The game of blackjack has been a global sensation for centuries. Its inclusion in online casinos only boosted its popularity and it has since become one of the top most-played Live Casino games. The game’s objective is to form a hand with a value as close to 21 without surpassing it while beating the dealer.
“The house always wins” is a proverb that is grounded in truth — all casino games are designed so that the house always nets a profit, regardless of the successes of its patrons. In other words, every game — be it poker, blackjack or your favourite online slot — has an inbuilt mechanism that swings the odds in the house’s favour.
Despite the apparent disadvantages, players with a solid understanding of the house edge, standard deviation and probability are better equipped to make responsible gambling decisions and, in some cases, drastically reduce the house advantage! But precisely what is the house edge in blackjack, and how does it work? Read on to find out all about the house edge in blackjack!
HOW DOES BLACKJACK HOUSE EDGE WORK?
To understand the blackjack house edge let’s imagine the following example. Suppose you are playing blackjack with a €10 bet. The dealer goes on to hand you your first two cards, a 10-8, while the dealer’s up card is an 8. You stand on your 18, but the dealer also has a queen, totalling 18. This is known as a ‘push’ because both are tied, and you neither win nor lose when that happens.
Let’s imagine again that you kept the same full bet, but this time you are dealt a 9-7 as your first two cards. You then draw a six, giving you a total of 22; in this case, the dealer also busts with 22. Unlike the previous ‘push’, this time both bust with more than 21, but you get to lose your bet alone – this is called ‘double-bust’, which helps create the house edge in blackjack.
In any blackjack table, the player has to draw first, and if they bust, the player loses automatically, regardless of whether the dealer subsequently busts in the same blackjack hand. This is the casino’s advantage in a blackjack game.
A way to help understand the house edge in blackjack is through the Return-to-Player (RTP). While the house edge tells us how much the casino will make over time, the Return-to-Player is how much money will go to the player.
Choosing a game with the highest possible RTP will make you more money in the long run. For example, if the house edge is 0.5 %, the Return-to-Player will be 99.5%. This means that if you bet €100, you will win back €99.50 over a certain amount of time.
DECK NUMBER AND THE HOUSE EDGE
Up to eight decks are used to play blackjack. All decks are shuffled together and placed in a device called a “shoe”, or a continuous shuffling machine, holding multiple decks of playing cards. Sometimes blackjack is played with only one deck, known as single-deck blackjack.
Whether you play a six-deck game or a single-deck game, the probability of winning remains the same. However, it is essential to note that your odds of getting a blackjack increase with fewer decks on a table, while more decks in play can drastically boost the house edge.
The blackjack house edge for a standard game of blackjack, according to deck size, is as follows:
- One deck: 0.16%
- Two decks: 0.46%
- Four decks: 0.60%
- Six decks: 0.64%
- Eight decks: 0.66%
One reason the number of decks impacts the house advantage is the number of hands played before a reshuffle. When playing with fewer decks, the cards must be reshuffled after one to seven hands, depending on the number of players at the table.
However, blackjack games with multiple decks, such as four or eight-deck games, work differently. The house can generate over 20 hands before the dealer reshuffles.
Since the casino has the edge over every single hand, the more hands players go through during rounds, the more the casino will benefit. Every wrong move plays into the casino’s hands!
WHAT BLACKJACK STRATEGY TO ADOPT TO REDUCE THE HOUSE EDGE?
The basic blackjack strategy is arguably the easiest to pick up as you play. It is often recommended for beginners as it is a mathematically calculated set of decisions that may help you make the best possible decision in any situation and possibly win at blackjack.
With this blackjack basic strategy, blackjack players can potentially slice the house edge in half and bring it down to as low as 0.20%. For this reason, this system is considered the best blackjack strategy to adopt, even for seasoned players.
As you know, the game’s rules can influence the house edge and, ultimately, your odds. Take a look at a few rules found in some blackjack games:
- Dealer standing on soft 17.
- Hitting split aces.
- Early/Late surrender.
- Side bets (21+3 and Perfect Pairs)
Early Surrender is rare among many casinos as it proves very advantageous for the player. This rule allows you to opt-out of the hand before the dealer checks for blackjack. There are a few exceptions to this blackjack strategy as your playing decisions depend on the number of decks being used as well as the rules of the blackjack table; however, when playing against a dealer’s 10 or ace, surrendering can significantly reduce the house edge.
The Late Surrender rule allows you to forfeit half your wager only after the dealer checks for blackjack. In this case, surrendering will not be available if the dealer has blackjack. A Late Surrender also reduces the house edge, but less than an Early Surrender; thus, you are more likely to see this option when playing at casinos.
