The Most Common Myth in Blackjack


Blackjack table

In this new series on the Myths of Blackjack, I’m starting with the most common myth surrounding the game.

The conversation usually goes like this…

Interested Player: So, you play blackjack, huh?

Ken: Yeah, I’ve played a lot of blackjack over the years.

Interested Player: You know what really drives me crazy about blackjack? …

Interested Player: You sit down and get a good game going, and then some idiot sits down at third base and starts messing up the cards.  What do you do about that?

Ken: *Sigh*

OK, I’ll start with a fact…

Other players have no appreciable affect on your results.

That’s right… Johnny Clueless from Buffalo who sat down at your table had nothing to do with your losing streak.

Now, if you already knew this to be true, you probably know what happens next in the conversation.  Trying to explain that other players can’t screw up your results invariably leads to that blank stare.  You know the one.  It’s where you can almost see them thinking: “This Kenny guy doesn’t know squat about blackjack!  How did he ever make any money?!”.

Generally, I don’t even bother trying to dispute their notion.  Instead I’ll just nod my head as if these kinds of players bother me too, and change the subject as soon as I can.

As penance for all those times, let me make a concerted effort to explain why this is a myth.  Even those of you who don’t need enlightening might find some ammo for your own rebuttals here too.

There are actually a whole group of possible complaints about Johnny Clueless.  We’ll address them one by one.

People jumping in and out of the game can’t “mess up the cards.”

So you’ve been winning a few hands, and when Johnny Clueless jumps in mid-shoe and adds an extra hand to the deal, the dealer starts killing everyone.  It must be his fault, right?  Well, no.  Cause and effect is a tricky thing, especially in games where randomness is a factor.  Our brains are evolved to look for patterns in causality, and that makes us see patterns and causes everywhere, even when they don’t really exist.  There wasn’t anything magic about the number of spots that was already in play before he added a hand.  There was certainly no guarantee that you would continue to win if he didn’t enter the game.  He’s just a convenient scapegoat for our brains to blame as a cause.

Red and Blue FireThe problem here really stems from the related myth that there are “hot tables” and “cold tables” in the casino.  If you have won the last ten hands in a row, you would be accurate in saying that the table has been hot, but that tells you absolutely nothing about the next ten hands to come.  But of course, if Johnny sits down and you start losing, you know who will get the blame.  There’s no such thing as a hot table, only a table that has been hot.

There is no magic about a particular number of spots in play causing a winning streak, or ending one.  Sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose.  That’s gambling!

Other player’s strategy mistakes cannot hurt you.

Now we’re on to the part of the myth claiming that unless all the players at the table play a solid basic strategy, none of the players will be able to win.  I am always amused that most of the players who cling to this idea actually have no idea what the correct basic strategy is, but they are quite sure that the new guy at the table is playing badly and costing everyone.

But seriously, this is total bull.  At my table, I don’t care how awful the other players are.  In fact, I love to see bad players.  They are the reason that blackjack is still a viable game for skilled players.  Without a steady supply of uninformed masses, the casinos couldn’t offer a game like blackjack.  If everyone played well, the game would make such small profits that the floor space would be converted to something else.  But, I digress…

Surprised WomanYes, I’m telling you that even the guy that splits tens, hits on hard 16 when the dealer has a 5 up, and sometimes stands on a hand like (Ace,3) because he “has a feeling” cannot hurt your results.  Sometimes his awful plays will cost the whole table, but other times his wacky plays will save the table.  In the long run, it all just evens out.  He can’t hurt you.  So relax!  Remember… Sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose.  That’s gambling!

And no, there is no such thing as “taking the dealer’s bust card.”

This is probably the most common thing that drives uninformed players crazy.  When Johnny Clueless is sitting at third base and decides to hit his hard 14 against the dealer’s 5, you can rest assured that everyone at the table will roll their eyes when Johnny busts and the dealer makes a hand.  He “took the dealer’s bust card.”  Well, yeah, maybe he did this particular time.  But since you don’t know what the order of the undealt cards is beforehand, you can’t say that he wasn’t going to save the table instead.

This is such a strongly defended bit of mythology I’m going to dive a little deeper into the details.  Now I know that many of the people who believe this nonsense can’t be bothered with details, but I am going to make an effort anyway.

