Common Blackjack Myths
Every blackjack player has at least six opinions on the game, which makes sense because you have one opinion of the game when you’re up and another very different one when you’re down - and many for all the stages in between. If you chat with other players about their best plays and what rules they follow, you’ll have a mind full of myths, stories, and pure fiction. Occasionally, you’ll pull out a jewel of good blackjack advice, but mostly you’ll hear “woulda, coulda, shoulda” laments.
The object is to reach 21 without exceeding it
The object of the game of blackjack is to beat the dealer, not to get close to 21. People often forget that and think since they have 16 or 17, if they hit, they will likely bust, so they shy away and think that they’ve reached their goal of getting close to 21. But the dealer doesn’t have to get close to 21. He/She/It just has to beat the player. On the other hand, people often lose a hand because they hit when they should stand.
You can only beat the dealer by having a higher total than the dealer or by not busting when the dealer busts. You absolutely must stick to basic strategy for the blackjack game that you are playing when it feels like you are “close enough” to 21. Strategy will tell you whether you should hit or stand. I know the feeling of anxiety we all feel when we hit that block of “stand” on the strategy card. The casino knows about it too, and hopes you can’t resist hitting.
We speak, of course, of standing on low hands like 12s (against a dealer’s 4, 5, 6) and on 13 and 14 against a dealer’s 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. Twelve and 13 just look so low! Gosh, it’s just so tempting to hit. Standing is for losers, isn’t it? Be bold! Ask for another card! The dealer’s waiting, or the Hit button sits glowing on your computer screen. No, the sensible move is to stand. Hitting will only benefi t the dealer. Don’t give them any advantage just because you’d rather bust with 22 than win with a mere 12.
Bad players cause us to lose
If this were true, the bad players at all the tables around the world would cause the good players to lose, and the concept of playing basic strategy and sticking to your game would be useless. Casinos reward bad players with free rooms and other comps instead of the good players. It would be the topsy-turvy, upside-down Bizarro world from Superman.
You are pretty much always guaranteed to meet and play with people who do not know the correct basic strategy for playing the game of blackjack. Some are worse than others. Some players go against everything that strategy teaches, but they should have
no effect on your game. Blackjack is a game of beat the dealer.
It doesn’t make any difference how the other players at the table play, they will have no effect on whether you win or lose your game. There are the occasions when a player sitting at third base hits his 16 against a dealer’s up-card of 5, and the player ends up busting giving the dealer a good hand that beats everyone else at the table. You could argue that if the player didn’t hit, then the dealer would have busted instead, and then all players at the table would have won. But you can never know that the next card in the deck is going to help or hurt the dealer in a game of online blackjack. The next card in the deck could have just as easily caused the dealer to bust had the player played his hand exactly the same way, by hitting on his two-card total of 16.
I can’t keep losing (You can!)
Occasionally, upon losing four or five hands in a row, even I think to myself that I’m due to win the next hand. I have to be! Probability states that I can’t lose every hand. Therefore, I must be due to win. Unfortunately, the cards don’t seem to care that I’ve lost the last four or fi ve hands in a row. My winning the next hand has nothing to do with whether I’ve lost, tied, or won the last four or five hands. In the long run, yes - I will eventually even out and win approximately half of the hands that I play, but after only four or five hands, I can’t be guaranteed any particular result for the upcoming hand. It may take many hours for me to recoup what I’ve lost and break-even or get ahead. That may seem frustrating to many, but it’s part of the game, and patience and self-control is so important if you’re going to rank as a winning player.
Always insure against blackjack
Insurance is one of the biggest mistakes a player can make. Insurance is a waste of your money in blackjack. The casinos would love you to take that bet, but if you were to do so, you’d be giving away your money. In fact, you’d be giving almost 13 percent of the profit that you were to receive had you won the game with a blackjack. In order for you to break even with insurance, you must be counting cards and know the exact card that the dealer is holding. Let’s look at an example of how insuring your blackjack can cost you.
You may think you can’t lose when you insure your blackjack hand, but the truth is, you will lose 1 to 1, or even money, every time you take insurance. But if you pass on taking insurance, you would actually be winning 1.04 to 1–4% more than if you didn’t take insurance. Now that may not sound like a lot, but if you insure your blackjack consistently throughout your years of playing blackjack, it can add up to plenty of money. Throwing away this 4 percent seems like a waste of money to me.
Even if you were to count cards (though not possible for an online game), you should still only take the insurance bet if you know for sure that over 1/3 of the remaining cards in the shoe are 10-point cards. Otherwise, it’s a risky bet.
Deuces (2s) favor the dealer
This is definitely not the case. In fact, if you think about it, I’m sure you’d agree that you would rather see the dealer showing a 2 up-card than you would an Ace or 10. An Ace or 10 has the potential for a dealer blackjack. Players who think that the deuce favors the dealer do so because they are prone to recognizing that particular card.
They think that if the dealer is holding a deuce, there will only be one card in the deck (a 10-point card) that could cause the dealer to bust. Therefore, the dealer must have a good chance of reaching, or coming close to, 21. However, the reality is that if the dealer is showing an Ace or 10, the probability is higher that you will lose to that hand than when showing a deuce.
Two hands are better than one
Playing two hands against the dealer gives you no advantage whatsoever. You may think that you have a better chance of breaking even - losing with one hand and winning with the other - but in truth, you’re playing as if you were two people sitting at the table. It might be enjoyable, but your chances of receiving better cards are no better. Also, landbased casino pit bosses watch for players who double up and often invite them to take a nice, long walk and not come back. Forget players who boast, “I always play two hands and win more that way!” They can’t be counting their winnings carefully. Playing 12 hands will not give you an advantage - it’s just not possible mathematically.
It’s all luck
Blackjack, like poker, is a game of skill. This sets them apart from games like craps - where your chances are literally a “crap shoot” - roulette, or slots. While you will find streaks in a given set of cards, that’s when you up and leave, not when you throw your hands up in the air and start questioning the fidelity of Lady Luck. Playing the basic strategy will win for you in the long run, but that prepositional phrase is key: in the long run.
You still should get up and leave when you hit a bad streak, but that’s not “bad luck.” It’s part of your strategy. Expect those series of unbelievably bad draws or supernaturally hot dealers, and respond accordingly.