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Fact or Fiction?

Test your blackjack knowledge

By Henry Tamburin

fact or fiction

Are the following statements about the game of blackjack facts, or are they fiction?

  1. The house always has the edge in blackjack.
  2. Referring to a strategy card when you play blackjack is perfectly legal.
  3. A blackjack player who misplays his hands will always cause other players to lose.
  4. The third base player can influence a dealer bust by the way he plays his hand.
  5. Picture cards always follow picture cards.
  6. There is no difference in the house edge when the dealer hits rather than stands on soft 7.
  7. Card counting is illegal.
  8. You should always take even money when you have a blackjack and the dealer’s upcard is an ace.
  9. Splitting a pair of 8s against a dealer’s 10 and ace upcard is for suckers.
  10. A progressive betting system can overcome the house edge.
  11. You should always hit 16 against a dealer’s 10 upcard.
  12. By using the basic playing strategy, you can reduce the house edge to about half a percent.
  13. The increase in the house edge when the casino pays only 6-5 for a blackjack is offset when only a single deck of cards is used.
  14. It doesn’t make any difference which seat you take when you play blackjack.
  15. It doesn’t matter how the casinos shuffle the cards.
  16. If you see the dealer’s hole card by accident and don’t say anything you are cheating.
  17. If you lose five hands in a row, you are due to win the next hand.
  18. If a casino suspects a player is card counting, they can escort him to the back room and detain him for questioning.


  1. Fiction. It’s possible with card counting to have the edge over the casino in most blackjack games.
  2. Fact. There is nothing illegal about using a strategy card when you play. Just don’t place the card on the table; instead, hold it in your lap.
  3. Fiction. How well or poorly your fellow players play their hands does not affect your chances of winning or losing in the long run. You could have five brilliant minds or five chimpanzees on the same table with you, and your odds of winning remain the same.
  4. Fiction. If the playing decisions of the third base player could influence whether a dealer busts, don’t you think the casinos would be doing something about it (like putting shills on third base to play in a manner that would improve the dealer’s chances of beating the players)?
  5. Fiction. Since when? If anything, you are less likely to see more picture cards after you’ve seen a few of them, simply because there are fewer of them in the unplayed cards.
  6. Fiction. The house edge increases by about two-tenths of one percent when the rules specify that the dealer must hit soft 17. Given a choice, you are better off playing a game where the dealer stands on soft 17 rather than hits.
  7. Fiction. Using your brain when you play blackjack is not illegal; therefore, card counting is not illegal.
  8. Fiction. Over the long haul you will wind up with more money in your pocket when you decline the even money proposition rather than taking it.
  9. Fiction. Even though that statement was said in the movie 21, you should always split 8s against a dealer’s 10 or ace because playing two hands of 8 will lose you less money in the long run than standing on or hitting your 16.
  10. Fiction. No betting system alone will overcome the house edge in blackjack.
  11. Fiction. If the casino offers surrender, you should surrender. If your 16 is composed of three or more cards or the result of a pair split, you should stand.
  12. Fact. Basic strategy players face a house edge of about half a percent as long as an untied blackjack pays 3-2 (rather than 6-5 or, worse, even money).
  13. Fiction. Using a single deck of cards doesn’t come close to offsetting the 1.4% increase in the house edge when a blackjack is paid at 6-5 instead of 3-2.
  14. Fact. Your chances of winning are independent of seat position. Any seat is just as good as any other.
  15. Fiction. If a casino is using a continuous shuffling machine (CSM) where the discards from each round are placed back into the CSM (rather than a discard tray), the game is faster (more hands dealt per hour) and players stand to lose more money per hour.
  16. Fiction. There is nothing illegal about taking advantage of a sloppy dealer who exposes her down card. It’s the casino’s responsibility to train and ensure that its dealers are following the correct dealing protocols.
  17. Fiction. There has never been any credible mathematical study that proves that your chances of winning the next hand increase significantly depending upon what happened in previous rounds.
  18. Fiction. Unless a casino has probable cause to believe a player was cheating (and card counting is not cheating), or that another felony or misdemeanor occurred, casinos have no legal authority to detain a player.

Henry Tamburin, Ph.D. is the author of the Ultimate Guide to Blackjack ( blackjack), editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter (, lead instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course, and host of For a free three-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter, go to To receive his free Casino Gambling Catalog, call 1-888-353-3234 or visit


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