Basic Blackjack Strategy Mistakes

What are the most common basic strategy mistakes?

There is only one mistake players make in applying basic strategy to their game: failure to do so correctly and consistently. This precipitates all other errors I’m aware of.

Most errors that occur from failure to use strategy correctly come from lack of knowledge, especially of the soft hands and pair splitting segments of the matrix. Of all 169 possible initial hands, the vast majority (140, or 82.84%) are hard hands, so it’s not long before the correct moves become ingrained, through repetition, in the player’s memory. There are only sixteen soft hands (9.47%) and thirteen pairs (7.69%), and they typically revert to a hard hand (or a “stand” situation) after a single decision, so it’s only natural players will not have accurate recall of the correct decisions.

The basic strategy trainer on this site can help to overcome these errors. You can set the controls to quiz you solely on soft hands or pairs and, with repetition, improve your memory of the proper strategic decisions. Until you have, most casinos will allow players to refer to a strategy matrix or crib notes at the table.

Failure to use strategy consistently is a more insidious problem. Even players who have the entire matrix down pat will still make mistakes due to squeamishness. It’s not uncommon for a player to balk at hitting a hard fifteen, hard sixteen, or soft seventeen, and decide to stand rather than risk busting or decreasing the value of the hand. Even though the matrix shows, and mathematics prove, that you’ll lose more often in the long run if you stand, gut instinct takes over in the face of a difficult decision, and the tendency is to wimp our rather than leather up.

There is no cure for the player who knows what the right move is, and has seen objective proof of it, but still chooses the wrong course for reasons other than the likelihood of winning. The fear of success, or the willingness to accept failure rather than making a difficult choice, is more along the lines of a character flaw—and if you find yourself in this position, perhaps you should reconsider if blackjack is “your game” after all?