The Blackjack House Advantage Explained

by
Joe A.
12th August, 2020

Blackjack is known for having the most favourable house advantage of all casino games. Understanding how the house edge works and exactly what techniques and strategies can help you to reduce it even further – thus increasing the chances of winning – is essential to blackjack success. Find the answers you are looking for in this article and receive information and tips that will help you win money in online blackjack.

What is a house edge in blackjack?

In blackjack, the house edge or advantage is a statistical advantage of the casino over the player. A dealer of the casino is present at every blackjack table. Because the dealer is allowed to react last in a hand, the dealer has an edge over the player by seeing their cards, knowing their actions and potential mistakes.

When you play different blackjack variants, the house edge may differ. Understanding the specific blackjack rules can change the house edge and help you choose the right table. On this page, we have discussed the most common rule variations that you will come across at online casinos and which are the most important when it comes to reducing the house edge.

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What is the house advantage percentage?

The house edge in blackjack is around 0.5%. This percentage is based on the game of players who effectively use the basic blackjack strategy but depends on how well the strategy is executed. For the more experienced blackjack players using advanced strategies, the house edge can even drop below 0%. A good example of this is using card counting as a strategy. If a player plays without strategy or executes the basic strategy incorrectly, the house edge may increase to 2% or more.

casino house edge advantage blackjack

How can you reduce the house edge?

Reducing the house edge in blackjack can be achieved by using a blackjack strategy. Whether it’s a basic strategy or something more advanced, knowing what decisions to make at the right time will help you be more successful in blackjack game. As we mentioned above, an advanced strategy could include card counting which can bring the house edge below 0%, although this is impossible to master when playing online.

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Blackjack odds

Understanding the blackjack odds and probabilities are very important to be able to reduce the house edge. Although following a simple blackjack table can be effective, knowing why you are actually making these decisions as outlined in a table is never a wrong idea. Whether it is the dealer who must stand at a soft 17 or other decisions which have to be made at a certain outcome, you can check the table below what the chances are you will go over 21 and play bust if asking another card. You can also check how the chances of the dealer are better compared to the players.

Player odds

Hand ValueProbability
11 or lower0%
1231%
1339%
1456%
1558%
1662%
1769%
1877%
1985%
2092%
21100%


Dealer odds

Dealer cardProbability (if dealer must stand at 17)
Ace17%
235%
337%
440%
542%
642%
726%
824%
923%
1023%


Blackjack variants (game rules)

With standard blackjack, there are many simple and complicated rules that affect the house edge. We’ve listed them below with an explanation – which will help you understand how these rules work the next time you decide to play blackjack and wage real money.

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Take card or pass with soft 17

This is probably one of the most common rules for blackjack games. A soft 17 is a hand that includes an ace that counts as 11 (and can thus count as both 7 or 17). Seventeen however counts as the default value that the dealer should normally stand and not take an extra card. The house advantage is higher when the dealer has to take a card with a soft 17 instead of passing.

The house edge difference is approximately 0.2% higher if the dealer does take a card in these situations. Many casinos have the rule that the dealer can take another card so make sure that other rules are beneficial when you play these blackjack variants.

Re-split rules

The rules for splitting can be complicated, although normally they are not. Generally, the more times that splitting is allowed, the better it is for the player. It is often the case that when you split your hand, you can just take one other card and can no longer double. If the player is allowed to double the bet after splitting hands, the house edge will be slightly lower.

Being able to split aces is more important to players because some blackjack variants allow you to split an ace and 10, eventually getting a higher payout for a blackjack.

The standard rule is that aces can be split once and only 1 extra card can be drawn, but if the player can split the aces for both hands, the house edge is reduced by 0.13%. If aces can be split again, the house edge will again drop, this time by 0.3%.

The more limited you are in splitting cards, the higher the house edge will be. If the rules determine that you can split up to 4 hands, not double on split hands, or that aces can be split or cannot be split, you could make a rough estimate of how much the house edge changes based on these rule changes.

The default is that you have a house edge of 0.79% if the dealer takes one card with soft 17 and uses 8 decks, so most blackjack variants will be below this percentage.

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Payouts for “natural blackjack”

The standard payout for winning a hand with a blackjack is 3 to 2. And although this doesn’t seem much better than an ‘even money’ payout, you’re a thief of your own wallet if you don’t know this. Some blackjack tables pay 6 to 5 for a winning natural blackjack, and sometimes they only pay out even money.

This is one of the most important rules to keep in mind as the house edge increases by 1.4% if you get a 6 to 5 payout instead of 3 to 2, and if you get even money the house edge increases another time – by as much as 2.3%. It is a rule that has a lot of influence on your odds.

The number of decks in use

Today, online casinos often use 8 decks for each game of blackjack. The fewer decks used, the better the chances are for the player. Normally, if more decks are used, the casino will come up with other advantageous rules. Single Deck Blackjack is played with one deck but has a number of rules that are disadvantageous. If a casino offers blackjack with fewer decks and would not have changed too many other rules, the house edge would be significantly lower than other casinos. Make sure to always play these types of blackjack games for the best odds.

No cards that are closed

While most blackjack variants have the rule that the dealer has one card face up (and thus visible for the player), many blackjack variants do not have a face down card. This changes the basic strategy because the player has no information on how likely he is to win from the dealer and when it is the best time to double or split. Its effect is 0.11% more house edge.

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Card Charlie rule

Many blackjack variants allow players to automatically win if they have a certain number of cards without going over 21. This causes the basic strategy to change because the decisions for taking a card partly depend on the number of cards in your hand at that time.

The addition of this blackjack rule is always advantageous to the player, but it is often thought of as a less favourable rule when looking at some other details. Some blackjack games have a payout of 3 to 2 with a 5-card Charlie. A 5-card Charlie means that you have 5 cards in your hands, and a total of 21 or less.

Other usual rules that are different

There is no limit on the rules that can be changed in blackjack, but the previous rules we discussed are the most common. Blackjack has many more rules which can make the player odds better or worse. It is important to know which rules help you win more money in online blackjack.

Conclusion

This guide should help you determine which standard blackjack games offer the best long-term odds when compared to the common set of rules. The perfect strategy is difficult to know because every blackjack variant requires a different strategy.

Whenever specific blackjack rules are changed, it is important to see what effect it has on the house edge. Playing in an online casino makes it easier because you can look for tables with good game rules and the lowest house edge in blackjack.

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