Are All Blackjack Games a Good Bet?
By Jerry "Stickman"
Blackjack has been around casinos for decades. It is available in virtually every casino that allows table games. It is by far the most popular table game. Blackjack games, in general, have among the lowest house edge of all casino table games.
Scores of books have been written about how to play this game. Virtually every casino gift shop sells blackjack strategy cards that help the novice and intermediate player keep the house edge to a minimum.
Does this mean that casual players can buy a strategy card for a couple of dollars and sit down at the first open blackjack table they see and play virtually even with the house?
In the golden days of blackjack in the 60s and 70s, this was true. Back then almost all games were single deck with very player favorable rules such as blackjack paying 3 to 2, dealer standing on a soft 17, doubling after slitting allowed, and late surrender allowed. These conditions made the house edge a mere one-eighth of one percent. Stated another way, in the long run for every $100 played you would expect to lose only 12 cents!
Sadly, those days are gone forever. Todays casino corporate culture is always looking for ways to increase the take. In blackjack, this is done by changing the playing rules of the game.
In order for a player to get the maximum playing time and enjoyment from blackjack, care must be taken to choose the right game in which to invest his or her hard earned gambling funds.
So lets take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly as it relates to blackjack games.
Lets start with an "average" game offered throughout the country. It has six decks, pays 3-to-2 for a blackjack, the dealer hits a soft 17 (H17), double down after pair splitting is not allowed (NODAS), double down on any two cards, re-split up to four hands except aces which can only be split once and each split hand receives only one card, and no late surrender (where you can "surrender" half your bet if you dont like your hand and the dealer does not have blackjack).
This average game is a far cry from the old days with a .78 percent house edge six and one-half times what it once was.
There are many better games being offered, however if you know what to look for.
Fewer decks mean lower house edge so look for fewer decks. Of course this assumes that all other factors are equal. Using all the same rules as above but changing to a single-deck game lowers the edge by two thirds to .26 percent. The edge on two-deck game with the same rules is almost 25 percent lower at .59 percent.
The next most powerful influence is whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17. Standing is much better for the player. In the six-deck game previously mentioned, standing on a soft 17 reduces the house edge by almost 30 percent to .56 percent.
Next, look for games that allow you to double down after pair splitting. By allowing double down after pair splitting (DAS) the edge in the first example drops to .64 from .78 an 18 percent improvement.
Finally look for late surrender being allowed. While this is almost exclusively reserved for six or more decks, it can sometimes be found with fewer decks. In the original example, simply allowing late surrender reduces the house edge to .69 percent for a 12 percent reduction.
Any game the does not allow double down after pair splitting and has the dealer hitting a soft 17 is generally a bad game. This is particularly true if the game is six or more decks. Some of the edge can be reduced by going to 1- or 2-deck games and a 1-deck game with these rules has a reasonable edge.
With any 6- or 8-deck games also look for late surrender being offered to reduce the house edge a little.
In the last few years a really terrible rule change has started creeping into blackjack games. In the beginning it only affected single deck games, but recently it is spreading to 2-deck, 4-deck and even 6- and 8-deck games. This rule change increases the house edge up to eight times.
What is this insidious rule? It is now almost commonplace to see blackjack games proclaiming "Blackjack Pays 6 to 5" as if it is a good thing.
It is not!
Lets look at the effect of this change on some of the above examples.
- 1-deck, H17, NODAS with blackjack paying 3 to 2 has a .26 percent edge. Change the blackjack payout to 6-to-5 and the edge soars to 1.66 percent!
- The original "bad" 6-deck game jumps to 2.14 percent from .78
All other games have similar ugly results.
All blackjack games are not created equal.
To enjoy your gambling sessions by making your gambling stake last longer; look for the best blackjack game possible. Look for fewer decks. Look for games where the dealer stands on a soft 17. Look for games where the player can double down after pair splitting. Look for late surrender.
All of the above help the player and therefore the bankroll. Try to heed the advice.
But if you do nothing else avoid at all costs the games where blackjacks are paid at 6-to-5. Your gambling funds will quickly disappear in these games. If people stop playing these games, maybe they will change back to better games for the player. You have the choice chose the right game.
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps and Golden Touch Blackjack. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-886-738-3423. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com