Blackjack has been around in some form or another since the 17th century. Given blackjack’s lengthy history, the game has become subject to a number of misbeliefs.
Luckily, some of these lies have been exposed and are widely known to be untrue. For example, many people realize that card counting isn’t illegal.
But there are still several blackjack lies that are widely believed. I’m going to discuss 7 of these commonly believed lies and offer the truths.
1 – The Blackjack House Edge is 0.5%
Many blackjack articles refer to the game’s house edge as being 0.5%. This is perfectly fine when discussing how low the blackjack house advantage can be. But it’s not entirely true on a large scale.
A 0.5% house edge was common a few decades ago, when casinos were more generous with their blackjack rules. However, this trend has changed greatly in recent times.
Land-based casinos have added more rules to increase their house edge. Some of these blackjack tables feature up to a 2% house advantage.
Everything depends upon your skill level and the rules in play. Here are the main blackjack rules that alter the house edge:
- Payouts on natural blackjack (21 on first two cards) – 3:2 payouts lower the house edge by 1.39% when compared to 6:5 payouts.
- Double down – Lowers house advantage by 0.25% when compared to double-down restrictions like 9 through 11.
- Dealer’s action on soft 17 – Dealer hitting lowers house edge by 0.2% when compared to standing.
- Double down after splitting (DAS) – Lowers house edge by 0.17% when allowed.
- Re-splitting aces – Reduces house edge by 0.8% when allowed.
- Number of decks – A single deck lowers the house edge by 0.59% in comparison to 8 -deck blackjack.
The biggest rule that you need to consider is the size of the natural blackjack payouts. You should avoid any table that features 6:5 payouts, because this raises the house edge by 1.39%.
Unfortunately, the majority of land-based blackjack games now offer 6:5 payouts. Tables that instead deliver 3:2 payouts include unfavorable rules such as no DAS and eight decks.
Whatever the case may be, you need to carefully examine blackjack rules before sitting down at any random table. You can quickly see what natural payouts are offered and if the dealer must hit/stand on a soft 17 by looking at the table felt.
You’ll need to watch the game to determine the rest of the rules in a live setting. You can also perform online research to find casinos that have good rules.
A much easier option is to simply stick with online blackjack. Most online games feature a menu that you can use to see the rules.
You’ll find that the majority of internet blackjack games offer less than a 1% house edge. In the next section, I’ll discuss three of the most favorable online blackjack games.
2 – Blackjack Is the Best Game for Beating Casinos
The belief that all blackjack games offer around a 0.5% house advantage has led many to believe that this is the best game for beating the casino.
Whether or not blackjack is the most beatable game depends upon the venue. You’ll often find that a casino offers certain video poker variations with a house edge below 0.5%.
Full-pay Jacks or Better is a perfect example, because this game delivers 99.54% payback with optimal strategy. Some Vegas casinos even offer full-pay Deuces Wild, which features 100.76% return to player (RTP).
Earlier I discussed how blackjack can have up to a 2% house edge with bad rules in play. Other casino games are better options for beating the house in these cases.
Here are some different casino games and their house edges for reference:
- Blackjack = 0.3% to 2.0% house edge
- Video poker = 0.46% (full-pay Jacks or Better)
- Baccarat = 1.06%
- French roulette = 1.35%
- Craps = 1.36% (don’t pass line & don’t come)
- Pai gow poker = 1.46%
- European roulette = 2.70%
- Let It Ride = 3.51%
- Caribbean stud = 5.22%
- American roulette = 5.26%
- Keno = 10% to 40%
Again, you can’t simply assume that blackjack is the best game for winning. You instead need to know the rules and overall house edge before making this determination.
Of course, blackjack can be your best option in certain cases. This is especially true when dealing with a certain variation of online blackjack.
Here are the best internet blackjack games in existence today:
- Microgaming Vegas single deck blackjack = 0.31% house edge
- Playtech blackjack surrender = 0.35%
- Microgaming Atlantic City blackjack = 0.35%
- Betsoft single deck blackjack = 0.38%
3 – Blackjack Strategy Is Difficult
Blackjack has a reputation for being a difficult game in terms of strategy. This reputation is justified to some degree when considering that you make important decisions on every hand.
Each decision has an impact on your odds. Your chancesof winning in the long run are higher when you continually make the right choices.
Assuming you had to play blackjack without any helpful resources, then the strategy would be difficult to master. But there’s one simple resource that’ll help you make the right decisions every time.
