Casino Player Magazine | Strictly Slots Magazine | Casino Gambling Tips


Unveiling the Top 10 mistakes made at the blackjack table

By Al O’Grady


This is the third article of a three-part series summarizing mistakes that players make at the table. Let’s quickly review the top ten mistakes.

10 – Not having a plan; not having a goal
09 – Lack of self-discipline – win or lose
08 – Not having a proper bankroll
07 – Playing scared
06 – Sense of entitlement
05 – Being a jerk by telling other people how to play
04 – Not tipping the dealer
03 – Betting the same amount every time
02 – Taking insurance
01 – Not learning basic strategy


The top nine mistakes are in no particular order; however, not learning basic strategy is by far the biggest mistake players make. It’s such a huge issue that it actually has its own top ten list within a top ten list. So let’s look at the top ten basic strategy mistakes.

  1. Hitting a bust hand against a dealer’s bust card

This is the quickest tell to the world that you are a novice player. If the dealer has a 3, 4, 5 or 6, you need to automatically start thinking that the dealer will bust. If you have 12-16, stick and let the dealer bust. It is simply the percentage play.

  1. The soft 18

The soft 18 (A-7) is the most misplayed hand of all. The 18 is an overrated hand. The only way you win on an 18 is if the dealer gets a 17 or busts. Look at basic strategy charts. The soft 18 is a double down against a dealer’s bust card. Even if the dealer shows a 9, 10 or ace, you have a free chance to improve without busting. Players stick on this far too often. The soft 18 is a time to go on offense.

  1. Sticking on 16 against the 7

I actually understand why people do this, but it is not the percentage play. If you look at the charts, it clearly states to hit the 16 against a dealer’s 7. Those that go against the grain are hoping the dealer’s down card is between 5 and 9, putting the dealer into a bust situation. Players that stick on 16 against a dealer’s 7 are going through a self-fulfilling prophecy. It works for them, and they continue to do it. Unfortunately, it is the wrong play in the long run.

  1. Splitting Tens

Are you kidding me? Why would you ever break up a winning hand? If I could get 20 on every hand, I would quit my job and play blackjack 24- 7. People that do this think they can get two tens and get two hands of 20. Really? What happens if you get a 4 on one hand and a 6 on the other? You have just given away a 90% winner for two garbage hands where you could lose twice as much. However, there are times, albeit rare, when splitting tens is the correct move done by professional card counters, but let’s face it, you are not at this level so, please, do not split tens. It’s simply foolish.

  1. Not knowing when to split in general

Just because you have a pair, does not mean you always have to split it. You need to do some homework on this, but you can do it. Take the time to invest in yourself. Always split 8s and Aces; always split 9s except against a dealer’s 7, 10 or ace; never split 5s or 10s; never split 4s except against a dealer’s 5 or 6; with pairs of 2s, 3s or 7s, only split if the dealer’s up card is 7 or less; with 6s split if the upcard is 6 or less. That’s it.

  1. Doubling on 12

This is in the same category as splitting tens. Every dealer will be secretly laughing at a player that does this. Tens make up 30% of the deck, so almost a third of the time you will lose twice as much money immediately after one card. Let’s assume you don’t bust with a ten, but you get an ace, 2, 3 or 4. Again, that is 30% of the deck. If the dealer makes any hand over 17, you will lose twice as much. Yes, theoretically, you can make twice as much if you get an 8 or a 9 assuming the dealer doesn’t get a 20 or 21, but the downside of this play simply outweighs any upside. Doubling on 12 is simply another foolish move.

  1. Knowing what soft hands to double

Just because you can double down, does not mean you should. Do your homework—believe me, it’s worth it. Look at the basic strategy charts. With a soft 18, you double against the dealer’s 2-6; a soft 17, 3-6; a soft 15 and 16 against a dealer’s 4-6; and a soft 13 and 14 against a dealer’s 5 or 6. Understand the rationale and you will be able to make the right bet at the right time.

  1. Not doubling against the ace

You cannot play this game scared. A number of players do not double down against the dealer’s ace. Why? It’s fear or ignorance. They think the dealer has the advantage. This is simply not true. Basic strategy charts will substantiate this. Remember, these charts are a result of millions of hands going through computer simulation. The only thing to fear is fear itself.

  1. Doubling for less

Again, this is another case of playing scared. If you have a double down situation, take it. Don’t be a wimp. Be bold. Strike while the iron is hot. Yes, there will be times when you double down and you will lose twice as much money, but in the long run you will be a winner. If not, you are playing losing blackjack and the casino wins.

  1. Not re-splitting or doubling after a split.

Simply put, the way you make money in this game is through splitting and doubling down. You must take all opportunities when they arise. That means when you split 8s and you get another 8, split them again. After you split your 7s against a 6 and you get a 4, you must double down. Players that do not re-split or do not double down after splitting are not playing to their full potential and are leaving money on the table.

Well, that’s it. These are the most common mistakes I see players make every day. If you stop making these mistakes, I cannot guarantee you will win, but I can guarantee you will have definitely improved your chances.

Good luck and don’t forget: please, tip the dealer.

Al O’Grady has been a blackjack dealer for over seven years. He is a freelance writer with an economics degree and is currently pursuing a degree in mathematics.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Scroll to Top