Don’t Believe The Hype in Blackjack
Debunking silly superstitions that can harm your play
By Frank Scoblete
It’s easy to blame a novice blackjack player for costing you a hand that you feel you should have won. But the reality is, when you’ve got a player at the table making bad decisions, he is as likely to help you win as he is to help the dealer.
The Superstition: Bad blackjack players at the table will cause you to lose.
The Truth: It’s true that bad plays made by novice players can affect the outcome of a hand for other players at the table. In some cases, the card that a novice player shouldn’t take, but does—or the card he should take, but doesn’t—will result in the dealer forming a hand that beats you.
It can especially seem like a novice player is “ruining” your game when he’s sitting at third base (the farthest seat to the left, making him the last player to act before the dealer completes his hand).
The other day, I found myself in this situation. The third baseman, who clearly had no idea what he was doing, was holding a 16. The dealer was showing a 6. Obviously, the third baseman should have “stood.” But instead, he took another card—which turned out to be a 10—and busted.
Then the dealer turned over his hole card to reveal a total of 15. This meant he had to take another card—which turned out to be a 6, forming a perfect 21 (which beat my 20). Ouch! If the third baseman hadn’t foolishly “hit,” the dealer would have gotten that 10 and busted instead of getting 21.
In situations like these, it’s easy to blame a novice blackjack player for costing you a hand that you feel you should have won. But the reality is, when you’ve got a player at the table making bad decisions, he is as likely to help you win as he is to help the dealer. The player has control over this. It ends up evening out.
Just a few plays later, when I had my biggest bet of the night on the table, the third baseman stood on a 15 when the dealer was showing a 9. An absolutely terrible play—but one that resulted in the dealer busting.
The Superstition: A new player entering a game in the middle of the shoe screws up the order of the cards.
The Truth: There is no order to the cards. You can’t see the rest of the cards, so you have no idea what “should” have come next. A new player is as likely to improve your chances of winning as he is to hurt your next run of cards. Just like playing with a novice at the table.
The Superstition: If you see a trend of certain numbers at the craps table, those numbers will continue into the future and you can make a fortune.
The Truth: Yes, there are readily identifiable trends in craps. But these trends signify what just occurred, not what will occur. In a random game of craps there is no way to overcome the house edge by trying to predict what will come next. What happened on the last toss of the dice—or the previous 10 tosses—is never a guarantee of what will happen next.
The Superstition: Picture cards always follow picture cards—so if you’ve just seen one, don’t hit your stiff hand.
The Truth: In a deck of 52 cards, 16 of them are picture cards (we count the 10 here), so that is 31 percent of the deck. If you have seen two picture cards, that percentage is now down to 28 percent. There are fewer picture cards remaining. Hitting a stiff hand (12, 13, 14, 15, 16) is now actually a better proposition for you. This superstition is harmful to you if you follow it.
The Superstition: Never hit a 12, because you will always bust.
The Truth: Some people feel that the 12 “brings out the 10s,” so they simply stand on all 12s, or will stand on 12 against the dealer’s 2. But the likelihood that a non-10-card is next is always greater than the likelihood that a 10-valued card is coming next. Remember that only 31 percent of a deck is composed of 10s. Make the correct basic strategy play when you’re holding a 12. If the “book” tells you to hit, do so. Don’t fear the 10s.
The Superstition: The Pass Line bet is a poor bet because you can’t remove it once it’s on the number.
The Truth: Just follow the math. This bet has a house edge of 1.41 percent, far better than any other bet at craps, although the placing of the 6 and 8 has a house edge of 1.52 percent—making it a close contest as well. From there on, the house edges start to get extremely high. Do many players go on and off their place bets? Not really. The fact that they can be taken down may sound good in theory, but it really isn’t in the cards—uh, dice—for most craps players.
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best-selling gaming author. His Web sites include www.goldentouchcraps.com and www.scoblete.com. Frank is executive director of the Golden Touch dice control classes and his most recent book is The Virgin Kiss! To order Frank’s products or receive a free brochure, call 1-800-944-0406.
Don’t Believe The Hype in Blackjack.