14 Common Misconceptions About the Game of Blackjack

By in Casino & Gaming on
11 Minute Read

Most people have a basic understanding of how blackjack works, whether they play the game or not. But it’s also easy to have misconceptions about blackjack if you haven’t fully learned it.

I struggled with plenty of concepts when I first began playing blackjack. Here are a few misconceptions that I had my first time on a blackjack table:

  • You need to focus on getting as close to 21 as possible.
  • You’ll earn lots of comps if you play for hours.
  • Dealers won’t help you.

I cleared up all of these misbeliefs after my first session ended.

Of course, there are many more common misconceptions about blackjack than just these. That said, let’s cover 14 of the biggest misbeliefs regarding the game.

1 – Your Main Goal Is to Get Close to 21

When I started playing blackjack years ago, I made a number of crucial mistakes. The biggest of which was thinking that my main strategy goal should be doing whatever it takes to get at or near 21.

Here are some of the gaffes I made during this pursuit:

  • Ignoring the dealer’s upcard.
  • Hitting on 12-14 every time while attempting to reach 21.
  • Failing to account for favorable split opportunities while I chased the elusive 21.

I later found out that I’m not the only one who starts on this misguided path. In fact, this is one of the most commonly believed blackjack myths.

I fell into this trap because one of the few things I knew is that the player closest to 21 without busting wins. But what I failed to account for is that the dealer must draw to either a hard or soft 17 (depending on table rules).

This means that there are certain situations where it’s advantageous to stay on a bad total like 13. While this isn’t anywhere close to 13, you still have a decent chance to beat the dealer if their upcard is 4-6.

2 – Blackjack Strategy Is Complicated

Blackjack strategy seems intimidating at first because there are so many different scenarios to keep track of.

What do you do when the dealer’s upcard is 3 and you have 13? What do you do with A-6 when the dealer’s showing a 7?

Nobody is born with the knowledge for every blackjack situation. But learning strategy isn’t as complicated as it seems.

The easiest thing to do is find a strategy chart on the internet.

All you need to do is look for the phrase “blackjack strategy chart” in Google or Bing. This will bring up a wide number of options.

These are colored coded and have a legend so you know what each abbreviation stands for. All you have to do is follow the action given for each scenario based on the dealer’s upcard and your total.

Here are some other ways to learn blackjack strategy:

  • Use a blackjack training tool, which is a program that points out mistakes and correct strategy decisions while you play.
  • Read blackjack articles on the internet.
  • Watch YouTube videos on blackjack strategy.

3 – You’ll Get Lots of Comps in Blackjack

Based on movies, TV shows, and word of mouth, I was under the impression that casinos shower blackjack players with free meals and hotel stays.

My thoughts were only more misguided when considering that I was only betting $10 per hand. In the end, I didn’t get anything because my play wasn’t even being rated.

The first thing to realize is that casinos don’t make a lot of money off blackjack.

Even bad players are usually only facing a 3-4% house edge. A good player, on the other hand, can grind this down to 0.5-2%, depending upon the table rules.

Let’s look at how this plays into your comps:

  1. You play 80 hands per hour.
  2. Your average bet is $10.
  3. You play 4 hours.
  4. This makes your total bets worth $3,200 (80 x 10 x 4).
  5. Let’s say your house edge is 1%.
  6. The casino theoretically makes $32 off of you (3200 x 0.01).
  7. The casino has a 10% comp rate for blackjack players.
  8. You earn $3.20 in comps

You’d think that betting $3,200 would equate to more than a measly $3.20. But casinos also have to pay the dealer and overhead costs to keep tables running.

The second part of this is that your play has to actually be rated before you receive any comps.

You can ask the dealer or customer service about having the pit boss rate you beforehand.

But keep in mind that you won’t get much when betting $10 or less per hand.

4 – The Dealer Is Out to Get You

Some blackjack players have the misconception that dealers are totally against them and hoping that they lose.

This may be true in cases where players are being drunken jerks. But it’s not true in a larger sense.

Dealers are there to facilitate games. And they draw a large portion of their salaries from player tips.

It’s counterintuitive for them to try cheating players with sleight-of-hand tricks and bad advice. In fact, most dealers will give you some pretty good strategy advice when asked.