Let’s create a completely arbitrary, and impossibly simple situation…  The dealer has a 5 up, and let’s also assume that his hole card is a Ten.  You stand on your hard 12, and now the play is up to Johnny.  We’ll say that there are exactly 4 cards left in the shoe, and somehow we know that the remaining cards are two sixes, and two Tens, although we don’t know the order.

Johnny looks at his hard 16 and says “I’ve got a feeling”, and motions for a hit.  Now we know that Johnny is going to bust with either a six or a ten.  But what has he just done to you?  Before we see the card, we don’t know.  More importantly, before we see the card, it is correct to say that there is absolutely no effect on your result.

Half the time, Johnny will bust with a ten, and he did indeed take away one of the dealer’s possible bust cards.  What’s left in the shoe after that is one ten, and two sixes.  That means that 2/3rds of the time you will lose now because the dealer has 2 out of 3 chances to make a 21.  Johnny sure worked you over, right?

Well, the other half the time, Johnny will bust by drawing a six instead, leaving one six and two tens in the shoe.  Now he’s done you a big favor, and you’ll lose only 1/3rd of the time.

Here’s the part that you need to follow…

The chances of Johnny drawing a ten, and you subsequently losing to a dealer 21 is: 50% X 2/3  (That works out to 1/3 total, or expressed differently: 2/6.)

The chances of Johnny drawing a six, and you subsequently losing to a dealer 21 is: 50% X 1/3  (That works out to 1/6 total.)

Add these up (2/6 + 1/6) = (3/6) = (1/2)

Well, look at that.  Our overall chance of losing when Johnny takes a card is… 1/2.

Our overall chance of losing when Johnny does not take a card is… 1/2.

This is not some evil coincidence.  It works exactly the same way no matter how many cards are in the deck, and how complicated the math would be to verify it.  It’s a mathematical fact… Johnny taking a card will help you exactly as much as it will hurt you on average.  It all evens out in the long run.

So relax.  Let Johnny play however he wants.  He can’t hurt your expected win or loss.

And after all, sometimes you’ll win and sometimes you’ll lose.  That’s gambling!

71 comments on "The Most Common Myth in Blackjack"

  • Anonymous said:

    What you all are missing is that if the bad play caused you to that specific hand if you where to follow the cards on subsequent hands , any hand you win on you have to say you won because of what Johnny did. You cannot have it both ways of bad play helps you loose then good play will help you win and that is just not true. Bad play can make you loose that hand sure , but on the next hand you win you have to say it was a result of the bad play. So guess what it evens out. The bad play hurts because if on that specific hand you have a big bet and the bad play caused you to lose but on the next hand you win you have a smaller bet it matters. The size of your bet actually dictates how Impactful bad play effects you.

  • kind of on topic
    player 12 through to 16 refer to my chart

    6 Decks Dealer Stands on Soft 17 Excerpt From

    2 35.350% 64.650% 38.095% 61.905%
    3 37.419% 62.581% 38.849% 61.151%
    4 39.410% 60.590% 39.410% 60.590%
    5 41.841% 58.159% 40.183% 59.817%
    6 42.284% 57.716% 45.152% 54.848%

    12 31.000% 1 69.000% 52.755% 47.245% 46.200% 3 53.800%
    13 39.000% 1 61.000% 53.822% 46.178% 50.900% 3 49.100%
    14 47.000% 1 53.000% 55.932% 44.068% 55.000% 3 45.000%
    15 58.000% 2 42.000% 59.772% 40.228% 58.600% 3 41.400%
    16 62.000% 2 38.000% 59.834% 40.166% 61.500% 3 38.500%

    Hit or Stand 1
    lolblackjack 2
    blackjackinfo 3

    and extreme question based on W’s info and coroborating info found on the Internet and my simultated
    the player is holding a hard 14. If the dealer up-card is a 5, the dealers bust out rate would be 41.841%
    inferring the dealers success rate would be 60.590%. By standing we accept the dealers bust rate of 41.841% as our success rate, however, based on the above charts i would hit the 14 a minimum 44.068% of making my hand.
    44.068% SUCCESS rate is greater than 41.841% offered by conventional wisdom. Am I missing something
    if so what or have we all been successfully conditioned to lose by the man.

    i pulled 1, 2 and 3 from the respective websites and 3 came from this forum:KenSmith
    my data came from my personal simulator.
    i hope the above makes sense

      • You will also frequently hit and not bust, but still lose to a better dealer hand. Your question appears to assume that if you don’t bust, you’ll win the hand. No, you might win, you might lose, and you might push.

