Lady Luck is fickle at the best of times – most Blackjack gamblers have learned this the hard way over the years. And, when she decides to look the other way, gamblers often find a target to blame for their losses. Chances are, you’ve done the same at some point in your casino playing career. Many gamblers do this because it’s easier to think something outside your control made you lose as opposed to your own ignorance of the game and/or adherence to silly superstitions. You may think that I’m being a bit harsh by calling them “silly superstitions”, but as you’ll find out later, silly is just the start of it.
If you want to find yourself winning big and often, then it’s time to review some of the key strategies and tips that will help you play the game more effectively. It’s not always easy to admit that you don’t know as much as you should, but that’s the most important step towards improving your game. Not only that, but it’s also time to bust some of the myths surrounding the game of blackjack along the way – putting them to bed once and for all.
Myth No. 1 – It’s me against the dealer
You can thank the casinos for obfuscating the main objective of Blackjack. The objective of the game really is this simple – get to 21 before the dealer. You ultimately win by doing one of two things, either your total is greater than that of the dealer’s, or you don’t bust (go over 21) before the dealer does. The closer you are to approaching the magic number of 21, the more likely you are to bust. It’s safe to say that blackjack has a little more complicated an image in this day and age than simply being “first to 21”, something that the casinos of the world love to play up to.
You’d be stunned to see how many casinos and online casinos frame the game as a straight duel between player and dealer. It’s frustrating, as that’s not really the case, it’s the player simply managing the cards he has, all in an attempt to get as close to 21 as possible. Even though the casino might like you to forget that and make the game feel a little more “personal” between you and the dealer, always remember that 21 (or as close as you can get) is the goal, not worrying about what the dealer is doing.
Myth No. 2 – I should watch out for hot and cold streaks
By this, we mean that trends don’t mean anything. If you have had several consecutive hands, it doesn’t mean that you’ve got some sort of magical hot streak. Conversely, multiple winning hands by the dealer don’t mean he or she is due to bust. Statistical probability indicates that such streaks are bound to happen, often multiple times a session. The outcome of the last several games has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the next.
Hot and cold streaks are one of the most powerful myths in all of blackjack and also one of the most problematic. Falling into the idea that your run of luck is permanent or chasing losses because “your luck must change soon”, is only going to lead you down the poorly lit path to being out of pocket.
Myth No. 3 – Cold dealers offer up an easier chance to win
This builds upon the previous myth. Sometimes the dealer can consistently beat you by just a single digit, while other dealers can bust multiple times in a row. More superstitious gamblers will gravitate towards tables where the dealer has busted a lot, believing them to be an easier win. This simply isn’t true, for the above reason.
Just as gamblers can find themselves riding a hot streak, so too can the dealers. It’s not too hard to determine if the dealer is having a lucky run, but that has zero bearings on what their future performance will be. The cards don’t have a mind of their own, nor do they align themselves in accordance with any perceived trend. The fact that you lost six games in a row means nothing to them, and the same applies to the dealer.
Don’t get caught up the idea that a dealer’s losing streak is your ticket to the big time, as it could actually be your undoing. The next hand could be when they start to turn things around, and as such you might just find yourself in big trouble. Suspend your emotions when playing your next game of blackjack, especially if you are confident that a dealer is primed for beating because they will usually lead you to make poor decisions in the long run.
Myth No. 4 – New players will throw me off my game
You’re riding a supposed hot streak (we really do mean supposed!), you are up hundreds of dollars, and you feel unstoppable. But all of a sudden, some clueless new player joins your table and adds their hand. All of a sudden, your seemingly unstoppable hot streak comes to an end. You start to feel your rage boil over – this player MADE you lose. It’s their fault your hot streak ended! Right? Not really, I’m afraid.
As the theme we’ve been discussing would predict, they had nothing to do with why your fortunes turned sour. That seemingly hapless player didn’t do anything to skew the odds against you, it just happened to coincide with their joining. That’s the thing about randomness – it’s equally likely to work for or against you. Besides, there’s no way of knowing if your streak would have continued had they not joined.
Blackjack is a game of chance, coincidence, and skill – more on that later. If you keep thinking that outside sources and going to impact how you play, then the harsh reality is that blackjack probably isn’t the online casino game for you.
