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Choosing a Smart Blackjack Strategy: Which Rule Variations Affect the House Edge the Most

Jun 10, 2014

bjstrategy20140610Smart Strategy

Find out which rules are most favorable to you and which ones you have to avoid when playing blackjack at a casino.

There is a lot to learn about casino games and strategies to beat the dealer, but winning at blackjack is all about lowering the house edge as much as possible. To put it simply, the house edge represents the difference between the true odds and the ones offered by the casino when you win.

Following the easiest tips will already offer you a pretty good chance of winning. If you make sure not to bust, of course. A smart blackjack strategy will surely help you bring the house edge down to a minimum, but casinos, as well as every online blackjack sites, tend to have different variations of rules and these can affect the house edge considerably.

The strategy you need to apply depends on these variations, so before you figure out which blackjack strategy to learn, you should decide which game offers you the best advantage.

The basics

When you’re learning to calculate the house edge, you have to start with the very basics and the number of decks used in the game will be your starting point. Playing single-deck has no advantage, but playing double deck makes the house advantage jump to 0.35%, using six decks gets the figure up to 0.58% and eight decks brings it to 0.61%. So the first step is to find out how many decks the casino uses.

This is important not just because your strategy varies according to the number of decks used, but also because these percentages will be used as a base figure for calculating the house edge. These figures work for any set of rules where you can also double on any two cards and where the dealer is forced to stand on all 17s, soft or hard.

From this point on, all you have to do is to add or subtract the amount associated with different rule variations, as listed in the chart below:

blackjackrulevariation

Simply put, the rules with a minus symbol will be subtracted from the initial figure and will result in a lower house edge, giving you the advantage. The rules with a plus symbol are added to the initial house edge and give the dealer an advantage.

Favorable blackjack rules

There are dozens of casinos on the Las Vegas Strip alone and you’ll quite probably find an overwhelming number of blackjack rule variations out there. To make it easier for you, we’ve made a list of the most common ones.

Any player wants the answer to one question, really, and that is: “Which rule variations are favorable for me?” And the simple answer to that is: double after splitting, resplitting of Aces, and late surrender.

The “double after splitting” option allows you to double down after you split a pair and this move cuts the house edge by 0.13 percent. Being able to re-split Aces is also desirable in blackjack, but most casinos only allow it one time. However, if you do find one that allows it, you can easily cut the house edge by 0.08.

Late surrenders are also good to have in blackjack; this option lets you give up just half of your initial bet instead of losing all of it, and it can be used to your benefit when you know you have a bad hand. With this option, the house edge is lowered by 0.07%.

Unfavorable blackjack rules

On the other hand, the following rules are the most unfavorable: dealer can hit on soft 17, doubling only allowed on 10s and 11s and 6 to5 payouts.

At most casinos, dealers are required to stand on all 17s, but some rule variations allow him to hit on a soft 17. This is not at all favorable to you, the player, because in these cases he can count his Ace as 1 and get a better point value than you. This rule increases house edge by 0.22%.

Also keep an eye out for rules regarding doubling down. Certain casinos let you double down if your first two cards total 10 or 11, instead of allowing it on any two cards. This restriction will increase house edge by 0.25%.

Don’t play blackjack at gambling venues where the house pays 6 to 5, instead of 3 to 2. This rule variation offers the casino a big advantage, increasing the house edge by 1.4%, so make sure you avoid it.

So these are the main rule variations you have to look out for. Now that you know which options are the most favorable, you can start looking for a place that offers the best game. Keeping this in mind, as well as mastering your blackjack strategy will help you get the most out of this game.


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