        By the way, I’m checking in here less and less frequently since I am no longer associated with the site. I recommend that you take your questions to the forums if you want a better chance of getting a response.

        • Anonymous replied:

          actually my MINE includes the
          Wins, Ties, Losses on a made hand, and busting out
          i just used the results of the other websites to make
          the point


  • Johnny Vegas said:

    Great article, I had suspected that the “bad player” on third base couldn’t actually screw up the table by not playing basic strategy. I’ve seen dealers even get mad and talk down to players.

    I do have a question though, what if your example was on the first hand dealt from a 4 deck shoe? If the dealer has 15 as in your example, that means they wouldn’t bust with a 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, and if the dealer got an Ace it would depend on the next card that they got to determine if they busted or not. So cards that would definitely bust the dealer would be 7,8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King.

    So there are 7 cards that will definitely cause the dealer to bust, and 5 cards where the dealer would definitely not bust, and the Ace is kind of a wildcard as it makes the dealer have 16 and need to hit again.

    So in this particular case, if Johnny Clueless hits on his 16 and gets a King, it seems that he has very slightly shifted the odds as the remaining cards in the 4 deck shoe have changed by missing 1 additional bust card.

    So assuming only you and Clueless and the dealer got cards, it would be something like 52 cards in a deck times 4 decks in the shoe 208 cards, you have 2 of them, Johnny has 3, the dealer has 2 so there’s 201 cards left.

    I understand that this changes the odds to a very minimal degree, and also that if you played thousands of hands the effect would likely be nearly negligible.

    But it seems for that one particular hand, with a full shoe, Johnny Clueless could alter the outcome making it less statistically favorable for you by a tiny fraction of less than 1 percent (haven’t actually done the math, if someone else would like to please feel free).

    Again, great post, and love the affirmation that, especially in the context of someone playing many hands at a table for a period of time, a bad player isn’t going to mess up your win/lose odds. Will help me be more gracious and kind to these erratic players.

    • Same math. Yes, if you he takes away a card that would hurt the dealer, the table suffers. But when he instead takes away a card that helps the dealer, the positive effect exactly offsets the negative possibility. The net result is also ZERO effect.

      • Johnny Vegas replied:

        Ken, I still disagree with what you’re saying about ZERO effect. We’re not talking about the Clueless player flipping a coin that has a 50/50 percent probability of being either heads or tails. If there are 7 cards that cause the dealer to bust, and only 6 cards where the dealer will not bust (5 definitely no bust, and the ace could lead to a bust or not, depending on the next card dealt) then the odds are his hitting on 16 against 15 is going to hurt you slightly more than it will help you.

        I agree we are probably talking about something minimal like 50.1 to 49.9 percent chance of Clueless’s hit helping or hurting, but I don’t think it’s fair to say ZERO effect.

        I would love to see someone run a simulator of 1 million hands played and set the rules for the player on third base to always hit on a 16 when the dealer has a 15. I think there would be a difference for the player on first base versus if the player on third played according to basic strategy. I don’t think it would be a life-changing, significant difference, just something greater than zero.

        Although, in the real world, we know that Johnny Clueless probably isn’t going to be completely regular with when he does or does not hit on 16 against 15. Probably will sometimes hit and sometimes not, depending on his “gut” and how much money he has on the table and how many drinks he’s had, lol. So when you’re playing with a real human who is just a wildcard on what decisions they will make, I would agree that it’s probably just as likely for their bad play to hurt you as it is to help you, in the long run.

        • You’re still not getting it. I’m not saying that his taking a card will help you 50% of the time and hurt you 50% of the time. Not at all.

          Indeed, in your example with 7 cards that will make the dealer bust and 6 cards that will make the dealer not bust, he is more likely to hurt your chances. But keep thinking…

          With your example, if Johnny doesn’t take a card, the dealer has a 7 in 13 chance of busting.

          If Johnny does take a card, there are two possibilities:
          He takes a dealer bust card (7/13 chance). He has indeed hurt you. The dealer now has a smaller chance of busting (6 of the remaining 12 cards.)
          He takes a non-bust card (6/13 chance). He has now helped you (and the key is he helped you MORE than when he hurt you.) Now the dealer has an even bigger chance of busting than when we started. (7 of the remaining 12 cards.)

          The two effects EXACTLY offset each other, and they will in every possible situation you could describe.

          If you can follow the math needed, it is easy to prove.

