Top 15 Blackjack Mistakes and How to Avoid Them | LeoVegas

Blackjack Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Blackjack is one of the most popular and beloved casino table games that involves both luck and skill. It’s the latter part of this equation that keeps players returning to the tables. As the saying goes, blackjack takes only a few moments to learn, but a lifetime to master. And along every player’s blackjack journey, mistakes are going to be made, but even small mistakes can have significant consequences to a bankroll.

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In this article, we’ll dive into the most common blackjack mistakes, from general unpreparedness to emotions. Our goal is to help players like you identify common errors and blackjack mistakes so that you can take a beat, rethink, and act using decision making skills based on strategy and probability. If you can do that, you’ll be well on your way to improving your blackjack profitability.

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Mistake #1: Ignoring Basic Strategy

Basic blackjack strategy lays the foundation for solid decision making at the blackjack table. A theoretical model, it’s designed to help you make the most optimal move in any given situation. Now, we’re not saying it guarantees success for every single hand, but as a tool based on probability, it minimizes house edge and increases your chances of winning in the long run.

If you’ve ever played in a brick & mortar casino, you may hear ‘_what does the book say?_’ posed to the dealer when a player is deciding on their action. The book they are referring to is basic blackjack strategy. A table or chart with rules to follow on how to act (stand, hit, double, split) that uses probability to determine the smartest move at any point of the game. To make this decision, both the player’s and dealer’s up card are taken into account.

Of course, blackjack game variations may alter the recommendations, including card decks in use and table rules that may vary, like dealer stands on soft 17, doubling after splitting, to name a few. If this is all new to you or you need a refresher, bookmark our LeoVegas blackjack basic strategy guide.

Get familiar with these basics, memorize the moves, and practice them at any of our lower risk or free to try blackjack games like Multi Hand Blackjack in our LeoVegas Casino. If you can stay disciplined at the table and follow these basics, you’re well on your way to improving your blackjack performance.

Mistake #2: Playing Based on Hunches or Emotions

Emotions are the joyrides of life, but letting them interfere with your sound decision making skills, whether it’s in your personal, business, or gambling endeavors, usually doesn’t end well.

Playing with real money is going to get emotional ~ losses can be hard to take, but this is the reason we stress playing within your budget and ensuring you can ride the swings of a blackjack table is so important. Going on tilt, chasing losses, and letting hunches override statistics, can have significant and undesirable consequences on your bankroll. Yet, it’s incredibly easy to let it happen.

Hunches are based on a vague feeling or belief, rather than evidence or reason. By nature of them being a gut feeling, they are never grounded in quantifiable data. Blackjack is a game of probability. So relying on a hunch over probability can result in losses, or at the very least, a decreased chance of winning.

If you want to control your emotions, keep your play sessions within reason so that you don’t suffer fatigue or tire out. If you feel emotions start to ride up, take a break. Grab a snack. Go for a walk. Rest your mind and be sure to avoid outside distractions like alcohol, phone calls or texts that will pull focus away from the game and follow your strategy. Set limits on your time and bankroll to avoid being swayed by poor decision making due to swings and mental exhaustion.

Mistake #3: Failing to Manage the Bankroll

We can all likely agree, whether we’re at the blackjack table or simply buying groceries, bankrolls can get us emotional. To avoid getting swept up in the emotions of gambling, bankroll management is key. The most common blackjack mistake that can lead to poor decisions and bankroll demise, is betting beyond your limits.

It’s important to feel comfortable with your betting limits and potential losses. We’re not asking you to plan to lose, but we are telling you a great bankroll management tip is to ensure you’re comfortable with what you can lose. This allows you to emotionally ride the swings that often occur at a blackjack table and not let them get into your head, so to speak, and override your strategic decisions. To combat this, set a budget to avoid overspending and feeling overwhelmed with losses. If you hit your loss limit, walk away just like Kenny Rogers so beautifully sang.

Blackjack tables are also full of swings - good runs and bad runs. Losing sessions are inevitable even if you are sticking to a strategy. But they are also not the time to deviate with higher bets to chase losses. The last thing you want to encounter is a situation of panic and an emotional attempt to recoup. This leads to bankroll mismanagement at its finest. A great tip to maintain betting sanity is the 1-5% rule. Never exceeding betting 1-5% of your bankroll on a single hand is a good method to keep yourself in check and prevent staking big to chase losses.

