Blackjack is a card game typically played online or at land casinos. This casino game can appear deceptively simplistic to new players, but those experienced in it know the many intricacies and patterns of blackjack.
Professional blackjack players can use the basic strategy of the game to their advantage and utilise some complex mathematics to gain increased odds of winning blackjack against the house.
In this explainer, we’ll go over the basics of the odds and blackjack basic strategy that you can incorporate into your game to try and tip the advantage away from the house and towards your own hand. When you’re done reading this article, you should be well on your way to understanding what it takes to master the game and just how a disadvantaged player can turn the tables and chip away at the house edge.
We will examine the inherent advantages the house has over the player, how the player can turn those advantages around and get an increased benefit for themselves, and look at some examples of blackjack odds and strategies that make up the core of the game.
Read on to answer the question: what are the odds of winning blackjack?
WHAT ARE BLACKJACK ODDS AND PROBABILITIES?
While the average Joe will think odds and probabilities are the same things, they could not be more wrong, as the two concepts are totally different.
Probability refers to how likely it is that you will win a game. So, if we were to calculate the probability of picking one card from a total of five, the probability would be 0.2, or 20%.
Odds in blackjack, on the other hand, refer to a representation of chance. Odds are calculated by the probability of losing versus the probability of winning. So with the previous example, the odds are 4:1, where four is the probability of losing and one is the probability of winning.
While they are not usually calculated in this way, as they do not express the chance of winning, they express the payout for each bet one makes. Normally, probability is used to show chance, while odds are used to show how much money you will receive.
THE BASIC CONCEPTS OF ODDS AND PROBABILITY IN BLACKJACK GAMES
PLAYER ODDS TABLE
Understanding probability and its relationship to blackjack odds is vital to boost your chances of winning. Here is a table which illustrates the most basic example of probability assessment, provided you choose to hit after being dealt your first two cards. Note that a perfect hand of 21 is called a natural blackjack.
Hand Value Probability 11 or lower 0% 12 31% 13 39% 14 56% 15 58% 16 62% 17 69% 18 77% 19 85% 20 92% 21 100%
DEALER ODDS TABLE
The house always wins is a truism that every player has to remember before sitting down to play any blackjack game. The dealer has a greater chance of winning a blackjack game than a player does, mostly because dealers play second.
This helps them to make sound decisions when playing; however, the dealer’s odds change depending on the blackjack house rules. Some tables feature the dealer standing on soft 17, which means the dealer is less likely to win.
Here is a table indicating the probability of the dealer busting with each card.
Dealer’s card Probability (S17) Ace 17% 2 35% 3 37% 4 40% 5 42% 6 42% 7 26% 8 24% 9 23% 10 23%
WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF WINNING AT BLACKJACK?
Becoming a blackjack master requires not only understanding the mathematical implications of blackjack odds for multiple scenarios, but also understanding what steps to take once you know those odds.
There’s not always one correct basic strategy, and even the most prepared players take losses. Still, understanding the odds and using a strategy card will give you an increased advantage over the house that will make blackjack a lot more fun and a lot more lucrative for the savvy player.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF ODDS THAT BLACKJACK OFFERS?
When looking at table games and their casino odds as a whole, the odds on blackjack are among the most favourable of casino games due to its low house edge. It’s essential to keep in mind, though, that different variants each come with a different house edge. Blackjack players who are savvy know which table is the best table for their blackjack winning odds.
Let’s look at the most popular of blackjack variants and the house edge in each blackjack variation.
- American Blackjack — 0.5%
- European Blackjack — 0.38%
- Atlantic City Blackjack — 0.39%
- Vegas Strip Blackjack — 0.48-0.72%
HOW ARE BLACKJACK ODDS DETERMINED?
There are two ways in which the odds of blackjack are commonly understood — positive and negative expected win rates. Both of these terms help describe the odds and expected value of wins under certain circumstances, keeping in mind the house edge.
Another term that you may come across on your blackjack journey is ‘true odds’. True odds are simply the odds that a wager pays out at the same rate as suggested by its probability percentage.
