Blackjack Loser? Here’s What You Might Be Doing Wrong
May 5, 2014
Blackjack is a difficult game to master. Beginning players often lose money by repeating easily-correctable mistakes.
If you’re a beginning blackjack player, you might be alarmed by the large amounts of money you are losing. Blackjack is a complex game with many minor bits and pieces of strategy which must be mastered. Ask any pro player and they will tell you about the countless hours spent practicing at home, online and in casinos before they considered making a living off of the classic casino game.
Becoming a blackjack strategy expert means working past the typical mistakes which plague beginners. This article, written specifically for those relatively new to the game, will highlight some common strategy mistakes, and tell you how to correct them.
Failing to Read the Upcard
Learning how to read the value of your own hand is step #1 in learning how to play blackjack. But quite frankly, it’s not enough to be truly successful. A skilled player must also anticipate the dealer’s hand, informing their decisions on when to hit, split, double down or surrender. Learning how to analyze the upcard will help guide you to successful play.
When the dealer shows a nine, ten or face card, they will win the majority of hands. Check your cards. Unless you have a 19 or higher, cut and run. Surrender if the blackjack rule variation you are playing allows you to do so. You will lose half of your initial bet, but its better than losing all of it.
A dealer four, five or six is called an “attack card.” These indicate that the dealer’s chance of busting is high, as they need to hit at least once. So the player should try to get as much money on the table as possible, splitting or doubling down, depending on the hand they hold. It isn’t often you’ll get the dealer on the ropes; when you do, you need to maximize your payout.
Being too prideful to surrender
Many players don’t take advantage of blackjack’s out clause, the surrender option. This means that the dealer returns half of the initial bet and the hand is discontinued. The player is advised to do this during situations (like the one mentioned above) when their chance of winning appears to be very low. For example, when the dealer shows a face card and the player has a hard seventeen, a classic example of a losing hand.
Many beginning players don’t take advantage of this for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they don’t have the sense to know when they are in a losing situation. More often, they aren’t able to bite the bullet and cut their losses. Surrendering can be humiliating, and to many it feels like giving the dealer free money. But if you want to maximize winnings and minimize losses, learn when to swallow your pride and exit with your skin intact.
“Insurance” refers to the player putting up money to hedge against the dealer having a blackjack. If the dealer shows an ace, they will call for players to buy insurance. This allows the player to put up half of their initial wager, say 25$ on a $50 bet. If the dealer indeed has a blackjack, the house pays 2-1, so the player comes out even. Sounds great, right?
There is another side to the insurance coin. If the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, the house keeps your $25. Even if you win the hand and the $50 of even money that comes with it, you lose $25, so only come out with half of what you would have won without insurance. In the long-run this is a losing blackjack strategy, as in most cases the dealer won’t have a blackjack.
Taking out insurance is only beneficial in net terms when the player is counting. If the count is high one can reasonably predict that the dealer will have a face card in the hole, and thereby a blackjack. But in basic strategy play it is too difficult to predict a dealer blackjack, so not worth the risk that taking out insurance entails.
Hot hand fallacy
Some beginning players start feeling overconfident when they are on a roll, increasing their bet after a string of winning hands. This is referred to as the “hot hand fallacy,” the mistaken belief that lady luck is shining upon you, so you should try to take the house for all its worth.
This is a terrible strategy, because in reality each hand is independent from those dealt previously. Unless you are counting, you have no reason not to flat bet. Follow the rules of blackjack strategy. Don’t believe for a second that some unseen blackjack force is willing you to victory. While you might get lucky once in awhile, blackjack players win by making logical decisions. Treat each upcoming hand as a new beginning, because it is.