Have you ever longed to go to a casino and try your luck? Have you ever fantasized about an impeccable hand? While there are no guarantees, with some guidance and experience you can come out on top. if you play your cards correctly.

In Sonoma County, California, I just visited the Graton Resort & Casino. The many betting tables and various slot/slot machines left me terrified and stunned, just like many first timers. They have a merchant class which is lucky for me. It’s a scaled-down version of dealer school, and it was very eye-opening. Even though the game was unfamiliar to me, I learned enough from Brian Rogers, Graton’s blackjack specialist, to play with confidence. Rogers has worked in the gambling industry for nearly 30 years in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and Graton. Rogers trained approximately 800 people in the area to work as dealers before launching Graton in 2013. He still runs the dealer school on the property and helps with the table games.

Brian greeted us with a warm smile and promised us we would have a great evening. Blackjack, he told us, offers some of the best odds for the gambler of all the games and slots available in the casino. When playing blackjack, a skilled player has an almost equal chance of beating the house. “Theoretically the house wins 55 out of every 100 hands played against a strong player, but the cards don’t know that, so you win a lot more often than you lose,” explains Brian. “Blackjack is one of the easiest games to pick up, and with a little practice you can master basic strategy and increase your chances of winning.” It is also a social game. Therefore, it is one of the best to play if you want to have fun. Brian is a ‘people person’. He believes that persons with this personality type make the best dealers because they can easily interact with the players and make them feel comfortable, which is crucial in a people-oriented industry like a casino. I asked Brian for his top five blackjack recommendations, and some do’s and don’ts for new players because I was eager to learn more about the game.

The 5 Best Blackjack Strategies

  • Learn the fundamentals of strategy and stick to it. The player must always assume that the card he cannot see is a ten, and statistically the odds are high. Cards 2 through 9 are worth their face value, while the tens, jack, queen and king are worth ten points. Aces are unique in that they can be used as either a 1 or an 11. If you’re not sure what to do, use basic strategy charts, which are cards that show you the best method for playing a particular hand. The chart shows when it is advisable to hit, stand, double or split. This does not guarantee that you will win, but it will greatly increase your chances. These charts can be found online and you can buy pocket cards that you can use while playing at most casinos. You can also download fun apps to play and practice with on your phone. Don’t forget to communicate with the dealer through hand gestures. Dealers are not allowed to take spoken instructions from the players. Use your hand to “scrape” the table between you and your cards if you want the dealer to “touch your hand” (deal a new card). If you want to “stand” (keep the cards you have and avoid getting more), keep your hand perpendicular to the table top and wave back and forth, palm down, as if you were saying goodbye to the table top. To double down, place chips equal to or less than your original bet and get one card with one finger; if you are going to play a split, put on chips equal to your original bet and make a “peace sign” with your fingers and stretch it out to the cards without touching them.
  • If your first two cards total 11, always double your bet and split the pairs of aces and 8s… Keep in mind that you are hoping for a ten.
  • Never deal a pair of 5s or a card with a value of 10. Two fives should be played as a ten. Two 5s can result in two 15s; however, playing two 5s as a 10 will increase your chances of landing a 10, culminating in a 20 if you get hit.
  • Blackjack is a game of stripes. Brian recommends that if you have a winning streak (3 or more hands in a row), you increase your bet a bit to maximize your winnings while the line is still running. Lower your bet if you start to lose. Most people make the mistake of playing too long before cashing out. If you want to take home money, set a goal, or spend a fixed amount, cash in your chips after doubling that amount or reaching your goal. Resist the impulse to keep playing, because your luck can change at any time and you can lose everything.
  • If the casino offers a rewards program, you must sign up for it. The casino bonus points depend on how long you play and how much you wager, not how much you win, so if you don’t sign up for the incentives, you’re just throwing money away.