 17, your only chance of winning is for the dealer to go bust – given this, it makes little difference whether you have 12 or 16. In fact, because the lower scores carry a reduced chance of the player going bust, 16 is actually the most dangerous hand of all – it offers less of a chance of producing a strong winning total, yet comes with a high risk that the player will go bust trying to improve on it.

5. The difference between the dealer getting 6 and the dealer getting 7 is enormous. That’s because the dealer goes bust 42% of the time when they have a 6, but just 26% of the time when they have a 7. The 7 gives them a vastly improved chance of scoring a winning total. With a 10, the chance of going bust falls only slightly – to 24%. However, the Ace is the safest choice of all – there’s just a 17% chance of going bust with this one. Hence, you need to be more aggressive in hitting when the dealer has a 7 or higher, and much more aggressive when they have an Ace.

6. Winning is about far more than getting the highest hand. Most people could accurately predict that 21 and 20 are the two best hands in the game. However, most would go on to assume that the third best hand would be 19, the fourth best hand 18 etc. In fact, 11 gives you the third best chances of winning. That’s because 11 can very safely be hit without a chance of going bust. And yet, you have a 30.8% chance (if playing with eight decks) of turning that 11 into 21 with just one more card. You have a 46.2% chance (virtually the flip of a coin) of scoring a 19 or higher. 11 may not seem like much, but it has every chance of fuelling you on to better things.

7. The dealer’s average hand is slightly above 18, so the player will frequently need to get 19 or more in order to have a good chance of winning. If you’re having to play aggressively, you need to be hitting at least until you’ve reached 17 or a soft 18 (A7, for instance).

8. If you’re in two minds as to how to react to the dealer’s card, assume that their second is going to be worth 10, and play accordingly. There’s a 30.8% chance that they’ll draw a card worth 10, so this way of thinking should give you a fair guide.

9. The dealer always goes last. The knowledge of what has gone before means that the dealer has an inbuilt advantage – winning 48% of the time rather than, in the case of players, 44%. Again, this signifies that you’ll have to hit hard if you’re to be aggressive. It also suggests that it’s a poor move to simply mimic the dealer’s plays – if you’re to get close to eroding the house edge, you need to make use of the additional bets open to the player, rather than simply copying the dealer’s strategy.

Optional Plays

10. Double Down is a great little tool, but it does need to be played strategically. It amounts to the chance to double up when you think you have a good hand. However, if you lose on Double Down, you could end up throwing away twice as much as you would have done if playing normally. So you should only play it when the odds are genuinely in your favour. Effectively, this restricts you to times when you have an A6 or A7, or a hand that’s worth between 9 and 11, and the dealer has a 6 or lower. If you have a hand of 11, you can allow the dealer as much as 8.

11. Splitting is another invaluable tool that needs to be utilised to get the house edge down as low as 0.5%. There’s no need to split 9s or 10s, as they’ll be good enough already to secure you a win. You should, though, always split 7s, 8s, and Aces. Don’t split 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, or 6s, as these are low and, therefore, can usually be safely drawn again on.

12. Insurance is a poor bet, so always avoid it. The dealer turns up an ace, and the player is given the option of betting as much as half of the original bet as ‘insurance’. If the dealer then turns up a card with a value of 10, and gets blackjack, the player loses their original bet, but wins on the ‘insurance’ bet at odds of 2:1. Effectively, then, the player will break even as a result of the insurance bet. However, since there’s only a 30.8% chance that the dealer will draw a blackjack, this turns out to be a poor bet over the long term. Quite simply, don’t bother with insurance.

The Importance of Blackjacks and Other Rule-Changes

blackjackcardsuk13. In many respects, the house has a significant advantage. But perhaps the most crucial element in reducing that edge is the bonuses given to players when they draw blackjacks. When a player turns up a blackjack (two opening cards worth 21 collectively), they should be rewarded with a 3:2 payout. This is a crucial component of the low house edge. Some casinos, though, will try and get away with offering a payout of just 6:5, or even 1:1.. Limiting these payouts can result in the house edge going up by 1.4-2.3%. The blackjack bonus is your chance to hit back, so don’t play at any table that offers a payout of less than 3:2.

14. The higher payouts for blackjacks are also key to players having more of a chance when the game is using fewer decks. If you’re playing with a single deck, and you pick out an Ace, there are 16 of the remaining 51 cards left that can make that ace up to a blackjack hand. That’s a 31.4% chance of success. If you play with eight decks, on the other hand, you’ll be left with 128 cards out of a remaining 415, which amounts to a chance of just 30.8%. (You see a similar drop when looking at the chances of drawing an ace to add to a 10-score card.) That 0.6% drop might not seem hugely significant, but it amounts to a reduction in the house edge of very close to 0.5% – essentially, then, the house would have no edge at all if the player is using optimum strategy.

