Common Blackjack Mistakes


Jun 2011

Ken Tucker | POSTED IN Blackjack | NO COMMENTS

Something about blackjack encourages people to at times play with less then ideal strategy. You hear more nonsense at blackjack tables than at slot machines–maybe it is the simplicity of the game or the appeal of the small casino edge. For whatever reason, there are four mistakes blackjack players make again and again that keep them from playing like the pros. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. Not Doubling Down

The game of blackjack is very formulaic. If you follow the prescribed strategy, and if you happen to get a little lucky, you can usually walk away a winner. While it is true that blackjack tends to reward conservative play, sometimes doubling your bet is the right thing to do. Let’s say you’re holding a soft thirteen (A and 2) against a dealerโ€™s 5. The only card that would keep you from significantly improving your hand is a 9 or a 10. That means statistically speaking you can expect a win, so go ahead and double the bet. The dealer’s bust probability showing a 5 is significantly high. Not doubling your bet is like throwing money away. Memorize double down opportunities before your next blackjack venture.

2. Playing By Feel

If I had a nickel for every time someone said they were taking insurance because it just “felt” like the dealer had a blackjack, I’d never have to gamble again. Playing blackjack (or any casino game) by “feel” is about as smart as driving by smell. Blackjack is a game based in odds and strategy, not feel or emotion.

3. Fear of Surrender

People are as scared of surrendering as they are of doubling down. The fact is, basic blackjack strategy holds that sometimes it is best to surrender and avoid a potentially big loss, saving half your bet in the process. Specifically, if your point total is 15 or 16 and the dealer’s up card is a 9 or higher, you should always surrender to avoid an easy win for the casino.

Why does surrendering make sense under these conditions? 15 and 16 are the most dangerous totals in blackjack–not high enough to beat a dealer standing at 17, and not low enough to safely take a hit. You can safely stand at 15 or 16 if the dealer’s up card is on the low side, when his bust probability is over 50%.

Being afraid to surrender will cost you money in the long-run. Play the odds and you’re guaranteed to have a more successful blackjack experience.

4. Ignoring the Table Rules

Unless you’re playing blackjack in Atlantic City, where the state of New Jersey dictates that all blackjack tables offer the same rules, you should make sure you know the specific game rules for the game you’re joining. Small changes in blackjack rules can mean a big difference in your odds–for instance, if the dealer in a particular game is allowed to draw on a soft 17, the casino’s edge increases by a couple of percentage points. Blackjack games where the house pays 6 to 5 on blackjacks alter the odds by a few more percentage points. There’s no reason not to play blackjack at tables that offer the best rules. What are the best blackjack rules? Early surrender, double down on any two cards, 2-1 payout in blackjacks, double down after splits, and draw to split aces.

If you are new to blackjack, avoiding these common mistakes will save you a lot of losses at the blackjack table. If you’re a long-time blackjack player and are still falling into these same old traps, making a few small changes to your game will greatly increase your chances of winning, which just happens to make playing blackjack even more fun.

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