Most casino gamblers have played blackjack at least a few times. It’s a popular casino game because it’s easy to play, and even if you don’t use perfect strategy you can win sometimes because of the low house edge.
The best way to play blackjack is to use a strategy card, but if you don’t have one with you, here’s a list of 8 blackjack bets that are losers.
1 – Accepting 6 to 5 Blackjack Pay Outs
Good blackjack tables pay 3 to 2 for blackjacks, and bad tables pay 6 to 5. You can run the numbers many different ways, including how this changes the house edge, but there’s really only one example required to show just how bad the difference is to your bankroll.
If you bet $80 on a hand and get a blackjack, here is the return at 6 to 5 and 3 to 2.
The return on a 6 to 5 table is $96.
The return on a 3 to 2 table is $120.
If everything else is the same except the blackjack pay out, you miss out on $24 every time you hit a blackjack. No matter what happens, this is $24 that you can’t get back. And this happens over and over.
Using the example above, this means you’re losing $48 to $96 an hour more on a 6 to 5 table than on a 3 to 2 table. Every bet you make on a 6 to 5 table is a bad bet.
2 – Taking Insurance
It’s easy to see why making bets at a 6 to 5 blackjack table is bad, but it’s not as easy to see why taking insurance is a bad bet. When you take insurance and the dealer has a blackjack you break even on the hand, so it appears at first like this is a good bet.
But once you dig into the numbers deeper, you can see that it’s not really a good bet. Here are the numbers you need to know.
The dealer provides the opportunity to take insurance when showing an ace. If you take insurance, it costs half your starting bet. So if you bet $80 on the hand, the insurance costs $40. When the dealer has a blackjack, you lose the $80 bet and get paid $80 on the insurance, breaking even on the hand.
But what happens when the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack?
You lose the $40 insurance bet and play the $80 bet as you normally would. Even though the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, the ace they have is still the worst card you can face.
The truth is that the odds the insurance wager offer are worse than the odds the base blackjack game offers, so every time you take insurance it makes the house edge go up.
3 – Playing Side Bets
You just learned why insurance is a bad bet, but do you realize that insurance is simply a side bet disguised as a normal part of blackjack?
Insurance is a side bet, and it’s not the only blackjack side bet you can find. But it’s the most common one, and just about all side bets have one thing in common. Side bets are designed to increase the amount of money you bet, and to increase the house edge.
I admit, there are one or two side bets in some casinos that aren’t any worse than the base game they’re tied to, but these are rare. As an overall rule, side bets in the casino are bad and should be avoided.
4 – Splitting 10’s or Face Cards
You split pairs when you’re playing blackjack for one of two reasons. The first reason is to create an opportunity that might be better than sticking with what you have. When you have a pair of 8’s, this is a hard 16, which is terrible. But when you start with an eight, you have a chance to start with a better hand.
The other reason you split is to get more money in play when you have an advantage. You split aces because any hand with an ace has a better chance to win than a hand without one.
Using this reasoning, it’s easy to see why some players think about splitting a pair of 10’s, jacks, queens, or kings. Starting with a card worth 10 seems good. But the problem is that in order to do this you have to split a hard 20.
A hard 20 is the second best hand you can start with. The only hand that beats it is if the dealer has a blackjack. And if the dealer has a 20 you push. A hard 20 is just too powerful to split.
5 – Not Splitting Aces
Most blackjack players understand that splitting their hand is sometimes the best play, even if they don’t use basic strategy. As I mentioned in the last section, and hand that includes an ace is better than most other hands.
The list of cards that can be added to an ace that help outweigh the ones that you don’t want to see.
Any of the four cards worth 10 points are great for an ace, as well as 6’s, 7’s. 8’s, and 9’s. If you get another ace you simply split again. This only leaves 2’s, 3’s, 4’s and 5’s as not great draws. And each of these still create soft hands, so you can still win.
The bottom line is that you need to always split aces because it’s much more profitable to split them, and if you don’t split them you’re stuck playing a total of 2 or 12.
6 – Not Splitting 8’s
I mentioned 8’s in an earlier section, but if you don’t split them you have a hard 16. A hard 16 is by far the worst hand to start with in blackjack. It simply can’t be played in any way for a long term profit.
On the other hand, when you split the 8’s, you have a chance to have two good hands. An ace gives you 19, any 10 point card gives you 18, and a 9 gives you 17. A 2 gives you 10, and a 3 gives you 11, which are both good double down numbers.
If you draw another 8, you split again. And even if one of the other 4 cards hits, you’re still better off than playing a hard 16. This is why you always split 8’s.
7 – Splitting 5’s
When you have a pair of 5’s you have a hard 10. Compare the value of a hard 10 against the value of a hard 5. This is the trade you’re looking at if you split a pair of 5’s. It’s simply a bad idea.
With a 5, if you don’t draw a 4, 5, or 6 you don’t have a good hand. With a hard 10, any card 7 or higher creates a good hand. The numbers clearly show why you never split a pair of 5’s.
8 – Standing on a Soft 17
This one is the toughest hand on the page. Most blackjack players are taught to stand when they get a 17. And when you have a hard 17 this is the correct play. So why should you hit a sift 17 and stand on a hard 17?
The basic answer is because the computer simulations show that it’s more profitable to hit a soft 17 than stand on one. But here are some numbers to help you understand why hitting is the correct play.
When you stand on a soft 17, it’s the weakest hand when the dealer doesn’t bust. Your best hope when the dealer doesn’t bust is a push.
When you hit a soft 17, you have a total of 8. If you draw a 9, you’re back where you started with 17. Any 10 value card or an ace gives you a total of 18 or 19, which are both better. A 2, 3, or 4 are also good cards, giving you 10, 11, or 21. So the only cards you hate to see are a 5, 6, 7, or 8.
In the long run, this is why it’s more profitable to hit a soft 17 than stand.
Playing blackjack is pretty simple, especially if you use a strategy card. But most players make mistakes because they don’t know strategy exists or anything about strategy cards.
You should get a blackjack strategy card to use when you play to avoid the mistakes like the ones listed on this page.
If you avoid all of the side bets, including insurance, you’re avoiding some of the worst betting options. Most of the other bets on this list are easy to understand, but some of them are not as clear. Hitting on a soft 17 is one that trips up a lot of blackjack players, but now you know the best play.