Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games, especially for beginners, for several reasons. One of the biggest is that it has a very low house edge compared to other games.
It is easy to learn, too, but it also requires the use of strategy as opposed to the pure luck of slots. Gamblers who want to feel like they can affect the outcome of the game but don’t want to spend hours learning a complicated game will enjoy blackjack. There are fundamental strategies that work for almost every player if they follow them.
Despite the simplicity of blackjack and its strategy, there are still a lot of people who make some pretty common mistakes when they play the game. In fact, the casinos are banking on you making those mistakes. If everyone based their moves on probability, they wouldn’t make nearly as much money as they do.
If you would like to give the casino a run for its money when you play blackjack, pay attention to the following blunders and learn how to avoid them.
Remember that even with perfect strategy, there is no perfect game, and you will lose at least a few hands. These techniques diminish the house edge, but they don’t guarantee winning hands.
Rookie players that are brand new to the game, here is an extra tip just for you. I recommend playing a few hands online before you head to a casino.
The following scenarios will apply in both live and online games, but the atmosphere of the brick-and-mortar establishment will make you feel more pressure. So, it’s best to have a knack for the basic strategy down before you jump into that. There are even just-for-fun options, so you can practice without risking your hard-earned money.
Mistake #1 – Choosing the Wrong Table
The first mistake that most people make is choosing the wrong table in live games or not selecting the right game if they are playing online. Players choose the wrong table or game because they don’t understand the rules that can vary for each one and how those variations can impact their payout.
If you are playing a live game, there will most likely be several options of tables to choose from in a casino. Some of the tables will be the same, but others will have some variations. There are a few things that you should look for.
A minimum bet that is within your means is the first thing you want to find.
If you have a bankroll of $100, a table with a $100 minimum is only going to let you play one hand, or maybe two or three hands if you win.
Typically, the minimum bet is $10 or $15, but some casinos will offer lower options. If you are a beginner, you will risk less money if you start at the table with the most economical minimum.
The odds are the next factor that you should consider when choosing a blackjack table.
The two most common odds are 6:5 and 3:2, but some will only offer even money. This information is usually displayed on the table itself.
Generally, you want to choose a 3:2 table because it will provide a higher payout if your first two cards are a blackjack. For those of you who don’t know, a blackjack is made up of an ace and any face card or ten.
Number of Decks
The number of decks that are being used is another component that will have a significant impact on your odds. The higher the number of cards in play, the harder it will be to calculate the probability of certain possibilities.
It is usually better to play a single-deck or double-deck table. However, some tables with more decks offer different rules. I recommend starting out with a single-deck game while you are learning strategy, then progress to multiple decks as you learn the rules and how they will affect your game.
Some of the rules that you will want to consider when choosing a table are things like when you can double down, when you can surrender, or when the dealer has to stand. For example, one table might say that you can’t double down after you have already split a pair.
If that is a strategy that you use on a regular basis, find a table that allows it. Tables that require the dealer to stand on soft 17 are better than tables that don’t, but that situation is rare, so consider all of the possibilities before deciding the best table for you.
If you’re playing online, you won’t choose a table per se, but you still have some choices to make.
You should still consider the odds, rules, and minimum bets of the game that you will play online, as described above. But the first choice you have to make is the online casino that you will use for your games. Be certain that the casino is secure and has the options that suit your needs.
If you want to know more on this subject, read our page on how to choose an online casino.
For a quick and easy way to find somewhere suitable to play, check out our list of recommended casino sites.
Live Dealer vs. Virtual Blackjack
Another thing that you need to consider if you are playing online is whether you will play a computerized game or a live dealer game. Both options are great, but live dealer games will give you an experience that is more similar to a live game.
Computerized games will be completely automated, and cards will be drawn using a random number generator (RNG). You will not be interacting with anyone in the electronic game; you will simply click through the steps until the hand is over.
The benefit of these games is that you can take the game at your speed, so you can take as much time as you need to learn all of the possible strategies, or you can speed the game up if you are looking to play several hands without waiting on other players.
Live dealer games connect you to a dealer through a video connection. They are more realistic than electronic games because you can interact with the dealer and sometimes the other players.
Because other people are waiting, you have to make your moves faster, but the overall game tends to be slower than automated games because it takes time for the dealer to shuffle and because you have to wait for the other players.
The choice will come down to personal preference in the end, but I recommend trying them both so that you can find the one that works best for you.
Here’s some more information on playing live dealer blackjack online.
Mistake #2 – Not Using Recommended Strategies
It is mathematically undeniable that basic blackjack strategies decrease the house edge and therefore increase the player’s chances of winning. And yet, many players still ignore basic strategy or use superstitious methods instead of probability.
Most of the time, players know the right move to make, but they choose not to for a few reasons. Here are some of the most common reasons that players ignore strategy.
One reason that people tend to ignore strategy is that they are betting emotionally. Your emotions will always trick you into betting more.
If you are winning, your heart will say that you are full of luck so you should try to make as much as you can. If you are losing, it will lead you to risk more to try to get back on track.