          If Johnny stands, the dealer busts (7/13) = 53.846%

          If Johnny hits, we need to add the two possible outcomes together, weighted by Johnny’s chance of each kind of card he may draw.
          Case 1: Johnny hurts us (7/13), times the dealer’s now-reduced chance of busting (6/12): (7/13) * (6/12) = 26.923% (Yowee, he killed us, right? The dealer is only half as likely to bust compared to if he hadn’t taken that card!)
          Case 2: Johnny helps us (6/13), times the dealer’s now-INCREASED chance of busting (7/12): (6/13) * (7/12) = 26.923% (Amazing how that worked, eh?)

          Add the two cases together: 26.923% + 26.923% = 53.846%
          In other words, the EXACT same probability of the dealer busting as when Johnny stood.

          I cannot explain it any more clearly. I hope you get it.

  • Ken,

    Your senario has an equal amount of bust cards and “make” cards. But that isn’t always the case. if the dealer has a 16 there are more bust cards than there are make cards in a neutral shoe.

    Because of this, third base has a higher likelihood of taking a card that would have busted the dealer. And, once that happens the dealer’s odds of getting a bust card go down.

    Happy to hear if I am missing something here.

    • And in the event that the player draws one of the few small cards, the dealer’s chance of busting goes up, right? The effect of the two outcomes completely offset each other, and the net result is zero change in the percentage chance that the dealer busts.

      You ask if you are missing something here. Yes, keep thinking. Third base’s actions do not matter. Period.

  • Statistics is a difficult college class. Most people can’t even pass simple math.

  • Steven said:

    The better way to explain it is this. Johnny Clueless says to hit. Instead of the dealer giving him the next card from the deck, the dealer offers you the option to select any remaining card in the deck to give to Johnny instead. Should you take that option? The next card and the one you actually choose have been in that same position in the shoe since the shuffle. If you think that those two cards in those two positions now have a different chance of being a 10, then that was also true for those two cards right after the shuffle. Every card in the deck has the same chance of being a 10 after the shuffle. Do you not trust the shuffle?

    • Rob replied:

      No, the option isn’t which card do you want him to take. The option is for him not to take a card at all. Because in a neutral deck there are more cards that would bust a 16 then cards that would make a 16. So, it is more likely that the next card, regardless of where you grab it from the deck, is a bust card. If the player takes that card then the odds of the dealer getting a bust card go down.

      • Kevin replied:

        And when the player takes a non-bust card, the odds of the dealer getting a bust card go up. It all evens out in the end. If this does not make sense to you, I suggest taking a course in probability and statistics so that you might gain a better understanding of how games of random chance work.

  • l’m curious about the superstitious guy who has a huge bet on the table with a dealer 6 showing. I’m on 3rd base with my $5 chip out in front of me. If I have a 14 showing and hit then I’m screwing the table over by taking the dealers bust card? But what if I have an 11 showing? Isn’t my desire to double down and improve my hand going to screw the table over just the same? Somehow my playing or not playing by the rules makes it “ok” to take the dealers bust card? I never understood the logic.

  • Funny thing is most blackjack dealers are firm believers in the whole taking the bust card mentality. Even after multiple decades of working in the industry they swear by it and cite their extensive experience as proof. I tried explaining it to one dealer and he responded, “Well if everyone says it there must be something to it!” Of course, they are just victims of their own conformation bias. But it’s the illusion of control over the outcome that keeps most players coming back. The human mind trying to see a pattern and replicate it and get that rush of dopamine one more time. The game comes down to mathematics, probabilities, and playing perfect basic strat to minimize your losses over the long run (because you lose overall, there’s no escaping it). Advantage play is a whole other beast, and very situational. But it just amazes me how people continue to refuse to believe and defend passionately this philosophy that other players affect the outcome of the hand. High limit players who regularly are putting large sums of money also are firm believers in this. It’s just an interesting example of how the human mind is wired I guess.

    • Tom replied:

      Yes! very much agree with this. I was playing and did something against the rules. this one guy mentioned it, and kept mentioning it, a couple of hands later. as if to say that my 1 decision affected his cards 2-3 hands later. but there were many other events that transpired after my choice to not play the rules. I believe in situational advantages and, in general, play by “the rules.” but to say that my not affects multiple events thereafter is delusional.

  • I’m am very glad I found your article. I’ve tried many times to explain this point to players and it’s exactly like arguing religion. Once you bring facts into the debate they shut down (please don’t be offered I don’t mean to insult anyone’s faith). What this all boils down to is if you want to live by hindsight, would offs and could ofs, your going to have a very miserable life.

