Travel Fanboy

Blackjack Tips for Beginners

Blackjack, like any table game, can be somewhat intimidating to new players. To help me and other blackjack novices, I talked to Ken Smith of We discuss what to look for at the tables and the best places for low rollers to make their bets. All in the hopes of making the game more accessible to us amateurs and casual players.

This post covers some of the key highlights of our conversation. Be sure to listen to the full episode for all of Ken’s great tips. Ken’s responses are in italics and edited for brevity and flow:

Is there a steep learning curve for new blackjack players?

Blackjack remains the king of casino games for the low-roller. If someone is currently a slot player, a little bit of knowledge is all they need to make their gambling dollar go further by swapping out some of their slot play for blackjack instead.

So, a lot of us know to stay away from 6:5 tables (if you’re confused about this, Ken gives a nice breakdown of the difference between 3:2 and 6:5 payouts on the podcast), but what are some other things we should be looking for when looking for a table to play at?

There are a lot of variations of blackjack out there- a lot of tricky versions. Make sure what you’re looking at is plain old vanilla blackjack. In the past, it was good to search for tables which said that dealers must stand on all 17s. The alternative is that the dealer must hit “soft 17”. This basically means that if the dealer has the hand A-6, they’re going to go ahead and draw another card. This is in the house’s advantage. Finding tables with the more generous rule, standing on all 17s, is hard to find and typically reserved for $15 + minimums.

 Are there any pervasive myths blackjack players succumb to?

The most common is the idea that poor play by other players at your table can hurt you. In the long run none of this matters at all. There is no mathematical effect. Poor play will help just as often as it helps. Very few blackjack players believe that. This can be really frustrated for beginners as it’s easy to find yourself victim of unnecessary criticism.  

Any suggestions on where to find great $5 tables in Vegas?


Treasure Island – has a lot of 6 deck $5 games. Decent rules including re-splitting aces and late surrender. Not only that, they have a lot of these tables, so you should have no problem finding one.

Paris, Flamingo, and Bally’s – you can find 3:2 $5 tables at all three at various times at each of these Caesars properties.

Circus Circus – they actually run a $3 minimum table here with decent rules.


Downtown, historically, has had great games. There are still some good games to be found at these three places:

The Golden Nugget

Downtown Grand

The D


Station Casinos are probably the best choice. They have some 2 deck games for $5, so if you have a car those are great opportunities for inexpensive gambling.

Info gathered from “Current Blackjack News” by Stanford Wong at

What are the 5 main takeaways new blackjack players should keep in mind?

1) Make sure you sit down at a regular blackjack table, not one of the many variations.
2) Select a game that gives you the best chance of winning. (3:2, etc.)
3) Ignore the side bets.  They’re expensive.
4) Look for a “slow” table.  Lots of players, and no continuous shuffler.  Speed is the killer when you’re looking for value.
5) Get up to speed on basic strategy, or get a strategy card.

Thanks again to Ken for chatting. His website,, is a wealth of information for new and experienced players alike. All players, regardless of skill, should use his Blackjack Strategy Trainer as a way to practice for an upcoming trip. Hope this was helpful. See you in Vegas!



Host of the Vegas Fanboy podcast. A reluctant Millennial. An amateur human.