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by Dan Pronovost

Dan Pronovost is the owner and president of DeepNet Technologies, makers of a wide range of advantage gambling training products and software for Windows, iPhone and Android (blackjack, poker, craps). Their web site is:, and most products are available for free trial download. Dan is also the creator of the popular and easy-to-use card counting system Speed Count.

Do you remember your first time?

Think backÖ to that first time you stepped into a casino, and plunked down that initial blackjack bet, craps wager, or video poker spin. Did you make the right plays, or did you suffer the stares and rolling eyes of the experienced players around you?

Most likely, you started playing without any guidance or training, and only later read a little about playing better at your games of choice. On the other hand, maybe youíre new to casino games right now, reading this, and you are wondering what it takes to beat the casinos.

There are good casino games, and bad ones. Good ones, where a smart player, using the best possible play decisions, can reduce the casinoís expected win over you to close to nothing. There are even a few games where advanced (legal) methods can even give you a small advantage and earn you a profit in the long run, like blackjack and some video poker games.

However, saying it, and learning it, are two different things! Eventually, a novice player will realize that they need to learn to play smarter to lose less and win more. There are countless books on every casino game out there, some good, and some bad. Personally, thatís where I started my casino experience, learning about card counting in blackjack, dice control in craps, and advanced video poker strategy.

I remember reading Million Dollar Blackjack by Ken Uston, and thinking, "Wow! Card counting is simple! Just add and subtract a bit as the cards are dealt, vary your bets with the count, and BAM! Rob the casinos blind! Amazing!" With little more than an hour or two of practice, I went to my local casino and started playing blackjack with my new card-counting knowledge. Of course, I immediately lost track of the count, forgot the correct basic strategy plays, and lost the modest bankroll I had brought with me.

I came home humbled, realizing that while the idea of card counting is simple, mastering it in live play is another matter all together! Because Iím a software programmer, it seemed to me that there should be some good software to help you train and master card counting skills. I tried a few programs available at the time, but felt that the new mobile platforms would be a better way to learn card counting (in the 90s, that meant Palm OS, now superceded by iPhone and Android). Nothing was available, so I wrote my own software for Palm OS, which is now available for iPhone and Android (as well as Windows.)

Today, there are many tools and programs to train and learn to play better for most advantage-casino games, such as blackjack and video poker. A fantastic selection of programs and aides are available from the Blackjack Insider store itself. Letís look at a selection of both free and paid software and tools, for various games, and how they can be used.

Blackjack software

There are two steps to playing blackjack well:

  1. Learn Basic Strategy: This will reduce the house edge over you to about 0.5%, meaning youíll lose 5 cents for every $10 bet on average. Basic Strategy is just about memorizing the 270 or so play combinations of player and dealer hands.
  2. Master Card Counting: Card counting involves tracking the distribution of high and low cards as they are dealt. When there are more high cards than low cards in the undealt cards, the edge can actually swing to the playerís advantage. Overall, depending on the blackjack game rules, a player can get about 0.5% edge over the casino with card counting.

Basic strategy in blackjack

Learning basic strategy is not particularly hard: most people can get it down pat in 2 to 8 hours of practice. However, using software designed for training purposes goes a long way to help you really master basic strategy, and youíll know when youíre not making errors anymore. Iíve watched players study a strategy card for 30 minutes, think they have it mastered, and then start playing with tons of costly errors.

Ken Smith, a Blackjack Insider author and owner of the popular web site, has a free online basic strategy blackjack trainer:

There are no gimmicks with the online trainer above, and itís not embedded in an online casino or anything else nasty! Just use it, and see if you really do have basic strategy mastered.

My own company has a popular $10 basic strategy blackjack training program called Blackjack Mentor. Itís available for iPhone, Android, and Windows, and it is packed with many training modes to maximize the value of the time you train. Iím a big fan of using a smartphone to master blackjack because you can test yourself whenever you have a few minutes. In addition, basic strategy and card counting are skills that need to be tested every few months, or youíll forget the right plays (itís not like riding a bike, Iím afraid.) You can even get a free copy of Blackjack Mentor for Windows with the purchase of a new Blackjack Insider membership (click here for details).

