Guide to the Odds in Blackjack Game

How to beat the odds in Blackjack

Why punters love the game of Blackjack is because of its best odds. But that doesn’t mean that you can easily win the game. The key to maintaining the lowest possible house edge on blackjack is to use basic strategy every time you play. This means you maximize your expectation and minimize the casino’s expectation. Basic strategy is the mathematically perfect play in every possible blackjack situation.

The dealer’s upcard is limited to 10 possibilities. Your hand is limited to 20 different totals. Since many hands will be played with the same strategy as many others, memorizing basic strategy is far easier than you’d think. There are many online gambling sites and books that offer blackjack basic strategy charts which can help visual learners memorize the correct strategy. The conditions and house rules can affect a handful of strategy decisions, but even then, it’s a tiny percentage of the potential situations you might face. Learning one basic strategy is better than learning no basic strategy at all.

Blackjack games and rules

Blackjack games and rules

The other key to getting the best odds in blackjack is to make intelligent choices about which blackjack games you’ll play. The biggest variation that you need to watch out for is the payout on a natural 21. At most casinos, a natural 21 pays out at 3 to 2 odds, but you’ll often find games that pay out at 6 to 5 odds instead.

The difference in that single rules variation is tremendous. In fact, it gives the casino an additional edge of 1.39%. In most blackjack games, this doubles or even triples the house’s edge. The easiest way to avoid that additional “tax” on your game is to just say no to any blackjack game that doesn’t pay out at least 3 to 2 for a natural.

Other variations in the rules can actually improve the player’s odds. Like, a single deck blackjack game versus a game with two decks or more gives 0.48% back to the player. That’s not nearly as significant as the 1.39%, so don’t fall for the trap of playing a single deck game with a 6 to 5 payout on a natural blackjack.

Most other rules variations have smaller effects on the house edge, but they can add up quickly when combined. Like, if the dealer hits on soft 17 (instead of standing), the house gains 0.22%. But if the player is also limited to only being able to double down on 10 or 11, the house gains another 0.18%, for a total gain to the house of 0.4%.

How card counting effects Blackjack odds?

Blackjack odds counting the cards

Suppose you found a way to get another 1-2% edge on the casino by raising your bets when you have better odds and lowering your bets when you have worse odds. Like if you had a deck with nothing but aces and tens in it, your chances of getting a natural (and the corresponding 3 to 2 payout) would be much greater, so it would make sense to bet more in that situation.

On the other hand, if all the aces in the deck have already been dealt, it’s impossible to get a natural, which means you should lower your bet. It turns out that each card that’s dealt out of a blackjack show affects the odds by a certain amount. By tracking the ratio of high cards versus low cards that have already been dealt, a card counter can raise or lower her bets in order to take advantage of favorable situations. By doing so, the counter can actually gain an edge over the casino. This is mostly the result of putting more money into action when the odds are good, but some card counters also make strategy adjustments based on their count, too.

Finally the most important things to remember are that you should always play using basic strategy, in order to minimize the house’s edge, and also to avoid playing 6:5 blackjack games.