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Bad Blackjack

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Every year the Gaming industry holds an expo where they introduce new games and slot machines. There are very few new table games that ever make it to the casino floor. Those that do make it have a house edge of three percent or more.

In a recent article entitled Why Play Blackjack, I wrote that Blackjack has the lowest house edge and can even be beaten with card counting. Blackjack is the most popular casino table game but if it were introduced today it would never make it to the casino floor. Players using basic strategy can shave the house percentage down to about one half of one percent. This is well below the three percent that the “bean counters” running the corporate casinos care to relinquish to the players.

In 1963 Edward O Thorp released his book Beat The Dealer, revealing that blackjack was a beatable game for players who learn card counting an close to even game for those willing to learn basic strategy. That book caused the popularity of Blackjack to explode as players flocked to the tables trying to beat the game. The casinos countered by adding more decks making it a little harder for card counters. Still even with multiple decks the basic strategy player is facing less than one percent house edge.

The reality is that very few players will take the time to study and practice card counting. Many of those who try will fail in a live casino environment. Furthermore out of the millions of people who play blackjack only a small percentage will take the time or make the effort to play perfect basic strategy. While the mathematical edge may be lower than one percent the average player is usually giving up around two percent.

With the number of Blackjack players you would think that this would be profitable enough for the casino. Management is some casinos feel otherwise. In the last few years they have been making changes to try and get more profit from the players. Some casinos introduced the automatic shuffling machine to speed up the game. Other casinos made changes in the rules to increase the house edge such as not allowing players to double down after splitting. While this and other variations they have made in the past are only minor, there is a new rule variation that has been adopted by some of the Casinos on the Las Vegas Strip that has a major impact on the game.

Instead of paying 3 to 2 for natural Blackjacks the casinos are paying 6 to 5. If you are betting ten dollars a hand you would normally be paid $15 dollars for a blackjack. Instead with a blackjack paying 6 to 5 you will only be paid $12 for your natural. This one rule variation increases the house edge by 1.4 percent. This puts the basic strategy player at a two percent disadvantage. These games should be avoided.

To add insult to injury as they say, some casinos are actually advertising that “Their Blackjack Pays 6 to 5” as if this was a good thing. The unsuspecting player may be suckered in to this hype. There once was a time if you heard that a game used Las Vegas Strip Rules, it meant it was a decent game. The dealers would stand on soft 17 and you were allowed to double after splitting. Now if more of the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip adopt the 6 to 5 payoff for blackjacks, “Strip Rules” will mean Bad Blackjack.

If you sit down in a Blackjack game and are not getting paid 3 to 2 for Blackjacks, run; don’t walk, away from the game as quick as you can. Find a new casino to play in.

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