VEGAS MYTHS BUSTED: Bad Players Kill the Blackjack Game

In the game of blackjack, it is common myth that the player on third base — the last player to act before the dealer — holds more cards than they actually do. According to this myth, if this player makes a bad move, it will always negatively impact the other player’s outcomes, “killing” the game.

“This is a very common issue with blackjack players,” Anthony F. Lucas, a professor of casino management at UNLV and former gaming industry operations analyst, told

Having given his inexperienced friend the lousy blackjack advice to ‘always double down on 11,’ Vince Vaughan (second from left) tries to console Jon Favreau (center) after his inevitable loss in the 1996 movie ‘Swingers.’ (Image: Youtube)

According to Lucas, even the ignoramus who is betting out of turn, splitting pairs of 10s, and asking the dealer for advice won’t affect your performance — unless you let him distract you.

“Over the long-term, the benefits and consequences of bad plays to other players cancel each other out,” Lucas said. “Sometimes, they will cost the whole table. But other times, they will save the table. There is no long-term effect to misplayed hands on another player’s expected outcome.”

Turning the Tables

So, while the common reaction is to leave a blackjack table if an inexperienced player has just helped the dealer beat everyone else — and perhaps to utter some colorful words to that player on the way out — leaving will not increase anyone’s odds of winning next time.

“If one were to track the help/hurt outcomes of such decisions, which I have, you would see that the hands are all independent,” Lucas said, explaining that basic blackjack strategy only considers the value of the player’s original two-card hand and the dealer’s up card.

“That alone should signal the independence of the hands,” Lucas said.

You Lose Some, You Lose Some

The issue is psychological, Lucas explained, part of a flawed human thought process called confirmation bias. Unfortunately, our brains like to interpret new evidence only as a confirmation of our existing beliefs and theories.

“Subscribers to this blackjack myth see only the consequences associated with the unfavorable outcome,” Lucas said. “They will notice whenever bad plays cost them, but they will process any benefits they receive from bad plays as dumb luck, with some sort of warning label attached — that is, ‘We dodged a bullet on this hand, but please don’t do that again.’”

Nevertheless, because of the persistence of this myth, regular players usually advise rookies to steer clear of third base until they master basic strategy.

Look for “Vegas Myths Busted” every Friday on Click here to read previously busted Vegas myths. 

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