CAN I INCREASE MY CHANCES OF BLACKJACK?
Indeed, increasing the chances of success in the average game of blackjack is all about the player becoming acquainted with, and understanding the mathematical complexities of the blackjack odds of winning. Here are a few examples on how a player can boost their chances:
- Knowing the odds can make all the difference
Regardless of what cards you have been dealt, knowing the odds of winning in blackjack is incredibly important for making your next move and increasing your chances of winning. Experienced professionals should always be aware of their odds at winning blackjack compared to the odds of a dealer blackjack win.
Of course, this is going to require a good deal of memorisation and an understanding of the basic strategy. Basic strategy players do not necessarily play perfectly, however this method can help players out when dealing with a few hands that might be tricky to strategise with.
- Avoid busting
As should be obvious to most players from the get-go, especially if they’ve spent some time with the game, the higher the expected value of your hand, the higher your chances of busting are if you choose to hit another card. The same goes for the dealer.
If the dealer has 16, they are going to have to hit and the chances of them busting are more significant than the chances of them winning. This is an ideal situation for the player but it’s not always the case. If the player has 16, they are not required to hit.
The player will have to really think about whether or not they want to hit, stand, or possibly surrender in this situation because if they hit they have a very high chance of busting.
- Knowing if the dealer has a strong likelihood of busting
Let us consider that you have a low-value hand, say 13, and the dealer has an upcard of six. You may feel that it is a good idea to hit, as 13 is nowhere near to 21; but that might not always be the case. If the dealer has a hand value of six, that means that there is a strong likelihood that the dealer hits twice and, therefore, the likelihood that the dealer busts increases. If you let your hand of 13 stand in this situation then there’s a solid chance that you will win the game based on the dealer busting from potentially having to hit twice.
- Focus on the dealer’s hand as much as your own
Of course, in the above situation, if the dealer has an ace hole card, you’ve lost; but the odds of this happening are stacked against the dealer. For this reason, it is crucial to focus on the dealer’s hand as much as your own. Inexperienced players with a hand value of 13 may only pay attention to their own cards, see that they have a minimal chance of going bust if they hit and a strong chance of getting their hand value that much closer to 21. The odds of them going bust are far higher than the odds of the dealer having an ace in the hole.
- Knowing when to stand
In the event that the dealer has a hand value of eight, the house has a near 40% chance of busting out should the player have the patience and understanding to sit back and watch it happen. If the player isn’t aware of these blackjack odds and is only focused on their own hand, the player will bust out before the house and be forced to take a loss. So, if you have 13 and the house has eight, stand! This is just one example but, hopefully, it gives you at least a surface-level understanding of both the importance of understanding the odds. Blackjack requires players to pay attention to their own hand and odds in blackjack, as well as the dealer’s odds, in order for players to win any blackjack payout.
WHAT IS THE PROBABILITY OF GETTING BLACKJACK?
The complexities of blackjack become apparent when you try and develop specific winning strategies. Many players will simply take blackjack at face value as a game of chance, and let the outcome be the outcome.
Professional players, however, will always use the odds and mathematics to their advantage, in an effort to increase their chances of winning, and decrease the inherent house edge. Understanding the basic strategy of blackjack, and how to get a better advantage over the house, can help you to make the most of your game.
HOW IS PROBABILITY CALCULATED IN BLACKJACK?
Probability is calculated by potential outcomes, both winning and losing. If there is a 0.2 or 20% chance of getting one card out of five, then getting blackjack naturally, that is, an ace and a 10-value card, would be 2/52, or 0.038. However, this only takes one deck into account.
Online blackjack features the use of a Random Number Generator or RNG. The RNG ensures that the game is left to chance, and is the mechanism used in all online versions of casino games. The RNG also means you are dealt cards from a 52-card deck at all times. The probability, therefore, is constant, at 4.83%. However, blackjack can be played with up to eight decks.
