How to Play Blackjack

Introduction

If not the longest extant game in a brick-and-mortar or online casino (Baccarat may be older), Blackjack is certainly one of the most commonly found in the west. Basically, if a casino has any Table Games whatsoever, Blackjack is almost certainly going to be one of them. Granted, there is the occasional house which may only have a Craps Table, Roulette Wheel or both, but even those are dwarfed in number by small casinos in which Blackjack is the only table game.

Perhaps owing to Blackjack’s (in one form or another) centuries of success and enjoyment amongst gamblers is the apparent simplicity of play. Granted, playing the game in accordance to Optimal Strategy is actually not that easy, but in general terms, Blackjack at least seems pretty simple.

One of the main aspects that makes Optimal Blackjack play almost deceptively difficult is the Rules under which a particular game is played. Adding a third zero to a Roulette wheel, for instance, increases the House Edge of every bet on almost every single bet on the table, but Rule changes in Blackjack affect the House Edge in far more subtle ways.

For example, did you know if you are playing a Double-Deck, Dealer Stands Soft 17, Dealer Peeks for Blackjack game it is appropriate to Double Down an eleven total against a dealer showing Ace if he doesn’t have the goods?

Player soft totals Player soft totals - 9

There are actually a number of rules that come into play in the previous sentence, so let’s take a look at how some of them would affect just that one playing decision.

Example Hand

Number of Decks: With four or more decks and otherwise the same Rules, it becomes the correct decision just to hit. One of the reasons why is that an Ace can be considered a BAD card for a player who is doubling an eleven (player would lose to any made dealer hand) and there are more Aces relative to the rest of the shoe when there are more decks. There are other reasons, too, that is just one of them.

Dealer Hits/Stands on Soft 17: If you keep the rules the same, except for changing it to Dealer Hits Soft 17, then doubling on your eleven total becomes ALWAYS the correct decision. One of the reasons why is because if the Dealer Stands on Soft 17 and you double down and end up with a total of 12-16, (also where the relative amount of Aces remaining compared to the shoe comes into play) then the dealer having a six in the hole instantly gives him a hand that beats yours. Depending on the number of decks, if the dealer Stands on Soft-17, you would hit because a total of 12-16 would then give you the opportunity to hit again to try to finish with a total of seventeen or greater.

On the other hand, if the Dealer must hit Soft 17, then a six in the hole does not automatically beat you, the player. For that reason, among others, it is always correct to go ahead and Double Down if playing Hit Soft 17.

Dealer Peeks for Blackjack (Hole-Card): If the dealer does not peek for Blackjack AND the player does not lose his initial bet ONLY to a dealer Blackjack, then it is never correct for the player to Double an eleven total against an Ace showing. While it should be pretty obvious, the reason why is because the dealer could have a Natural 21 and the player has no way of knowing it.

So You See

We see just from that example hand and from that one play that a number of Rules may come into effect when making just a single decision. However, generally speaking, each of these Rules does have a general and independent effect on the House Edge.

As you will come to find out, fewer decks are always good for the Basic Strategy player. Even though the player gets more doubles in our scenario above, it is generally better for the player if the dealer must STAND on soft-17 rather than hit. Finally, you could probably guess this, but you’re always better off if the dealer either peeks for Blackjack, or if he doesn’t, that you only lose your original bet.

We will discuss these and other Rules and how they impact the House Edge of the game. Unfortunately, we will not be able to get into the effects the Rules have on every single individual playing decision because that would take days to read AND is beyond the purview of this page. Fortunately, you can input your hand, the dealer’s showing card, and any general set of Rules here.

In order to get the proper playing decision for any individual hand. This will also help you generate a strategy for very general sets of Rules.

The Goal

The first thing that needs a little revision is the general description of the goal of Blackjack, some say, “The goal of Blackjack is to have a hand total as close to twenty-one without busting.” Even for a one sentence summary, that is a bit too simplistic. It would be better to say, “The goal of Blackjack is to have as close to a total of twenty-one without busting, or to play in a manner that hopes the dealer will bust.”

Player soft totals - 15 Player hard totals - 8

For example, you might have a total of fourteen as a player and the dealer is showing five. Unless you are a card counter playing in an extremely negative count (for whatever reason) making a composition dependent Index Play, then you would always stand a fourteen against a dealer showing five. Does that sound like trying to get as close to twenty-one as possible?