With that said, the following is a list of key basic strategy plays that can be used in all blackjack games played with more than two decks:
- Always double down on a hard 11 — Doubling down on a hard 11 yields positive results, on average, against a dealer’s upcard of lower values, with one exception. If you play a multi-deck blackjack where the dealer stands on a soft 17, you are better off hitting against a dealer’s ace rather than doubling down. That said, doubling down on a hard 11 (or 10) is a relatively safer play, as it is impossible to bust on this hand.
- Always split aces and eights — Regardless of the dealer’s upcard, it is always best to split a pair of aces or eights. In the case of two eights, your chances of winning are greater when splitting rather than hitting a hard 16, which is considered a weak hand. The ace card in blackjack has a value of either one or 11 so having two hands at 11 is far more advantageous than a soft 12. It is so favourable to the player that casinos often impose additional restrictions on splitting aces, such as allowing them to hit only once and prohibiting resplitting aces a second time.
- Never split a pair of fives or 10s — A split hand of two fives has too low of a value to be successful, so it is always best to play two fives in one hand. The same applies to a pair of fours; splitting fours increases the risk of ending up with two weak hands. Choosing to split a pair of 10s can be successful, but much more challenging to improve than a strong start of 20.
- Always hit a hard 12 against a dealer’s two or three upcard — In the long run, you will always lose money against a dealer’s two or three upcard, but if you choose to hit rather than stand, you will lose less money over time — which is why it is the more optimal choice.
- Always hit an A-7 when the dealer’s upcard is nine, 10 or ace — Holding a soft 18 puts you as the underdog whether you hit or stand, but hitting gives you a better chance of winning since the ace can count as 11 or one. In the case of a single-deck game, you are better off standing when the dealer’s upcard is an ace.
- Always double down on 10 when the dealer’s upcard is nine or less — If the dealer must hit a soft 17: Double down on a hard 11 against the dealer’s ace, double down on a soft 19 against a dealer’s six and double down on a soft 18 against the dealer’s two.
- Always double down A-2 through A-7 against the dealer’s five or six.
- Always stand with a pair of nines against a dealer’s seven — On average, splitting against a dealer’s seven is not favourable to the player, but splitting and doubling down (if allowed) on two through six, eight or nine may be.
- Always surrender a hard 16 against a dealer’s nine, 10 or ace, and a hard 15 against a dealer’s 10 — A hard 15 and 16 are two of the worst hands of blackjack, especially when the dealer shows a strong upcard. Minimise your losses by surrendering.
- Always double down on eight against a dealer’s five or six in a single-deck game.
- If the game allows doubling down after a pair split, split a pair of twos or threes against a dealer’s two or three; hit if not.
- Never make an insurance bet — It is not wise to take insurance bets with this strategy, as taking an insurance bet (even-money bet) means betting on the dealer hitting blackjack, which can increase the house edge! Even if you have blackjack, you will only win your original bet.
These basic blackjack strategy actions are not universal. They will have to be adjusted based on the rules of the table which ultimately influence the blackjack house edge. However, the basic strategy is proven to be the most effective over the long run since it is mathematically calculated and based on probability, so it is considered the best blackjack strategy to adopt.
BLACKJACK STRATEGY CHARTS
A basic blackjack strategy outline shows you the ideal play dependent on your hand and the dealer’s upcard. But before you can begin to use this handy tool, you should be prepared to understand it properly. Fortunately, strategy charts are very straightforward once you know the actions you can take and their abbreviations: H (hit), S (stand), DD (double down), and SP (split).
With the help of a basic strategy chart, you can memorise when to split, double down, hit or stand. This basic strategy is influenced by several factors, including rules on the dealer standing and hitting, the number of decks used, whether surrendering is available, and whether you can double down after splitting pairs, so the exact basic strategy may vary.
Furthermore, basic blackjack strategy charts rely on whether the basic strategy is a total dependent or composition dependent basic strategy. Total dependent means the basic strategy decisions take into account the total sum of your hand and the dealer’s. Composition dependent, meanwhile, takes into account not just the total sum but other factors too, such as: whether you have a soft or hard hand, any side bets and their rule variations, plus the cards held by the dealer, the other players, and what’s left in the shoe.
The perfect basic strategy player will know when to use which. In both cases, strategy charts are available to find online and detail the correct basic strategy move accordingly. Better yet, there’s no rule against them, so don’t hesitate to use one when playing online blackjack games or take them to land-based tables on the casino floor to be sure you choose the correct play for you.
That said, there’s no such thing as a perfect player. No matter how it’s played, blackjack has always been a game of chance and always will be; strategies can boost your potential and reduce the house edge by some measure, but they cannot guarantee a perfect win when you play blackjack.
