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As every Blackjack player knows, the possibility of winning is a function of the House Edge. The greater the built-in margin is for the casino, the less likely the players are to succeed. Conversely, the lower the margin, the more chance there is of success. Betting systems and card counting can be used to decrease the house edge, but the easiest way to make money at Blackjack is to find games or tables that have House Rules that favor the player.
Using a simple Blackjack odds calculator, it is easy to see what the key variables are in determining a lower margin. First and foremost is the number of decks used. If all other aspects of the game remain unchanged, playing with a single deck gives the greatest advantage to the player. It is not at all difficult to know which of the 52 cards have been played, and which ones remain to be dealt.
Under the very best circumstances for the player, an eight-deck game gives the House an advantage of 0.105%. Reducing the game to six decks causes the margin to drop to 0.084% and four decks will bring it down to 0.043%. When only two decks are used, the House Edge disappears and the odds actually favor the player by +0.086%. And the very best option, a single deck game, can actually put the odds in the player’s favor at +0.373%.
These figures assume optimal conditions, of course, which means playing perfectly with a reshuffle after every hand and all of the other House Rules in the players’ favor. That includes the dealer standing on soft 17. If the dealer must hit on soft 17, the players’ advantage is cut almost in half to just +0.197%.
Another critical factor is the ability to double down after splitting. When this practice is disallowed, the player may still enjoy an advantage, but it is cut by over third to +0.221%. Similarly, a restriction on doubling down, such as doubling only on counts of 9 through 11 instead of on any hand, will cut the margin by more than a third to just +0.217%.
Casinos, of course, realize that a single-deck game can provide players with the opportunity to beat them, so one of their main countermeasures is to change the amount paid out for natural blackjacks, i.e. 21 points on the first two cards dealt. Rather than offer the standard 3-to-2 odds, they switch to a 6-to-5 payout. That single rule change alone will flip the advantage back to the House, and not just a little, but to a whopping margin of 1.022%.
Clearly, if the tradeoff for playing the single-deck version is an unfair payout for blackjacks, players are better off with a double-deck game or even an eight-deck game that pays 3-to-2.
Among the other factors that positively impact the margin for the player are the ability to resplit Aces, hit on split Aces and surrender late. Take away any of these options and the House Edge goes up. One other rule to be mindful of is the number of times a hand can be resplit—the more, the better.
Variations of basic Blackjack that introduce side bets are, by and large, strictly for suckers. Anytime the House gives something away, like the right to swap cards in Blackjack Switch or see to the dealer’s down card in Double Exposure, other rules will be modified in the House’s favor. At least nine times out of ten, the tradeoff is not worth it.
So to recap the best Blackjack variations for the player, always be sure the payoff for blackjacks is 3-to-2, play with one deck or two as long as there is no huge tradeoff, make sure the dealer stands of soft 17, and look for liberal rules on splitting ad doubling down. With strong play and a favorable margin, winning money at Blackjack can be easy.