Of course not! In fact, your fourteen total hand has a negative expected value no matter what you do, (which means the dealer will, more likely than not, make a hand of 17-21) but you have a better chance of hoping for the dealer to bust than you have of trying to get a finishing hand that could beat the dealer yourself and be risking busting. If you let the dealer play, you probably lose, if you bust, you definitely lose.

Player soft totals - 15

On the other hand, if the dealer is showing a nine, then you would want to hit. Again, you are expected to lose in this scenario, but a hit is better due to the high probability that the dealer already has a made hand (more than 50%, Aces, Tens, Nines, Eights) or will eventually hit to a made hand.

In short, the goal of Blackjack is to make the best possible decision at all times pursuant to the Rules of the game that you are playing as well as the probabilities of particular events taking place. Again, that can be very difficult to calculate in your head, which is why it is important to play with a strategy sheet in the physical casino and a Blackjack calculator at the ready if playing online.

Hand Values

Player soft totals Player soft totals - 2 Player soft totals - 4 Player soft totals - 6

I assume that most of you guys will know this, but Blackjack hands are scored by the face value of the cards except any face card counts as ten and Aces can be either 1 or 11. In the event that an Ace would bust either Dealer or Player if counted as an eleven, it automatically takes on a value of one.

Hands containing an Ace may occasionally have two different values, and when that happens, they become known as, ‘Soft,’ hands. For example, an Ace-Seven would be known as a, ‘Soft 18,’ because it can either behave as an eighteen or a total of eight.

Hands that are described as, “Hard,” can technically refer to any hand of a fixed value. However, the term, “Hard,” is usually used to refer to hands with an Ace that are treated as fixed value hands. For example, a hand such as Ace-Six-Ten would be a, “Hard 17,” because the Ace cannot act as an eleven or the total would be 27 for a bust. A hand with an Ace is, ‘Hard,’ if the Ace may only act as a one.

Means of Play

Blackjack is dealt as a, “House-Banked,” game, which means that all of the players are playing against the casino’s dealer rather than against one another. Poker would be a game that we would refer to as, “Player-Banked,” as it consists of players competing for one another’s money.

One exception to this Rule is, “Player-Banked,” games as take place in California Card Rooms due to the vagaries of their laws. The way that works is that the players must pay a, ‘Fee,’ to participate in each hand and one player will, ‘Bank,’ the action of all of the other players at the table. The player doing the banking has no autonomy and must play according to, ‘House Rules,’ as a dealer in a casino would have to do. Effectively, there are things called, ‘Corporations,’ which do most of the banking at these games as they have enough money to back the action.

While Craps probably leads the Table Games for occasionally being the most raucous, Blackjack often comes in a pretty close second. The reason why is because some or all of the players at a full table will often find themselves hoping for the same result, namely, that of a dealer busting. All of the players hoping for the same result happens more frequently in Blackjack than other casino-banked games as players will often experience differing results in other games regardless of dealer/community cards. For example, on Let It Ride, community cards such as an Ace and Seven might benefit players who have an Ace among their three personal cards, but makes no difference to other players.

The dealer will give each player at the table an initial card, then give himself his first (or only) card, then give all of the players at the table a second card. This works from the dealer’s left to the dealer’s right, or from the player’s right to the player’s left. In most games, the dealer will get what is known as a, ‘Hole card,” which is a card that he deals himself face down and is not revealed until all players have made their decisions. In some games in European Land Casinos (and perhaps Australia) the dealer will not receive a hole card and, therefore, will not check for Blackjack before play continues.

The first thing that must be determined is whether or not a player has a, ‘Natural,’ most frequently referred to as a, ‘Blackjack,’ though it doesn’t require a jack...much less a black one. After seeing whom (if any) players have naturals, the dealer will check and see if he has a natural if the dealer takes a hole card. Play deviates in two ways from that point:

Hole Card, No Natural: If the dealer takes a hole card and does not have a Natural, then the dealer shall pay all players who have a natural immediately and take their cards. At that point, or if there are no player naturals, all of the player’s may make their play decisions starting from the dealer’s left and moving to the dealer’s right.

Hole Card, Natural: The dealer will immediately show his Natural and scoop up the losing bets from any players who do not also have a Natural. If any other players do have a Natural, then the result is a push, which the dealer will indicate (most often) by closing his fist and knocking his hand on the table lightly in front of that player.

