Does the number of games in a blackjack game matter, and how much?

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There is a lot of talk about the number of blackjack games. Specifically, single deck blackjack is considered the ultimate game.

In contrast, you’re supposed to avoid six and eight deck blackjack like the plague. These extra decks increase the house advantage.

How much stock exactly should you put in the deck count, though? The following guide answers that question while explaining how each additional deck affects the house edge. It also covers other important rules that impact your chances of winning.

Effect of each additional game in Blackjack

All things being equal, you definitely want to play single deck blackjack when possible. A single deck significantly reduces the edge of the house compared to other studs.

Here’s an overview of how decks affect the house edge:

  • 1 deck = 0.16% house edge
  • 2 bridges = 0.46%
  • 4 bridges = 0.60%
  • 6 bridges = 0.64%
  • 8 bridges = 0.66%

The difference between a single bridge and two bridges is 0.3%. After this point, the amount does not have as much impact.

You can see that the difference between two and four decks is somewhat noticeable at 0.14%. Meanwhile, the difference between four versus six and eight decks is almost negligible at 0.04% and 0.06%, respectively.

Why are casinos adding more decks?

The extra decks give the casinos the obvious advantage of a bigger edge. However, the higher house edge isn’t the only reason they’re adding more decks. You can see two other big reasons for this practice below.

Outsmart card counters

In the 1960s, casinos were punctured by card counters. Ed Thorp’s book Beat the Dealer laid out the secrets of how to beat the house.

Rather than just getting rid of one of the most popular games, casinos have come up with various ways to maintain their edge. Adding more decks has become one of the main tools in the house to stop card counters.

Several blackjack hands on a table

A card counter has a much easier time when there is only one deck. Their counting will be more accurate in this circumstance.

Two or more decks, on the other hand, dilute an advantaged player’s tally. Their positive count won’t be accurate until later in the shoe.

Here is an example to explain the situation:

  • A blackjack table has six decks.
  • An advantage player has a count of +4 after a deck has been dealt.
  • However, five bridges still remain in the shoe.
  • 4 / 5 = 0.8
  • The player’s “true count” is only +0.8.
  • They don’t really have an advantage at this point.
  • The advantage player waits until later in the shoe to raise their bets.

Keep games moving fast

Apart from card counters, casinos have an advantage over all other blackjack players. As a result, they make more money when more hands are dealt per hour.

Here is a comparison to illustrate this point:

Scenario 1
  • A table sees 60 hands dealt per hour.
  • Six players bet $10 each hand.
  • 60 x 10 x 6 = $3,600 wagered every hour
  • The house edge is 1%.
  • 3,600 x 0.01 = $36 hourly profit

Scenario #2

  • A table sees 70 hands dealt per hour.
  • Six players bet $10 each hand.
  • 70 x 10 x 6 = $4,200 wagered every hour
  • The house edge is 1%.
  • 4,200 x 0.01 = $42 hourly profit

Blackjack games do not run very fast when only one game is involved. The dealer must continue to stop play to shuffle that single deck.

That said, casinos can move tables faster with multi-tiered shoes. The dealer can put several decks in the shoe before shuffling.

Most stockists go through about two-thirds of the shoe before shuffling. The reason they don’t fold 100% is to minimize card counting. After all, a count becomes much more accurate towards the end of a shoe.

Even without walking the entire deck, casinos will still benefit from multi-deck shoes. They will run games faster and make bigger hourly profits.

The number of decks is the second most impactful rule

As stated earlier, decks definitely impact your chances of winning. However, bridges are only the second most important rule.

The payout for natural blackjack is the most critical rule. Depending on the casino, you will receive a payout of 3:2 or 6:5 for a natural.

That may not seem like a big difference. However, a natural payout of 3:2 reduces the house edge by 1.39% compared to a payout of 6:5.

closeup of a blackjack hand

Above all, you want to find tables that pay 3:2 for natural blackjack. Luckily, casinos print this rule on table felt so you can quickly decide if a game is worth playing.

How Each Rule Affects Blackjack House Edge

I’ve covered two blackjack rules in depth so far. The number of decks and the natural payout of blackjack have the greatest impacts on the house edge.

However, several other rules also determine the type of house you will face. You can read more about the other rules and how they affect your chances of winning below.

Dealer Action on Soft 17

Casinos will force the dealer to hit or stand on a soft 17+. If the dealer remains standing, he reduces the house edge by 0.2%.

Double the totals

Depending on the casino, you can either double down on any total, 9-11 or 10-11. The house edge decreases by 0.2% when you can double any total against just 10-11.

Double after splitting

If you can double after the split (DAS), the house edge will drop by 0.15%.

Re-split Aces

Assuming you can re-split the aces, the house edge will drop by 0.08%.

separate hands

Casinos will allow you to split up to 2, 3 or 4 hands in total. The difference between splitting up to two and four hands is 0.07%.

Late surrender

This rule allows you to give up a hand before the dealer checks for blackjack. In exchange, you will receive half of your bet. A late buy-in reduces the house edge by 0.07%.

Watch out for single deck blackjack with 6:5 payouts

You can see the great importance of natural payment. Therefore, you don’t want to let other rules stop you from looking for 3:2 payouts.

Casinos sometimes prey on unsuspecting players by offering single deck blackjack with payouts of 6:5. They may even place signs above these tables to entice players.

Many novices sit at these tables thinking only of the bridge. However, the unique game does not compensate for the low natural payout.

A 6:5 win increases the house edge by 1.39% compared to a 3:2 win. Meanwhile, one-game play reduces the house edge by 0.48% compared to six-game play. The net result is that the house edge increases by 0.91%.

You are better off playing at a single deck table with 6:5 payouts compared to an eight deck table. However, you will benefit more by simply finding a game with 3:2 payouts.

What is the best blackjack game you can find?

Ideally, you’ll find a blackjack table that has all the best rules in one place. The reality of the situation, however, is that you’re not going to find that.

Casinos want to maintain their edge to some degree. Therefore, they mix favorable and unfavorable rules.

You will normally find six or eight game tables that pay 3:2 for blackjack. This setup is fine, however, because you’re primarily looking for the 3:2 payout.

closeup of a blackjack table

The goal is to combine the best natural blackjack win with two to three other favorable rules. Here is an example of what you might be looking for:

  • six bridges
  • 3:2 natural blackjack wins
  • The dealer stands on a soft 17
  • Double after the split (DAS)
  • Double on the first two cards
  • Re-split up to four hands
  • No ace to re-split
  • No surrender
  • House Edge = 0.43%

Unfortunately, few gaming destinations offer this type of blackjack game. You can, however, find quality tables in major gaming hotspots like Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Reno, and more.

Assuming you don’t live nearby or plan to visit any of these destinations, you can turn to online blackjack. Many online casinos offer high paying blackjack games.

The best part is that you don’t have to bet a lot to play at the online tables. Instead, you only have to risk $1 per hand.

Conclusion

The number of decks in a blackjack game is certainly important. A single deck will reduce the house edge by 0.48% or 0.5% compared to six or eight decks, respectively.

However, you shouldn’t just focus on the number of decks. Other rules also play a role in how likely you are to win money.

Specifically, you want to look for tables with natural blackjack payouts of 3:2. This rule alone reduces the house edge by 1.39% compared to 6:5 payouts.

You should also keep other roles in mind, such as double totals, whether the dealer hits/stands on a soft 17, and how many times you can re-split hands.

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