Why do the majority of blackjack players lose in a casino game that can be beaten? It’s because they frequently commit one or more of the following typical blunders.
MISTAKE 1: FAILING TO READ THE PLAYING RULES
The majority of gamers sit down in the first available blackjack seat they come across. This is a common blunder, as not all blackjack games are made equal. Some games feature a decent blend of player-friendly regulations, such as the dealer standing on soft 17 and the ability to double down after pair splitting. In contrast, others have poor rules, such as a player blackjack paying 6-5 and doubling only to 10 or 11.
A casino manager isn’t likely to recommend his more player-friendly games to you. No, you’re the one who’s in charge of it. As a result, before starting to play, a player should review the regulations. On a blackjack, will the dealer pay you 3-2? On a soft 17, does the dealer hit or stand? Is it possible to double down after a pair split? Is it possible to surrender? A player’s fate can be sealed by playing at a table with terrible regulations.
MISTAKE 2: FAILURE TO USE BASIC STRATEGY
Playing blackjack isn’t a guessing game where you hit your 16 against the dealer’s ten upcards sometimes and stand the rest of the time for any reason. Brilliant mathematicians have found the mathematically proper technique to play each hand, and this strategy is known as the basic playing strategy. The latter can be found in books or on the internet (including my Ultimate Guide to Blackjack). The strategy is laid out in tables and charts, and it instructs you on how to play each hand correctly. If you have a 9-9 and the dealer’s upcard is a 9, there is just one way to play this hand correctly. Whether you’re playing in a casino in Las Vegas, the Midwest, Biloxi, or Atlantic City, or if you’ve just lost or won the last five hands, or if you’ve been winning or losing money, or if your intuition tells you to stand, the ideal play is to split. You don’t break and stand at the exact moment. You’re always splitting apart. You must play like a robot, always following the correct core approach regardless of the circumstances. If you can’t or won’t accept this, you should find another game to play because you’ll never win at blackjack.
MISTAKE 3: ATTEMPTING TO BEAT THE HOUSE WITH A PROGRESSIVE BETTING SYSTEM
Players appear to be fascinated by betting progressions, in which you bet more or less dependent on the results of prior hands, in the false belief that they may win with them. They can’t and won’t do it. If you adopt a betting progression, you’re waging a lost war for one simple reason. There has never been statistical research in the history of blackjack that indicates your chances of winning the following hand grow based on the results (win or lose) of the previous hands. Betting progressions are not a silver bullet for winning at blackjack. Yes, they can be exciting to use in the short run when you get to make some adrenaline-pumping big bets, according to whatever progression you’re using, but guess what? They’re not fun in the long run. The house advantage against you will remain unchanged. Worse, suppose you utilize a betting progression instead of betting the same amount on every hand. In that case, you will lose more money in the long run since you will be exposing a more significant portion of your bankroll to the house advantage, so the more money you wager, the more money you stand to lose. On the other hand, Betting progressions do not work in the long run, so forget about them.
MISTAKE 4: UPGRADE YOUR BET BECAUSE YOU ARE DUE TO WIN
Most blackjack players wrongly assume that the game is close to a 50-50 proposition; therefore, if they lose several hands in a row, the odds must be higher for them to win the next hand, so they increase their wager. Remember what I mentioned before about prior blackjack results having little bearing on future outcomes? This is true even if you’ve had a horrible streak of losing numerous hands in a row. Regardless of what happened in prior writings, you have a 48 percent probability of winning the next hand in blackjack (excluding ties). Only when you know you have the best of it (i.e., through card counting – assess your skills with the card counting trainer) and not when you think you are “due to win” should you wager more in blackjack.
MISTAKE 5: PLAYING BLACKJACK ON A TABLE WITH A CONSTANT SHUFFLING MACHINE (CSM)
A CSM is a card shuffling machine that distributes the cards to the dealer to deal with the players. CSMs are used on many casino tables nowadays because they speed up the game and deter card counters. A CSM typically holds four or five decks of cards, and after each round, the dealer returns the discards to the CSM, where they are shuffled at random. A live blackjack dealer can deal more hands per hour to gamblers because she never pauses to rearrange the cards physically. As a result, more of a player’s bankroll is exposed to the house edge, resulting in a higher theoretical hourly loss. Average players should play at a table where the dealer shuffles the cards by hand rather than using a CSM, as this will let them play more slowly.
MISTAKE 6: PLAYING SIX TO FIVE GAMES
This was noted in passing in Mistake #1, but with the proliferation of 6-5 blackjack games, it’s worth repeating. It’s a bad game when a casino pays 6-5 (or 7-6, or even worse, even money) for a blackjack. The house edge in a single-deck game rises to 1.39 percent; if blackjack pays only even money, the house edge increases to 2.3 percent. 6-5 payoffs aren’t limited to single-deck games. On double-deck and multi-deck games nowadays, you’ll discover 6-5 fixes. Blackjack games in so-called party pits, where blackjack payoffs are frequently 6-5 or even money, should be avoided at all costs. In party pits, you’ll pay a lot of money for the eye candy. The bottom line is that you should avoid playing a 6-5 blackjack game. Consult the table’s rules or inquire with the dealer. Walk away if the game doesn’t pay 3-2 for a blackjack (better yet, run).
MISTAKE 7: ALWAYS BETTING ON INSURANCE
The insurance bet was discussed in Chapter 2.6, but it’s worth reiterating that it’s an unprofitable wager for primary strategy players. Players have been duped into thinking this is an intelligent wager since it “insures” or “protects” their primary bet against a dealer’s blackjack. This is far from the case, as the insurance bet does not affect your chances of winning the original wager. Simply put, the insurance bet is a side wager on whether or not the dealer has a ten in the hole (i.e., her downcard) and, as a result, a blackjack. You have no way of knowing if the dealer’s downcard is a ten without knowing the composition of the cards in the deck, which is why primary strategy players should never take insurance. Note: Card counters, on the other hand, know the deck’s composition, making insurance a winning wager for them. This will be covered in Chapter 10.
MISTAKE 8: PLAYING WHEN TIRED OR EXHAUSTED
Have you ever seen a blackjack player who was the bleary-eyed or drunk win? I haven’t either. Yes, I understand that alcoholic beverages are provided for free when you play, and you can’t wait to get to the blackjack tables after a long journey. When playing blackjack, though, you must have a clear head because you must use your brain to make decisions. Drinking too much alcohol or playing when you’re fatigued will only cloud your judgment and cause you to make blunders. Play first, drink water, and only play blackjack after you’ve had a good night’s sleep.