Gambling How Confidence Affects Winning at Blackjack

How Confidence Affects Winning at Blackjack


Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games at both land based and online casinos. Its simple rules and straightforward objectives make it easy for anyone to learn. The goal of the game is to possess a hand whose value is closer to 21 than the dealer’s without going over. Other players at the table are of no concern; your hand competes only against the dealer’s.

A dealer’s job is to deal the cards, take bets, and enforce the rules of the game. In some cases, dealers are also responsible for ringing up a player’s winning bets and collecting their tips. They are also in charge of calling a pit boss or other employees when necessary. Lastly, dealers often have to deal with rude or even aggressive players. Female dealers are frequently subjected to sexual advances, and in some cases, they must be escorted from the casino by security guards after their shifts have ended.

To help improve their Blackjack play, participants were given a sheet of paper with a set of “hints for blackjack” that contained strategies that would increase their chances of beating the dealer. They were informed that following these hints would not guarantee their success at the table, but they were encouraged to try anyway. The hints consisted of a number of actions that could be taken during the game, such as splitting Aces and 8’s to get rid of weak hands and taking advantage of opportunities to double (e.g., doubling against a dealer’s up card of 5).

Results indicated that unjustified confidence significantly predicted the psychological variables: those who were more confident reported higher outcome expectations for winning at blackjack and reported lower anxiety. The relationships between unjustified confidence and the behavioral measures were more ambiguous, with some evidence that more confident people searched for and considered additional information during Blackjack play, but this finding did not reach statistical significance. There was also some evidence that more confident people were less likely to avoid risk taking in Blackjack, but this finding did not reach statistical significance either.

During the course of the study, participants played over 60 rounds of Blackjack. This was about one-and-a-half standard deviations below the average number of rounds played by our previous research participants. This reduced the likelihood that individual differences would be confounded by random variations in play.

There were some surprising findings. For example, the underlying probability of having a better than average hand at Blackjack is actually quite low. Specifically, the probability of having a better than average hand is only about 10%. Considering that a Blackjack is the most commonly beaten casino hand, this finding is quite remarkable. A good explanation for this result is that the probability of having a better than average blackjack hand is influenced by the type of player, and thus the style of play. The more conservative players tend to hold tighter to the rules of the game, and in so doing they are less likely to take risks that might lead to a positive outcome.