Reducing the House Edge When Playing Online Blackjack!

The term house edge is used frequently by gambling experts, and what it refers to is the advantage the casino has over players.

How much the casino has over a player is based on a combination of game probability and player strategy, and while you can’t help the fixed odds of a casino game, you can reduce the advantage with the right strategy!

How Does One Reduce the House Edge?

When playing blackjack, for example, it varies according to the rules that the particular casino employs or the variation of the game. The odds for different bets can always be found on the gambling site or in the game in something referred to as a pay table.

Tips to Reduce House Edge

While these probabilities are technically fixed, with the optimal strategy you can reduce it. For example, if the game has a 4% house edge, it means that in the long run the casino will win 4% of any initial bet if you play.

HOWEVER:

If you apply the right strategy, the house advantage in blackjack can drop as low as under 1%. In comparison to other casino games blackjack is very favorable to the player in terms of how much you can influence the house edge.

Unfortunately, most blackjack players know nothing about optimal blackjack strategy and therefore usually even increase the house edge against themselves.

Optimal Blackjack Betting Strategy #1: Soft 17 Rule

One of the most important blackjack rules is the Soft 17 Rule. This rule has to do with whether the dealer stands or hits on soft 17 (A-6).

Whether this rule is employed by the blackjack variation of choice has a slight impact on the house edge and the way the player should play in certain card situations.

The rule varies throughout different casinos so the player should be aware of whether the dealer hits on soft 17 or stands depending on the casino you are in or even which table you’re playing on. However, this usually is not an issue as most of the casinos note it by putting H17 – the dealer hits on soft 17, or S17 – the dealer stands on soft 17, right on the blackjack table.

Optimal Blackjack Betting Strategy #1: Soft 17 Rule

Optimal Blackjack Betting Strategy #2: Card Decks Rule

Another important factor in blackjack is the number of card decks that is used in the game. A simple explanation on how to interpret number of decks into how much edge the house has is simple:

The less decks are used the better it is for the player.

Playing blackjack with only one deck of cards favors the player the most. However, a single-deck game usually has other restrictions to increase the house edge, therefore the player should always be aware of all the rules that the game employs and how they affect different betting probabilities.

The following table illustrates how the number of decks increase the house edge:

Number of DecksHouse Edge
1 deck0.17%
2 decks0.46%
4 decks0.60%
6 decks0.64%
8 decks0.66%

Optimal Blackjack Betting Strategy #3: Surrender Rule

Another option which is favorable to the player is the “Surrender” rule. It allows the player to give up half of their bet and forfeit the hand when it suits you.

This option is useful when the player's odds of winning the game are really low, for example when having a hard 16 with the dealer holding any card from 9 up to an Ace.

The rule is also often called the “Late Surrender” as the player may only take this option after the dealer has checked for blackjack.

Optimal Blackjack Betting Strategy #3: Surrender Rule

Optimal Blackjack Betting Strategy #4: Re-Splitting

Re-Splitting is also a blackjack player-favoring option which after a split of a pair other than aces allows to split the third card of the same value.

The player then must bet on the third hand respectively and then play the game with three hands. Some casinos put no restrictions on the number of splits and allow unlimited Re-Splitting.

Although most casinos allow only one more card to be dealt next to each Ace after a player splits their pair of Aces, some of the game variations are not that restricted.

At some casinos players can Re-Split the aces or hit the split aces. This increases the player's chances of winning and reduces the house advantage. However, casinos which allow Re-Split or Hit actions with split aces are not very common.

Another rule which reduces the house edge is Double after Split. This action allows the player to double their bet on one or both split hands.

Optimal Blackjack Betting Strategy #5: No Hole Card

Some casinos may also offer a no hole card blackjack variation. In this game, the dealer is only dealt one open card and waits for the player to complete their hand. Only when the player is finished, the dealer would deal the rest of their hand.

This game variation is more popular in European and Caribbean casinos rather than US casino rooms. The game employs a slightly different basic strategy and increases the house edge by a small but notable percentage of 0.1%.

Optimal Blackjack Betting Strategy #5: No Hole Card

Optimal Blackjack Betting Strategy #6: Different Payouts

Although the standard payout in blackjack is 3:2 there are some exceptions which are important to keep an eye out for as they affect the house edge and, ultimately, your chances at winning big!

For example, video blackjack uses the 1:1 payout structure, whereas some casino tables may also offer 1:1 or 6:5 payouts which significantly increase the house edge.

These payout ratios are usually applied to reduce the player advantage in games employing rules more favorable to the player, like using a single card deck.

Optimal Blackjack Betting Strategy #7: Side Bets

The most popular blackjack side bet is Insurance. This bet is offered if the dealer's open card is an ace. The Insurance Bet is equal to half of the player's initial bet and is put on a specific place on the table, marked Insurance.

The bet pays 2:1 in case the dealer has a blackjack. Insurance is offered before the dealer checks their hole card for blackjack so neither the player nor the dealer knows whether the side bet will pay off.

As soon as the bet is placed the dealer checks their hole card and if it's a blackjack the player is paid the insurance bet 2:1 and lose their initial bet. However, if the dealer does not get blackjack, the insurance bet is lost and the game goes as per usual.

But Insurance Bets Set the House Edge Against You!

Although it might seem wise to insure oneself against the dealer blackjack, due to the high possibility that their hole card will be valued at 10, it is actually a poor bet to make.

Optimal Blackjack Betting Strategy #7: Side Bets

Why?

The chances of dealer getting a blackjack in case their open card is an ace are approximately one-third which seems rather high, although if you look at it from the player's perspective you'll see that there is a higher possibility for the dealer not getting a blackjack.

When inspecting the effects of the insurance bet on house edge you would see that for this bet alone it's around 7%, which is very high. This means that it is not wise to go for the side bet and the best choice is simply to avoid it.

There is only one exception to the rule:

In a single deck game which is played by more than one player or in a multi-hand game, Insurance bets do not have a high house edge.

If the dealer gets an Ace as their open card and there are no ten-valued cards on the table, the chances of the dealer's hole card being a ten or higher (except for the Ace) increase and therefore the insurance bet is smart move to make.

Optimal Blackjack Betting Strategy #8: Even Money Bets

Another type of Insurance Bet is the Even Money bet, which is available when the player has blackjack and the dealer's open card is an Ace.

For this bet the casino offers to pay out 1:1 instantly without the dealer looking at their hole card for blackjack. This might be tempting because if the dealer also gets blackjack the game is a push and the player wins nothing.

However, the odds of dealer getting blackjack are not that high as the player already has one of the ten-valued cards. So, players should avoid taking even money and go for the whole payout in this case!