Either way, you are likely to lose more money than you otherwise might.
One of the fastest ways to lose your money is to use the Martingale betting system. It is a system that tells players to continuously double their bet on each hand after a losing hand.
The theory behind this system is that everyone is bound to win eventually, so you might as well increase your bet so that you get a higher payout when you do finally win.
The Martingale system might sound logical at first, but not when you consider the fact that you are far more likely to run out of money before you get the win. For example, let’s say that you started with a $500 bankroll and a minimum bet of $10.
We will pretend that your first few hands were lucky, so you used your winnings to increase your stake to $25. It will only take you two losses to be betting $100 on a single hand, and one hand after that, you will have lost almost your entire bankroll. The risks of the Martingale system far outweigh the potential benefits.
Mistake #3 – Hitting and Standing at the Wrong Times
There is a right time to hit and a right time to stand. Most people know that you should generally hit if your hand is twelve or less, and you should stand if it is seventeen or more, but there are a lot of situations in between that people tend to be less sure about. Here are some specific recommendations for when to hit and when to stand.
Always hit on a “soft 17,” which is when you have an ace and a six. Because the ace can be played as either a one or an eleven, you cannot bust with this hand.
If you get a face card, the highest that you can have in this situation is 17, but you are far more likely to beat the dealer’s hand if you hit.
Many players use a “never bust” strategy where they always stand on anything that is twelve or higher. It is true that you will never bust, but you might never win, either. If you always stand on hands of 12-16, you are missing some valuable opportunities to beat the dealer’s hand, and you are practically giving the game away.
Instead of always standing on these hands, consider what the dealer’s card is before you decide whether to hit or stand.
The only situation where you should “always stand” is when your first two cards make a hard 17 or higher. In every other case, you should consider your total and the dealer’s up card before you decide to hit or stand.
Remember that you don’t need to get a blackjack to win; you just need to be closer than the dealer.
Mistake #4 – Splitting and Doubling
Splitting and doubling are the rules of blackjack that can really help you win a lot of money if you use them right, but if you use them wrong, you will lose your money very quickly.
For those of you who don’t know, splitting is when you get a two of the same card in your first two cards, so you split them to play two hands at once. Doubling, or double-down, is when you double your bet after seeing your first two cards.
Different tables and games will have various rules about when you can or can’t double or split.
There are some situations when you should always split, and some when you should never split, but most fall in between. Every time you have two aces or two eights, you should split.
You should never split two tens because it’s not worth losing one of the best hands for a smaller possibility of getting two decent hands. Splitting fives is generally not recommended either. For every other hand, you should consider what the dealer’s up card is before you decide to split or not.
Doubling down is a great way to increase your payout if you know that you have a pretty good shot at winning. When you double down, you have to take one more card, and that will be the only card you can get.
So essentially, a double-down is a three-in-one move where you double your original bet, hit once, and stand after that.
Similar to splitting, a lot of doubling strategy depends on what card the dealer is showing. For example, if your two cards add up to ten, you should only double down if the dealer’s card is between 2-9.
There is one situation where you should almost always double, and that is when you have an ace. Any hand with an ace is beneficial because you can play the ace as a one or an eleven. The flexibility of an ace is what makes it a good idea to double on soft hands.
But even if you have a soft hand, if the dealer also has an ace, don’t double. There is no hand that is guaranteed to win every time.
Mistake #5 – Changing Your Play for the Wrong Reasons
Many players make the mistake of changing their strategy for the wrong reasons. For example, some players start out with a good plan, but they abandon it once they place a higher bet. You should not change the way you play just because you are betting more.
If you would have hit on the same hand in the last round, don’t stand just because you have a higher bet on the table. That is just another way to let your emotions take control of your wagers.
Another reason that players change their technique is to base it off of other players at the table. Many people think that they need to change their move to fix another player’s bad move.
Other players will say that someone needs to take a hit to increase the chances that the dealer will bust.
These strategies will get you nowhere because the other players’ moves have very little to do with your chances of winning.
Some people believe that a specific table is lucky if a lot of people are winning, or the table is jinxed if people are losing. Both of these situations have more to do with the players’ strategies than the good or bad luck of the table.
So, don’t choose a table based on how many players are winning, and don’t increase your bet just because everyone around you is doing well.
As you can see, blackjack really comes down to using the rules of probability at the right time.
Counting cards is one way that many players use basic math to win a lot of money very quickly, but it takes a lot of time to learn how to count cards that efficiently, and it is infinitely more difficult once you add multiple decks.
For those of us who can’t count cards, merely memorizing a few basic rules about when to stand, hit, split, or double really is the best way to play. The more you play, the more these rules will become second nature, helping you to resist the temptation of playing emotionally.
So long as you choose the right table to begin with, and you follow the recommended methods, you can control the game so that you win more money overall, even if you suffer a few losses here and there.
No matter whether you are playing online, a live dealer game, or in person, these recommendations will help you to avoid all of these rookie mistakes. Good luck with your next blackjack games!