Blackjack Odds

Learn blackjack odds, probabilities, expected value, and your likelihood of winning at blackjack.

True odds in blackjack are very dependent on factors such as the number of decks used as well as the game variant played.

Blackjack is a highly popular casino game mainly because it is considered that in this game, the odds are largely in the favor of the players. Now, understanding the concept of blackjack odds and probabilities is crucial for devising a profitable blackjack strategy.

In any casino game, the concept of odds and probabilities is extremely important because it helps the players decide the gameplay and devise the strategies accordingly. The same holds true for blackjack and blackjack odds are something players must calculate in order to increase their chances of winning.

Blackjack Odds Explained

To determine blackjack odds, calculating probability is important and that is done by dividing the number of winning outcomes by the number of all the possible outcomes.

Let's consider finding out the probability of drawing any given card out of a deck that has been freshly reshuffled. With the deck containing 52 cards, the probability of drawing each one is the same as the rest. Accordingly, the probability of drawing a King of Spades is 1 in 51 i.e. 1/52 = 0.0192 or 1.92%.

It has to be remembered in this respect that while odds and probabilities are correlated, these are not the same. 'Odds for' stand for the ratio of winning to losing outcomes whereas 'odds against' denotes the ratio of losing to winning results.

Accordingly, the odds of drawing any of the four Kings from a single deck are 4:48 whereas the odds against pulling out a King are 48:4. In a fair game of blackjack, the true odds are paid out, which implies that the mathematical probability of winning coincides with the payout of the winning wager.

There were the prominent mathematicians John Scarne and Julian Braun who first observed the odds and probabilities of blackjack. They figured out that certain moves in the game led to an entirely different direction and that the odds could be determined to a large extent by following particular patterns.

Determining the Blackjack EV

Expected Value, also referred to as EV, is a concept in not just blackjack but most casino games and also sports betting. EV is best described as the "value right now" of something, which helps in making a particular decision.

For instance, a player places a bet of $1000 on the blackjack table and he gets two cards making a total of 20 with the dealer holding a 6 as his upcard. Of course, the player is in a good situation and he decides to stand on 20. So, what would be the EV of his hand right now? It would certainly be less than $1000 because the player is not guaranteed to win but how less or how much?

Now, there are three possibilities in this:

  1. the dealer could draw a 21 making the player lose,
  2. the dealer could draw out to a 20 and the player gets a push or a stand-off, and
  3. the dealer could get a 19 and the player wins.

With strategic mathematical calculations, it can be said that when a dealer starts with a 6, he gets a 21, a 20, a 19, or the remaining 9.7%, 10.2%, 80.1% of the time respectively. Considering the player's bet of $1000 and arriving at a net result, the player expectedly wins $704 every time he gets a 20 against the dealer's 6. EV here is +70.4%.

The importance of calculating the EV in this manner helps blackjack players in taking the right playing decision with any hand and in any situation. For example, when the dealer has a 3 and the player holds 12, hitting has an EV of -23.3% while standing has an EV of -25.2%. While the risk of losing is high with both the decisions, players can reduce the amount of how much they lose in the process. Most blackjack experts rely on the concept of EV to improve their odds in the game.

Blackjack EV and House Edge

The house edge and EV in blackjack are related concepts. The house edge is basically the expected value in relation to the bet amount. So, if the EV in a $1,000 bet is $95, then the house edge is 5%. EV, in this case, is the amount of money the player will win or lose over a considerable number of trials.

The house edge in blackjack depends on the game being played, the rule variations in place, and also, the quality of the player's decisions. If the player is able to make the right move each time with the highest possible EV, the house edge falls between 0.5% and 1%.

How the House Rules Affect Blackjack EV?

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The house rules play an important role in determining the expected value as well as the house edge in blackjack. The more decks in the game, the higher is the house edge. Again, if the dealer hits a soft 17 instead of standing, the house edge increases. The following are some of the situations and the way they affect the house edge to what extent:

  • +1.3% house edge when the blackjack pays out 6:5 instead of 3:2.
  • +0.08% house edge when there is no option to surrender
  • +0.61% house edge when blackjack is played with 8 decks instead of 1
  • +0.21% house edge when the dealer hits a soft 17 instead of standing
  • +0.14% house edge when the player is not allowed to double after splitting
  • +0.18% house edge when the player is only allowed to double with a total of 10 or 11
  • +0.07% house edge when the player is not allowed to re-split the aces
  • +0.18% house edge when the player is not allowed to hit split aces

Alongside these house rules, the composition of the deck also affects the house edge. With the removal of every single card, the house edge goes up and down a bit. Following are some of the examples:

  • Removal of card 2 leads to -0.40% house edge
  • Removal of card 5 lead to -0.67% house edge
  • Removal of card 9 leads to +0.15% house edge
  • Removal of card 10 increases the house edge by +0.51%
  • Removal of Ace results in a +0.59% house edge

These percentages are based on single-deck games. When you are playing with multiple decks, the removal of each card will automatically be diluted by the number of decks in the game.

Improving Your Blackjack Odds of Winning

Blackjack players can strategically improve their odds of winning and decrease the house edge thereby. The best and safest way of doing this is by following the basic blackjack strategy. Certain playing actions can help players bring down the house edge to a significant extent.

Card counting is also a massive way of increasing your likelihood of winning a game. However, the player must be the adequate system for their playing style.

Doubling down on more than two cards reduces the house edge by about 0.2%. This is an option that blackjack players can take in casinos that allow. Similarly, drawing to split the aces decreases the house edge by about 0.14%. Most casinos allow players to form two hands if the first cards are aces so, this option should be taken by players following the basic blackjack strategy.

Late surrendering is another playing action that can help players significantly improve their odds of winning. By surrendering late, players lose half of their bet after the dealer has checked their face-down card. Late surrender decreases the house edge by almost about 0.8%.

Odds of getting blackjack with a single deck
Odds of getting a blackjack with a single deck.

Odds In Blackjack: FAQ

Here are some of the common questions about blackjack odds answered in brief.

What are blackjack odds?

Blackjack odds are represented in percentages and help in determining the player's probability of winning or going bust in a particular situation in the game. Higher odds mean a lower house edge and better chances of winning for the player.

What is the probability of getting a blackjack hand?

There is a 2.4% chance or probability of getting a blackjack hand. The probability of getting a blackjack is 1 in 20.8 hands.

What is the expected value of a blackjack hand?

If it is assumed that the blackjack game is playing 1.5 times the initial wager but costing the player 1 times the initial wager and $1000 as the bet amount, the expected value of a blackjack hand can be calculated by .51500 + .5-1000 = $250.

Can the rules affect my blackjack RTP or EV?

Yes, house rules do affect the blackjack RTP or expected value. For instance, when blackjack pays 2:1, there is a +2.27% increase in the house edge or when players are allowed to split to only 3 hands, there is a -0.01% decrease in the house edge.

How can I increase my blackjack odds of winnings?

Players can increase their odds of winning in blackjack by following the basic blackjack strategy. The basic blackjack strategy guides players into taking the optimum playing decision in all the probable situations.

This sums up everything about blackjack odds and probabilities and how they affect factors like the EV and house edge in a game of blackjack.