Things start to become a little different when the number of decks in a game increases. The probability decreases when playing multi-deck blackjack; for instance, landing blackjack has a probability of 4.78% when the number of decks is two. A six-deck game, which tends to be more common in a casino than tables with fewer decks, will only slightly decrease the probability, at 4.75%.
THE HOUSE EDGE IN A BLACKJACK GAME
Any player who wishes to master blackjack must first understand the inherent advantage the house has over the player. If the house didn’t have the advantage, there would be no reason for them to hold the game. This is simply because there would be no profit in it for them and they would lose all their money. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t win.
To give yourself the best chance, you need to be prepared, play blackjack using perfect basic strategy and know when to stop playing.
HOW IS THE HOUSE EDGE CALCULATED?
In the beginning, casino owners didn’t know much about the math behind the game or didn’t care. What they did know was they were making a lot of money dealing blackjack. They were making so much money because of the simple fact that players had to act before the dealer, and if a player’s hand exceeded 21, player bets would automatically be lost regardless of what the dealer had in hand.
Soon enough, the casinos realised this was too much of an advantage against players. Fearing a loss of interest in the game, they implemented a few more favourable blackjack rules for players. A 3:2 payout on a ‘natural’ blackjack and the options to double down and hit split aces were introduced.
The house’s advantage comes from the fact that, on a blackjack table, the player is the one who is going to have the make the first decision in every scenario. That means that the player is the one who has to decide first whether they will hit and take another card or let their hand stand.
If the player chooses to hit, that means that the player stands a chance of busting out. Thus, the player is likely to lose the game before the house is even forced to make a single decision regarding their own hand.
In any case, to calculate the house edge, blackjack players must divide the negative expected value by the overall amount wagered on their bet.
HOW TO REDUCE THE BLACKJACK HOUSE EDGE?
Despite the house advantage, there are actually some ways in which the player can lower it. Rule variations such as split aces, and Surrender are only some of the ways that the player can both increase their chances and decrease the house edge. Aside from these, tables where the dealer stands on a soft 17 are also beneficial for the player’s odds, as well as tables with single-deck games on offer. Professional gamblers in land and online casinos often use these methods to get a slight advantage, and decrease the house edge.
Strategy charts also help reduce the house edge. A strategy card based on composition-dependent strategic playing, followed to a tee, can help reduce the house edge by 5.3%.
One thing to keep in mind, is to also avoid even-money bets. Even-money bets, such as the insurance side bet, are ultimately detrimental to your chances of winning, as their odds are not stacked in the your favour. An even-money bet is a bet that pays out 1:1. Optional side bets or insurance tend to have a higher house edge than the main bet, thus significantly increasing the odds of losing. At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide which odds are the best for you.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF A PLAYER IN BLACKJACK?
Ultimately,a player’s goal is to form a total of 21, or as close as possible to 21, before the dealer. Some players might think that the dealer holds too many advantages over the player to do this, but this is not actually the case. Take a look at a few advantages the player will have:
- The player has more options
While the player has to make decisions earlier than the dealer, the player is less restricted in the choices regarding a hand. No matter what the value of their hand is, the player gets to decide whether they want to hit or stand.
Comparatively, the house is obliged to hit until they reach a value of 17 continually. This means that the dealer is slightly more likely to go bust as they have less control over when they can stop hitting. So in this case, maximum patience and level-headedness on the player’s part is key. Still, there is always a risk that the player will stand and the house will get 21.
- The player can double down on their hand
The player has the unique option to double down, which means that they can double the amount they’ll win if they feel that they have the upper hand against the house with their cards. This opens up the potential for bigger wins if they play perfectly according to basic strategy and choose the right time to double down.
- The player has the opportunity to split pairs
The player has the unique ability over the house to split pairs. This means that the player can play two hands at once and potentially win on both. The dealer is not presented with this option.
- The player often has the option to surrender
Depending on house rules, players will often have the ability to surrender their hand and get back half of the money wagered on the original bet. While this means that players must sacrifice half of their stake, it also means that they aren’t going to be losing their entire stake.