CASINO GAMES WITH THE HIGHEST HOUSE EDGE
While players are expected to lose over time, there are two critical things that the house edge tells:
- How much a game will pay out, on average, over its lifespan.
- Which games offer the best returns, over time, on bets placed.
On average, most games with a high house edge will pay out less than those with a lower house edge. New players assume that most casino games like roulette, blackjack and baccarat are only for the pros. They couldn’t be more wrong!
Table games like video poker games (Jacks or Better) have a low house edge, where perfect strategy can reduce the advantage even further. However, the most important thing is learning the game before you wager any real cash. Nothing is better for a casino than a player who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
No matter which casino game you choose, don’t forget that the house edge is a product of the game — not the house. While some casinos may have game rules and payout variations, information about the house edge will always be available. Do your research, play responsibly, have fun and good luck!
Without further ado, let’s look at which gambling game you should watch if you want to play with a low house edge:
If you’re a blackjack connoisseur who makes the correct decision every time, you can reduce the house edge of this card game to 0.5% — quite an impressive feat, right? Well, that percentage is only achievable if you employ a basic strategy that dictates when you should hit, stand, double down, split, and so on, on a table with rules favouring the player. In contrast, new players will be up against a higher blackjack house edge — around 2% — because their gameplay decisions won’t be spotless most of the time.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, American roulette has one of the highest house edges out there at 5.26%, owing to its double-zero roulette wheel. On the other hand, European roulette only features one zero, which sees the house edge plummet to around 2.70%. This is precisely why new players are always recommended to play European roulette before dabbling in the American counterpart.
The reputation that craps has some of the best odds in table games isn’t unfounded. However, this isn’t to say that some even-money bets aren’t available in this popular table game. Bets like Pass Line/Come and Don’t Pass/Don’t Come pay 1:1, which offer a house edge at a low 1.41% and 1.36%, respectively.
If you’re looking for a specific house edge for poker games, you should know that it depends on which variant you’re interested in playing. Caribbean Stud Poker has one of the highest house edges in poker games, standing at 3.70%. Pai Gow Poker’s house edge is around 2.84% (depending on table rules and can usually be lowered through strategy), while Evolution’s Texas Hold ’em Bonus Poker’s house edge stands at around 2.04% on the Ante bet. Since poker heavily relies on skill as well as luck, veterans of this card game will see a lower house edge than new players.
We simply had to save the best for last! Baccarat’s house edge stands at just 1.06% for those betting on the Banker and 1.24% for those who do so on the Player. Betting on a Tie substantially elevates the house edge since the odds of it happening are slim. You should check out baccarat if you’re looking for the lowest house edge.
HOUSE EDGE OF DIFFERENT VARIATIONS OF THE BLACKJACK CASINO GAMES
The blackjack house edge will change with different blackjack tables each time. Some will reduce the house edge, while in others, the house edge increases. Different variants will include specific rules that can impact the use of basic strategy.
Here are a few different variants with a blackjack house edge that can advantage players:
- Classic Blackjack — 0.50%
- Atlantic City Blackjack — 0.35%
- European Blackjack — 0.39%
- Double Exposure Blackjack — 0.69%
- Blackjack Switch — 0.17%
- Spanish 21 — 0.38%
The change in rules between each blackjack variation can impact your long-term returns. Keep in mind that despite some variations having a lower blackjack house edge than the standard blackjack table, other games might conversely have a higher advantage due to the variations in game rules. Let’s look at a simplified example of this in play:
Atlantic City Blackjack is usually played with eight decks and has a lower house edge, coming in at 0.35%. This version of blackjack used to allow an Early Surrender, in which players could discard a hand before the dealer consulted their hole card. However, this reduced the house edge so much that most casinos changed the rule to a Late Surrender.
Super Fun 21, another popular blackjack variant, has a house edge of more than 1%. Assuming a player uses a basic strategy for both variants, this particular blackjack edition works against the player. It’s vital to do your research on any video blackjack games to identify rule variations and know the house edge of your chosen game before settling on a table.
In addition, most blackjack games feature some type of side bet to spice things up. Side bets are additional bets that you can make along with your original bet. Such bets are put in place by game providers for added entertainment value.
Be careful of side bets, however! They may look attractive at the outset, but they can quickly pose a problem for the player. While they do affect the house edge, it is generally in favour of the casino. Avoid side bets, as you stand to lose more money in the long run.
METHODS TO DECREASE HOUSE EDGE
The best way to play against a low house edge is by sticking to basic strategy and studying the charts to make the right moves at the right times. In particular, you should learn when to split, double down and surrender. All these moves can reduce the house edge even further.