Mistake #4: Taking Insurance

Insurance in blackjack is essentially a side bet. When the dealer is showing an Ace, players have the option to bet that the dealer has blackjack. If they do, the insurance bet pays 2:1 and effectively recovers the player’s wager. So why isn’t it wise to take this recoup opportunity? If the dealer hits blackjack, the player recovers their bet - nothing gained, nothing lost. However, if the other dealer shows he doesn’t have blackjack, the player loses both their insurance bet and the hand continues as normal.

While insurance may seem like a good idea, the reality is that it is often a losing proposition. As we’re always working with probabilities at the blackjack table, the odds just don’t work in the favour of insurance in the long run. The odds of the dealer having a blackjack are not as high as the payout rate of the insurance bet. In fact, the odds of the dealer having a blackjack are around 30%, meaning the player will lose their insurance bet around 70% of the time. For this reason, experienced blackjack players and strategy steers towards avoiding insurance altogether.

That all being said, as to any rule, there are a few exceptions. If card counting is used and a high concentration of ten-value cards remain in the deck, the probability of the dealer having a blackjack is higher and taking insurance may become a reasonable option.

Insurance often seems like a solid out in the face of a dealer’s Ace, however, it’s recommended to simply buy insurance to avoid the risk and carry on with your fine-tuned blackjack strategy!

Mistake #5: Not Knowing the Rules of the Game

Blackjack has gained such immense popularity because it’s a simple game at heart. Knowing the basic card values so you can make an immediate count is step one. Learning basic blackjack strategy is step two and should garner you some profit success in the long run, if you’re willing to stick with it and persevere. Here are a few blackjack games you should get familiar with:

  • Classic blackjack - The most common, usually played with one to eight decks of cards. Follows the simple goal of beating the dealer’s hand, by getting closer to 21 without going over (bust).
  • European blackjack - The order by which cards are dealt changes for European blackjack games. In this variation, the dealer only receives one card at the beginning of the game, and a second card after all players have completed their turn. Players cannot surrender or split more than once.
  • Spanish 21 - Played with a Spanish deck of cards (regular deck minus four x 10 cards). This deck alternation gives the house a higher advantage alongside the addition of unique rules like doubling down on any number of cards can be beneficial (not to mention, very entertaining).
  • Vegas Strip - A blackjack variation played with four decks of cards. Vegas Strip rules allow players to split up to three times, double down on any two cards, and surrender at any time.

Now, learning each variation may seem daunting, but it’s not. The beauty of blackjack is that it’s fairly easy to pick up through practice and observation. We live in a world full of information - use the tools at your fingertips by watching videos, taking online tutorials, and playing free demo modes of online blackjack games. Just like any skill, blackjack and putting its strategy to use requires practice and persistence.

Mistake #6: Not Paying Attention to the Dealer's Up Card

It’s a common blackjack mistake to neglect the value of the dealer’s card. But in a casino game where the dealer is your only opponent, their cards matter. This single card is a valuable piece of information against your only opponent - the dealer - and can help you make strategic moves.

From this single card, you can derive the strength or weakness of the dealer’s hand, but you’ll still need to take the entire situation under consideration, including assessing your own hand, in order to make an informed decision. So while a common mistake is not paying attention to it, you always don’t want to base your decision solely on it either.

The dealer’s card tells you the likelihood of the dealer going bust (over 21). If the dealer’s up card is low, 2 thru 6, they are most likely to bust because they must hit until 17. In fact, if they are showing a 4, the dealer has a 40.28% chance of going bust and a 6 sits around 42%. If they are showing a high card, 7 thru Ace, they are less likely to bust. Remember, that while you are looking to base decisions on strategy, the dealer merely has to follow the rules - i.e. hitting on a soft 17.

A few tips to help avoid the common blackjack mistake of not paying attention to the dealer’s up card, is to look at your hands not as cards, but points. Some players find it easier to make decisions from a point perspective - for example, if you are holding 4 through 8 points, always hit, regardless of what the dealer's bust card is showing. Why? There’s no downside as one additional card can’t bust you. Another tip many players utilize is to simplify reading the dealer’s card as high or low. This is a pattern that stands out on the blackjack strategy guide. If the dealer’s up card is high, you’re most likely going to need to hit.

