Separating Myth from Truth in Blackjack
Blackjack is quite possibly the biggest casino game in the world, even bigger than slots and poker. The reason for this is that the game, although simple on the outside, has plenty of complex elements that keep players coming back for more. This is alongside the fact that Hollywood has constantly put the game in the spotlight, so major blockbusters have even made blackjack the main plot hook. It’s safe to say that blackjack is ingrained in pop culture these days. Its popularity is almost unmatched these days, but that doesn’t mean that you can just walk up to the table at a casino and start sweeping up the cash.
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You’ve probably seen it before: a player has a streak of bad luck and progressively becomes angrier and angrier. In turn, this causes them to do worse and worse. Professional gamers refer to this as playing on tilt. These players are quick to blame somebody else for their loss, but in reality, it almost always stems from a lack of understanding of how to properly play the game. Popular culture has created the idea that only super-genius Oxford graduates can be good at card games, but that could not be further from the truth. In reality, they aren’t using any tools or techniques that the average bloke can’t learn themselves. With a bit of practice, you can learn and master them too.
If you want to master Blackjack, we’re here to help, as you’ve probably seen our various tips and tricks before. But, before you even get that far, you need to understand what’s real and what’s not-so-real when it comes to this famous card game. We plan on debunking some widely-held myths in the Blackjack community right here, right now.
You are never guaranteed a win when playing blackjack
Let’s start with the most annoying myth of all, even if this statement isn’t mean to be taken so literally. What it means is that gamblers often believe that a winning streak by the dealer means that they are “due” for a win, either on the next hand or the upcoming hands. This is the ultimate gambler’s fallacy, and it’s how people throw away their life savings. The chances of winning or losing don’t magically shift from one hand to the next – the chances of winning are constant and do not change the way people think they do from one hand to the next.
The whole idea that the game of blackjack “owes” you a win is nothing short of ridiculous. If you at any point start believing this, it’s time to step away from the table, go home, and cherish whatever money you have left.
Eyeing up a cold table? Think twice about it
Following on from the previous point we just made. The chances of winning don’t change from one hand to the next. Think of a coin flip: the odds of getting heads off of one win is 50%, right? Getting it seven times in a row is 1/27 = 1/64, or a bit over 1%. That seems low, but over thousands of coin flips, it’ll occur over and over. The coin is never “due” to flip to tails; it always has the same chance to land no matter what. The same applies to a dealer on a losing streak.
Dealers, like players, are just as prone to a hot or cold streak as anybody else. Dealers aren’t cheating if they win a lot, and they aren’t easy wins if they’re cold. It’s just pure random chance like it is for a typical live blackjack player. Winning is not deterministic – the previous games have absolutely no bearing on what happens in the next games. The cards are unthinking, emotionless entities. They won’t ever change the outcome to hurt or help you, in spite of what some superstitious gamblers believe.
Don’t think of 21 as the goal
It’s easy to believe that getting 21 is the goal of every blackjack hand, considering that it’s the most critical number in the game. It also doesn’t help matters that this type of thinking is displayed all throughout casinos on ads, banners, flyers, and then some. Lots of dealers would have you believe this too, but the truth is a bit more complicated.
In reality, the goal is just to beat the dealer, that is all it takes to win a hand at blackjack, with there being nothing more complicated to it than that. This can be done in one of two ways, get a higher score than the dealer, or don’t bust before they do. These two things are all you should have to worry about. If you consistently try to get as close to 21 as possible, what will happen is that you’ll bust more often than you’d like.
Look, getting a blackjack hand is great, especially from a payout perspective. But a blackjack hand is often like the quest for perfection, if you keep looking for it, you are going to face some heavy financial sacrifices along the way before you get there. Always play to beat the deal and nothing more, you’ll be much better off for it.
New players at the table shouldn’t disturb your rhythm
This is something that a lot of gamblers really seem to think is a thing, especially if their winning streak comes to an end after somebody joins. New players joining mid-game are not going to disturb your rhythm and un-do your game plan. Like before, other players can’t influence the outcome of subsequent games any more than the alignment of the stars can. Of course, that’s a hard pill to swallow when you suddenly find yourself down $500 after riding a hot streak. Lesser Blackjack players will look for a scapegoat to blame, but really, it’s just poor luck on their part.
Remember – there are no special cards, seats, or tables. Nothing changes when a person joins or leaves, except your own temperament after you start losing games. Blaming your bad luck on a new player joining the table? Well, the jokes on you really, as it has absolutely nothing to do with your performance.
