Blackjack Games to Avoid

Blackjack Games to Avoid

Even small adjustments in the House Rules used for Blackjack can have huge effects on the odds of the game. Some changes reduce the house edge, while others simply add to its advantage. The best of game organizers attempt to balance game rules so that any shift in favor of the house, such as having the dealer hit on soft 17 (-0.22%), is offset by something that aids the player, like payouts of 2-to-1 for a total of 21 on hands containing five cards or more (+0.24%).

Obviously, players will want to avoid sitting down at any table where the house edge is so great or other factors are so detrimental to fair play that there is little possibility of winning. Blackjack games that should be avoided fall into two broad categories: those with bad rules and those with bad practices.

Taking Unfair Advantage

When numerous changes are made to games, casinos sometimes give them new and exotic sounding names, such as Double Exposure Blackjack, Blackjack Switch, and European Blackjack. Some of these are so unlike the original game that jurisdictions such as the State of Nevada have prohibited them from being called “Blackjack” at all. Some examples are Super Fun 21, Spanish 21, and others.

Different game names can be one indication that the odds have been tilted in the casino’s favor, but only a close look at the House Rules will reveal how far afield the changes have gone. For example, the worst possible rule is one that allows the dealer to win on ties. It adds to the house margin a whopping 1.87%~8.86%, depending on whether it applies only to pushes of 17 or to all pushes, 17~21.

In much the same way, any Blackjack variation that allows the dealer to push on a bust of 22 points is taking 6.91% right out of the player’s bankroll. And the most insidious of rule changes is paying anything less that 3-to-2 for a natural blackjack. This is often seen in “new” single-deck games. It is like putting a hand in the player’s pocket. Payouts of 7-to-5 give the house an extra 0.45% edge and 6-to-5 takes 1.39% from the player. At 1-to-1, the house gains 2.27%—which is sheer robbery.

Other rule modifications to steer clear of include not allowing a player to split Aces, not permitting double down on counts other than ten or eleven, and not allowing doubling after a split. And any version of the game that introduces non-Blackjack elements, such as wild cards, side bets, or jokers, should probably be given a miss.

Taking the Fun Out of Play

Most people who play Blackjack want to win money—after all, that’s what gambling is all about. But they also want to be entertained and have some fun while they are doing so. Good casinos recognize this and do their best to make play enjoyable, extending comps to customers from free drinks to meal vouchers. But there are also those that are purely interested in making a profit, not just ignoring player’s requests for comps but seeming to go out of their way to make players feel like losers whether they are winning or not.

Some pit bosses will raise table minimums to drive low-betting players away and make room for bigger spenders. Others will change dealers frequently, order extra shuffling, or put new cards into play just to chase system players off. Some dealers discourage card counters by slow-playing or fast-playing their games. Others press players to hurry their bets and decisions. These should most definitely be passed by.

None of these practices help players win or enjoy the game. Whether it is avaricious casino policy, bad management, or just poor customer service, such tables are best avoided. Even if the House Rules are favorable, it is difficult to concentrate, have a good time, and feel good about winning when the environment is adversarial. Savvy players will simply take their play elsewhere. There is no need to stay where one is not wanted.