When Blackjack Isn't Gambling
There are basically two ways to play blackjack: correctly and incorrectly. People who play the game incorrectly are willing to let luck and hunch determine the outcome of their action. In the long run these players will be certain losers. People who play the game correctly-according to any of the established counting ' and camouflage strategies-are willing to let skill determine the outcome of their action. In the long run these players will be certain winners (assuming favorable casino rules which, at the time of this writing, still exist in a number of casinos).
Which brings us to an extremely important point, from both a psychological and definitional point of view: Theplayer who effectively utilizes a proven blackjack strategy ceases to gamble at the tables. With an overall edge in his favor the player is, in effect, reversing roles with the casino; now it is the house, rather than the gamer, who must buck the PC and try to win against the odds. Certainly we don't consider the house to be gambling when it covers bets at a bank craps table. This is because statistical probabilities tell us the house will be the winner in the long run. Well, the same is true of skilled blackjack counters, who cease gambling when they play in a manner which puts mathematical expectations in their favor.
Why Are You Playing 21?
Blackjack can be beaten. Therefore, it is a casino game which gives you a choice: do you want to gamble or do you want a 'sure thing'? I phrased the last sentence carefully, because many players would like to win but they don't want a sure thing. To these individuals, it is the act of gambling, even more than profit, that seems so appealing. These players seem to relish the built-in casino edge as a kind of macho challenge, a chance to prove one's worth against the odds. If you are one of these individuals, please forgive me if I stand aside and let you charge at windmills without further comment.
What about it? Are you willing to give up the excitement of gambling for a 'sure shot' long-run profit at the blackjack tables? If you are, then you have taken that critical step over the line that separates gaming as a gamble from gaming as a business. You have, in effect, become the house... and the casino has become the gambler. I commend you for your decision, but before you quit your job and take on the casino full-time, let me sound a warning.
Blackjack as a Business
Learning blackjack well enough to get the odds in your favor is laudable. It allows you the opportunity to win at the tables. But in this case winning isn't everything; one must also consider the size of the win in relation to the amount of time spent achieving that win.
For example, I have known individuals who gave up lucrative jobs to become full-time blackjack players in Vegas. Many of them ended up disillusioned and disappointed, even though they were "winners." Why? Because once the newness of blackjack play wore off, 21 was perceived exactly as it should have been in the first place: as a job-and a somewhat mechanical, boring one at that. To make matters worse, these players often discovered that they had to work longer and harder to make the same amount of money they had earned in their previous occupations.
If you decide to play blackjack as a business you must be concerned with return on investment. The investment is time-your time-and the return (profit) must be sufficient to warrant that time. Put another way: can you make enough money playing 21 to justify the time and effort you'll be putting in at the tables? And remember, chances are that once you have proven to yourself that you can beat the tables consistently, the fun and challenge of blackjack will decrease- making financial considerations the only real issue in your decision to continue or curtail play.
For those of you skilled enough to master blackjack strategy I would recommend playing often enough to maintain playing proficiency, interest in the game, and the chance for a reasonable financial return on your time investment. For many of you that will involve playing far less frequently than a full-time job would entail. That's fine. Even if you play only a few weekends a year, it is worth it if you can maintain a positive attitude toward the game and, at the same time, realize a profit at the tables.
If you decide to increase your playing activity, do so gradually, and be sure that your profits and interest keep pace. If you feel your 21 enthusiasm, profits and/or skills are slipping - cut back to a playing level that will remedy these conditions. That way you will retain that all-important psychological edge over the casino.
If playing online I like to stick to the well established bookmakers and I also stick to live blackjack where you can see the action take place in front of you. You are in a real game as you find in any land based casino.