Any logical person might wonder why the casino would have an edge in blackjack when both us and they are basically trying to accomplish the same thing; get as close to 21 as possible without going over. The cold hard truth is that casinos make money on all of the games they run, otherwise they wouldn’t offer them. Most of their edges are obvious, but the way in which they consistently come out on top in blackjack can be a bit confusing.
So, why does the casino have an edge in blackjack? Casinos have an edge in blackjack because when players bust, the dealer doesn’t have to play their hand. Although that might not seem like a big deal, if you play with the same dealer long term, you’ll lose 53.92% of the time.
The rest of this article will discuss some essential topics related to the casino’s edge in blackjack, including:
- How the casino makes money on blackjack
- The basics of house edge in blackjack
- How to manage the house edge
How Does the Casino Make Money on Blackjack?
House edge is the advantage that a casino has over the player, and is how they make their profits. They provide the space, ambiance, and all the services that you might need while playing. A casino does everything to ensure that their facility is enticing for people. Simply put, the more you play, the more money they make.
House edge is determined by using statistics gathered over a large number of repetitive games. For example, if you’re playing with the same dealer, and both of you made a standing hand of 17 or better, you will win 46.08% of the time. That’s assuming that you’re using the same strategy as the dealer, which is just hitting or standing.
28% of the time, you or the dealer will be bust. However, it won’t matter if both of you get it at the same time, because you lose even if the dealer doesn’t play his hand. Statistically speaking, the casino will win 53.92% of the time, while you only have a 46.08% chance of winning.
7.84% — or 8% for simplicity’s sake — is just too much of an edge, and not a lot of people will take that chance.
Think of it this way: if you play 100 hands at blackjack with the same dealer and make equal bets, you’ll end up losing eight parts of your wager. Even if you keep doing it over an extended period, there’s barely any chance for you to overcome that edge. You’re guaranteed to lose 8 of 100 tables, and you split the remaining 92 hands with the dealer.
Dealers can’t do anything other than to hit or stand, whereas players can double down, split pairs, or get an extra win for a natural. These varying moves allow players, especially those who understand the basics of the game, to narrow the house edge down to less than 1%. With proper implementation of basic strategies, you can even get it down to 0.62 percent.
The varying strategies that players can implement in blackjack are necessary for casinos to lure players into playing at the table. Without these, people would simply opt to play at the slots or any other casino game.
Basics of House Edge in Blackjack
If the house edge is 2%, then statistically speaking, you’ll lose at least two games for every 100, then split the remaining 98 games equally. So if you lay it out long term using the same strategy, you’ll win 49 games, and the casino wins 51 times — every time!
You can also calculate it this way; with a house edge of 2%, the casino is expecting that you’ll lose 2% of your bet. If you’re wagering $100, then on average, you’ll lose $2 every time you make a bet — regardless of the outcome.
If you’re going to play long-term with straight bets, there’s no chance for you to overcome the house edge — it’s mathematically impossible.
It may not look that way if you’re playing because the casinos spread their edge over a large number of sample bets. It doesn’t apply to a few sample games that casual players usually do, making it harder to notice. You can only calculate the odds using simple math.
Let’s take an example for a casual blackjack player and round up the house edge to 1%. You play at the table with a strict cap of only one game and wager $100 — nothing more, nothing less. There are only five possible outcomes for it:
- Lose $100
- Win $100
- Win $150 for a natural
- Push — win nothing, lose nothing
- Double down or split to win bigger
There’s no possible outcome where you’ll lose $1 in a single hand. Even after a few hands, the math still won’t add up. In 10,000 games, you’ll probably start to see the pattern of winning and losing. After 100,000 hands, which is almost impossible for one player to document, that’s only when the house edge starts to take shape.
If you keep making $100 bets throughout this 100,000-hand experiment, you would’ve already lost $10,000. That’s why it’s always between being lucky or not. You’ll never hear anyone whine about losing $1 per $100 bet.
Managing the House Edge
Now that you know the house edge in blackjack, it’s time to manage it and keep it as low as possible. If you’re using the basic rules of blackjack, such as doubling down or splitting, the house edge will vary from 0.62% to 1.5%.
The problem, though, is that a lot of players are so bad with blackjack that they don’t even care about keeping the house edge down. If you think that you’re not genius-like when playing this game, you can still keep it low by finding casinos that allow players to double down after splitting.
Whenever you feel like you’re in an excellent position to make money, you can use this technique to put more money into the game. Split-double down can hurt the casino’s edge, so bad; it goes down from 0.62% down to 0.47%. That’s why there’s only a handful of casinos that let you double down on a split.
Another way to improve your odds is to find a casino with better flexibility in doubling down. In most casinos, you can only double down if you have 10 or 11. If the casino lets you double down on any number, then the house edge goes down from 0.62% to 0.42%. The more numbers you can double down, the lower the house edge will be.
Just remember, both techniques only apply if you’ve mastered the basic rules of blackjack, and you know how you can take advantage of it. Regardless of how low the house edge gets, it’ll be useless if you’re not sure about the basic rules of the game.
Math-wise, blackjack is the most straightforward game to beat. The statistics are there, and you only need to take advantage of it. The casino edge in blackjack is massive, but if you play your cards right, you can take it down to the lowest house edge that you’ll have in almost any casino game.
Blackjack remains the least complicated card game in a casino that you have full control over. You control the bets and the actions that you make. Sure, luck plays a significant role in your winnings, but it’ll ultimately depend on how you comprehend the rules of the game and how you use it to beat the house.
Why does the casino always win on a natural blackjack and not let me draw? The reason a dealer automatically wins when he or she has a blackjack without letting you draw is that the rule works the same both ways. In other words, when you have a natural blackjack, the dealer does not get to draw as well. This is the only way the game can be fair to both parties.
What’s the best way to win at blackjack? Save for counting cards, which is not allowed in casinos, there is no way to overcome the house edge and win at blackjack. If you want to win at gambling, you should play a game of skill, like poker, against other players. Any game played against the casino will be unwinnable over the long term.
Jim James has over 15 years of experience playing professionally and is the author of the best-selling book called Automatic Poker. Using a no-nonsense mathematical and logical approach to beating the games, he has won 7 figures at the poker table. Jim is well-known as the world’s leading expert on playing short or mid-stacked poker.
Today, he helps other players demystify what it takes to win money in No-Limit Hold’em and has helped countless people become winning poker players through his Online Poker Academy.