How to Reduce the House Edge in Blackjack

Monday, 21st August 2017

As casino games go, blackjack has a small house edge. This is the percentage of each bet that the casino will take in the long run, which is expressed as a percentage. The exact percentage will depend on the specific rules for each variation – and is generally between 0.26% and 0.56%. This means for every $100 bet, the casino stands to make between 26 and 56 cents.

This article shows you how small mistakes by players can make a big difference to the house edge of the casino. After that you’ll find some tips for making sure you keep the casino advantage to a minimum, and some information on how comps and bonuses can help you.

Blackjack’s small house edge is built into the rules of the game. It assumes that the player is using a ‘perfect’ strategy, making the best possible moves at every point along the way. In reality, very few people play perfectly in each variation of this game.

Blackjack House Edge – How Much Do Mistakes Cost?

Mistakes in blackjack can be subtle – for example not doubling on a soft 15 against a 6, or they can be large, for example never doubling or only ever splitting aces.

In the short-term the player making smaller mistakes will be unlikely to feel the effects. Small mistakes can add 0.5% here and 1% there to the house edge, and these situations come up only every 10 or even 20 so hands. Depending on the total number of errors in different situations, the overall house edge might only increase by a few tenths of one percent.

Bigger mistakes, like standing on a 12 against a dealer 3, are cumulative much more dangerous. There are two reasons for this. First, the effect of giving away edge to the house is much bigger. This can be in the range of 2% for some errors. Second, these situations come up far more frequently. A complete novice can make mistakes on 30% of hands, which is simply handing money to the house.

Table and game selection is another common mistake which increases the edge for the casino. If there are two games with identical rules and number of decks, and one of them pays 3/2 for blackjack while the other pays 6/5, you could be giving up another 1.4% by playing in the 6/5 game. Once again, you can still go on winning streaks playing incorrectly in games with bad odds, however the house edge will show over time in faster losses.

How To Minimize The House Edge

There are 3 things you can do to keep the house edge to a minimum. First you can make sure you know the correct strategy for the game you are playing. Second you can take a bonus from your casino, and 3rd you can play somewhere that offer comps for the time you spend at the tables.

A quick note on betting systems, which many players believe can help redress the balance in their favor. This is not correct. The house edge will remain however you adjust your betting. Systems based on stake-doubling or more creative versions can help you ride out swings in the short-term. However over time the house edge is always there, the game has been designed so that it gives the casino their advantage however you choose to bet.

Perfect strategy will depend on the game rules and number of decks in play. You should start by making sure you have a solid understanding in Basic Blackjack Strategy. If possible you should find a strategy card for the specific game which shows you how to act on those marginal spots. Simply eliminating major mistakes from your game will ensure that you keep the house advantage as small as possible.

Online casinos offer bonuses for their players. These vary from sign-up bonuses to reloads and special one-off offers for playing certain games. With such a small house edge in online blackjack games, you’ll be able to almost wipe this out by smart use of bonuses. First, make sure your casino keeps you topped up with regular offers – if not then there are plenty of other places what will. Second, keep your casino bankroll in an electronic wallet like Skrill or Neteller instead of with the casinos. This will allow you to move it quickly to whichever casino is offering the most generous bonus offer at that time.

Finally, don’t forget comps! These come as rewards for the time you spend at the tables and can be swapped for bonuses or chips at many of the best online casinos. There is nothing more satisfying than playing the game with chips given away by the house – even if they do have a small edge at the tables.

How to Minimize the Casino House Edge Online?

Understanding how casino gambling works starts with an examination of probability, especially as it relates to the concept of the house edge. Related concepts include odds and probability, expectation, and payback percentages. Without understanding these concepts, it’s impossible to discern between a good bet, an average bet, and a bad bet.

Some people hate math. Those people probably shouldn’t gamble at all, but I promise to keep this guide to the house edge as mathematically simple as possible. Most of the calculations involve nothing more than a little bit of subtraction, addition, division, and multiplication, all of which you should have learned before going to high school.

Odds and Probability

Probability is the branch of mathematics that covers the likelihood of whether or not something will happen. It’s a type of math that’s used in almost all endeavors, but nowhere is it more important than in the business of casino gambling. The entire reason for the casino gambling is based on probability and odds.

To calculate the probability of something happening, you have to know what all the possible outcomes are. For example, if you’re flipping a coin, you know that there are only two possible outcomes—heads or tails. You’re also reasonably confident that you have just as much of a chance of getting on outcome as the other. You probably even know, instinctively, that the probability of getting heads is 50%, and the probability of getting tails is also 50%. But how do we arrive at that number?

The answer is a mathematical formula that determines the probability of a specific result. In math terms, the probability of something happening is expressed as P(X). That looks scary to math-phobes, but it’s just a symbol. Don’t freak out.

P(X) = number of potential ways to get result A/number of all possible outcomes.

The slash means “divided by”.

With out current example, that means that the probability of getting a result of heads when flipping a coin is ½, or 0.5, or 50%. There’s only one way to get heads, and there are two total ways of that coin landing.

You can apply this formula to other common gambling activities, too, like rolling a six-sided die, or drawing a card from a 52 card deck.

The probability of rolling a “1” on a six sided die is 1/6. There’s only one way to roll a 1, but there are 6 total possible outcomes.

The probability of drawing the ace of spades from a deck of 52 cards is 1/52. There’s only a single ace of spades in the deck, but there are 52 cards total in the deck.

Expressing Probability

You’ve probably already noticed that probability is expressed as a fraction, and if you remember anything from your math classes, it should be this—a fraction can be expressed in multiple ways. You can express a fraction as a decimal or as a percentage. When discussing probability, percentages are a common way of expressing probabilities.

In our three examples so far, we have a percentage probability of 50% for getting heads on a coin flip. We have a probability of 16.67% of rolling a 1 on a single six-sided die. And we have a probability of 1.92% of drawing the ace of spades out of a deck of 52 cards.

You can also express a probability in terms of “odds”. When you do that, you’ll use the word “to” in between the number of ways to achieve the outcome versus the number of ways NOT to achieve the outcome.

So in our existing examples, we’re looking at odds of 1 to 1 for getting heads on a coin flip, 5 to 1 for getting a “1” on a single roll of a die, and 51 to 1 for getting the ace of spades when drawing a card from a deck of 52 cards.

Understanding the difference between the actual odds of something happening and the odds that a bet pays off at is the beginning of gambling probability wisdom. For example, if you’re betting on a single number on a roulette wheel, there are 37 numbers that are losers and 1 number that’s a winner. The odds, therefore, are 37 to 1.

But that bet pays off at 35 to 1. The difference between a 35 to 1 payoff on a bet that you’ll win once out of every 38 bets is the house edge. Once you understand that, you’ll realize what a great business the casino biz is.

Probability is always a number between 0 and 1. When you’re discussing a probability, you’re discussing the likelihood of a given result. If something will never happen, then its probability is 0. (For example, you’ll never roll a “7” on a six side-die.) If something will always happen, then its probability is 1 (although it’s usually expressed as 100%). An example of something with a 100% probability is rolling a six sided die and getting a result of between 1 and 6.