Blackjack Odds & Payouts

More than almost any other casino game, the odds are in your favor when you play blackjack. Or at the very least, blackjack offers the lowest house edge of any game in most casinos.

That means you’ve got a better chance of beating the house playing blackjack than just about any other casino game. No wonder it’s among the most popular games at land-based and online casinos across the country.

However, realizing the game’s low house edge requires you to do two things. First off, you need to choose blackjack games with rules that work in your favor. Secondly, you have to play near-perfect blackjack strategy consistently.

Read on to find out which blackjack games have the most player-friendly rules, which ones don’t, and how you should be playing to keep the house edge on any blackjack game as low as you can.

How to play blackjack

Understanding the odds offered in any game of blackjack starts with understanding the basics of blackjack gameplay.

Standard 52-card decks are used. Non-face cards have the value of the number printed on them, while jacks, kings and queens are all worth 10, and aces are worth one or 11.

The game has a relatively simple goal: You take cards aiming to get as close to 21 as you can without going over. Then, you can win in one of two ways: Either the dealer busts by going over 21, or you beat the dealer’s hand. You can also push and will get your bet back if you tie the dealer.

At the start of a game, you and the other players at the table place a bet.

Then, you, the other players at the table and the dealer each receive two cards to start. You and the other players act on your hands before the dealer and can take one of several actions depending on the cards you are dealt. If you hit and go over 21, you lose, regardless of what happens later with the dealer’s hand.

You make these decisions with only one of the dealer’s cards visible. There is no decision if you get dealt an ace and a card worth 10. It means you’ve hit blackjack and get paid 3:2 or 6:5 on your bet, depending on the specific rules of the game and whether the dealer also has blackjack. If the dealer also has blackjack, you’ll likely push depending on the specific rules of the game.

The actions available to you include:

  • Standing: Anytime you’re happy with your hand, you can stand. You’ll get no more cards and will get paid 1:1 if either the dealer goes bust or you beat the dealer’s hand.
  • Hitting: As long as you’re under 21, you can hit and draw cards to get closer to 21. You can continue hitting until you decide to stand or bust by going over 21.
  • Doubling down: You can double down after the first two cards are dealt, depending on the value of your hand and the rules of the game. You double your bet and you’ll get just one more card to go up against the dealer with.
  • Splitting: If you’re dealt a pair you can split the two cards into two separate hands. You double your bet and the dealer will give each hand a second card, allowing you to play each one separately. Depending on the cards and the rules of the game, you may even be able to double down after splitting or split again.
  • Surrendering: Depending on the rules of the game, you may be able to surrender, or give up your hand. You’ll get half your bet back. It’s statistically proven to be a good play when you’ve got 16 against a dealer’s nine, 10 or ace, or 15 against a 10 or ace.
  • Buying insurance: If the dealer is showing an ace, you have the option of buying insurance. It costs half of your original bet size and pays 2:1 if the dealer has blackjack, making the hand a push for you. If the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, you lose what you paid for insurance and the hand continues. The house edge on insurance is a whopping 6.7%.

What is the house edge in blackjack?

The house edge on any casino game tells you how much profit a casino expects to make on the game over the long haul. Most blackjack games have a house edge of less than 1%. That means casinos are making less than $1 on every $100 bet on the game.

The exact number of the house edge on any blackjack game is dependent on the house rules. The following house rules can all factor in determining blackjack probabilities and house edge:

  • Number of decks in the shoe.
  • What you get paid on blackjack.
  • Whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 17.
  • Rules for doubling down.
  • Rules for splitting.
  • Whether you can surrender.

The house edge goes up with each deck used. It also goes up if you get paid 6:5 instead of 3:2 on blackjack.

Plus, it increases up to 0.2% if the dealer hits on soft 17, from 0.09-0.15% when you can only double down on nine to 11, and from 0.17-0.26% when you can only double down on 10 or 11. The house edge is actually reduced up to 0.12% if you can double down after splitting a pair.

However, it goes back up if you can only split one time.

That said, if you can re-split aces, the house edge will be reduced 0.03%, and if you can take more than one card on each hand when you split aces, the house edge will be reduced another 0.13%.

You might not surrender too often, but blackjack games that offer the option have a lower house edge, as well.