Myth No. 5 – I should avoid tables with bad players
Following on from the above, whether it’s online or offline, you are going to need to understand that you’ll see bad players everywhere. There is no avoiding them and nor should you go out of your way to. Tables with bad players, even if it’s full of bad players, aren’t going to make you a bad player should you share the game with them. Bad blackjack player isn’t contagious folks, sorry to break it to the suspicious types out there.
Some players will even label others as jinxes. Yes, this is more silliness that gets attached to bad players. The reality is those bad players can cause the dealer to win just as the dealer can cause them to lose and vice versa. Random card draws are at the heart of blackjack and no number of bad players can change that.
See a table of bad players at the casino? Well pull up a pew and start to play, as your chances of winning and losing don’t change by playing. Who knows, you may even bring a touch of good luck their way – if you believe in that sort of thing of course.
Myth No. 6 – It’s fair to assume that the dealer always has 16
Oh boy, has this myth been around a long time. Whenever a player is sat across from the dealer, the assumption always seems to be that the dealer has 16 sat in front of him. The hand that can go one way or another. Another card drawn will be boom or bust, and that the outcome of the game depends on what the dealer opts for and not you. Let me tell you right now, this is not the way to play and is certainly a myth that the numbers and statistics back up.
Instead of having the number 16 locked in your mind, you should always assume that your dealer has a value of 10 in the hole if you really want to play it safe. Never assume that your dealer has anything less than a ten, Jack, Queen, or King. If you assume that your dealer has the best card, you can adjust your play style accordingly. There are 52 cards in a deck. Of these, sixteen possess a value of 10. 16/52 is about 31% or nearly a one-in-three chance.
There’s a 69% chance that they don’t, but those odds do not inspire confidence. Players who gamble against the dealer find that it costs them a lot of money with little to show for it. Calculate the odds as they come based on the cards that have been played and the ones that have yet to see the light of day. If you do this, you’ll have a better grasp of what you can expect to see when the dealer hits. Think 10, not 16, and you’ll be safer at the blackjack table for it.
Myth No. 7 – Luck is the all-deciding factor in blackjack
True, Blackjack has quite a bit of luck involved. It’s part of the allure of casino games, after all. But Blackjack isn’t a game of pure chance – the small house edge (between 0.5% and 2% dependent on your skill level) attests to this.
Knowing how to play the game will do so much to improve your mathematical odds in the long run. Look at what your dealer has dealt, and reconcile it with the cards that are still in the deck. Counting cards is frowned upon because casinos don’t make money off of smart players. This strategy is so effective that casinos do everything they can to stop people from doing so. When you learn to employ the strategies mentioned here, you’ll find that luck isn’t everything.
If you want a straight tip from me, take the time to learn the basic blackjack strategy before you sit down at the table. There plenty of guides online and it certainly isn’t rocket science, you’ll be a much better player for understanding it too, trust me.
Myth No. 8 – Insurance is the safest bet to make
Some advice that is commonly bandied about is that you should ensure your hand in case the dealer gets a Blackjack. The reason as to why this has become such a common piece of advice is because it’s something that many casinos will nudge you towards. This isn’t really good advice. In fact, if your hand is good then you really don’t want to do that. Insurance is sly move put in place by the casino to get a little bit more of your bankroll each hand, seldom is it worth the price you pay. Think about it this way, why would a casino want you to insure your hand and put more money down on the table? The answer is simple, it’s because it can often be an easy win for them and a tough loss for you.
Let’s say you have two 10-value cards that the dealer needs in order for you to win an insurance bet. In this situation, you only win that bet if the dealer has a 10-value card as well, which gives them a Blackjack. You have two of the cards they need, which reduces the odds of a dealer getting a Blackjack. You’re better off winning with your hand than trying to insure it. Insurance is there for a reason and it’s not to help you secure your performance at the blackjack table. Take my advice, avoid insurance bets, as your money is much better spent elsewhere.
Myth No. 9 – Always stand when you have a soft 18
There are countless blackjack hands you can land, but a soft 18 is seen as the best kind of hand you can have, but that’s only sometimes true. This hand has all kinds of myth and legend attach to it, but don’t buy into the belief that’s it’s the most powerful hand in the game – blackjack aside.