15. Don’t automatically assume that single-deck games are advantageous to you. The house will often try to con players by dangling a single-deck game in front of them, while implementing other rules that more than make up for that almost-0.5% reduction in their edge. In particular, avoid the increasingly popular variation known as Single Deck Blackjack 6 to 5. This cuts your blackjack bonus to just 6:5, a move that increases the house edge by around 1.4% – no wonder they can afford to give you almost 0.5% back by cutting the number of decks!

16. Other rule changes to look out for include splitting to only 2 or 3 hands (which can increase the edge by 0.01 to 0.1%), and restrictions on when to double (which can amount to as much as a 0.2% rise in the edge). One very simple rule to look out for is the one that insists a dealer must stand on

17. Some tables will allow the dealer to hit if they have a soft 17 (an Ace along with a set of cards adding up to 6). Giving the dealer the chance to hit on a soft 17 gives more than 0.2% to the house. Indeed, if a table offers you a single deck game with a full blackjack payout and a rule forcing the dealer to always stand on 17, it’s conceivable that a player using an optimum strategy might have a marginal edge here – even if you don’t engage in any kind of card counting.

Sensible Betting


In a follow-up to that, heck that you’re not going to be increasing your nerves by risking too much. The maximum bet should never be higher than 5% of your bank. For many players, a smaller figure still will be advisable. If you find yourself tensing up or feeling even slightly uneasy when you place a bet, you’re almost certainly risking too much. Find an amount that you’re always comfortable with.


18. Try and have only a portion of your bank in play at one time. This way, when you have a bad run of cards and have to refund, it’ll give you a small pause in which to collect yourself before playing on.

19. If you’re not in the right frame of mind, don’t bet. Blackjack is very much a game of skill, and if you’re not thinking clearly, you’re likely to make some poor plays.

20. Stay away from progressive betting systems – doubling your bet after every loss etc. These systems rarely have any validity, and often have unseen pitfalls that will result in you losing large amounts of your bank with one unlucky run – even long losing runs will occur from time to time if you’re a serious player, so make these difficult periods any harder than they need to be by compounding bad luck with kamikaze betting. If you can’t get success with flat betting, a progressive system is unlikely to help you in the long term.

The Art of Picking the Right Blackjack Bonus

We’re all told that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Well, in the world of Blackjack, there is. Or at least, the lure of it. Many casino sites run promotions designed to get punters signed up and playing their games. Delicious carrots are often dangled in front of users (both new and old). But are these pure gold, or rotten to the core. Let’s have a look at the options.

Welcome Bonuses

Most ‘welcome’ bonuses work in a similar way. You deposit a certain amount of money, and the casino ‘rewards’ you by giving you a bonus equal to a certain percentage of your original deposit. A 100% bonus, for example, would mean that a £100 deposit resulted in an actual playing balance of £200. There is a catch, though..

You’ll generally be expected to stake a certain amount of money before you can withdraw that bonus. For instance, you might be asked to ‘rollover’ 25x your deposit and bonus. In the case of that £100 deposit with its 100% bonus, you’d be expected to play through 25 times £200, or £5,000. If you had anything left in your account by the time you had placed £5,000-worth of bets, you’d be able to withdraw it. However, the casinos know that’s unlikely to be the case.

The point is that, in Blackjack, the casino has a built-in edge (assuming you’re not employing a strategy like card counting). It’s a very small edge in this particular game – 0.5% or less with proper strategy – but it does exist. Over a few hands, the house advantage is unlikely to make much difference. But if you’re working through £5,000 of bets, for instance, placing one pound chips every time, that amounts to 5,000 bets in total. Stretched over a long sequence like that, the casino’s slight edge means your money will gradually trickle away. If you drop to smaller stakes, you’re effectively extending the number of bets you participate in, which renders the casino’s advantage over you even more unbeatable. The edge in Blackjack is very small, but it’s still present, so, unlike sports betting, it’s hard to turn blackjack bonuses into genuine cash.


However, we shouldn’t dismiss them out of hand. You’re still getting ‘free’ money, so if you want to have a night at the cards, it’s generally better to have the bonuses than not. With Blackjack’s low edge, you’ve got more of a chance of success in this game than in almost any other.  You can also try out strategies knowing that you’ve got, perhaps, double the chips. They’re unlikely to be a path to riches, then, but there’s little advantage to turning them down. Do note, though, that Blackjack’s low house edge makes it a less appetising option for casinos. Many offers either exclude Blackjack altogether, or insist that money can only make up 5% of the total towards any rollover requirements – effectively making it unplayable. So pick carefully if you’re looking for hot Blackjack action.

Look for a low rollover where possible. The more hands you have to play, the more decisive the house edge will be on your play, so go low where possible. Betfair Casino lets you get a lower multiplier when you deposit larger sums. If you deposit between £35 and £499, for instance, you have to play through the bonus and deposit 25 times. If you deposit as much as £1,000, though, the rollover multiplier drops to 15x. Admittedly, the lower amount does come with a larger bonus (of up to 200%) attached. But with that high 25x rollover multiplier, we can see why Betfair are keen to seem generous. Some sites may also offer a ‘sticky’ bonus. In this scheme, you won’t ever be able to withdraw the bonus, although you would be able to withdraw winnings on it. Accordingly, rollovers can be lower.