Popular online blackjack games

Here’s a look at some of the most popular online blackjack games available at US online casinos, each game’s rules and how they influence the game’s house edge:

Single-deck Blackjack

Single-deck Blackjack offers the best odds of any online casino game in the US. The house edge stands at just 0.13%. Using just one deck instead of six or eight makes the biggest difference. The house edge is also brought down by the dealer standing on soft 17.

Atlantic City Blackjack

Atlantic City Blackjack has a number of player-friendly rules that keep the house edge at a quite low 0.36%. These rules include:

  • Dealer stands on soft 17.
  • Player can double down on any two cards.
  • Player can split any 10, J, Q or K up to three times.
  • Late surrender available.

High Stakes Blackjack

High Stakes Blackjack has a high minimum bet, sitting at $50 a hand. However, several rules keep the house edge a low 0.36%. Like Atlantic City blackjack, these player-friendly rules include:

  • Dealer stands on soft 17.
  • Player can double down on any two cards.
  • Player can split any 10, J, Q or K up to three times.
  • Late surrender available.

Vegas Strip Blackjack

Vegas Strip Blackjack also has a low house edge of just 0.36%. It’s played with a four-deck shoe, and it features many of those same Atlantic City blackjack player-friendly rules, including:

  • Dealer stands on soft 17.
  • Player can double down on any two cards.
  • Player can split any 10, J, Q or K up to three times.

However, the surrender option has been traded in for the smaller shoe.

Vegas Downtown Blackjack

Vegas Downtown Blackjack also has a low house edge of just 0.39%. It’s played with just a two-deck shoe, but that’s traded for one of the more player-friendly rules included in other games. Vegas Downtown Blackjack rules include:

  • Dealer hits on soft 17.
  • Player can double down on any two cards and after splitting.
  • Player can split pairs up to three times.

Vegas Blackjack

Vegas Blackjack also has a low house edge of just 0.4%. The fact that you can split only once and cannot surrender makes the house edge higher than some other blackjack games. However, Vegas Blackjack does feature a number of player-friendly rules, including:

  • Dealer stands on soft 17.
  • Player can double down on any two cards.
  • Player can split any 10, J, Q or K (only once).

PGCB Blackjack

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board only allows one type of blackjack in the state. However, its player-friendly rules keep the house edge at just 0.4%. The rules include:

  • Dealer stands on soft 17.
  • Blackjack pays 3:2.
  • Double down on any two cards and double down after splitting.
  • Surrender is available.

Blackjack games to avoid

If certain player-friendly rules lower a blackjack game’s house edge and make it worth playing, the opposite is also true. In other words, there are house-friendly rules that can make a blackjack game’s house edge even higher, making it worth avoiding. Here’s a look:

  • Blackjack pays 6:5: If the blackjack payout is 6:5 instead of 3:2, the house edge on the game goes up a whopping 1.4%. That’s a big enough difference to make avoiding a game that pays 6:5 on blackjack the right thing to do.
  • Dealer hits on soft 17: If the dealer hits on soft 17, the house edge on the game goes up 0.22%. It might not be a deal breaker, but if you can find a blackjack table where the dealer stands on soft 17, you should play it instead.
  • No double after split: In blackjack games that do not allow you to double down after splitting, the house edge goes up 0.14%.
  • Double on certain hands only: In blackjack games that do not allow you to double down on any two cards, the house edge goes up 0.09% (double on nine, 10, 11 only) or as much as 0.18% (double on 10 and 11 only). Plus, you can double those increases in games that do not allow you to double down after splitting.
  • No surrender: Blackjack games that do not allow you to surrender and give up half your bet enjoy a 0.08% higher house edge.
  • No re-splitting aces: Blackjack games that do not allow you to split aces after splitting aces enjoy a 0.08% higher house edge.
  • Decks: The fewer decks used, the better the game. Blackjack games that use two decks instead of one enjoy a 0.19% higher house edge. Six decks mean a 0.46% higher house edge, and eight means 0.48% higher.

Blackjack basic strategy

To realize any blackjack game’s published house edge, you must adhere to a basic blackjack strategy. In other words, you’ve got to play perfectly. While you might get lucky in the short term, any mistakes over the long haul mean the casino will enjoy an even larger house edge.

You can find basic blackjack strategy charts that tell you exactly when to hit, stand, double down, split and surrender when facing any scenario.