All in all, no matter if you’re considering to hit, stand, double down, or split, the entire situation must be pieced together to assess the strength and weakness of your hand and the dealer’s.

Mistake #7: Playing at the Wrong Table

Blackjack is a highly entertaining and social game. One of the beauties of this casino table game is that you can enjoy long sessions without risking a whack of your hard-earned cash. That being said, the latter only rings true if you manage your bankroll correctly and choose the right table.

Let’s get straight to the point. When searching for your idyllic blackjack table, consider the min/max betting limits of the table, the blackjack payout, how many decks are in play, card shuffling technique, and variation rules like surrendering, insurance payouts, doubling down after splitting, doubling down for one hit, single deck game or multiple…as all of these can affect the house edge.

Start with lower limits. It’s better to sit at a lower minimum bet table as you can always overbet it if you wish, but also maintain the option to stay low during a down swing.

After you’ve selected limits that work for your bankroll, look at the specific table rules. Blackjack variations can offer differing payouts ~ stay focused on finding a blackjack 3:2 payout table rather than a 6:5 option.

Secondly, look for tables where the dealer must hit on a soft 17. This change can alter the house edge by -.20%. Other rules also come into play that can sway the house edge, like insurance options, doubling down after splits, surrender options, and the number of card decks in play. Let’s give you a few key tips:

  • Look for favourable rules, and ones that won’t distract you from your strategy plays. Ideally, go for those that offer a 3:2 blackjack payout, and liberal player options.
  • Pick a minimum bet that matches your bankroll. Your bet per hand sets the tone for your comfort zone - especially if you’re looking to play for an extended session. Remember when making each bet that you may want to double down - meaning, double that wager on a single hand.
  • Observe the table for a while. Look for trends - are seated players on an upswing? Are players on a good run? What’s the pace of play? And especially in a brick & mortar casino, assess the mood of the table as their emotions can influence yours very quickly if you’re not careful during gameplay.

Mistake #8: Not Knowing When to Quit

They write songs about this, don’t they? Know when to walk away, know when to run. The importance of knowing your limits and staying disciplined to them is a huge factor in creating a profitable blackjack experience. A common blackjack mistake is playing with the concept of being able to win back your losses by increasing your bet size, and not knowing when to call it.

As a game of both skill and luck, you’re going to have to know how to emotionally endure swings. Thus another line from Kenny’s hit, never count your money while you’re sitting at the table. It can lead to decisions based on bankroll mismanagement or a current bad swing, rather than sticking to a long term strategy.

Skillful blackjack also requires focus. As humans, we know this can only last so long. If you feel your attention span faltering, it’s time to take a break. A loss of focus can lead to poor decision making that’s no longer focused on the correct strategy either. This doesn’t mean you have to outright quit, but it can be a strong indication that you should take a break - fuel up with a snack, go for a walk, stretch ~ whatever works for you. Many players find it helpful to set a time limit of their play rather than wait until they’re past their play prime!

Mistake #9: Splitting the Wrong Pairs

Splitting the wrong pairs in blackjack is a common blackjack mistake that can quickly deplete your bankroll, as in addition to creating two weak hands, it also requires a second wager. So, let’s work through the best pairs to split, and those to avoid separating.

In blackjack, there are certain card combinations that players should split and others that they should keep together. When it comes to splitting 'tens', it can be tempting when pitted against a dealer’s weak up card, but it’s not recommended. This is because 20 of course, is a very strong hand, only beatable by the dealer hitting 21 or matching it for a push. Another pair to keep together is fives. It may call for a double down, but splitting fives into two weaker hands does not make sense.

The general rule in the blackjack community is to always split Aces and eights. However, it's important to not get too enthusiastic with splitting and only do so when the odds are in your favour.

Mistake #10: Doubling Down on the Wrong Hands

Doubling down presents an opportunity to maximize your profits on a strong blackjack hand. However, since the act of doubling down requires you to ‘double’ your original bet wager, you’re going to want to use it wisely! At most blackjack tables, the opportunity to double down exists when your two initial cards are dealt.