No Deposit Bonuses

These are often very similar to Welcome Bonuses. The big difference is that you don’t have to deposit any money with the site. Accordingly, the wagering requirements tend to be rather steep., for example, lets you play with $30 without making a single deposit. You do, though, have to rollover this bonus 40x, making $1200, before you can make any withdrawals. As with many firms, it’ll take you longer still to pay off this rollover while playing Blackjack. You may also be given the chance to make as much money as possible in a small period of time (30 minutes, for example). Many of the best no deposit schemes don’t hang around for long, so it’s a good idea to check on the web, or to join a service like the free No Deposit Bonus Newsletter (

Loyalty Schemes

Rather than a big one-off welcome bonus, you might want to look for sites that allow you to amass loyalty points that can then be converted into real cash. The more you play, and the larger the sums, the more points you’ll earn. lets you exchange every 1000 points for 10 free casino chips, for example, although you may have to play through this bonus if you’re not a member of their invitation-only Club Rouge.’s Loyalty Points system lets you earn money for every 100 points gained. Admittedly, Blackjack doesn’t pay well on this site (just as it doesn’t on’s ‘Complimentary Points’ scheme), but you’re still getting a chance to make some free money at no risk. You may also get additional monthly bonuses through their My Bonus 4 Life scheme, provided you’re an active player.

Alternative Payments

Occasionally, sites let you make money just from using a different payment option., for example, will pay you an extra 15% on your deposit when you use certain e-Wallet accounts, like Skrill/Moneybookers. You do have to satisfy a 12x rollover to receive this money, though, and most varieties of Blackjack contribute no more than 20% towards paying that off.

Bonus or Booby Prize

It’s best not to take many of these bonuses too seriously. They’re generally a way of adding a few more chips to your account that you may or may not see again. Certainly, as a means of making an easy few hundred, they’re unlikely to come good, although Blackjack’s low edge and rollover requirements of 15x or lower would give you a fighting chance. Essentially, you’re being given free money, and services like the Loyalty Schemes are particularly good at putting a few extra chips into your pocket while not distracting you from your main pastime of playing Blackjack. As such, you should keep an eye open for such deals. Do be careful to read the small print though.


Famous Blackjack Players You Should Know About (Part -1)

Blackjack is one of the most common and popular casino games. Some of us enjoy a game of blackjack every now and then for a bit of fun however over the past few years certain individuals took it to the next level, studied the game and made a lot of money from it. We have combined a list of the most well known blackjack players who have devoted a big part of their life to this game and have become millionaires.

Edward O. Thorp

Edward Thorp is and American mathematician that was born in 1932. Hes is  most well known in the blackjack world for writing the book “ beat the dealer”. Beat the dealer focused on beating the casino’s house advantage by using the card counting strategy.

Edward O. Thorp

When Edward Thorp was testing the theory of card counting, casinos at that time didn’t even realise it was possible but they were all proven wrong. Thorp put his theory to practice with his partner Claude Elwood Shannon and started making a lot of money by visiting different casinos in Las Vegas. Beat the dealer is the first book ever written about card counting and many professional players still refer to it today as the best book for beginners.



Ken Uston

Ken Uston was born 1935 and he’s on the most famous blackjack players that is most well know for commercializing “team play” in blackjack. Ken always thought of himself as a very good business man and not a professional gambler.  He had a lot of success in the stock market industry before he quit his job and devoted his life to playing blackjack.

Ken Uston

It all happened when Ken Uston met a man named Al Francesco, a professional blackjack player. They became very good friends and soon Ken joined him and learned how to play the game with team play. They had a team of several people playing at blackjack tables and counting cards, once the odds were in their favour they would “signal” an other player to join the game and drop a lot of money. This system worked really well for them as casinos at that time were not clued up on card counting methods. After years of using this method and making a lot of money casinos finally caught up with all the card counting methods and banned Uston from certain casinos. This didn’t stop him as he hired a make up artist and used several different disguises in order to continue playing his favourite game. Apart form his career as a professional blackjack player Ken Uston also wrote several best selling books including “The Big Player” and “Million Dollar Blackjack.

Stanford Wong

Stanford Wong also known as John Ferguson was born 1943 and he is a famous blackjack player as well as a well know author. Wong enjoyed playing games from an early age and one of his hobbies was looking into blackjack probabilities and creating strategies for better odds. As many other blackjack professionals wong read Thorp’s book and began counting cards.After studying Thorps theories Wong came up with his own unique card counting strategies that were very complicated but precise. The most well know strategy is called “Wong Halves”.Stanford Wong

Wong soon realised that his hobby was making him more money than his full time job as a teacher which resulted in him quitting his job and pursuing a career in professional blackjack. He became a very successful player and his also a member of the blackjack hall of fame. Apart from his gambling career he also went on to write several best selling books including “ Professional Blackjack” which is one the most popular blackjack books ever written.


Keep an eye out for part 2 as we will be looking into the lives of more famous blackjack players and celebrities