Why You Shouldn't Trust Your Blackjack Dealer - Blackjack Apprenticeship

Why You Shouldn’t Trust Your Blackjack Dealer


The count rises to a true 4.

I grab a stack of $100 black chips and place them in the my betting square.

I get a 9,3 and the dealer has a 7 up. I hit my 12 and get a 2, hit again and get a 4 so I stand. 

The dealer turns the hole card over and reveals a 4. She hits several more times, standing when she has 4, 7, Ace, 3, 2. She then calls out, “push” and moves on to the next round. 

What’s wrong with this picture?

Blackjack Dealer Mistakes

One thing that is consistently revealed at our Blackjack Bootcamps is that players trust the dealer too much to add up their hands correctly. We understand; we did the same thing early in our blackjack careers, but then we got it trained out of us by more experienced card counters. It doesn’t matter how good of a card counter I am, if I don’t protect my money, I’m not going to be a winning player.

If you were paying attention to the story above, I hit to 18 while the dealer ended up with 17. Calling it a “push” is a $500 mistake!

Don't Trust Your Blackjack DealerIt’s happened to me hundreds of times, and if I would have trusted the blackjack dealer’s math, even one dealer mis-pay would have cost me several hours of EV. Did the dealer do it on purpose? No. Dealers are human, too, so they’re just as susceptible to making mistakes as anyone. Unfortunately for us, if they make a mistake in the house’s favor, that can easily kill any chance of actually having an edge over the casino.

Now Repeat after me:


It can feel overwhelming to have to add up your hand total while you’re keeping the running count, playing basic strategy, converting to true count, keeping an eye on the pit, and everything else that’s running through your brain. But there are a few tricks that will help:

  1. Lock in the running count before you do anything else. Before you start adding up other cards, make sure you have the running count locked in. I like to tell people the story of when I was first learning and a pit boss asked me my age. I sat their staring at her for 15 seconds thinking “14, 14, 14, 14, 14, 14, 14,” trying to lock the running count (14) into my head over before even considering what the heck she was asking me. Only when I was sure I had locked in the running count did I respond to her. I must have looked like an idiot, but I didn’t want to do anything else until I KNEW I wouldn’t drop the count.
  2. Ask the Dealer What The Hand Totals Are. Just say “Sorry. What do you have?” This doesn’t mean that you go with whatever he or she says. It will just buy you some time while you figure out for yourself what the totals are. While the dealer is re-adding the hands, you can take the time to add up the hands yourself.
  3. Look for things that add up to 10. You don’t have to be a math wizard to know that A,9 0r 8,2 or 7,3 or 6,4 or 5,5 add up to 10. If you can quickly spot 2 cards that add up to 10, then you can pretty easily add up the remaining cards to find out what the hand total is.
  4. Take ALL Card Combos Seriously. If you talk to any pro card counter, they’ll know all the 3 card hand combos that add up to 21 (6-7-8, 5-7-9, 7-7-7-, 10-4-7, etc). They probably also know most of the 3 card totals that add up to 20, etc. There’s two ways to deal with this stuff: one way is to trust the dealer. The other way is to take the hand combos seriously and start to learn what many of them are. It’s not that hard, and there’s even a little game that I made to get better at it…
  5. The License Plate Game. This issue of adding up my hand WHILE keeping the count (and everything else at once) was such a challenge for me, I realized right away that I needed to get good at adding up my hand totals quickly. So on my drive home from the casino one day, I created a game where I would add up the numbers on the license plates in front of me while driving. At least in WA state, most license plates have 3 numbers and a 3 letters. I add up the 3 numbers, and if any of the letters are a J, Q or K, I add 10 to the 3 numbers. If there is an “A”, then obviously it’s treated as a 1 or 11. By doing this over and over while driving, I got pretty comfortable with all the 3 card combos, as well as with throwing an Ace (1 or 11) in the mix. Hey, what better do you have to do while driving? Well, I guess there’s always charts you can recite to yourself.
According to my game, this would be a Hard 20 (A, J, A, 4, A, 3). I’ts also a Soft 30. Soft 40, and a Soft 50

Do you have a story of an epic mis-pay you caught? How about a game you’ve created to get quick at adding up hand totals?


Author: Colin Jones

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