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BLACKJACK – know the odds, know the strategy, maximize your play!

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some time now. So when I read an article in the Las Vegas Sun titled “Blackjack with poorer payouts making headway in Vegas” I decided it was time to start writing.

Of course everyone knows, or at least they should anyways, that the house (Casino) always has the edge on every single slot machine and/or table game in the place. That’s because they’re there to make money, not give it, and the chances of you winning over the long term is statistically against you. Regardless, gambling is darn fun and sometimes you do walk out with a lot more than you walked in with and hence the catch. But with that said you should also know that the house edge is not always the same, in fact it varies widely depending on what you’re playing. Blackjack is known to be a Casino game with an overall lower house edge (typically less than 1%) than other games and therefore very popular because of it.

Number of Decks

But you should also know that not all blackjack table games are the same. For instance, a single desk game (where only one desk is used and reshuffled for each game) has a lower house edge (about 0.17%) than a multiple deck shoe. So with each additional deck the houses edge goes up. Most blackjack table’s today use 6 deck shoes (with a house edge of approx 0.64%) it’s a double win for the casino as it gets a better advantage and complicates card counting.

Note: Single deck games still can be found in Las Vegas.

Tip: The more decks used = A higher house advantage

Soft 17

Another thing to remember but more confusing, for me anyways, is whether or not the dealer must hit a soft 17. The term “soft 17” means a hand that totals 17 with an ace being counted as 11. You can identify which rule is in play by looking for “S17” or “H17” printed on the felt of the blackjack table. In the “S17” game the dealer stands on all 17’s. In the “H17” game the dealer hits on soft 17’s but stands on hard 17’s. The “S17” is less favorable for the player because it has about a 0.2% greater house advantage.

Note: The term “soft” in blackjack just means that an ace in the dealers hand is being counted as 11

Tip: The “S17” game is less favorable for the player as it has a 0.2% greater house advantage.

3-2 verses 6-5

Well I guess I should explain why this matters. Say you’re playing blackjack at $10 per hand and get a blackjack, under 3-2 rules you would win $15. With 6-5 rules you only get $12.00. This $3.00 may not seem like much at the moment but if you analyze it over the longer term it quickly turns into big money. 6-5 blackjack certainly ups the casino’s advantage (a whopping 1.39%) and considered by most a sucker bet. Check out this Las Vegas Sun article from 2003 titled “Taking a hit: New blackjack odds further tilt advantage toward the house”. 6-5 was a big deal in 2003 and hasn’t stopped spreading yet especially with the recent economic obstacles.

Tip: Be smart, stay away from 6-5 blackjack instead seek out and play 3-2.

So why do people play blackjack with such unfavorable odds? Well I guess for most its ignorance. Casinos really do count on amateur gamblers not knowing the difference. Often these games are near or apart of “pleasure pits” (areas where girls dance semi clothed) or other areas where entertainment is provided. Don’t forget about all those “free” drinks, they’re there by design you know. A big plus for many is that these games usually have lower minimums, which do attract gamblers who may be aware of the odds but are on a budget or just want to enjoy the game and entertainment regardless of odds.

Strategy

Unlike slots, casino war, or roulette, blackjack is not just a game of chance. Now you definitely want some luck on your side, but you should also know basic blackjack strategy if you want to increase your odds and not anger the other people playing around you. Check out “How to Play Blackjack” from The Wizard of Odds he does a good job explaining the rules and provides a great easy to understand strategy chart. There is also a link to a blackjack simulator game where you can practice. The simulator prompts you when you make a mistake and tells you the proper play. I highly recommend practicing, even if you are blackjack veteran, before playing for money.

Unfortunately as the strip “tightens up” serious gamblers may have to head off strip to find games with better odds. This is also true for video poker and slot machines for that matter, which I plan to discuss in future posts. But in the meantime, maximize your play by playing smart and remember a little knowledge goes along way.

Good luck with that Ace!!

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4 Responses

  1. Minor picky point – 6:5 only pays $12 on a BJ with a $10 bet, not $12.50.

  2. Thanks for finding that! I mad the correction.

  3. […] BLACKJACK – know the odds, know the strategy, maximize your play! […]

  4. […] suggest otherwise. From what I’ve read gaming is less than stellar with poor video poker and black jack odds and slots tighter than a hungry boa constrictor, never the less I am eager to see for […]

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