  • Stefan said:

    I have seen it again and again ….. same guy who hurts you is the same guy that he busts the dealer and all players win.the best advice is never say an opinion if someone ask you to hit or stand !

  • anonymous said:

    it does affect you. when the count is rich in tens, the crazy counter spread to 5 hands by way of using his friends, it affects you getting a stiff hand if your 3rd base. He would take all the tens in front of you. these so called myths are truths because there is no calculations of bet size into the equation. A person losing 2000 bucks in that one mistake hand does affect their game. It just cost him 2000 bucks of bankroll. So all the bs that is said to only affect one hand is wrong. That 2000 bucks are valued to many hands that can be played. So in and out proves it affects you. one vs one hand it don’t affect you. but when you have more hands it does as each card dealer gets changes the outcome for each player. it’s dealer’s card change affect all players not just affecting one player.

    • Author Ken Smith replied:

      Well, you make one valid point amidst a lot of misunderstanding. You are correct that a counter who spreads to multiple hands in good counts will hurt the other players at the table. This is true, simply because he is using up more of the available hands before the shuffle and those hands are advantageous because of the count. This is NOT because he is more likely to “take all the tens in front of you”. The early spots are no more likely to get the excess tens than the later spots.
      Try this thought experiment. Make a deck of five face cards and one Ace. Shuffle the six cards and deal one card to each person at the table. Who’s most likely to get the Ace? No one. They’re all equally likely to get the Ace.

      My post above is talking about the fact that how another player PLAYS their hand can not affect your long-term result. If instead they are adding or removing hands based on the count, they will affect your long-term result. Those are two different things.

      Last of all, you say that my article is somehow flawed because it doesn’t consider bet size. That makes no sense. What’s true for $1 is true for $1000.

    • Author Ken Smith replied:

      I removed your latest post because it was a lengthy restatement of your original erroneous ideas. Obviously I am wasting my time responding to you. Believe whatever you like.

    • jason replied:

      WHAT?? i cant even follow what you are trying to say here.

      but if you’d pay attention to what the article said, you would have heard it does affect the game how they play. it affects it both positively and negatively an equal amount on average.

  • Eric said:

    How about asking the complainer: “So you think the casino purposely put the Blackjack cards in just the right order so that YOUR hand would win and that OTHER GUY screwed it up for YOU? Wow, that’s so nice of the casino to try to give YOU money!”

  • Tim Shepard said:

    God I wish I had a Dime for every time I tried explaining this to some superstitious player.
    Thanks for putting it in writing finally, I can just point people to this article from now on and save my breath.

  • Johnny Clueless said:

    Mr. Ryan
    I love to hear from Ken about your question. But I will give you my two cents worth of opinion. It’s just back luck!! Johnny can took away the good card from dealer and make you win that hand too. Then you will be $2000 ahead. Then you should quit going to casino forever, so that you will be ahead $2000 , because that will be your last hand playing blackjack. Good luck!

  • can I just ask something here, you say that johnny clueless doesnt have an impact in the long run, so how to you explan your matsmatics to the guy who playing his last $2000 on his last hand and johnny takes the dealers bust card? i would love to hear you explain this to me? my emai is I await your caculated answer.

    • I think this has been answered often enough in the comments on this thread. But, being ever the optimist, I’ll make one more foray into it…
      People who think that third base can effect their chances are basically espousing this belief: “If the dealer gets the next card off the deck, all is well, but if the dealer gets the second card off the deck instead (after third base takes a card), the dealer is more likely to beat the whole table.” Surely when I state it that way you can see that this is nonsense. If not, well, just believe whatever you like and we’ll leave it at that.

      • Jimbo replied:

        Ken, I have agreed with you wholeheartedly on this issue. There are some hard-headed individuals posting here who seem to be unable to buy into this concept, for various reasons which hold no weight on their own.

    • Paul replied:

      It is hard to believe this is an actual comment/question after the article and all of the comments. Johnny will take the Dealers bust card as often as he won’t. 50/50 you will get mad at Johnny or give him a high five… get it?

  • one2few said:

    that makes sense, I guess I should have pointed out that my point wasn’t that a poor player will make you lose, but that other players at the table receiving cards will give insight it to what could potentially be coming out of the deck.