Fortunately, the house is not the only one with a few tricks up their sleeve. Players have certain advantages and options that are not available to any dealers, no matter which table they play at. For instance, the casino pays you a 3:2 payout on a winning hand, whereas the casino pays the dealer a 1:1 payout only for winning blackjack.
Another option you have is being able to double down your bet in favourable situations (like being dealt a two-card 11). Being able to split pairs to have more winning chances, you can stand between 12-16, where a dealer must always hit on a 16 total or less.
Look for casinos that implement rules that are favourable to the player. For example, the surrender rule can reduce the casino’s edge by 0.6%, while allowing players to double down on more than two cards will reduce the house edge by 0.2%.
As a general rule of thumb, forfeit any 15 or 17 against the dealer’s ace unless the dealer hits soft 17; additionally, give up on any 16 against the dealer’s ace or 10-point card. Remember that tables where the dealer stands on soft 17 favour the player; the more a dealer stands, the less potential they have to hit blackjack.
If the dealer hits on a soft 17, the house edge will creep up 0.2%, increasing the chances the dealer hits blackjack. Doubling down after on split aces or other pairs reduces the house edge by 0.13%, which is why players will mostly encounter NDAS house rules.
Other ways a casino will improve its edge include:
- Implementing a 6:5 payout regime.
- Allowing profitable side bets.
- Include blackjack games with multiple decks.
While the odds of winning a single game are higher in these games, the house edge is often a lot higher, resulting in lower winnings over time. Here are a few tips to improve your odds when playing:
- Follow the basic strategy.
- Choose tables with favourable house rules.
- Find tables that offer a high RTP.
- Keep blackjack strategy charts handy.
- Use a betting system — positive betting systems, negative betting systems or flat betting systems.
- Practise playing blackjack online in the demo mode.
- Test out other strategies like the composition dependent strategy, for example.
You can use a strategy chart when sitting at the table, and although you may feel uncomfortable doing so, it’s worth it until you have the strategy memorised. When playing live blackjack at an online casino, it’s always worth having a strategy guide to hand. And we cannot stress enough to ensure that the strategy is appropriate for your particular game.
Put these tips to good use when you choose to play blackjack at an online casino. Bear in mind that, in any particular situation, winning is never a guarantee, so you may sometimes lose a few hands. Be sure to manage your funds well to prevent irresponsible gambling.
YOU CAN STILL WIN DESPITE THE HOUSE EDGE
The house always wins, but not always by the same measure or to the same degree.
For instance, if you have a hand between 12 and 17, it can feel like only luck will determine whether you win or go bust. You may be tempted to randomly decide whether to hit, stand, split, or double down.
However, you can analyse the dealer’s upcard before making your call using odds and basic strategy. The dealer will have to hit and take another card if it is a low number between two and six. They will either go bust or end up with a lower number than you. This can influence your decision.
Blackjack is a game of both luck and skill. Understanding the odds and the probability of possible events will increase your skills and help you make the most profitable decisions. Yes, you may lose. But if you play these odds over time, you are more likely to boost your chances.
When playing online, be it blackjack or any other game, it is crucial 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.
Preparation is the way to overcome the house edge and afford yourself the best opportunity of becoming a winner. To have any hope of winning at the blackjack tables, you will need to know the game’s essential rules, the odds associated with blackjack, and fundamental blackjack strategies.
✅ CAN I PLAY BLACKJACK AND LIVE BLACKJACK AT LV BET?
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✅ WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR BLACKJACK GAMES WITH A HOUSE EDGE?
Your odds of winning a game of blackjack are at around 42%. However, this decreases with the number of decks in play. Classic blackjack played with one freshly-shuffled deck will give you the best odds. Atlantic City Blackjack, European Blackjack and Blackjack Switch are further examples of games with a smaller blackjack house edge.
✅ DOES THE BASIC STRATEGY REDUCE THE HOUSE EDGE?
When playing a blackjack game with the basic strategy, you follow a specific set of actions to make the most mathematically advantageous decisions. These actions govern when to stand, hit, split, double down, surrender and take insurance, and will help you make the optimal calls every time.
Using the basic strategy, you can reduce the house edge from 2% to 0.5%. Experts who play perfectly may bring this closer to zero.
Furthermore, avoiding taking insurance as it will further increase the house edge. With that said, it is up to you to evaluate the size of your bankroll and play as you see fit.
✅ CAN DEALERS LOWER THE EDGE OF THE HOUSE?
Unlike the player’s freedom, the dealer is boxed within specific table rules, which means that the player might be able to reduce the house edge.
✅ CAN COUNTING CARDS GIVE ME AN EDGE OVER THE HOUSE?
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 counting cards 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 exceptionally slim.