When to Double Down: Looking at the blackjack strategy guide, the most optimal time to double down is if your first two cards count 10 or 11. This is the most popular time to double down, even though it may seem unsensible when the dealer is showing a ten. Other scenarios include a hard 9, soft 16, 17, or 18 against the dealer’s up card of 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. But, there are many scenarios where doubling down isn’t favourable.

When to Not Double Down: If the dealer’s up card is an Ace, consider that extremely strong and proceed with caution. And using pretty basic math, if you're holding anything over a count of hard 11, don’t risk it as one card could be your demise and bust.

Before doubling down in blackjack, take the entire situation into consideration. This includes having a look at the dealer’s up card. When doubling down, you can assume that a second wager for doubling down is a solid move if you’re holding a strong 9, 10 (value) or 11, especially if the dealer’s up card is a weak card. A soft 16, 17, and 18 can also work magic for you if the dealer’s up card is weak (say 4, 5 or 6).

It’s also worthy to note that doubling down rules can vary in blackjack, depending on the variation and table you’ve chosen to play. For example, when doubling down, it’s common to only be privy to one additional card, but some blackjack variations allow for multiple hits post doubling. In any case, the full context of the situation must be taken into account as well as your bankroll.

Mistake #11: Not Taking Advantage of Comps and Bonuses

Blackjack comps and bonuses in casinos are essentially free money. We bet (of course, we’d bet) that you likely hold a myriad of reward programs or points loyalty cards in that wallet of yours. So why not follow suit for gambling? Whether it be taking the time to sign up at Guest Services when visiting a brick & mortar casino or ensuring you’re opting in at your online casino of choice, reward and loyalty programs can lead to delightful comps like restaurant perks and hotel rooms, to free play, exclusive tournament offers, and monetary bonuses.

LeoVegas offers a significant welcome bonus to new players and promotions and bankroll bonuses to existing ones. Often time sensitive, it’s highly recommended to tune in to the LeoVegas promotions page when considering a deposit! Taking advantage of a Match Bonus or free play addition to your deposit is a great opportunity to maximize your bankroll. If you’re going to play anyways, you may as well reap rewards.

To take advantage of bonuses effectively in blackjack, it's important to understand the terms and conditions of the offer and how they apply to the game. Firstly, make sure you are eligible for the bonus and meet any wagering requirements before attempting to claim it. Read the terms and conditions carefully and make sure you understand the playthrough requirements, game restrictions, and time limitations. When playing blackjack, try to choose games that contribute the most towards the bonus wagering requirements.

It's also essential to keep an eye on your bankroll and stick to your strategy. A common blackjack mistake and one that you don’t want to get mixed up in, is playing for the comps or bonuses. If you keep the mindset that they are merely perks and not the point or purpose of your session, that’s a good headspace. Keep them as they are intended to be - bonuses.

Mistake #12: Not Adjusting Your Strategy Based on the Count

Card counting is a strategy in blackjack used to determine whether the player or the dealer has an advantage on the next hand. Card counters keep a running count of high and low valued cards dealt in an attempt to overcome the casino house edge. The goal is to predict when the advantage shifts in the player’s favour, allowing them to adjust their betting strategy accordingly, and increase wagers to make the most of it.

One common mistake in card counting is choosing a complicated strategy that can overwhelm you, especially if you are new to the game. It's important to keep it simple and stay disciplined with the process. The more focused and accurate the count, the more advantageous the efforts will be and the greater the potential profitability.

To effectively use card counting to your advantage, find a strategy that works for you. Accuracy is key, so start with a simple one like Hi Lo and advance from there. It's also important to practice counting cards, keep a running count, and bet on more money when the count is positive and less when it's negative.

If you’re not adjusting your bet during the advantageous moments, there’s really no point to card counting as your focus would be better served following basic strategy!

If you are looking to card count, know when to make your monetary bump and when to scale back and have faith in your count and the system you’re applying. Much like all blackjack strategies, it may not work 100% of the time as a win is never guaranteed, but a mindset of knowing that blackjack is a game that can offer long term profits may help you stick with it.

Mistake #13: Focusing Too Much on Winning Streaks

The key to success in blackjack is focusing on your long-term, game plan. This involves avoiding common mistakes, such as letting emotions in and mismanaging your bankroll. Understanding that there will be swings, both good and bad, is also important. Good decision-making and keeping emotions out of your game are critical, as blackjack is a game of skill and chance, and you can only control one of those. Remembering these blackjack tips will help you enjoy the game and increase your chances of success in the long run.

