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…

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.

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.

The 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!

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…

Yes, 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!

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!

That said. there is ONE test that will answer the question once and for all.

Run the following long term simulation.

You play perfect basic strategy.

Johnny is at third base. He is the worst player ever. He will either take a hit or stand. While he doesn’t hit every ‘time theres a bust card next, or stand every time there isn’t, he does hit when there are more bust cards than not, and stand when there are more cards that give the dealer the win than not.

According to you, this has no effect on long term profit/loss.

Here’s an alternate explanation.

Johnny’s decision only matters when the next two cards are a bust and non bust card for the dealer.

So when you make your list of all the possibilities, you can remove all the two bust card next and two non bust card next possibilities. because johnny’s decision does not matter for them.

having done this, you will always find that the number of possibilities with the bust card first and the bust card second are equal.

this example is easily shown with two sixes and one ten. there are six possible orders. but two of them have the bust card last, so johnny’s decision doesn’t matter. this leaves two with the bust card first, and two with it second. 50% chance of it helping or hurting when it matters.

same results with two bust and one low. same results with 4 cards. same results with 40 cards left. there is always an equal number with it second and first.

if johnny only hit when it was a bust card, and stood when it wasn’t, it would affect the table. but that requires cheating or psychic powers. from a probability standpoint it doesn’t matter.

Was working on an analysis between how dealer bust rate and player’s bust rate could help determine weather to hit or stand. Was wondering if you could be of assistance (: ?

Ask in our forum:

https://www.blackjackinfo.com/community/

There’s plenty of knowledgeable blackjack players there that could help you with any specific analysis/question you might have

*appreciable EFFECT

If you don’t see patterns in the cards coming out of this deck, then you’re just not paying enough attention. It goes both ways, if you are pre-disposed (conditioned?) to dismiss any possibility beyond random. then I guess recognition skills need not apply – grin. And if you can’t rightly say why the authors of this game designated the values of the J,Q,K as 10’s, mathematically speaking, it’s hard to see how one can speak intelligently to this game. But that’s just me.

If you don’t see patterns in how the cards come out of the deck, then you aren’t paying enough attention. And if you don’t know the precise mathematical reason for the valuations assigned by the authors of this game to the J,Q,K, then you can’t really speak intelligently about this particular game.

As you said, bad players are the only reason the casinos can offer the game, though I wonder how many bad players are at the ultra high stakes tables and how the house supports that. Bad players are actually amusing to watch so long as they behave well. The worst players are the ones who throw the cards down, curse or overact when they lose, and drunks. There seems to be a certain point up to which the casino will tolerate that behavior, probably depending on the pit boss, how much money they’re making off the offender or whether the cards are being bent.

For your amusement, go to a high stake table once and be amazed how many keep splitting tens etc. The only difference is that they throw in more money and with much more confidence ??

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

DEALER’S W* of O*’s DEALER’S FINAL TOTAL MY SIMULATOR

UP CARD BUST SUCCESS BUST SUCCESS

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%

PLAYER’S BUST SUCCESS BUST SUCCESS BUST SUCCESS

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

sorry it was formatted properly when i posted it.

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.

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

thanks

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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.

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 !

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!”

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.