    I was persuing another avenue of thought from all of the poor player myths such as taking the dealers bust card and whatnot. Just simply the effect that multiple players can have on your play in terms of opportunities and insight vs one on one with the dealer.

  • Frank Lu said:

    There is another explanation from Wizard of odds,FAQ , about myth of poor player made you lose money in BJ.
    This author simulates 1.5 b hands of plays. One player always played basic strategy ( A), and the other player (B) always played a different strategy, different from the basic. The end result were the A player lost 0. 28% and the b player lost 11.% after 1.5 B hands. It’s doesn’t Mather how the other play, the result is the same in the long run.

  • one2few said:

    I see that the majority of this thread is very old, and it’s been slightly hijacked, but it does help segway into a thought I’ve been having.

    If you put everything else aside and look at only the order of the cards coming out of the deck, it seems there should be a point at which you should deviate from basic strategy regardless of the true count. the reason for this thought is basic probability.

    Lets start with a dice example: rolling a single dice one time, the odds of getting a 6 are 1 in 6, or .1666. roll a single dice again, the odds of getting a 6 are still one in 6 cause the first roll has no effect (or no memory). that’s a basic statistic, but when you look at the odds of getting two consecutive 6’s, now it’s a PROBABILITY problem. the odds are .02777, which is a massive difference.

    now translating this to blackjack, I’m thinking that at the basic level we’re looking at the card count. we’d drawing positive, negative, and neutrals. in a deck, we have 20, 20, and 12 respectively. so drawing a positive card is a 5 in 13 chance, or .38% a second positive is a .37%, then .36% and so on. Unlike the dice, there’s a memory, so each card drawn effects the odds of the second card. The tricky part is when we look at the probability of drawing 3 consecutive positives, which is a .05 chance.

    So the pattern that we see is that each single card changes the numbers for the next draw by about .01% chance, which is pretty small and about inconsequential in comparison to the effect of the probability of an individual sequence. So how does this effect the game when we put everything into account and try to use this information in a game.

    First off the running or true count would have an inconsequential effect at the beginning of each hand for the purposes of the probability of drawing a positive or negative card. As we saw, each single card removed will only change the probably by about .01% and we can expect that percentage to be roughly the same regardless of the number of decks. so if we use a hand as an example with 4 players where you’re on the end with a 12 against the dealers 10, then basic strategy says “hit till 17 or better” and there’s no variation on that in the I18 fab4 or otherwise. but what if the other 3 players before you all hit at least once and get a positive count card every time? To me that says that your odds of busting are extroadinarily high, since you only 3 faces that will require a 2nd hit, and if you DO draw one of those, that’s going to be the 4th positive card in a row, and makes a 5th positive card a .006% chance. on that 2nd hit, your odds of drawing a card that won’t cause a bust is even less than that cause that math doesn’t even account for getting a 4 followed by a 6 on the first and second hit respectively. I’ve probably already talked too much math to keep anybodies attention and haven’t even mentioned odds of getting a first hit card that would make you stay/bust but I think I’ve made the point that while basic strategy just says “hit till 17 or better” if you look at the flow of the cards, it would appear that a stay would be a better play.

    so the point of the long story is a question: Am I wrong about something here? my thought is that this type of probability is ignored when counting cause there hasn’t been an easy way to boil it down into something easy to remember/implement at the tables. Am I anywhere close to right?

    • Tom replied:

      I agree. The true count must be calculated in when deciding wether to hit or stay during a hand. Rigidly adhering to bs doesn’t seem to make sense to me. Or so it seems

  • Eric S. said:

    Your article. I freely admit that I hate bad players. I’ve gotten mad several times at players not playing the right way. The last time I played this guy hit on a 12 when the dealer showed a 6. I just can’t understand that play. Of course he busts with a face card and the dealer makes her hand with a lesser card. The dealer would have bust if he doesn’t hit. I am sorry, but I just can’t stand it. The guy cost the whole table by doing that and he did that a few other times as well. But maybe I should not get mad about that. It is hard to not get mad when you have a lot on a hand and this idiot just took the card that would have busted the dealer. I don’t know how to reconcile that.

    • Dan replied:

      I know that kind of thing can get on people’s nerves, however at the end of the day the cards are always shuffled rather than setup. It just means there is no knowing the order of cards beforehand. The dealers bust card or the card that makes his 21 could come out different every time. Idiot players help just as much as they hurt you.

