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The Most Common Blackjack Mistakes To Avoid

Blackjack is a game that mixes chance and logic - which means that when you play blackjack, mistakes can be made. However, in the grand scheme of things, not all blackjack mistakes are created equally. There are many different ways in which you can incorrectly play your hands. However, you could be making a big mistake before you even place your bets.

Here, we will look at the biggest and most costly blackjack mistakes you could be making - and how to avoid them, which include:

  • Not understanding the rules of blackjack
  • Selecting insurance
  • Understanding different hands
  • Selecting the wrong game
  • Avoiding bankroll management
  • Trying to achieve 21
  • Chasing losses

Understanding the Rules of Blackjack

The first of our biggest blackjack-playing mistakes is not knowing the rules properly. Having a complete understanding of the rules and terminology of the game is very important before you get started for several reasons:

Firstly, if you fully understand the basic rules, you can immerse yourself in the game more and play with a lot more confidence. By knowing the rules, you’re less likely to get confused by different variations and betting options, avoiding hesitation - and it will be a better experience. Knowledge of blackjack rules will also help you to make better decisions as you play - understand how different hands work, choose the right actions and play your hand in the best way. Let’s face it: if you don’t know the rules, it can be costly. You might hit when you should stand, split when you shouldn’t, and this can end up hitting you in the pocket.

Moreover, going to the table with knowledge gives you an overall better understanding of the game. Understanding can help you to know the risks, thus playing more responsibly.

How to avoid this mistake: Before playing a game with real money, you should try practising in a basic game of blackjack. This can help you to understand how the game works and how you might play different hands, before proceeding to real bets.

Using The Insurance Bet

The second most common blackjack mistake on our list is the selection of insurance bets. We’re always taught in life that insurance is a good thing - but not necessarily in blackjack. Insurance in blackjack can often mean unfavourable odds, and there are low chances of winning.

If the dealer has a face-up card of an Ace, you may be offered insurance as a side bet to protect you against the dealer having a blackjack. However, statistically, the odds aren’t in your favour, making it a risky bet. In fact, players who often take this bet tend to lose more money in the long run.

It's generally recommended that you focus on mastering all the nuances of the game and making a decision based on the value of your own hand rather than relying on insurance, which is a less profitable and potentially riskier option.

How to avoid this mistake: This is often a mistake made by new players who are unaware of what this bet entails. If you are unsure, spend some time to understand this specific bet, and the odds of it paying out in a game.

Understanding Different Hands

Everyone knows the value of poker hands, but surprisingly, many players don’t really know how good or bad their blackjack hand is - unless they have a blackjack hand of 21. This can lead to big mistakes in decision-making. Failing to understand the value of your hand compared to the value of the dealer's face-up card can mean that you aren’t fully aware of the statistical probabilities associated with the actions you take - which could mean you end up making the wrong decision.

However, that is not to say that even if you do make the right decision statistically, you’re guaranteed a win. While it’s true that there are ways that can help maximise your statistical chance of making the best choice, it won’t eliminate the risk completely.

How to avoid this mistake: Ultimately, you should make an informed decision based on your understanding of the game’s rules and probabilities. This includes considering your own hand, the dealer’s face-up card and the specific situation at the table. That way, you can make the best possible decision at any given time. These fit in with the blackjack strategy that players adopt to inform their decision-making.

Choosing The Wrong Blackjack Game

People don’t realise they could be making their first mistake before they even hit the blackjack table - by simply choosing the wrong table. Choosing the right blackjack table is a very important decision - and picking the wrong one, especially a variation of the game that you don't fully understand, can mean greater losses - and here’s why:

Rule Variations: Different blackjack variations often have slightly different rules. For example, in some games, the dealer has to stand on a soft 17, while in others, they can hit. These variations can significantly affect the odds and house edge, and therefore the best way to play your hand. If you aren’t aware of these differences, you could make incorrect decisions and increase your losses.

Betting Limits: Table betting limits can also vary widely. If you end up playing at a table with higher minimum bets than you're comfortable with, it can lead to quicker and bigger losses than you’re prepared for if you hit a bad streak. Conversely, playing at a table with very low limits can affect how you play.

