Blackjack House Edge

The blackjack house edge can be as low as 0.5% depending on the number of decks, the rules of the game, and the strategy of the player.

House edge is an important factor for every casino and in blackjack too, the house edge is crucial. It determines the chances of a player winning against the casino.

There are several aspects to the blackjack house edge as there are ways in which players can raise or lower it and that's what we'll break down in this article.

Blackjack House Edge Basics

The house edge can be defined as the profit the casino expects to make on each iteration of a game, expressed as a percentage. The standard blackjack house edge is considered to be around 2%.

This implies that the average player will lose $2 for every $100 they bet. Now, the house edge is the expected win rate of the casino but it doesn't mean that in the short term variance can't allow a player to win, or even have the casino win even more.

The blackjack house edge varies depending on the number of decks used and the variation of the game being played.

What does the Blackjack House Edge mean for Casinos?

For a casino, blackjack house edge means the statistical advantage that it has whenever a player plays a hand of blackjack. There is always a theoretical advantage that the casino holds over the players on every bet and this is what allows the casinos to offer the game. The house edge is calculated by taking into account the statistics gathered over a considerable number of repeated games. The house edge, simply put, is the casino's way of making money in return for the facilities and entertainment it provides for the players.

The concept of "hold percentage" is important in this regard. Just as the house edge represents the built-in advantage that the casino has, the hold percentage considers the amount of money a given table generates for the house. The hold percentage is usually higher than the house edge. This is because the hold percentage represents a realistic number and considers that even experienced blackjack players are bound to make some mistakes. In comparison, house edge assumes that all players will stick to the basic strategy and that the game will be flawless.

Player's Statistical Advantage over the House

The blackjack house edge is around 2%, and this is the advantage the casino has over the average player. However, in certain situations, players can reduce the statistical advantage over the house or the dealer. There are a range of strategic decisions that a player can take depending on the cards he has been dealt and the cards in the dealer's hand.

Players have the option to double down, split, or re-split, thereby turning the odds of certain hands in their favor and bringing down the house edge to a lower percentage. Using both the basic blackjack strategy as well as advanced strategies such as card counting enables the players to bring the house edge percentage close to 0, or even give themselves an advantage.

Understanding the blackjack player's odds and the blackjack house odds is crucial. Players can use a chart to identify the odds better and decide accordingly. As an example, the bust probability of a player is 0% when they have an 11 or lower. This probability increases up to 58% and 62% with hand values of 15 and 16 respectively. Similarly, the dealer's probability to stand on 17 is 17% with an Ace in his hand and this rises to 42% when he has a 5 or 6 in his hand.

Why Do Players Lose in Blackjack?

A person hands over a card for a coin

The most obvious reason is the harsh fact that the blackjack house edge exists. Casinos have an edge in every game they offer otherwise they wouldn't offer it in the first place. When players bust, the dealer is not required to play his hand which may not sound significant but if the dealer was forced to play and risk busting themselves, their edge would be significantly decreased.

Another important reason why players lose in blackjack is that most of them do not play the game correctly. Some players, especially tourists, do not even understand the rules properly and inevitably end up making sub-optimal decisions. This increases the house edge even further.

It takes a lot of studying and practice for a player to overcome the blackjack house edge and most people simply don't have the time or motivation to do it. For the majority of people playing blackjack is a fun activity and aren't trying to profit from it in the long run.

Effect of Deck Number on House Edge

The number of decks of cards used in a particular blackjack game has a significant effect on the blackjack house edge. The reason behind this has to do with the number of hands played before the cards are reshuffled. Assuming that the house has an advantage on each hand, the casino will benefit the more hands players go through per hour. In blackjack games dealt out of a shoe containing 4 to 8 decks, there are about 20 hands played before the dealer reshuffles.

However, reshuffling causes the game to pause for a while and this slows down the casino's edge. That is why; some casinos use continuous shuffling machines, which spare the dealer the time required for a reshuffle.

As for the number of deck's direct effect on the house edge, the rule of thumb is that the fewer the decks used in a game of blackjack, the lower the blackjack house edge. However, some players still argue that in single-deck or double-deck games, players have more opportunities to split, re-split, double down, etc. and in doing so, improve their odds of winning.

Blackjack House Edge Misconceptions

No matter how much players love the game of blackjack there is no denying that there are several misconceptions around the blackjack house edge. Here is a glance at a few of these:

Your Edge Increases after a Losing Streak

It is often said that the player's edge against the blackjack house edge automatically increases after a losing streak. This is just a misconception and there is no logical reason behind this idea. In fact, the longer the player plays, the higher their chances of losing. Every hand is separate from the last and has to be played individually.

