When someone thinks of table games, the first game to cross his or her mind is probably blackjack. The game is famous worldwide for its simple rules, fast action, and low house edge. This last point, however, is only true when it is played properly. Players can’t expect to get a good return on their gambling dollar in blackjack without knowing how to reduce the house edge as far as possible. Consequently, many blackjack players make costly mistakes that the casino love. Let’s take a look at some common errors gamblers make while playing blackjack so you won’t!
#1: Doubling on 8
Some players are known to get carried away with doubling, but most people won’t bat an eye if a player doubles an 8, especially if the dealer’s up card isn’t great. However, doubling an 8 is never a good idea. Even with a 6 up card, the dealer still has plenty of opportunity not to bust: more than you have to beat him by doubling an 8, in fact. On average, hitting 8 has a return to player of 96%, indicating that having an 8 is usually not a good thing in the first place, and certainly not something you want to double-up on. Doubling 8 on the other hand has an average return of 68%. Don’t do it!
#2: Never busting
The house edge in blackjack comes from the fact that if the player and dealer both bust, the player loses. Many people interpret this the wrong way and simply never bust, thinking they’ll be getting a fair game. This strategy is certainly a costly one. According to Michael Shackleford, never hitting a total of hard 12 or more results in an overall house edge of 3.91%. Compared to blackjack’s typical edge of 0.44%, it’s easy to see why being cowardly of busting is a bad idea.
#3: Not doubling soft hands when you should
Many players are unaware of how profitable soft hands can be. They oftentimes provide the player a way to double their wager without risking much at all. While this should only be done when the dealer has a poor up card, doubling soft hands at the right time is a necessary part of proper blackjack strategy. By not doubling soft hands when it is profitable to do so, the overall house edge is increased to .55%.
#4: Splitting face cards or tens
The motivation behind splitting tens is a simple one: there are more tens and faces in the deck than anything else, and it’s better to play with two 20s instead of just one. The problem with that is that tens and faces, while they are the most plentiful in the deck, compose less than 1/3 of it. The majority of the deck is comprised of small or middle-value cards that are horrible when paired with a ten or face card. It makes sense, therefore, to be happy with just one hand of 20, and the math proves it. While splitting tens has a return to the player of 110.23% (making it a profitable move), standing on a single pair of tens has a return to the player of 168.59%. It’s not difficult to see why standing on 20 is better than splitting it.
#5: Taking insurance
Arguably the most popular and encouraged mistake at the blackjack table is the insurance offer. Insurance is a side bet, and like all side bets, it should be avoided like the plague. The premise of insurance is simple. If the dealer has an ace showing, players can make a wager that the dealer will have blackjack. They will still lose their initial bet, but the insurance wager will pay 2:1. The problem with insurance is that the probability of the dealer’s hole card being a ten is less than 1/3, giving this side bet an edge of around 7%.
If you are dealt a blackjack and the dealer has an ace, the dealer will ask if you would like to take even money on your blackjack before he or she peeks. Make no mistake: this is the insurance bet. It just so happens that by taking insurance with blackjack you will get a net result of 1:1 on your initial wager. The even money offer is, therefore, just as bad, and should always be declined. It’s foolish to taint blackjack, which often has the lowest house edge in the casino, by taking insurance at all.
Now that you’re armed with knowledge, you’re ready to take on the blackjack tables. Just avoid making these five mistakes and you’ll be sure to have the best chance at winning big at this fun and exciting card game.