10 Common Blackjack Myths
This page is designed to debunk the top 10 of the most common myths in blackjack. Many of these misconceptions greatly impair a player's strategy as well as their conceptions about the game, especially when it comes to probability odds and mathematics. Some of these myths below started off as rumors and got passed around as fact and they even fall along the lines of superstitious assumptions and urban legends. A great way to dispel these myths is so play free blackjack online and practice the game in order to fully understand the facts. The worst thing you can do is deny some of these bad strategies listed below and continue to play real blackjack for money.
Assuming the dealer has a hold card of 10
This is a huge misconception that has to do with basic strategy. The truth is that basic strategy assumes that there are more 10 point cards in the deck and that there is a higher probability that a 10 will be the hole card, but you should not assume that the hole card is a 10 while implementing your strategy. In fact, there is only about a 30% chance that the dealer is holding a 10 and a 70% chance that there is something else. If anything, you should assume there will not be a 10 card. The best thing to do is follow the blackjack basic strategy because this shows exactly what you should assume mathematically. Just remember that there are more ten point cards in the deck than any other card so there is a higher probability that the hole card will be a ten but not enough chance to "assume" this.
Card counting guarantees that you will win
This myth is false. First of all, you must play perfectly according to the basic strategy to maximize your odds. Even with these odds, you will still be at a disadvantage against the house. You need to use card counting and have a high count in order to have a mathematical edge over the casino. You can still count cards and never get a high count all night and you would lose. You can still get a low count and win as well. Even with a very high count, you can still lose in the short term. Although, you are guaranteed to win over the long term only if you have a high count, just as the casino beats the player over the long period of time.
A goal of getting as close to a score of "21" as possible
This myth can be extremely damaging! The goal of blackjack is only to beat the dealer by getting a higher score without going over 21 points. When you get 21 points or a natural blackjack, you are just paid 3:2 odds. You could actually get a score of "16" and still beat the dealer very often. You should be following basic strategy at all times because this will ensure that you are making the best possible moves on every hand possible. It is very likely that if you are trying to only get 21 points, you will go bust and get over 21 points and lose quite often. All you need to do is stand when you think the dealer is going to go bust or hit according to the simple strategy.
Always taking even money with dealer ace
Some blackjack tables will allow players to take even money when they are dealt a natural blackjack while the dealer has a face up card of an ace. Usually this option is seen as favorable when the player loses any time the dealer gets a blackjack but taking this option is a bad idea and it is a myth to always do this. More than 90% of players tend to settle for even money. If you take a look at the mathematical odds though, the dealer's hole card is a 10 about 30% of the time or 3 times out of 10. Likewise, there is a 70% chance that the dealer isn't going to get a twenty-one. So statistically, the best move is to just go for the 3:2 payout. Think of this simple math: You are losing 1 unit 3 times and earning 1.5 units 7 times. You will come out 7.5 units ahead after 10 hands on average if you won on 7 and lost on 3! If you took even money every time, you would not come out ahead at all very much.
Always take the insurance option
This is a lot like taking even money. Insurance is a gimmick that the casino set up to sucker-bet the inexperienced players. You are generally allowed this option when the dealer is holding an ace up card. Like I mentioned above, the dealer will have a 10 card only 30% of the time. When players fall for this blackjack myth and misconception, the house comes out with about a 13% profit and this is a huge percentage advantage for the casino and a big loss against the player. If you are very experienced, then it may not be a bad idea to take insurance if you know exactly what you are doing, but you certainly must not take insurance all the time.
Players are due for a payout and a win
This is a bad myth that gets people into a lot of trouble. The casino is a business designed to earn a profit after a long time of people playing games there and they always have the edge over the player. So you may have heard the myth about the "law of probabilities" where you eventually have to win after you have lost a lot. The fact is, blackjack is a nearly even game where each hand is independent of the other hand... sort of. The thing to remember is the casino always has the long term edge so you can be due for a win in the short time but the casino will always win all your money in the long term. You usually have a 48% payout edge and the casino has 52%, which ensures that they win more money over a long period of time. This is where card counting comes in and a player can actually make the casino's advantage go below 50% and you would indeed be due for payouts as long as there is a high count.
To win blackjack, you need good math skills
This is a false myth. While it is a benefit to be good at math and players who are good at math tend to win the game much more often, it is not necessary. In fact, it is very easy to learn how to play blackjack and it doesn't take a genius to learn. This misconception comes from advanced players who are trying to master basic strategy and card counting in order to beat the house. For the average person, all you are trying to do is beat the dealer's score without going over 21 points. Even simple card counting methods are not too hard to learn either.
A bad player can mess up your game
This is essentially a myth, unless you allow these players to affect your game. A bad player does nothing to affect the deck of cards, the probabilities or the basic strategy. The only thing they can do is cause weakness in players due to the psychological effects such as having a loud drunk at the table or someone who is irritating you while you are playing. A bad game can result from lack of concentration obviously. This is just something that needs to be overcome with experience as many of the professionals have done. Even if a player is being courteous and just making bad moves such as drawing at the wrong times and giving you bad cards, this can affect your game but only in the short term. The same goes for players joining the table in the middle of the shoe. In the long term, there is a negligible effect.
Photographic memory is required for card counting
This is a huge myth and it prevents players from even looking into card counting. I remember when I first heard about card counting, I used to think that players had to memorize every card that was dealt, keeping track of how many 7s, aces and all the other cards. This is pretty much impossible to do, even for the MIT blackjack team! The only exception is possibly keeping track of aces or a single variety of cards, but not all of them. The basic concept of card counting is mentally adding one (+1) whenever you see low cards between 2 and 6 and subtracting one (-1) to a mental total when you see a ten card or ace. You do have to watch all the cards from all players and the dealers to get an accurate count. The next thing is just knowing that your odds are good when your mental count is high. So all you need to do is watch the cards and keep track of a mental "running sum". Of course more advanced systems have different additions and subtractions for different card values but this is the general concept.
You can't win at the game of blackjack
Last but not least, this is one of the most surprising myths to debunk. We all know that the casinos always win in the end and they always have the edge over the players. How could a casino profit if they didn't? Well believe it or not, blackjack can be won in the long term through card counting above all else. This is one of the only games where players can actually beat the house but it does take some skills and casinos have taken methods to combat card counters. You can't always win, just like the casino doesn't always win in the short term at least, but card counting is one heck of a powerful weapon to use here.