Mistake #14: Not Practicing Enough

With all the technology and freebies available to blackjack learners these days, there’s really no excuse not to get those practice hours in. Think of the 10,000 hours rule. It suggests 10,000 hours of deliberate practice can help you achieve a mastery of a particular skill. So why not blackjack? Literally hours of strategy videos, how to’s, blackjack hand scenarios, and ‘play money’ games are available to you, 24/7. If you want to stick to the lion’s den, LeoVegas has plenty of blackjack tables with a commitment-free demo mode available or you can also observe live blackjack games anytime.

If you want to become proficient in playing blackjack, it's crucial to start with the basics and build a strong foundation. Whether you're new to the game or seeking to improve your skills, make sure you have a solid understanding of the fundamental rules before progressing to advanced strategies.

To help you in your journey, obtain a strategy card that you can use as a reference while playing at a brick-and-mortar casino or online. This will allow you to approach the game with an "open book" mindset, helping you make the best decisions in any situation.

Lastly, track your progress as you go along. Success in blackjack, as in anything else, often depends on paying attention to your mistakes and learning from them. Setting goals and tracking your progress can also help you measure your progress and stay motivated as you strive to improve your skills.

Mistake #15: Not Understanding the Odds

Did you know that approximately 28% of players hands in blackjack bust? That’s an immediate loss of course; the dealer busting is irrelevant. This is important as the dealer follows rules, while you have to make decisions. And while you have no say over bad luck, you can work with odds to make favourable decisions.

Not paying attention to odds, or understanding them, is a common blackjack mistake. Odds can help players understand advantageous situations. Not only do odds come into play when you’re making your decisions, but they come into play when choosing a table. In your favour are tables that pay 1:1 for winning hands and 3:2 for blackjack.

Blackjack strategy reigns again as it's based on probabilities of each hand's success under certain conditions - what your cards are and the dealer’s. For example the probability of you, the player, going bust with your initial cards being 11 or less are in fact 0, as there isn’t one card in the deck that can push you over 21.

Once you’re sitting at 12 however, the probability of another hit taking you over 21 sits at 31%. As we’ve hopefully nailed into your head, this doesn’t account for what extra chips the dealer holds, and both must be considered.

Gambling is fundamentally an odds game. The key to making informed decisions at the table is understanding them. By working with the blackjack odds, you can reduce the house edge and increase the probability of success in your favour.

This not only helps with bankroll management but also allows you to better understand what you're risking and why, especially when it comes to card counting. It's all about balancing risk vs reward, and by paying attention to the odds, you can give yourself a better chance of coming out on top in the long run.

Blackjack Mistakes FAQ

What are the most common mistakes in blackjack?

We’re only human, aren’t we? The most common blackjack mistake comes down to emotions. When players let distractions, play under the influence, or let hunches or superstition get in the way of following basic blackjack strategy and probability, it hinders their ability to maintain composure and make smart decisions. This can result in losses, which I think we can all agree isn’t what we’re looking for!

Should I always split and double down when playing blackjack?

‘Always’ is a fairly loaded word in respect to making decisions in blackjack. We could say ‘yes’, always split Aces, but if your bankroll isn’t going to manage a second wager on this action, then it’s not optimal.

Deciding to double down or split needs to be an assessment of the entire situation - calling in both your hand and the dealer’s up card, as well as certain table rules. For example, some blackjack variations allow for multiple cards to be drawn after you’ve doubled down, while most blackjack games allow just one hit.

Since many factors come into play, doubling down and splitting are advantageous actions only if the circumstance makes strategic sense, otherwise, you're making a solid run at quickly depleting your bankroll.

Is blackjack more skill or luck?

Blackjack is a casino game that’s a lot like life, in order to be successful you’re going to need skill and luck on your side. While the cards you’re dealt ultimately determine your fate, each decision you make in the game can impact your chances of winning.

When to make correct play, hit, stand, double down are all skilled decisions made throughout the game that involve strategy and probability. In any game of blackjack, both skill (knowing & following blackjack strategy for starters) and luck (the cards dealt) play a role.

Sticking with strategy and probability will diminish the house edge and increase profitability for players stand the long haul.

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