All you need is a blackjack strategy chart to play perfectly from the beginning. You can simply google the term “blackjack strategy chart” to find these guides.
A strategy chart lists all of the decisions you should make based on your current score and the dealer’s upcard. Here’s an example of what you’d see when referring to your chart:
- Your score is 12.
- The dealer’s upcard is 5.
- The chart shows that you should stand in this situation.
You can read strategy articles and watch YouTube videos to gain deeper insight. Perhaps you want to know why you shouldn’t split 10s, or you’re wondering why insurance is such a bad bet.
Watching strategy videos and reading articles is entertaining if you’re really into blackjack. However, all you truly need to perfect your game is a strategy chart.
The one catch with these charts is that casinos don’t like you slowing down their games. Therefore, the dealer may issue a warning if you take a long time when referring to your chart for each decision.
I suggest that you practice through online blackjack before playing in land-based casinos. Here, you can refer to your chart as long as you want without dealers or players becoming impatient.
After using your chart enough, you should develop a good feel for the right strategy. You’ll eventually memorize the correct decisions in every circumstance and be able to play without the help of a chart.
4 – You Can Get Great Comps through Blackjack
Many new blackjack players have grand illusions of receiving free steak dinners and hotel stays after a couple of hours of play. The truth, though, is that you won’t receive big comps without a tremendous amount of play.
Land-based casinos have become stingier with their rewards as they move away from relying on gambling so much. These establishments instead generate revenue from a variety of sources, including fine dining, nightclubs, and stage acts.
This isn’t to say that casinos don’t still consider gambling a major source of revenue. But given that they have diversified goals now, they don’t offer huge comps to keep people on the gambling tables anymore.
The same holds true for blackjack, where you’ll typically be comped at 0.1% on your total wagers. Here’s an example of your comps’ value at this rate:
- You make $10,000 worth of blackjack bets.
- Your comp rate is 0.1%.
- 10,000 x 0.1 = 10
- You’ll receive $10 worth of comps
How a land-based casino determines your comps isn’t an exact science. The process begins with you joining the player’s club and receiving a card.
You then give this card to the dealer upon sitting down to the table and tell them that you wish to be rated. The dealer will in turn hand your card to the pit boss and have them rate you.
Considering that the pit boss can’t focus on your table the entire time, they merely observe a few of your bets before making the rounds. They use your perceived average bet size to calculate how many rewards you deserve.
You can sometimes fool the pit boss by betting big when they’re watching. This helps you trick them into giving you larger comps.
Oftentimes, though, pit bosses are savvy enough to catch you when you’re not betting big. You also have to worry about the dealer informing the pit boss when you’re only betting big at certain moments.
5 – You Must Be a Math Whiz to Count Cards
More people are catching on to the fact that card counting isn’t illegal. But there’s still a misconception that you need to be a math genius to count cards.
This couldn’t be further from the truth, though, because learning how to count cards is pretty easy. You simply need to add and subtract from your count based on card values.
It’s also important to understand the basis behind card counting. You’re trying to figure out when the deck is rich in aces and 10-value cards, which improves your chances of getting a natural blackjack payout.
You can make the matter easier by picking the simplest card counting systems. The OPP is the perfect beginner’s system, because you only have to track one group of cards.
Here are the basics on using the OPP:
- You begin a new shoe with a +6 count.
- You subtract one for every player dealt into the hand (including dealer).
- You add one for each low card that’s dealt.
- Your goal is to bet more when your count is +12 or higher.
Here’s an example on using the OPP:
- A new shoe is dealt.
- Your count begins at +6.
- 5 players are dealt into the hand (6 – 5 = +1).
- Four low cards are dealt (4 + 1 = +5).
- Your next round starts at +5.
The OPP is great for getting your bearings in card counting. But you’ll want to consider the Hi-Lo, which is a slightly more difficult, yet more accurate system.
The Hi-Lo strategy requires tracking three groups of cards, including high, neutral, and low. Here are the point values assessed to each group:
- High cards (A-10) = -1
- Neutral cards (7-9) = 0
- Low cards (2-6) = +1
Your job is to track every single card that’s dealt from the shoe and keep a “running count.” You then convert this into a “true count,” which accounts for how many decks are remaining in the shoe.
Figuring out how many decks remain in the shoe requires estimation. You should get better at judging this with experience.
Here’s an example on determining your true count:
- Your running count is +12.
- You estimate that three decks remain in the shoe.
- 12 / 3 = 4
- Your true count is +4.