No Hole Card: The dealer will not know whether he has a Natural or not until all player decisions have been made. The dealer receives his/her second card only AFTER the players have completed play. In some games, the players will only lose an initial bet (if they have split/doubled) when the dealer has a Natural, but in others, they will lose all bets including any additional bets. If the players lose all bets, that may change a player’s playing decisions.

After the initial deal, starting from the dealer’s left and moving right, each player may make his/her decisions as to hitting/splitting/standing/doubling/taking Insurance/surrendering as permitted by the Rules (which we will discuss) as well as what the player has. In the event that a player busts (goes over 21) the dealer shall first remove the player’s chips and then the player’s cards. This must be done in two separate motions so as not to risk knocking the chips off of the table.

For any players that have not busted or have a Natural and have completed play, the dealer will then flip his hole card (or deal one to himself) and then hit until he has achieved a total of 17-21, otherwise busted. Whether or not a Soft-17 is a Hit or Stand varies according to the Rules of the House. If the dealer finishes with a playable total, the dealer shall announce his total, pay winning players (with a higher total) and take losing bets. The dealer shall indicate a Push (Tie) by knocking his hand near the player’s cards and perhaps pushing back the player’s chips. If the dealer busts, then the dealer shall pay all remaining players. It is for that reason that bets and cards are taken immediately when a player busts, by doing that, if a dealer busts, he/she knows that everyone automatically gets paid.

After all winning players have removed chips and had opportunity to make a wager on the next hand, the process begins all over again.

In the event that all players bust, the dealer will generally reveal his hole card (if he takes one in that game) and then will proceed to scoop up all of the cards.

Online casinos generally work the same way in terms of Live Dealer Blackjack. The only exception is that there are no physical chips for the dealer to handle.

Online Video Blackjack works similarly to land casino Video Blackjack. The player will receive two cards and see the dealer’s hole card prior to making a decision. In the event the dealer has an Ace showing (much in the land game, which I should have mentioned) the player will have the opportunity to take Insurance, or get paid even money on his own Natural, if he has one. Otherwise, the game is played exactly the same way.

Dealer Drawing

The Rules concerning what a Dealer must draw to are fixed by the Rules for that particular Table at a particular casino. That a Dealer must hit a total of sixteen (or lower) is a Universal Rule with casinos differing only on whether or not a Dealer should Hit or Stand on Soft-17. All else equal, it is better for players if the dealer stands on Soft-17.

Player soft totals Player soft totals - 9

Player Decisions

Before we get into the effects of specific Rules, it is essential to know what sorts of decisions a player is permitted to make. We shall briefly detail them here:

Hitting: Hitting is simply a player asking for another card. A player may technically hit on any total he wishes, though some Land Casino Video Blackjack games and most (if not all) Online games will automatically stop the player if he hits 21. Hitting a Hard 17, or greater, is always an objectively terrible decision absent some other (card-counting, hole-carding) knowledge.

Standing: Standing simply means that the player accepts his total and would not like any more cards. It is always incorrect to stand on a total of eleven, or less, because there is no possible way to bust. In other words, there’s only upside to hitting. Players often double with totals of 9-11.

Splitting: If the player receives two cards of the same rank, then the player has the opportunity to split those. Casinos will often allow players to Split to three or four total hands. The effect on the House Edge of being allowed to Split to more (rather than fewer) hands is that the House Edge is reduced, but not by too much, because it is infrequent that the opportunity to split multiple times comes up.

Inexperienced players will occasionally want to Split 10’s against a, ‘Weak,’ dealer card and that decision is always incorrect barring card counting or hole carding. Even though starting with a Ten is a good start, finishing with a total of twenty is such a powerful hand that it should not be broken up.

Doubling Down: This gives the player the opportunity to double his bet in an advantageous situation, but the catch is that the player may only receive one card. I have never seen a Blackjack game that does not allow the player to Double Down, to some extent, but some casinos may limit what hand totals upon which a player may Double Down.

Taking Insurance: This is something that a player will always be given an option to do, but should never do unless card counting or hole carding and knowing there is a good reason to do so. The dealer will often offer the player Insurance (or the opportunity to take an Even Money pay on a Natural) if the dealer is showing an Ace. If the player makes the Insurance bet and the dealer has a Natural, the bet shall win and the overall result shall be that the player profits one unit. If the player makes the bet and the Dealer does not have a Natural, then the player shall lose his Insurance bet and play will continue.