Here are a few tips to be cool with dealers:

  • Don’t touch the cards.
  • Don’t touch your chips once they’re in the betting circle during a live hand.
  • Don’t be rude.
  • Tip them a standard $5 for every hour you’re at the table.

5 – Blackjack Players Are Jerks to Beginners

The biggest fear keeping many people from trying blackjack is that other players might be mean.

Of course, a little alcohol helps one get over this inhibition. But the reality is that most players and dealers are fine as long as you act in a reasonable manner.

This doesn’t mean that every blackjack player you run into will be nice. You may even sit with annoying players who give you unwarranted advice every step of the way.

But you should be fine as long as you keep the following in mind:

  • Look over your strategy chart beforehand. This way you won’t slow down the game by referring to it every time.
  • Follow good blackjack etiquette (i.e. no touching cards, no touching chips in play, be friendly).
  • Don’t give unwarranted advice.
  • Make decisions with a reasonable time frame.

6 – Other Players Hurt Your Chances of Winning

The goal of blackjack is to beat the dealer’s hand. But some are convinced that bad players make it harder for them to accomplish this goal.

Let’s look at a scenario:

  1. The player at third base (seat to dealer’s right) has 13.
  2. The dealer’s upcard is 4.
  3. The player’s best move is to stand here.
  4. The player hits anyways and draws a 10, thus busting out.
  5. The dealer draws a 10 and a 7.
  6. The dealer now has a 21 and beats everybody at the table.

If the player hadn’t used bad strategy and hit, then the dealer would’ve drawn two 10s and busted out. Instead, the third-base player took one of the 10s and allowed the dealer to draw for a perfect hand.

In this very instance, the player caused everybody to lose. But everything evens out with bad players in the long run.

Let’s look at another example to explain this:

  1. The third-base player has 15.
  2. The dealer has 6.
  3. The optimal play is to stand here.
  4. The player hits anyways and draws a 5.
  5. The dealer draws a 10 and 8.
  6. The dealer busts out and every remaining player wins.

If the third baseman followed common strategy, the dealer would’ve drawn a 5 and 10 for a 21. Instead, their bad strategy decision caused the dealer to bust.

Bad players sitting at third base help just as much as they hurt when everything is taken into account.

7 – You’re Due for a Win After Consecutive Losses

Many blackjack players fall for the Gambler’s Fallacy, which is the idea that past results help indicate future results.

Blackjack players are especially bad about thinking that they’re “due for a win” after consecutive losses. The thought process behind this is simple:

  • The house edge is around 1% to 2% in many casinos.
  • This means you’ll win close to half your hands.
  • If you lose 2 or more times in a row, the law of averages states that you should win soon.

This is why many players increase their bet size following a couple of losses. But the problem is that there’s no guarantee you’ll win on the next hand.

Every hand is separate from the last. This means that it doesn’t matter how many hands you lose in a row because you’ll have the same odds of winning the next time.

8 – Blackjack Always Has a Low House Edge

It’s commonly stated that blackjack has a 0.5% house edge. But this isn’t true in many cases.

First off, rules can change from table to table.

One game might offer 3:2 blackjack payouts and force the dealer to stand on a soft 17, while another has 6:5 blackjack payouts and lets the dealer hit on a soft 17. The latter two rules are worse, which will increase the house advantage.

The second point is that your skill affects the house edge too. If you don’t use a strategy chart and instead play based on feel, then you won’t do very well.

Don’t take it for granted that blackjack has a low house edge. Instead, look for the best rules and use a strategy chart.

9 – Card Counting Is Illegal

Decades of Hollywood movies and urban legends have convinced non-blackjack players that card counting is illegal.

Casinos don’t like card counters – at least the successful ones anyways. But there’s no law making it illegal to count cards.

In fact, Ken Uston even won a lawsuit in the 1980s that stated how Atlantic City casinos can’t bar players for counting cards.

This is an exception because most casino jurisdictions have the right to bar players because they’re private establishments. But it shows how far off the belief is about card counting being illegal.

Most casinos use multiple decks (a.k.a. shoe games) and continuous shuffling machines to hamper card counters. But they also reserve the right to ban players who are too successful at this practice.

10 – Card Counters Make Big Profits

Movies like the 21, The Hangover, and Rain Man make it seem like skilled card counters walk out of every session with a fortune. But this couldn’t be further from reality.