      The thing that gets me is the unrealisticly long losing streaks that seem to come up too often. That is playing perfect basic basic strategy with all the right splits, and doubles yet losing 90 percent of the time no matter what the hands are originally dealt. I mentally question the shuffles at times but it has to accepted unless there’s a good reason to speak on the house cheating.

    • ryan replied:

      totally agree. i had a guy hit on 19! yes 19! after me. i had $200 on that hand he had $20. this hand has put me off blackjack for life!

    • Jimbo replied:

      In your case you should give more thought to playing only if you can be 3rd base. Then what you described can never happen, which should keep you happy.

  • Frank Lu said:

    Hi KenSmith
    I have bust rate for dealer up cards from A to 10, but can’t find the bust rate for player hard 12 to 16 when hit for another cards.please give me the information.I am a basic strategy player. Thank you.

    • It’s pretty easy to calculate these, especially if you’re willing to accept almost-accurate numbers from an infinite deck approximation.

      If you hit hard 16 and plan to stand at 17 or more, then you’ll take only one card.
      Five of the possible 13 card values will improve your hand, so you’ll bust the other 8/13 of the time.
      p(bust 16) = 8/13 = 61.5%

      If you have hard 15, there are now two possibilities…
      You’ll bust immediately 7/13 of the time.
      1/13 of the time you’ll draw an Ace for hard 16, and hit again.
      p(bust 15) = 7/13 + (1/13 * 8/13) = 58.6%

      You can do the same thing for the other starting hands.
      The results?
      p(Bust 16) = 61.5%
      p(Bust 15) = 58.6%
      p(Bust 14) = 55.0%
      p(Bust 13) = 50.9%
      p(Bust 12) = 46.2%

      These all assume you will continue hitting until you reach 17 or bust.

  • Guilmon said:

    This is confirmation bias again. Everyone wants to complain when Third Base takes the dealer’s bust card and the table gets swept. They forget all those times when it went the other way. Gamblers are a superstitious lot who haven’t the vaguest idea as to what they’re doing.

    Ask a dozen Roulette players the odds of hitting “red” or “black” is and you’ll get twelve wrong answers.

    Ask a dozen Craps players how many ways a seven can fall, and it’s “DUHHHH…”

    As for Blackjack, the most popular strategy is the Whudidowiddishand non-strategy strategy. The 50th anniversary of _Beat the Dealer_ has come and gone. For most of these people, it’s 1961 all over again.

  • Robbie Gold said:


    As a “Skilled player” according to the casinos in AC, I would have to agree with you about Mr. Third Base taking the dealers break card. Countless times (no pun intended), I have tried to explain to people at the table that the shoe has no memory of who goes in & out at the table. There have been times when at Third base I will wave a hit with a hand five, deuce against the dealers Ten. People look at me in astonishment after the dealer shows 5 in the hole & breaks with a ten. Even if I can put the hole card on a low number, it doesn’t mean I will always prevail. One of my best observations is that everyone wants instant gratification on every hand. My favorite saying to other players flipping out because of non book moves, is to remember that there are no seat belts on the stools.

  • Don Q said:

    I love them to play with me at my table. The focus is on them not on me. At break time, the dealers and the bosses exchange stories about those stupid players. You know who I like to most to play at my table? A knock them dead beauty, and I’m not even paying her to sit with me by the hour.

  • Byakuya said:

    The way I see it, a good card counter should use these superstitions, particularly the positive ones, to their advantage. Create an image where you either believe them or “keep an open mind” about those folly beliefs. Use the positive superstitions to encourage other players and keep the casino people thinking “Another superstitious fool who’s going to lose all his money, LOL! Give the player (card counter) what he/she wants”.
    For example: Great job, you changed the flow of the cards just in time. You saved the table with that move I never would of considered (Ignoring the times when their bad move killed the table and praising them for saving it)! Let it ride baby (make them think you’re chasing a winning streak, when in reality the count is sizzling HOT)! I’ve been losing, I don’t want to keep playing this cold shoe. My hand of bad luck 13 killed me, I’m changing tables (The reality is, you’re switching tables/lowering your bets because the true count suddenly turned negative.

    • Ed Surfer replied:

      You forget the “eye in the sky” and the back of the house staff have the statistics. They don’t care what you say, they care that you’re defying the mathematical models and winning more regularly than you should and placing larger bets when you should. And as you say, moving to a new table when you should. They’re not stupid they set up the models so they can make money.

