It is difficult to determine how much professional blackjack players earn because the income varies depending on many factors. However, a professional blackjack player can earn about $390 per hour playing blackjack in a Vegas casino.
Why It Is Difficult to Calculate the Earnings of Professional Blackjack Players
The term earning or salary doesn’t apply quite right to professional blackjack players. They don’t get paid a preset salary like employees who receive a weekly or monthly wage. Instead, pro blackjack players earn money like independent contractors, freelancers, or business owners. You could say they work full-time for commission.
With that in mind, different blackjack pros earn varying amounts of money, depending on several factors. These include:
- Techniques or strategies they use – Blackjack professional players who use advanced strategies like card counting can expect to earn much more money than those who don’t.
- The skill level or expertise of the player – Naturally, highly skilled professional blackjack players know how to count cards and apply the basic strategies perfectly. They are less likely to make errors or get caught by the casino counting cards. Experience can truly pay off in more earnings.
- Length of playing session – Blackjack pros who spend more time playing are likely to earn more money from their efforts. That is particularly true if the player is always counting cards or using advantage play. Most professional blackjack players spend 5 hours playing a day.
- The bet size – Players who bet more money with a positive expected value will earn more in the long term. Counting cards, for instance, give the counter an edge of 1-2%. So, if you bet $10,000 while counting cards over an extended period, you can expect to earn $100 to $200 in profit. A player who wagers only $100 will have to spend 100x longer to earn that.
- The blackjack variant and rules at play – Professional players are pros for a reason – they know where to hit the casino to earn their living. More often than not, these pros will avoid games with unfavorable rules like the blackjack pays 6/5 rule.
Calculating the Earnings of a Professional Blackjack Player
Each professional player has a ballpark expected value (EV) for their play. The higher the EV, the lower the risk and the more money the player will earn. If you bet $50 per hand, you will either lose or win $50, with the assumption that you don’t hit a blackjack, surrender, split, double down, or tie with the dealer.
Nonetheless, you will get closer to the average value of your blackjack hand after an extended period of play. When you apply card counting, negative counts generate negative EV for the player, and positive counts generate positive EV for the gambler.
With this knowledge, you can make your next moves based on the expected value.
If the EV is negative, reduce your bet size or surrender. The other way around works even better; maximize your wagers when your expected value is highly positive. That is how professional blackjack players earn money counting cards.
We can use the EV to calculate the approximate earnings of a professional blackjack player. For instance, if you stake $100 a bet with a penetration of 68% and a unit bet spread of 1-5, you can average 180 hands per hour. And if you use the Hi-Opt II card counting system, you can expect to make $390 an hour.
Assuming that a professional player commits 15 hours of their time to play blackjack, they can earn $390*5 = $5,850 per week, $23,400 monthly, or more than $280K annually. That’s quite lucrative if you ask us.
Can you make a living off of blackjack?
Yes, it is possible to make a living off of blackjack. The best strategy to make a living playing blackjack is to stick to the basic blackjack strategy, manage your bankroll like a hawk, and place optimal bets informed by card counting. In other words, count cards so you can place larger wagers when you have a significant edge over the casino.
On the flip side, you should reduce the size of your bets when you have no edge over the casino. Mastering the basic blackjack strategy will also help you avoid silly mistakes, boost your odds of winning, and make a living off the card game.
The Power of Learning the Basic Blackjack Strategy
The basic strategy is vital if you want to make money from blackjack. The basic blackjack strategy chart will show you all the basics. They include what to do when you have a 16 against the dealer’s 7-10 or when you hold a 14 against the dealer’s 12. In short, the strategy card will give you guidelines for mathematically best moves.
When picking the right strategy card, be sure to choose one based on the game rules, the number of decks in play, and what the dealer does on soft 17. Combining the basic strategy charts and card counting is how professional blackjack players like David Sklansky rake in well over $100K to make a living off blackjack.
It is important to note that the basic strategies only partially eliminate the blackjack house edge. It only reduces the casino’s advantage to approximately 0.5%. That is where card counting comes into the picture. It is one of the few tactics that can change the odds of blackjack from being in favor of the casino to favoring the player.
With online casinos being licensed regularly in many states across the country, American professional players will likely see their careers move to the web. Even so, they should stick to the basic blackjack strategy, plus keep a watchful eye on their bankrolls.
Leveraging Card Counting to Earn a Living off of Blackjack Tables
Once you have mastered the basic strategy and rules of the game, you’ll have to add one more weapon to your arsenal: card counting. This strategy will help you reduce your chances of losing and increase your odds of winning, but you still need to embrace good bankroll management practices.
When counting cards, professional card counters use a simple minus (-) or plus (+) count to keep track of their edge over the casino. They can then lower or raise their bets to correspond with their edge over the house. More specifically, they place a unit bet when the casino seems to have an edge.
The player must increase the bet by four units when the edge favors them. However, if you want to earn a living off of blackjack while minimizing risk, you must keep the unit bet spread at 1-7.
A betting spread of 1-12 (or $100-$1,200) will help you make more money but comes with a greater risk.
The downside is that you can rouse the attention of the casino security personnel and pit bosses when you suddenly raise your bet to $1200 from $100 when the count favors the player. Consistently large bets when the player has the edge over the house may get you in trouble. Although card counting isn’t technically illegal, it may get you thrown out of the gaming floor or even banned for life from entering the casino.
Tips for Making a Living from Playing Blackjack
Considering the following strategies, tips, and hacks would be best to boost your chances of making a comfortable living off of blackjack play.
Blend in when counting cards
Counting cards is half the battle when you want to earn a livable income from playing blackjack professionally. The other half is actually evading the attention of casino managers, security personnel, and pit bosses. Remember, there are many cameras and employees keeping watch over the casino gaming tables.