The truth is that card counting is a swingy pursuit that can see you win thousands of dollars one session, then lose it all the next time out.

This is because card counters only gain between a 0.5% and 1.5% edge over the casino.

Let’s do the math on what kind of profits you’d be looking at with a 1.5% edge.

  1. Your average bet size is $50 when accounting for bet spreads during favorable counts.
  2. You play 80 hands per hour for 6 hours (480 hands).
  3. This means you make $24,000 in total bets (480 x 50).
  4. This equals $360 in profits for the session (24,000 x 0.015).

Most people would love to earn $360 for six hours of work. And this would be your average when considering the conditions above.

But a 1.5% edge can also result in losses just as easily.

Card counting isn’t a consistently lucrative profession. But you can make between $30 and $50 an hour if you’re a really good counter.

11 – Only Math Geniuses Can Count Cards

Another card counting myth we’ve been conditioned to believe is that only math geniuses make money.

This makes sense when considering that counting requires some mathematical ability. Furthermore, not many people are successful at the pursuit.

But the truth is that you don’t have to be a genius to count cards. Let’s take a brief look at the High-Low system, which is easy and effective:

  • You assign point values to each card.
  • The goal is to bet more money when the deck is rich in 10s and aces.
  • Cards 2-6 receive a count of +1.
  • Cards 7-9 are neutral and receive 0.
  • Cards 10-A receive a count of -1.
  • Divide your running count by the number of remaining decks to get your “true count.”
  • You increase your bet as the count goes higher into the pluses.

Card counting involves more-complex concepts with regard to increasing your bet and avoiding casino detection. But the core of the High-Low system is easy enough that anybody can learn it.

12 – You Can Easily Find $5 and $10 Blackjack Games

Some players wrongly assume that they’ll walk into a casino and find low stakes tables all over the place.

This was true at one time. But the blackjack landscape has changed greatly over the past few decades.

Most casinos only offer a few $5 or $10 tables – if any. The reason why is because they don’t make much money off low-stakes tables.

Brick-and-mortar casinos have to account for dealer salaries and overhead costs. This means that they can’t afford to offer many $5 to $10 games.

13 – Always Prepare for a 10

Many players expect both themselves and the dealer to receive lots of 10-value cards. And they’re constantly preparing as if the next card drawn will be a 10, jack, queen, or king.

This misconception has some merit because 10 is the most common value in a blackjack deck. 16 out of every 52 cards in a standard deck are either a 10, jack, queen, or king.

But let’s look at the math behind this:

  • 16 / 52 = 0.3077.
  • The chances of drawing a 10-value card are 30.77%.

Obviously you need to take these cards seriously because they comprise almost a third of the deck. But this also means that over two-thirds of the deck features other cards.

14 – Insurance Helps You Out

Insurance is a bet on whether the dealer will have blackjack when their upcard is an ace. You bet half of your original wager and will win 2:1 if the dealer does have blackjack.

Here’s an example:

  1. You bet $20.
  2. You don’t have a natural blackjack.
  3. The dealer’s up card is an ace.
  4. You make a $10 insurance bet.
  5. The dealer gets a blackjack.
  6. You lose the $20 bet, but win $20 (2:1) through your insurance wager.

This sounds like a good idea because you’re insuring yourself. But unless you’re a skilled card counter, the numbers don’t work out in your favor.

The problem is that only 16 of the 52 cards in the deck will give the dealer a blackjack. This means that the dealer’s odds of getting a blackjack are only 30.77%.

You’ll lose this bet the other 69.23% of the time. And this leads to the house edge on blackjack insurance being 7.4%.

Conclusion

Some of the biggest blackjack misconceptions include complicated strategy, players receiving lots of comps, and 21 being the game’s biggest objective.

I’ve gone through each of these misbeliefs along with a number of other things that players falsely believe. Hopefully this helps you understand the reality behind blackjack if you’re new to the game.

The truth is that it’s not hard to learn blackjack strategy, especially with regard to the game’s true objective.

You may be disappointed to learn that blackjack isn’t filled with big comps. But it’s easy to see why you don’t receive many comps when considering the game’s low house edge.

All you need to get started is a strategy chart and a game with good rules. The rest is downhill from here.
Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...

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