Most blackjack players are busy trying to ensure that they use correct strategy and don't violate any etiquette rules. And these same players may not even think to look for the dealer making an error.
But real live blackjack dealers can and will make mistakes, especially considering that they deal hundreds of hands during a given shift. And catching these gaffes is important because it often gives you a better chance to win.
So what mistakes create a better condition for you to win?
You can find out as we discuss some of the most-important dealer mistakes to watch for as well as how to find shaky dealers.
Sometimes the dealer will expose one of their hole cards or even one from the deck. An example of the latter might be the dealer lifting the deck too high when offering a cut and exposing the bottom card. This isn't always advantageous, but it can be if you're a skilled player who estimates where this card will be in the deck after a cut.
What is without a doubt advantageous is if the dealer accidentally shows their hole card. When this happens, you and all the other players are still allowed to play out your hand like normal, even though it gives you over a 10% edge.
The scenarios where you can gain an advantage with an exposed dealer hole card are seemingly endless.
For example, basic strategy would never suggest that you hit a hard 18. But if you see that the dealer has a 19 or 20 in front of them, you'd no doubt hit even with the high likelihood of busting.
Another instance would be you having 15 and the dealer's two cards being 2 and 9 (hole card). Normally you'd stand in this situation because the dealer would only have a 2 showing. But since you now see that their total is 11, you'd hit based on basic blackjack strategy.
Dealers are human and will misdeal the cards occasionally, such as only giving you one card or even skipping over you entirely. Should you feel hurt or left out if this happens?
Absolutely not, especially if they miss one of your cards. In this event, the pit boss will be called over, and you'll have the choice on whether to stay in the hand and receive your extra card or just drop out entirely.
Essentially, this becomes like a free surrender opportunity because you can compare your lone card to the dealer's upcard and decide whether or not it's good enough to continue.
For instance, if you have a 5 and the dealer's upcard is 10, you should definitely drop out of the hand. On the other hand, assuming you have a 9 and the dealer's upcard is 2, it's to your advantage to ask for the next card.
If you haven't received any cards, which is rarer than only receiving one, and the dealer's upcard is out, you can again decide what course of action to take. In the case of the dealer having a 10 or ace upcard, for example, you'd want to fold.
One more dealer mistake that you should look for is any time that they give you or another player an extra card after the signal to stand has been made. This is probably one of the more-common dealer gaffes and it can help any player at the table.
After the dealer makes this mistake, they are then required to offer a hit card to each player in turn. This is a big benefit to anybody who can use the card to complete a better hand.
Even if nobody needs the card, it can still be useful because the dealer is supposed to take this as their hit card if they need one.
One example of when this could work out in everybody's favor is if the dealer has a 5 upcard and the extra card is a 10. Unless their hole card is 6 or lower, they have a high potential to bust out when using the 10 as a hit card.
Now that we've covered some of the advantages you can gain from dealer mistakes, the next step is finding casinos/dealers with a high likelihood of offering you these situations.
The first thing to look for is newer casinos or ones that have expanded in recent months. These venues are likely to have new dealers working, which means they have a higher chance of making mistakes.
You might also find some inexperienced dealers during a casino's busiest times like the weekend or holidays. Finally, any land-based casino that pays low salaries will probably attract less-skilled dealers on average.
You can even stand off to the side at casinos and look for dealers who might give you an advantage. For example, those who look disinterested or tired could make a mistake or two.
Other potential traits include dealers who chat with players a lot, seem shaky with their deals, ones who are looking around the casino quite often, and/or anybody who's dealing at a fast speed.
It helps even more if you play at a certain casino regularly and have actually witnessed certain dealers make mistakes in the past.
Considering that blackjack usually features a low house edge ranging between 0.5% and 2.0%, you can actually beat the casino by gaining small edges here and there.
Card counting would be the obvious route to go because it's guaranteed to give skilled counters an advantage. However, if you don't want to put this kind of time in and/or worry about being thrown out, then looking for dealer mistakes is the next-best thing.
So always watch for the potential mistakes that we've discussed above and also keep an eye out for dealers who don't look fully into their job at the moment.