I’ve been interested in how casino and gambling games work for as long as I can remember. I remember rolling dice and recording results on paper when I was somewhere around 10 years old. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this curiosity helped me learn many things over the years.
If you look at gambling the right way and learn how the games work and look for strategies to help you win, it can be a wonderful educational experience. This process can definitely make you smarter.
Here are five ways that blackjack can make you smarter.
The Basic Rules and Game Play
When you learn to play real money blackjack the odds are good that you already know basic math. But this doesn’t mean that learning the basic blackjack rules and game play won’t make you smarter.
Your mind is an amazing tool, and you need to use it to keep it sharp. The more you use your brain, the better it operates. When you play blackjack you learn to quickly add numbers. You also work with at least one variable number when you have an ace because it’s worth either 1 or 11.
Blackjack also helps you improve your reasoning and critical thinking. Do you double down or just hit? Do you split the pair or play them together? Do you take insurance or decline?
All of these decisions require the use of available information. Most blackjack players don’t put much in the way of accurate thought into these decisions. But the truth is that you have access to all of the information you need to make the best decision.
Many blackjack players take insurance because they don’t understand the numbers and odds. Some players know they shouldn’t take insurance, but they don’t understand why. But you can run a simple odds calculation to understand why insurance is a bad wager.
Instead of taking my word that insurance is bad, run the numbers to prove it. This is valuable beyond just learning why insurance is a bad wager. This is valuable because it teaches you to think things through and figure them out yourself.
If you don’t know how to start, here’s how to prove insurance is bad.
The dealer is going to have a blackjack when they have an ace showing 4 out of 13 times on average. This means the ratio is 4 to 9, or 9 to 4. Compare 2 to 1 to 9 to 4 and you see that 9 to 4 is worse than 2 to 1.
2 to 1 is the same as 8 to 4. You can multiply both numbers by 4 without changing the ratio. In order for this to be a fair wager the dealer needs to get a blackjack at the rate of 8 to 4 or better, or the wager needs to pay 2.25 to 1 or better.
Now your job is to use the same kind of thought process and actions on other blackjack situations. And then you can take this beyond blackjack to other things in your life.
Understanding the Casino House Edge
This is important when you play any gambling game so that you understand why you usually lose when you gamble. But blackjack has a low casino house edge compared to most other games, and the edge is changed based on the rules.
When you compare this to other games with a higher casino edge, like slots at 3% to 13%, you can see why blackjack is better. But you need to understand how much better. And this is easy to see when you understand how the casino edge works.
When you know the casino edge you can determine how much you can expect to lose on any casino game. You just need to know how much you risk. Here’s an example of determining your expected losses for blackjack and slots.
You’re playing blackjack against a .5% casino edge, betting $20 per hand and playing 54 hands an hour.
Your expected loss every hour is .5% times $20 times 54. Your expected loss is $5.40.
You’re playing slots on a machine with a 6% casino edge, betting $2 per spin and taking 523 spins every hour.
You use the same method here. 6% times $2 times 523 is an expected loss of $62.76.
As you can see, once you understand how to use the casino edge numbers you can make improved decisions when you gamble. Blackjack is not only better than slots; it’s over 10 times better.
Calculating Online Casino Bonus Value
How do you know when a mobile or online casino bonus is a good deal? If you don’t already know, most bonuses aren’t as good as they appear. In fact, it’s rare to find a bonus that actually helps you win.
You can use the information you learned in the last section to determine if a bonus is a good deal or not. Here’s how you do it.
You deposit $500 and receive the bonus of $500, for a total of $1,000. You have to play a minimum of $50,000 to clear the bonus.
Now you use the casino edge to see what your expected loss is on $50,000 worth of blackjack play.
You look up the rules and find the blackjack game has a casino edge of 1%. 1% times $50,000 gives you a total expected loss of $500. This means you can expect to lose $500 while clearing the bonus.
In this example it means that the bonus is basically a break even proposition. You should have somewhere around your original $500 left after clearing the bonus.
Strategy Decision Making
In order to play with the lowest casino edge, you need to use blackjack strategy. And the way to determine the best strategy is based on the odds of what can happen with each decision you make.
For example, if you have a pair of 8’s, you can play the hand as is or split it into 2 hands. If you play the hand as is, you have a hard 16. This is the worst hand you can have, and you have a high chance of busting.
If you split the 8’s you start 2 hands with 8. You have good odds of getting a card that’s better than an 8 on each hand, so the best strategy is to split the 8’s.
This is an easy example to understand, but some hands are more complicated. But every hand can be played using the best strategy based on odds. You should get a strategy chart and work out the odds for each hand to see why each strategy decision listed on the card is correct.
Card Counting Systems
You can use a special strategy called card counting to get an edge when you play blackjack. This is important in itself, because this isn’t possible with most other casino games. But it’s even more important to learn the process because it helps you think about gambling in a different way.
You bet more when there are more high cards remaining and bet less when there are more low cards remaining. When you do this correctly it gives you a slight edge over the casino.
I started teaching my kids how to play blackjack at a young age. I knew that it was going to teach them math skills without them thinking of it as learning. Starting with the basic rules and game play they learned how to quickly add small numbers.
Moving on to using odds to make strategy decisions, and then teaching them the basics of card counting helped them in many different ways. Neither child plays blackjack in casinos now that they’re grown, but the things they learned playing will help them in many areas of their life.
These same things can help you. It’s not too late to benefit from the game of blackjack.