It’s good if the dealer shows a 2 up or 7 up card, but other values (3, 4, 5, 6) are less likely to pan out for you. You should double down in these cases when the dealer is more likely to bust. Soft 18 might have you feeling like a king when it’s sat on the table in from of you, but it’ll only lead you a royal ransom if you play the right way. Read the table, understand what’s in play, only then will a soft 18 be able to live up to its mythical potential.
Myth No. 10 – Card counting is illegal
Take a second, absorb everything I’ve just said, and get ready to take a bite out of the next myth – it’s a big one. Card counting has become this mythical term in the world of blackjack, with there being such an allure attached to it, they’ve even made blockbuster movies based upon it. The whole premise is that card counting is in some way or another illegal or taboo, to the point where you’ll be hauled straight to the nearest jail – or at least thrown headfirst out if the casino by security – if you’re caught doing it. This actually isn’t true, as card counting is actually legal.
Don’t believe casinos when they try to convince you that it’s against the rules or illegal to count cards. Casinos don’t like it because players who can successfully do this almost always come out ahead. In reality, this is just using your brain to play the game effectively. Card counting is a strategy that can be used when playing blackjack and it’s by no means a form of cheating, don’t let a casino make you think otherwise.
Casinos don’t like smart players who win lots of money, so when that happens, they like to bring the hammer down any way they know-how. Calling someone that card counts a cheater is the easiest excuse they have for getting a player away from the table, even if no actual cheating has taken place. If this happens to you, don’t be afraid to stand your ground, as card counting is legal, above board, and certainly not a form of cheating.
Myth No. 11 – You need to be a mathematical genius to card count properly
In all the Hollywood movies, card counters are painted as super smart, super slick, and super smooth individuals. While being all these three things might make you a better card counter, the reality is that anyone can do it no matter their background, demeanor, or bankroll. We’ll stress this right now; you don’t need an eidetic (photographic) memory to be an effective card counter.
Card counting doesn’t even require the visual part of your brain all that much. Getting good with numbers is a skill that you can develop with time and practice. At the end of the day, card counting is a skill and all skills can be learned as long as you are willing to commit to the process. Want to start card counting? All you need to do is try and the likelihood is that you’ll pick up the traits needed sooner rather than later.
Myth No. 12 – Progressive betting is a surefire way to beat the house
Progressive betting is when you bet more as you win and less as you lose. The idea is that you take advantage of win streaks while you can and ride out losing streaks with few overall losses. The issue with this is that your chances of winning or losing stay roughly the same regardless of how much you bet. These strategies don’t influence what you win or lose in the long run, especially as the idea of hot and cold streaks is pretty much nonsense.
You might want to adjust your bankroll as it fluctuates through a series of wins and losses, but you shouldn’t do so because you believe that a progressive betting approach is going to help you have a better chance at beating the house. Play normally, don’t put too much of your bankroll at risk and put the notion that progressive betting is your ticket to taking the dealer to the cleaners in the back of your mind where it belongs.
Myth No. 13 – Practicing blackjack is completely pointless
Practice makes perfect, unless when it comes to blackjack if you believe some people. The idea that you can’t practice blackjack and that luck is the only determining factor in its outcomes is pretty ridiculous. We mentioned earlier that luck and skill together are what it takes to win at blackjack, and rarely can you win with one and not the other. For that reason, you must absolutely practice playing blackjack for the better of your bankroll.
Before you go out and put your hard-earned money on the line, we recommend that you practice various online blackjack strategies at home. Practice actually does make perfect, and committing these strategies to heart will make a huge difference in both the short and the long term. A good way to learn is to play against other friends and family members in friendly matches. You can organize a casino party where everybody plays without actually risking their own money in the process. This method is especially fun because it’s a lot less stressful when you don’t stand to lose anything. And plus, you might learn a thing or two from more experienced blackjack players. Learning by winning, there simply isn’t a better combination out there.
Blackjack Myths Begone!
Blackjack is a game rife with its own myths and superstitions. Gamblers are especially prone to believing in anything that they think will give them an edge, regardless of whether it’s actually based in fact or not. This is the goal of this article – to dispel these absurd myths and reveal the facts that any serious gambler needs to know. It’s not always comfortable to hear the truth, but it’s far better for your pocketbook than comforting lies and superstitions. Follow the tips we’ve laid out, and you’ll start earning some real money.