  • @Uncledougy:
    “I then have a 75% chance of winning or losing depending on the card drawn by Johnny.”

    But you don’t know which card he will draw. Your chance of winning the hand in this situation is unchanged. If he stands, you win 50% of the time. If he draws a card, you win 50% of the time.

    I see your point!

    • Anonymous replied:

      That is only true in this situation (with two 6’s and two 10’s. In any other case it would depend on the number of cards left and the values of those cards that will help or hurt you

    • Anonymous replied:

      I understand that you don’t know which card the clueless guy is going to draw. But people don’t usually get upset when someone does a crazy movie like hitting a 16 vs a dealer 6 until they see the outcome. I’ve seen players keep their mouth shut and say yay you saved the table and you killed the table. Me personally if someone does something like that, I just look to see if that mistake effected me that hand. Even if it does I don’t say anything but it just sucks to know you would have won a hand if someone played basic strat. This is all hindsight I’m not talking about before the outcome.

      • Jimbo replied:

        So let’s assume the player at 3rd base does use proper strategy and does not hit his hard 16. The dealer then takes the next card, a five, making dealer’s hand a 21, wiping out the table – – including your hand. I don’t believe any of the players will blame 3rd base for not taking a hit, which would have kept the dealer from getting the 5.

        Ken’s whole point was to show that however Johnny Clueless plays his action will hurt you just as often as he helps you. And this holds true even if 3rd base plays basic strategy.

  • Uncledougy said:

    I somewhat disagree that Johnny Clueless has no affect on my hand if he hits. In your example I have a 50/50 chance of winning if Johnny stays. But if he hits, I then have a 75% chance of winning or losing depending on the card drawn by Johnny. Did Johnny’s hit cause me to lose or win? No, but it did affect my chances of winning or losing.

    • Johnny Clue replied:

      False. Even if you can’t wrap your hand around the fact it had no effect… That’s the course of that one hand, it happened to help or hurt in one instance, Over the ultimate course of millions of hands, it will all even out.

    • Jimbo replied:

      Not quite correct. If you have a 75% chance of winning you can’t also have a 75% chance of losing. These numbers have to add up to 100%.

  • Julian said:

    A probabilities undergrad course is all it takes to agree with your explanation. Anyway, it helps players to blame someone else for their losses. Thanks for your newsletter.

  • Tom G. said:

    I’ve found the best way to keep away from the “clueless” is to play at $25 and up tables! Then YOUR skill is tested!

  • Greg OD said:

    I believe in Table Karma. Wrong creates BAD. Right creates GOOD.

    • Jimbo replied:

      What does karma have to do with putting money in your pocket? It’s just an emotion or mood. One can lose or win with good karma; similarly with bad karma.

  • Ken S. said:

    I agree 100%…being a dealer you know the the cards can go either way.

  • thomas said:

    Sorry but this article is for idiots… If you ever thought other players would affect your results then hehhh you’re the kind of sucker gambler a jackpot for the casino.

    • Jimbo replied:

      @tommy ; Wrong! Ken is 100% correct, although I am unable to understand your obstinacy. As Ken said a poor player affects your winning half the time, AND helps you to win the other half time. This actually translates to any other player at the table, whether a good one or not.

  • Doug said:

    I agree 100 per cent . Basic strategy has been figured out by computer programmers and by mathematicians. It all depends on what you have and by what the dealer has, not by what other players are doing.

  • @Norman Sheridan:
    You have a point there Norm. Looking like a typical superstitious gambler is a good idea. Being one is another matter entirely. 🙂

  • Norman Sheridan said:

    As always, Ken, you are absolutely correct; however……………….I always liked to agree that Johnny Clueless was KILLING me. Why? If the casino pit crew believes that I think that, then they cannot possibly believe I am an advantage player.

  • Blake Baird said:

    I have a minor degree in math, and learned these calculations. Some rumors seem to live forever. Maybe casinos know they bring in people to gamble—you sure never see them disputed by the owners. Thanks for a great news letter and site.

  • Jim Bray said:

    What you said makes sense. I have in the past complained about players taking Dealer bust cards.
    But, I can remember when a inexperienced player was doing all the wrong plays but Winning.
    Matter of fact I was winning too!!
    I will not complain of inexperienced players again. You’re right if it wasn’t for them Playing would be different.
    I’m going to Reno for three nights last this month

    • Sylvia replied:

      Thank you very much for the explanation. I wasn’t aware of that, and silently cursed players for doing this.

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