Every Player Enjoys the 0.5% Blackjack House Edge

It is assumed that the blackjack house edge is comparatively lower than other games and can be as low as 0.5%. However, this is only possible for players who play basic blackjack strategy perfectly. Most often, players play the game without any strategy and in such situations, there is no limit to how high the house edge percentage can get.

Some players just try to follow the dealer's strategy while some others play with the idea in mind that the dealer always has a 10 as their hole card. All such ideas and misconceptions increase the house edge for those particular players.

Dealers Can Lower Your House Edge

There is another misconception that the dealers can lower the house edge. The fact is that dealers have nothing to do with the house edge. Like there are playing rules for players, the dealers must also follow a set of rules, one of which is to keep hitting until they get a 17. They can neither raise nor lower the house edge.

Despite what it may feel like, they cannot target any player due to the rules they're forced to follow. The only impact a dealer can have is on the speed of play as some people are naturally faster at dealing than others.

You Need to Learn Card Counting to Increase Your Edge

Card counting is the technique of keeping a running count and true count of the cards, thereby getting an idea of what cards have been dealt and which are remaining in the deck. Card counting, if done properly, will reduce the casino's edge.

However, it's not the only thing you can do to improve your edge. For most players, learning and mastering basic strategy will have an impact on the blackjack house edge and it is much easier to learn than card counting.

Common misconceptions about blackjack house edge
Common misconceptions surrounding blackjack house edge

Methods to Increase Your Edge

There are certain methods in which players can try to beat the edge of the casino, such as the following:

Proper Hard or 'Ace-less' Hands Play

If players know how to play the hard hands, which are more difficult to play than hands with Aces, they can significantly increase their edge in the game. Following the hard hand strategies is very important. Players should always hit when they have 8 or fewer. With a 9, they should double if the dealer has a 3-6 or else, hit. Similarly, with a hard 10 or 11, they should double if the dealer has 2-9, or else hit. With 17-21, the player must stand while with 13-16, he should stand if the dealer has 2-6, or else hit.

Split and Double Down Specific Hands

The advantages that the players get in the form of the option to split and double down should be utilized strategically. For instance, players should double down on soft hands of 13 (A-2) and 18 (A-7) and hard hands of 9, 10, and 11 to maximize their EV when the dealer shows certain up-cards.

When a player splits they are dealt two more cards, one for each new hand and the player must double their bet. The key rules are to always split pairs, 8, and aces, and never split 10 and 5. These strategies help the player improve their odds.

Quit While Ahead

In spite of all the strategies being applied, blackjack has something to do with luck as well. So, the best way to avoid losses in some games is to quit when you're winning or only losing a small amount. You should never chase your losses and if you ever feel the urge to do so your best option is to walk away.

House Edge In Blackjack: FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions about the blackjack house edge.

What is the blackjack house edge?

House Edge can basically be defined as the ratio of the average loss to the initial bet. It is the percentage that the casino will win over in the long run, in the particular game. The standard blackjack house edge is considered to be around 2%.

Will multiple players affect the house edge?

No, the presence of multiple players does not affect the house edge. Players have the same edge regardless of how many of them are playing at the table.

What are the odds of drawing a blackjack?

The odds of drawing a blackjack in a particular game depend on the number of decks used. For a 4-deck game, the odds are about 4.757%.

Can playing longer increase the house edge?

As long as the player plays the same way throughout the session, the house edge will remain the same. The only way time can increase the house edge is if the player makes sub-optimal decisions due to fatigue.

Will card counting increase your edge?

If a player can count cards they can have an advantage over the casino as they will have an idea of the cards being dealt and the cards remaining in the deck. However, this doesn't mean they are guaranteed to win every time they play.

Do you need to learn card counting to get an edge over the house?

In order to completely eliminate the house edge, a player must learn how to count cards as well as the strategy adjustments that accompany it. Only learning basic strategy is not enough to get an edge over the house.

What blackjack strategies can increase your edge?

Players should double down and split when the cards are favorable for such actions. For instance, doubling on an 11 or splitting two aces or 8s is a must. These are the options that players get and therefore, should utilize to their advantage.

So, this sums up everything about what blackjack house edge is and how players can improve their edge. Understanding the concept is crucial to playing blackjack in the most optimal way.