- The player can use strategy charts
To figure out your best shot at potentially winning the game, basic blackjack strategy charts help you map out the blackjack probability according to what hand you’ve been dealt. Blackjack strategy can get quite complex, however a composition dependent basic strategy is the foundation of all blackjack strategy. Built on the fundamental blackjack probability found in the game, the basic strategy helps both newbie players and veterans in both land and online casinos.
By understanding the small and subtle advantages the player may have, we can begin to see how we may turn the tables and attempt to get the upper hand, or at least increase our odds.
CONCLUSION — IS BLACKJACK A GAME OF SKILL OR LUCK?
While understanding and mastering blackjack odds and strategies will give you an increased advantage, there is no way for players to reduce the inherent advantage of the house completely. Unless you are a mathematics savant who is able to learn the shady art of counting cards, even the most advanced players using composition dependent strategy will only partially remove the house advantage. Still, by understanding these blackjack odds and strategies you will be able to increase your own chances of winning streaks.
Just by understanding these basic concepts you will be well on your way to taking some odds back from the house. You still aren’t guaranteed a win and, in fact, the odds are still more often than not ever so slightly in the houses favour, but your blackjack odds can consistently be increased if you play your cards just right.
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✅ IS THE BLACKJACK CASINO GAME A FAIR GAME?
Yes, blackjack is a fair game, as far as casino standards go. Blackjack is one of the great classics of casino games and has been popular among casino players since the birth of the blackjack hall in the 18th century.
Blackjack is considered one of the more favourable games in a casino, due to the low house edge. As it is a game of chance, it is inherently fair, even with a house advantage present. There is no predicting which hands you or the dealer will be dealt, meaning the strategy is all based on what you have at that moment. That, coupled with certain rules which lower the already-low house edge, such as the dealer standing on S17 or using a single deck of cards, ensure that the game maintains fairness.
✅ WHAT ARE THE BLACKJACK ODDS OF WINNING?
Your odds of winning a game of blackjack are at around 42%. However, this decreases with the number of decks in play, as the blackjack house edge increases at an inversely proportional rate. Therefore, a single-deck game played with one freshly-shuffled deck gives the best odds. When using the basic strategy, it is possible to reduce the house edge to 0.5%, down from 2%. Of course, more skilled and savvy players can bring that percentage point even lower! Keep in mind, games with fewer decks such as single-deck games are rarer than games with a higher amount of decks.
✅ WHEN CAN I COUNT ON A BLACKJACK PAYOUT?
There is no way to guarantee, or count on a blackjack payout, as blackjack is a game of chance. The ways a player can win include:
- Beating the dealer’s hand.
- The dealer goes bust.
- Earning a natural blackjack.
Remember, blackjack payouts impact the house edge, and choosing the right blackjack game means selecting the right table where you can maximise your potential winnings. This in turn helps avoid wasting your time and money on poor returns and difficult odds.
✅ DO BLACKJACK DEALERS COUNT CARDS?
No. Las Vegas rules once dictated that a card counting strategy was not considered cheating, so many players became card counters to counteract the house edge. Card counting was banned at most casinos soon after, and you’ll rarely find a brick-and-mortar casino that will allow card counting.
Card counting is practically impossible when playing blackjack online, so there’s no point in learning a card counting system and becoming a card-counter. It is more efficient to use the basic strategy rather than opting to count cards, as even if you’re a capable mathematician, the likelihood of ever succeeding is slim.
✅ WHAT IS THE BLACKJACK HOUSE EDGE?
The house edge refers to the advantage the house has over the player over time, so naturally, a lower percentage is much more favourable to the player. This can easily tie into your strategy as you would be actively seeking out the best possible odds for your play.
When playing online, be it blackjack or any other game, it is vital to consider the house edge and the impact that different bets and strategies have on it. Blackjack is one of the games with the lowest house edge, of about 0.50%, but that is under the assumption that players utilise perfect strategy. In reality, most players are inexperienced enough to give the casino a 1% freebie, simply due to common mistakes and miscalculated decisions.