If youíre just not into software, then Blackjack Insider sells basic strategy cards. Casinos will even allow you to use these at the blackjack tables! Some donít even care if you place it on the table to consult as you play.

Card counting in blackjack

Mastering card counting is much harder than memorizing basic strategy. In addition, it depends on the card counting system you choose. In my experience, teaching players the High-Low or Knock-out count systems take 20 to 80 hours to master sufficiently, depending on the number of index plays you learn. A simple count system like Speed Count (which I developed), will earn you a bit less than more complex systems, but is far easier to master: 5 to 10 hours is plenty.

For card counting, I sell Blackjack Expert for iPhone, Android and Windows. Blackjack Expert for iPhone and Android are our most popular products, since they include everything you need to master card counting, and tons of extensive documentation and help right in the software. Our Windows bundles have all the same features, and a complete training guide/PDF with pass/fail metrics.

If youíre serious about mastering card counting and getting an edge over the casino in blackjack, then software is a must. The days of learning to card count with a pack of cards on your kitchen table are long gone, and predate affordable computers. Spend a few bucks on some software, and get serious about mastering your card counting skills. Errors when counting are lethal to your advantage in blackjack, and even one or two mistakes per shoe can erase your edge.

What about using software to play blackjack in the casino? For example, a smartphone program that displays correct basic strategy, or lets you enter the count as cards are dealt? Well, thatís a serious no-no in all casinos. Hereís the statute from the Nevada Gaming Commission, to give you an idea of how serious an offense it is to use a computer while playing blackjack (or any casino game):

NRS465.075 Use or possession of device to obtain advantage at playing game in licensed gaming establishment.

1.It is unlawful for any person to use, possess with the intent to use or assist another person in using or possessing with the intent to use any computerized, electronic, electrical or mechanical device which is designed, constructed, altered or programmed to obtain an advantage at playing any game in a licensed gaming establishmentÖ


Video poker

I remember the first time I learned that some video poker machines could be beaten. It seemed incredible to meÖ all slot machines are guarantied to suck your money away quickly, arenít video poker machines the same?

Well, most of the time, they are. But if youíre lucky enough to find one with the right game and best pay schedule, then perfect playing strategy can reduce the casinoís edge over you to pretty darn close to zero. Casinos never seem to give players any heat when playing video poker, unlike blackjack where advantage card counters can expect to be asked to stop playing eventually. Moreover, when you add in comps, cashback, bounce back, and special promotions, video poker can yield a positive player edge.

Nevertheless, video poker, much like blackjack, requires a lot of skill and training to play perfectly. Also like blackjack, if you play like the average ploppy, youíre going to be trickling your money to the casino over time.

Blackjack Insider sells a variety of video poker software and tools. We have the Video Poker for Winners software by Bob Dancer, and Optimum Video Poker by Dan Paymar. BJI also sells video poker strategy cards that outline strategies at different levels for different games. Moreover, just like basic strategy in blackjack, you can play video poker with these strategy cards in the casino. However, referring to a video poker strategy card on every hand would slow down your game a lot, so mastering the playing strategy is important.

Other casino games

Most casino games have an optimum playing strategy that can be used to minimize the house edge. However, donít be surprised that the few games that donít require any brains to play well are the casino games that are the least favorable to players. Slots are a prime example, and should be avoided generally.

Craps can be fun, but unless you can alter the statistical outcome of the rolls slightly through dice control, youíre still going to lose money. There are stupid bets in craps that give the house over a 5% edge, and smart bets that can limit your losses to about 1% (stick to pass line bets, and place 8 or 6).

Some blackjack variants, like Super Fun 21, are marginally beatable, if you really know what youíre doing. Some people claim that you can get an edge in Pow Gai Poker, Baccarat and a few other games, but Iíve not seen convincing proof, so my advice is to play those games for fun only.

Of course, cheating can definitely gain you a huge edge in many casino games! However, if you factor in jail time if you are caught, itís not something Iíd recommend.

Lastly, be careful with any betting scheme that claims to give you an edge in a casino game, be it blackjack or otherwise. These are scams: the only proven way to legally win at blackjack is with card counting. And no betting pattern in craps is going to change the fact that the casino has an edge over you.

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