Every blackjack player makes mistakes. Sometimes you know when you make a mistake, and other times you might not even realize you made one. Most blackjack mistakes can be eliminated when you learn two simple things.
The first two sections on this page will correct almost every mistake you can make while playing blackjack. The solutions are simple, so there’s never an excuse for making the most common mistakes at the blackjack table again. The third section covers a mistake that can turn a losing game into a profitable one once you correct it.
1 – You Take Insurance
I have to admit that blackjack insurance is one of my pet peeves. Every time I see players take insurance, I cringe. I gave up trying to educate people at the blackjack table years ago, but there’s still hope for you. I’m getting ready to show you why taking insurance is a bad bet, but the bottom line is that you should never take it.
Blackjack insurance is not a part of the base game of blackjack.
It’s a side bet that the casino disguises as a standard option in their blackjack games. Like most side bets offered in casinos, insurance is designed to make the house edge higher than it already is.
When the dealer offers you insurance, forget about everything else about the hand. The dealer has an ace showing and is offering a bet that pays 2 to 1 against whether or not the dealer has a natural blackjack. It doesn’t matter what card you have, because they don’t have anything to do with the insurance wager.
If the dealer has a natural blackjack, your hand loses. If the dealer doesn’t have a natural blackjack, you continue laying your hand out. This is no different than when the dealer has any other face-up card other than an ace.
Knowing the insurance bet pays 2 to 1 when the dealer has a natural, you need to determine the odds of this happening to see if this is a fair proposition. You know the deck of cards has 13 ranks, and four of these ranks are worth 10 points. The other nine ranks are worth something other than 10 points, so when one of these nine cards is the down card, you lose the insurance bet.
The ratio or odds are nine bad cards for you to four good cards for you, or 9 to 4. The bet only pays 2 to 1, which is worse than 9 to 4. If the odds or ratio was 8 to 4, the bet would be a break even wager. This is why taking insurance at the blackjack table is something you should never do.
2 – You Don’t Use Basic Strategy
Some blackjack players don’t know what basic strategy is. Others don’t use it because they think it’s too hard, or they’re embarrassed for some reason to use a strategy card while they play. But once you know that basic strategy exists, there’s never an excuse to not use it.
Blackjack basic strategy is a collection of plays that always gives you the best chance to win. It doesn’t matter what card the dealer shows or what cards are in your hand; there’s always a single best way to play the hand strategically. The only way to keep the edge down is always to make the best possible play.
You can work all of the best plays out using odds if you want to put in the work, but this takes a long time, and it’s easy to make mistakes. Blackjack players have used computer programs to run simulations for every possible hand. These simulations play the hands millions of times, using every possible outcome, to determine the single best play.
In other words, someone else has already done all of the hard work. All you have to do is get a strategy card and use it. You don’t even need to memorize it, because you’re allowed to use it at the table while you’re playing.
Once you start using a blackjack strategy card the good news is that you’re going to quickly memorize the most common plays. Eventually you’re going to have even the complicated and rare plays memorized without even trying to memorize them.
Now that you know why you should never take insurance and have blackjack basic strategy memorized, you’re ready to take your blackjack skills to the top level. Learn what to do next in the following section.
3 – You Don’t Count Cards
I understand why most blackjack players don’t count cards. It sounds like it is hard, and the casinos want you to think that it’s illegal. You might have seen a movie, like Rain Man, where it makes it seem like you have to memorize every card as it comes out.
The problem is that none of these things is true.
It’s not illegal to count cards. In fact, it’s not illegal to use your brain to play any casino game in any way. You also don’t have to memorize every card as it gets played. You don’t even have to memorize some of the cards. If you can add or subtract one from a number, and keep this number or running count in your head while playing basic strategy, you can count cards.
I firmly believe if more blackjack players knew how easy it is to count cards that there would be many more card counters. Here’s how card counting works in a nutshell.
You start with a number, say 10.
Every time you see a low card, you add one to your number.
Every time you see a high card, you subtract one from your number.
When the number reaches a certain value, you bet more.
Each card counting system uses its own set of high and low cards and sets the count numbers where you raise your bets differently, but they all work basically the same. And more importantly, you can learn how to count cards. It just takes a little bit of work and a little bit of time.
Why is it so crucial that you learn how to count cards?
Counting cards is one of the few ways you can make money gambling.
Good card counters are able to erase the house edge and turn it in their favor over the long run. Even if you’re not a great card counter as you’re learning, you can usually count well enough to break even. This is a considerable improvement over the results that most gamblers get.
If you’re willing to dedicate as little as 30 minutes every day toward learning how to count cards, you can start using your skills at the tables in less than a month. And the best news is that once you master your card counting skills, you can profit from them for years.
Don’t worry about learning everything in one day. The first thing to do is pick a good card counting system. The reason I recommend picking a system first is so you can use the correct high and low cards as you learn the basics of counting. Many card counters use the high low system, but I recommend the Red 7 or Knock Out system.
You don’t need to worry about balanced and unbalanced counts right now, but the reason I recommend these two systems is because they’re unbalanced. When you use a balanced system, you have to make an extra calculation on each hand. It’s simpler when you don’t have to do an additional calculation.
Once you choose a system, get a few decks of playing cards and start practicing counting. If you can get eight decks of cards and a shoe like they use in the casino, it’s helpful, but you can get started with a single deck.
Practice turning the cards over one at a time using your counting system and keep working at it until you can keep an accurate count of flipping cards as fast as you can. Then add a second deck and keep working. Once you master one card at a time, start turning over two and three cards at a time. Soon you’re going to be flipping hands over as fast as you can and keep an accurate count.
If you don’t follow this practice plan, it’s going to seem like everything is moving too fast when you play in the casino. But once you can count a couple decks down as fast as you can at home, when you play in the casino, you’re going to see you have plenty of time.
The first step toward correcting mistakes is recognizing them. You can eliminate almost all of the possible mistakes at the blackjack table if you always decline insurance and use basic strategy. These are both easy mistakes to correct, and now you know how.
Once you correct the first two mistakes, follow the advice included in the third section and learn how to win. It’s much easier than most blackjack players think, and if you follow my advice, you have a realistic chance to turn the table son the casinos in a short amount of time.
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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