Blackjack is the most widely played casino game in the world as the mix of skill and luck coupled with its simplicity appeals to gamblers. Whilst the aim of the game is the same regardless of the rules in place, that is you have to make a total of twenty-one without going over, or busting as it is called, or have the dealer bust, there are hundreds of variations that can alter the house’s edge over the player.
Whilst there is no such thing as a perfect Blackjack strategy, there is a basic strategy that can be followed that would reduce the house’s advantage to less than 1%, which is another reason the game is so popular. To help negate this, casinos offer a number of variations that increase their edge and therefore their long term profits.
The first variation is the number of decks used at one time. It is extremely rare to find a casino that offer single deck games as this only give the house a 0.17% advantage, and if you do find a single deck game running you will generally find a number of additional rules that help the house. Adding three more decks increases the edge to 0.6%, whilst the most common eight deck game give the house a 0.66% advantage over the average player.
A common rule in place in most casinos is that the player will only receive one extra card when they split a pair of aces. This is because allowing the player to hit on split aces reduces the house edge by around 0.13% and when the house only has around a 1% advantage to start with this amount is very significant. However, most casinos allow a player to “double-down” on a split pair, other than aces, even though this gives a 0.12% advantage to the player.
The largest variation comes from the payout when a player does hit blackjack. This will, on average, occur in 4.8% of hands so deviating from the standard 3:2 payout massively sways the odds in the casino’s favour. A 6:5 payout reduces the player’s edge by 1.4% whilst some casino who only payout 1:1 do so to give themselves a huge 2.3% edge.
It is worth looking at the rules of the Blackjack table you are about to play at and then research the edge the house has over you. The best table would be one that plays four decks, makes the dealer stand on soft-17, offers late surrender, allows you to double after a split, allows you to double any two cards and pays out 3:2 on Blackjack. If you find one that does this, please let me know!