Photographic memory is not essential
We really have to laugh at some of the sheer nonsense we’re having to address here. No, eidetic memory isn’t required. True, counting cards is a skill that must be practiced, but it isn’t an innate ability that one must be born with. Anybody who puts in the time to practice card counting will get proficient at it in no time. Memory, like a muscle, is something that must be trained. Players who think you need to be Rain Man to count cards likely haven’t put in the practice time required to master the skill.
No, the dealer is no hiding an ace up his sleeve
Okay, now this one is just ridiculous. Do you have any idea how bad it would look for a casino if it came out that one of their dealers was cheating? That’s to say nothing of the lawsuits that would likely result from gamblers who lost a lot of money there. This whole idea of a dealer having cards stashed away for when needed is really silly. Come on, how obvious would it be if an extra card was slipped into the game? The likelihood is that every player would see it!
It’s easy to blame the dealer when things go south at the blackjack table, and think that they just had the perfect 10 in hole to get that next blackjack. But seriously, guys – these dealers are just as likely to lose as you. And considering that 16 of the 52 cards have a value of 10, it’s not so unlikely that they’ll get a 10 in hole when they need it. You’re much better off playing around the idea that they might have it – at least that’s grounded in reality.
No hidden cards, no smoke and mirrors, when you lose at blackjack it’s because the dealer simply had a better hand than you.
You do actually need some level of skill to be good at blackjack
Okay, so Blackjack might not have as high of a skill cap as say, poker. But Blackjack is not a game that is purely driven by luck – you’re thinking of slots and, to an extent, roulette. Understanding how to keep track of the cards that have been dealt versus the ones that your dealer might have is a great way to use mathematics to your advantage. You know that there are 16 cards with a value of 10 – knowing when to hold and when not to is something that can make a really big difference in the long run.
If you wish to really be a top blackjack player, you need to start looking at the game as something more than just a game of chance. Skill is what’s needed to rake in the cash, so stop believing silly myths, start practicing, and learn to make the most of the hand in front of you.
Progressive betting won’t overcome the house edge
In other casino games, there is a purpose to progressive betting, but the same doesn’t apply in a game like blackjack, due its rather unique game mechanics. It’s easy to think that betting less when you’re behind and more when you’re ahead will net you more money overall. But mathematically, that isn’t the case. Betting more when you’re up will just increase what you lose, and vice versa. In the long run, the effect just cancels itself out.
Stop insuring your hand against blackjack
This piece of advice is actually pretty common, but you would be stunned by the sheer numbers that go against this. A lot of gamblers actually think that insuring your hand if the dealer has a Blackjack is a good idea, but that’s not quite the case. In fact, it’s the opposite, as insurance “bets” can cost you a fortune if you keep sticking with them.
When you have a good hand, you don’t want to take insurance, and here’s why. Say you’ve got a 20 in your hand, totaling two tens. Since your dealer needs a ten for you to win your insurance bet, you holding those tens significantly reduces the chance that they will have the ten you need. A 20 is a strong hand, and it’s statistically better for you to just keep what you’ve got instead of being greedy.
It might be called an insurance bet, but we don’t see it as anything more than a way to easily lose money on both losing and winning hands.
Don’t always stand on a soft 18
This one isn’t an outright myth so much as a situational strategy, as the circumstance is important. You should stand only when the dealer shows a 2 up or 7 upcard. If the dealer has anything else, you’re better off doubling down and going for the kill. You don’t do it to gain an advantage, but rather to place more money when the dealer is more likely than you to bust. This is probably the only piece of advice on this list that is a little take it or leave it, as we do get why players stand on 18, no matter whether it’s a hard or soft hand.
Counting cards is a legitimate blackjack strategy
Uh, no. Casinos hate people who count cards because they usually don’t turn a profit from them, but it isn’t a crime, despite what they may tell you. Counting cards is playing intelligently – using your brain to make decisions, rather than emotions and gut feelings. Casinos like dumb players who don’t count cards, because they make more money off of them. Card count at every chance you get and feel zero shame about it. It’s not only a totally legal way to play, but you’ll likely find it to be a highly profitable way to play.
Card counting, as much as casinos frown upon it, is fine and above board. But if you don’t want to risk it, try practicing with people you know before you start putting money on the line using this age-old way of play. Casino parties are a great way to do this, and plus they’re a great way to spend time with your friends and loved ones without having to risk any of your hard-earned cash.
Blackjack myths begone!
The gambling world is rife with myths and superstitions. Gamblers tend to be prone to believe them because they want to believe that there is some kind of logic or order behind what happens on the dealer’s table. It’s a very human trait to want to make order from chaos, but the outcomes really aren’t influenced by any sort of divine or cosmic force. All you can do is make informed decisions based upon facts and the rules of the game.
If you want to win, you’ve got to let go of these silly myths and start implementing strategies grounded in reality.