How to avoid this mistake: Essentially, picking the wrong blackjack table can lead to playing in conditions you aren’t used to and aren’t comfortable with - potentially impacting the outcome. That’s why you should understand the rules, limits, and nuances of the game you’re playing to make informed decisions. When playing online, the game will have an information menu allowing you to view the specifics for the version you have selected, before you place your first bet.

Avoiding Bankroll Management

One of the most important factors in playing any kind of casino game is employing proper bankroll management. If you fail to do so, it can lead to significantly greater losses.

Firstly, without proper bankroll management, you could end up betting impulsively and risking a larger portion of your money on one single hand. If you don't win, you could end up depleting your bankroll a lot quicker than you expected - and be forced to stop playing prematurely. Furthermore, if you don’t have a structured bankroll management plan, emotions could end up taking over. If you lose a few hands, you might be tempted to try to chase your losses by increasing your bets, which could lead to even bigger losses. Chasing losses should be avoided at all times when playing blackjack.

It’s also worth noting that, in blackjack, some players use betting progressions without a clear budgeting plan. While progressive betting systems have proven useful, they could also lead to financial disaster if you don’t use them carefully. Without setting bankroll limits, you can find yourself unable to sustain these progressions in the face of a losing streak. If you have to double your bet after every loss, you could eat through more money than you intended.

Ultimately, proper bankroll management will give you a better chance of sustaining your gameplay over the longer term. It also helps you control your risk, emotions, and betting behaviour while helping you avoid significant financial losses.

How to avoid this mistake: Before you start playing, set a budget that you are comfortable losing. This budget would be the only money you play with. Any winnings are typically not added to the budget to also provide control over the amount you are playing with.

Trying to Achieve 21

Whilst getting 21 is great, aiming for a 21 in every round can be a costly blackjack mistake.

If you do focus solely on achieving 21, it can lead to you making unnecessarily risky decisions, such as hitting when you should be sticking. This will increase your chances of busting (going over 21) and ultimately losing the hand.

Moreover, blackjack is a logical game - where you can use statistics and blackjack basic strategy to help you make your move - and where you should always consider the dealer's upcard when making your decision. If you are simply fixated on getting 21, you’ll likely end up ignoring the most logical choices, which will mean you make statistically inadvisable decisions. What's more, you don’t necessarily need 21 to win. You could end up standing on strong hands, like 19 or 20, and not needing to get that extra one or two points. A strong 20 hand is a great hand and certainly not one to throw away.

Essentially, in blackjack, your goal is simply to beat the dealer's hand without exceeding 21. So, you should focus on making the best statistical decision based on the hand you have rather than fixating on a specific total, as this will have better results in the long term.

How to avoid this mistake: Familiarising yourself with strategy can help you get a better understanding of how to play the different hands you are dealt and work around the visible card of the dealer’s hand.

Chasing Losses

In any game of chance, chasing losses is something that should be avoided at all costs. This usually involves increasing your bets to try and recover previous losses - and this can end up leading to even greater losses in the long run - and losses you can’t afford: Chasing losses is usually driven by emotions rather than based on any sort of logic - and one of the first rules of betting is to never bet with emotions - because it can result in impulsive and bad decision-making.

Moreover, increasing your bets to recoup your losses often won’t result in winning your money back - in fact, it means you may deplete your bankroll even more, leaving you with even fewer funds to play with.

Even if you think that the law of averages means that you are due a win soon, there’s absolutely no guarantee of that, and if it doesn’t, you could start spending more than you intended to.

How to avoid this mistake: Having a budget in place is one of the best ways to avoid chasing losses, ensuring you only use the money you set out to play with. You should also avoid any progressive betting systems that would likely cause your stakes to gradually increase.

Ignoring The Dealer’s Face-Up Card

Finally, ignoring the dealer's face-up card is one of the biggest blackjack mistakes that can lead to you making a statistically bad decision. The dealer's upcard card gives you important information that can influence how you play. If you don't pay attention to it, you’ll miss the opportunity to make a more informed choice regarding your own hand.

The dealer's face-up card can affect their chance of success - or going bust. As such, it can help you decide when to hit, stand, split, or double down based on the possible strength of the dealer’s hand.

How to avoid this mistake: Although it does not guarantee anything as you can’t predict the value of the face-down card, when making a decision, it should be based on your hand AND the dealer’s upcard to give you as much information as possible for your next move.

Take Time to Think | BeGambleAware.org | 18+

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