If there’s one casino game most people should be able to master, it’s blackjack. Even if you can’t remember every strategy off the top of your head or count cards, the rules are so simple that most people understand the game within a few minutes.
Although there are many variants of the game, it’s simple enough for everyone to understand how the point values are associated with cards. You win by getting as close to 21 as possible and getting a value higher than the dealer.
Of course, the real difference between playing blackjack at home and playing in a casino is the casino won’t forgive mistakes. When playing blackjack in a casino for the first time, new players may be nervous and excited at the same time. It’s easy to make mistakes.
You Don’t Know Basic Strategy
Some people become overconfident in their blackjack skills because they know the rules. Rules are important in this game, but without strategy, you’re playing blind.
The strategy gets you as close to your goal of 21 points as possible, or it keeps you in the game when the dealer is likely to bust. Blackjack strategy depends on knowing the probabilities of which cards will be dealt next.
The strength of the dealer’s up card should affect your decision, too. If the dealer is showing a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 you know he’ll have to hit regardless of what the hidden card is.
If the dealer’s up card doesn’t mean anything to you during gameplay, you still need to work on your basic strategy.
You’re Not Sure of When to Double Down
The basic double down rule allows a player to double his bet and take one more card. This is a bet you should only make when you’re confident the probabilities are in your favor.
There are two ways to think about the probabilities:
- You’ve been counting cards and feel the deck or shoe is now biased toward your desired outcome.
- You’re only playing with one deck or in an online game without a shoe and conclude the probabilities are favorable based on the cards you see.
If you’re playing a live dealer game where you can see the shoe and know how many decks it holds, online blackjack’s probabilities should be similar to those of a land-based casino game. If you’re playing a computerized blackjack game, unless it says it is using a simulated multideck shoe, you are safer assuming it deals from a new deck on every hand.
Either way, though, you’re unable to count cards online. Even the live dealer games use a continuous shuffling machine, which means you’re playing from a fresh deck every hand.
Many players know that if their first two cards total 10 or 11 points, then they may be in a good position to double down. But you may also be in a good position to double down if you’re holding an ace and any card from 2 through 6 while the dealer is showing either a 5 or 6.
You’re Undecided About Standing on a Soft 17
Blackjack is always a guessing game. Your skill comes into play in remembering the rules of the game, correct strategy, and how many high and low cards have been played (if you count cards) since the last shuffle.
If you’ve clawed your way to 17 on low value cards, and the dealer is showing either an ace or a 10-point card, you’ll need to decide whether to stand on your soft 17. You could still push or win if the dealer busts. Asking for another card could put you out of the game.
If the dealer is holding an ace and anything less than a 6, then he must take a card. There’s still a chance he’ll bust. But if you’re unsure of what is most likely to happen next, then you’re not ready to make this call.
In the long run, it doesn’t matter what call you make. You’re going to win and lose some hands. Your uncertainty or lack of confidence is a sign you’re not playing the best game you’re capable of.
If you have 100% confidence in your choices, and you lose every hand at blackjack, you’re probably never going to improve your game.
You Keep Making the Same Mistakes
To expand on my previous point, if you blindly split every time you get two of the same cards, you’re not improving your game. If you don’t understand why experts recommend against splitting 9s or 10s, add up the points.
In other words, look at the points in your hand before you decide whether it’s time to try one of the riskier, flashier moves in blackjack. If you don’t acknowledge how many points you have on the table, you’re not playing a good game.
Some players will split 10s. They have their reasons. Most good players stand on 20 more often than not. It’s a solid hand.
You Feel Envious of Other Players’ Success
Do you keep looking at their cards and their wins? You’re not paying attention to your own game.
You can’t control how the cards are dealt. The best strategy in the world doesn’t guarantee you’ll win even one hand in blackjack. You can only change what happens when it’s your turn to play.
If you’ve been hitting on high cards and busting, the change you need to make should be obvious. You can’t make other players sacrifice the cards you need. There is only one game you should care about—the game between you and the dealer.
No one is born an expert. Mastering any game of skill requires practice, patience, and flexibility. Most importantly, a little humility goes a long way.
We all make mistakes, and the sooner we recognize and learn from those mistakes, the better. If you’re frustrated with your blackjack game, you may only need to adjust your expectations.
But if you’re not sure why it seems so hard, try looking at the game differently. Good blackjack tutorials explain the details of each strategy in clear, simple language. Take the time to understand why the experts play the game the way they do.
When you’re enjoying the game, and winning or losing about as much as can be expected, you’re on the right path.