Use the following pointers to reduce the chances of getting their attention:
- Play blackjack at different casinos and locations. For instance, you should switch between downtown Vegas and Strip casinos or skip town to visit Atlantic City sometimes.
- Switch between pits regularly.
- Play on different casino shifts
- Keep your blackjack play sessions short, at around 30-45 minutes
- Take only one sip of any free drinks offered or ordered
- Make sure your bet variations look natural
- Discreetly put some of the high-denomination playing chips into your pockets if you are on a hot winning streak
- Don’t wear clothes that are distinctive so that you can easily blend in with the crowds
- Always tip the dealers and waiters
Always check the dealer’s up-card
The aim of blackjack is to get closer to 21 without busting. But another way to win is actually to beat the dealer’s hand. That is why you should always check the dealer’s up-card and double-check your next move based on the basic strategy.
Begin with small wagers
You should kick off your play with small bets when you first sit at the blackjack table. It would be best if you took advantage of the first numerous hands to gauge the game, the dealer, the table, and the accuracy of your card-counting skills.
Start betting big only when you are assured of your strategy, not to mention you be certain first that the atmosphere, the game rules, and the table suit your style of play.
The Dos and Don’ts of Making a Living off of Blackjack
Heed to the following dos and don’ts to earn a decent living from your blackjack play:
- Do find a good blackjack table – The best blackjack table has a sizeable number of players but not too many rowdy folks. Pay attention to the table rules, as well. Ideally, you want to play at a table that pays 3:2 for a natural blackjack.
- Do master bankroll management – Set your unit bet immediately and stick to your budget. It would help if you didn’t wager anything you cannot afford to lose. Always set the win and loss limits beforehand, ensuring they align with your income-earning goals.
- Do learn to count cards – You should take your sweet time to learn the ins and outs of counting cards in blackjack. You should master all favorable card counting techniques and systems, such as Hi-Lo, Hi-Opt I, and Hi-Opt II.
- Do learn and use the basic blackjack strategy – Again, the basic blackjack strategy is the cardinal and surefire way to reduce the house edge of the game. It’ll not only take the guesswork out of your blackjack gameplay but can also improve your winning chances.
- Do play at different casinos – You should get a feel for different blackjack games, rules, and variants at different casinos and locations. This will help you find the sweet spot, the best blackjack game and casino to suit your ambitions.
- Do take advantage of cashback and rewards – At online casinos, you should always claim bonuses, free spins, and loyalty rewards to reduce your costs of playing.
- Do double down on hard 11 – You should always consider doubling down instead of hitting on hard 11. The only exception is when the dealer has an Ace and is required to stand on soft 17. In that case, you should hit on hard 11.
- Do always split a pair of Aces and 8s – The basic strategy stipulates you should always split 8s and Aces. It doesn’t matter if the dealer has to stand or take another card on soft 17.
- Don’t let other players distract you – The rule of thumb is to never listen to other players. At a blackjack table, there are many different sorts of players. While socializing and making friends is a terrific concept at both online and land-based casinos, you should not seek advice from them. Count them as just a distraction. Players will constantly attempt to tell you about a secret tactic they devised that revolutionized their lives. But it is none of your concern what the other players at the table do. You can move away and change tables if they get too bothersome.
- Don’t take an insurance bet – It is a sucker bet that doesn’t match up to the chances of the dealer getting a blackjack with an Ace up-card. In fact, there is a 17% chance that the dealer will still bust when showing an up-card Ace.
- Don’t play side bets – In blackjack, side bets are not only distracting but also very expensive. Although their odds are deceptively high, your chances of winning side bets are slim. You should avoid them if you want to fork a living off blackjack.
- Don’t play under the influence – Playing drunk or under the influence of an intoxicating drug will compromise your judgment. It’s actually for this reason that most casinos offer free alcoholic drinks to betting customers.
Yes, professional blackjack players make money if they use tactics like card counting. On average, a professional blackjack player makes around $390 per hour.
Can you get rich with blackjack?
Yes, you can get rich with blackjack. Many professional players have made decent millionaires with blackjack, including Don Johnson.
Has anyone gotten rich from blackjack?
Yes, many people have gotten rich from blackjack, including:
(1) Don Johnson
Don Johnson is so well for collecting more than $15 million from blackjack winnings in six months against three Atlantic City casinos.
He staked $100,000 once and received a pair of 8s, which he split. He split once again when the following two cards were also a pair of 8s. The dealer dealt three times and two times. He doubled down on both hands. The dealer was dealt ten and two cards totaling 15. Johnson won $800,000 on just one bet.
That was the beginning of a six-month winning run. The casinos discovered that he wasn’t counting the cards. The incidents were devastating to the casinos. Caesars, for instance, banned him from ever entering any of their casinos throughout the world.
(2) Bill Benter
If there is any player with a good blackjack profession and a generous nature, it is unquestionably Bill Benter. Benter, a highly accomplished athlete, believes strongly in charitable giving and participates in election campaigns. As a result, he is one blackjack player who has been inducted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame for all the right reasons.
His professional blackjack career was prosperous, but it was cut short when he was spotted counting cards on a normal game at the Maxims Club Casino one day. Bill has since been banned from entering virtually any casino in Sin City. Thankfully, he has moved on to horserace betting.
(3) James Grosjean
James Grosjean is a highly-rated blackjack player and one of the top professionals in the game. He was introduced to blackjack at a young age while attending Chicago University. Beyond Counting and Exhibit CAA: Beyond Counting is two best-selling books by this professional player. Grosjean has presented a mathematical explanation of the advantage play in gambling in both cases.
As a professional blackjack player, James was not only effective at beating the house edge, but he was also well-known in gambling circles for his legal victory over the Imperial Palace and jury judgments against Caesars Palace.