The final step is to determine what bet size you should make. The idea is to bet the table minimum until you have a positive count, and then raise your wager.
Your “bet spread” is the distance between your minimum bet and the table max. For example, going from a $10 table minimum to a $150 bet would be a 1-15 spread.
The size of bet spread you use will depend upon the casino you’re dealing with. Some venues become suspicious if you use a 1-5 bet spread, while others allow a 1-15 spread or higher.
It pays to research casinos before you start counting cards. Doing so helps you accurately gauge how much you can increase your bet by during positive true counts.
You can see that learning how to count cards doesn’t take a 150+ IQ. Instead, the biggest step towards becoming a skilled counter involves practice and dealing with casino conditions.
You can use online blackjack trainers to practice. These programs simulate the speed at which you need to maintain an accurate count while cards are dealt.
Dealing with casino conditions, including players and dealers chatting, comes with experience. You might want to play low stakes blackjack and count without increasing your bets in the beginning.
Doing so allows you to get a handle on counting cards in a live game. You also won’t be risking as much money since you’re not raising your bets.
6 – Pro Card Counters Make Lots of Money
Movies like 21 and Rain Man have created the impression that successful card counting leads to big profits. You need only watch Zach Galifianakis make $80,000 in The Hangover card counting scene for an example.
It’s not impossible to make this amount of money if you have the right skills and are counting in the perfect game. But the reality of card counting is much grimmer.
First off, a skilled professional has around a 1% edge on the casino. They only make an average of $1 for every $100 wagered.
Having such a small edge creates plenty of volatility during each session. You may collect $10,000 in profits one night, while the next session will see you lose $9,500.
You need a large bankroll to have a realistic chance of surviving in card counting. Having a big bankroll ensures that you’ll be able to survive the frequent downswings.
As a solo card counter, you should have anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. You’ll want between $20,000 and $30,000 if you’re working with a team.
The reason why you need more money as a team is because the popular “big player” concept requires “spotters” to spread out to different tables. Each spotter must deal with the house edge while they count cards and look for a good opportunity.
A spotter signals the big player when they have a favorable count. The big player is then able to start placing huge bets immediately, making them look like a regular high roller.
All of this creates the potential for big losses when things aren’t going in your favor. This is when having thousands of dollars to absorb an unlucky night helps you get back on track and exploit your edge.
Good card counters can make nice annual salaries. But a big investment is required to make this happen, and you can’t depend on profits every night either.
7 – You’re Due for a Win
The most common lie muttered at the blackjack table is “I’m due for win.” The truth is that you’re never “due” for a win.
But many players convince themselves and others that they’re guaranteed to eventually win a hand if they’ve lost enough rounds in a row.
Here’s an example on how this scenario plays out:
- You’re betting $10 per hand.
- You lose three hands in a row.
- You suddenly think that you’re due for a win.
- You increase your bet to $20.
This example refers to the gambler’s fallacy, where one believes that past results can dictate future outcomes. The fallacy aspect comes in when considering that the odds don’t change just because something has occurred more or less frequently in the past.
Losing consecutive hands by no means changes the fact that you have a 46.36% chance of winning any single blackjack hand. Raising your bet based on the idea that you’re due for a win can only lead to further losses.
In fact, one of the biggest reasons why players blow their bankrolls is because they chase losses. And the idea to chase losses stems from the gambler’s fallacy mindset.
You may think that you’re guaranteed to turn things around by continuing to play during a losing session. Again, though, the odds don’t change just because you’re not losing.
You of course don’t have to quit if you still feel like playing. But don’t continue a losing blackjack session just because you think that you’re due for wins.
The blackjack lies that I’ve covered here will continue to exist for decades. But just because some players believe these myths doesn’t mean that you have to fall for them too.
The biggest lie that you’ll want to cut through is the idea that blackjack always has one of the best house edges. This may or may not be true depending upon the game you’re playing and the rules at hand.
You also need to use correct strategy in order to lower the house edge. Don’t fall for the notion that blackjack strategy is too difficult to learn either, because you can quickly pick it up through a strategy chart.
Another lie worth noting is that you’ll receive lots of comps from playing low or mid-stakes blackjack. The reality is that you can’t look forward to as many rewards as in the past.
If you’re interested in advantage play, remember that card counting isn’t as difficult to learn as it seems. And also note that card counting isn’t a guaranteed path to riches.
Finally, you want to avoid falling into the trap of believing that you’re due for a win. The gambler’s fallacy can drain your bankroll quicker than anything.