Use one by referring to it as you ask yourself the following questions through each hand:

  • Should I surrender?
  • Should I split?
  • Should I double down?
  • Should I hit or stand?

Ultimately, basic blackjack strategy and basic blackjack strategy charts stay true to the following rules and principles:

  • Surrender with 16 against a dealer showing nine, 10 or ace.
  • Surrender with 15 against a dealer showing 10.
  • Always split aces and eights.
  • Never split 10s.
  • Split nines against a dealer showing two to nine, except seven, otherwise stand.
  • Split sevens against a dealer showing two to seven, otherwise hit.
  • Split sixes against a dealer showing two to six, otherwise hit.
  • Split fives against a dealer showing two to nine, otherwise hit.
  • Hit fours, but split against a dealer showing five or six.
  • Split threes or twos against a dealer showing two to seven, otherwise hit.
  • Stand on soft 20 (ace, nine).
  • Double down on soft 19 (ace, eight) against a dealer showing a six, otherwise stand.
  • Double down on soft 18 (ace, seven) against a dealer showing two to six, hit against a dealer showing nine, 10 or ace, otherwise stand.
  • Double down on soft 17 (ace, six) against a dealer showing three to six, otherwise hit.
  • Hit on soft 16 (ace, five) or soft 15 (ace, four), but double down against a dealer showing four to six.
  • Hit on soft 14 (ace, three) or soft 13 (ace, two), but double down against a dealer showing five or six.
  • Stand on 17.
  • Hit on 16, 15, 14 and 13, but stand against a dealer showing two to six.
  • Hit on 12, but stand against a dealer showing four to six.
  • Double down on 11.
  • Hit on 10, but double down against a dealer showing two to nine.
  • Hit on 9, but double down against a dealer showing three to six.
  • Hit on 8.

Following basic blackjack strategy to the letter will help you realize any blackjack game’s published house edge. At that point you’ll be losing the minimum, but you’ll still be losing.

If you want to beat the game, or at least reduce the house edge, you’ll need to count cards or employ some kind of betting strategy.

Counting cards to reduce the house edge

Choosing the right game with the right rules sets you up for it, and playing perfect blackjack helps you realize the game’s low house edge, but counting cards can actually eliminate the house edge altogether.

Casinos frown upon the activity, but it’s not illegal. Get caught and you’ll probably be barred from the casino, but keep things quiet, win a reasonable amount that won’t raise red flags, and you could turn blackjack’s odds in your favor.

Essentially, card counting is about assigning a value to each of the cards you see dealt. Then, you can determine when the shoe is left with a high number of high-value cards. When it is, the blackjack odds are actually in your favor, as you’ll be making blackjack and 20 at a higher rate than normal. Increasing your bet at this time will increase your profits.

If you want to know exactly how much the house edge is reduced, or if you actually have the edge at any given time, you can work out what’s called the true count.

Just divide your count by the number of decks left in the shoe. With a six-deck shoe, the house edge is reduced 0.5% for every point in the true count. A large enough true count can turn the house edge into a player’s edge depending on the game’s original house edge.

Blackjack betting strategy

You can try to turn the house edge on its ear by employing a blackjack betting strategy.

The most popular are either positive or negative progression systems that involve changing your bet size based on the previous action

The Paroli system is a positive progression system where you increase your bet incrementally when you’re winning. The 1-3-2-6 system is another positive progression system where you increase your bet by multiples of one, three, two and six when you’re winning. The D’Alembert system is a negative progression system where you raise your bet after losing and lower it when you win.

Here’s a more detailed look at two of the most popular blackjack betting systems, one a negative progression system and one positive:

The Martingale system

This negative progression system asks you to double your bet with every loss.

Let’s say you bet $5 on a hand and lose. The Martingale System tells you to bet $10 on the next hand. If you lose again, you double the bet to $20 and so on. Keep on doubling the bet until you win a hand, and you’ll ultimately profit the size of your original bet.

Of course, you have to have the cash on hand to cover long losing streaks, and you should be weary of reaching the table’s maximum bet before you win a hand.

The Parlay system

This positive progression system asks you to double your bet with every hand you win. You’re betting with your profits here, so you must set win limits to prevent yourself from letting it ride until it’s gone.

Privacy Policy