Let’s ignore the main bet and take a look at the Insurance bet, which pays 2:1, on its own. We will assume an infinite single deck. If the dealer has a ten in the hole, then the Insurance bet shall win, the player will lose his base bet and be paid 2:1 on the insurance bet for an overall profit of one unit. There are thirteen hand ranks, and four of them have a value of ten, thus:

(4/13 * 2) - (9/13) = -0.07692307692

Which means that if you have made a $5 Insurance Wager, your expected loss is about $0.384616 cents. The House Edge is 7.69231% and it is a terrible wager.

Similarly, if a Blackjack pays 3:2 on a Natural (which it should or you should not be playing) if the dealer does not have a Natural, the dealer may give you the opportunity to just take Even Money on your Blackjack if he/she is showing an Ace. Again, never do this. Let’s pretend that you have a $5 bet out there. If you take Even Money, then you will automatically get $5. However, you will win $7.50 if the dealer does not have a Blackjack and you do not take Even Money and the worst you can do is Push, so:

(9/13 * 7.5) = 5.19230769231

As you can see, you do not want Even Money because your expectation (based on the probability that the dealer also has Blackjack) is such that you are better off to take your chances on him/her having the Natural and you breaking even.

Surrendering: Some casinos will give a player the option to Surrender if the player does not like his starting hands’ chances against a dealer’s hole card. If the player Surrenders, the dealer shall replace the player’s wager with half of his bet and then remove the player’s cards.

Unlike Insurance, Surrendering is occasionally the correct decision.

Player Indications

Online Blackjack and Video Blackjack

If you are playing Online Blackjack or Video Blackjack, then there will always be a, “Button,” that corresponds to any available decision that a player is allowed to make. In order to indicate the decision you wish to make, you simply hit the button.

Live Casino

There are two general types of games in Live Casinos when it comes to how a player might indicate what decision he wishes to make. We will first address games in which the player does not directly handle his/her cards:

Insurance

There is often a box in which to place an Insurance bet, otherwise, it may often be placed to the left of your initial bet. This is not something you need to worry about because, unless you are card counting (or hole carding) you should never take Insurance.

Standing

If a player wishes to Stand, then the player simply waves an open hand, palm down, over his/her cards.

Doubling Down

If a player wishes to Double Down, the player simply places a bet equal to or less than the original wager (usually you double because you have an advantage, so you should always double as much as allowed, which is equal to your original bet) directly behind the original wager. The player, after placing this wager, may also hold up one finger as well as verbally announcing, “Doubling down.” The holding of a finger and announcing the double are both optional, but some players like to do it as a courtesy to the dealer.

Hitting

If a player wishes to hit, the player shall generally tap the felt with a single finger behind his/her bet. As a courtesy, the player may also verbally announce, “Hit,” if he chooses.

Splitting

If the player wishes to Split, the player will usually place a second wager equal to his/her first wager off to one side of the initial wager and hold two fingers directly up in the air. After holding the fingers in the air, some players like to part them in an obvious way so it is clearly known that the player is not requesting a double down. (Some hands could theoretically be doubled or split).

Surrendering

This is one decision where it is advisable to make your decision both audibly AND with a hand signal. The hand signal is to use your index finger to draw a clear line across the table behind your bet, but it is also very appropriate (and recommended) to announce, ‘Surrender,’ so that your decision is not mistaken for a request to hit.

Handheld Games

Though rare, some Blackjack games actually allow a player to hold his/her starting cards. When this happens, the signals are slightly different and are as follows:

Insurance

Same thing, and you should NEVER make this bet. The player would simply place a bet in the Insurance area and tuck his/her cards under his/her main bet.

Hitting

The player will use his/her cards and softly drag them along the felt of the table starting away from himself/herself and moving them towards himself/herself.

Standing

When a player wishes to stand, he/she will simply tuck his/her cards under the initial bet.

Doubling Down

The Double Down request operates the same as in face down games. You would simply place a bet equal to or less than (should be equal if you are playing correctly) your initial bet behind your initial bet and hold up one finger. You may also choose to verbally announce your intent.

Splitting

This works the same way with the betting as well as the hand signal. In many places, the player also puts his cards down and the dealer flips them and deals the next cards to each hand with the rest of the player’s hands being played as face up.

Surrender

You would draw a line in the air between yourself and the dealer as well as verbalize your intent. Drawing a line on the felt might also work. Just make sure not to put your cards down before your intent is clearly known by the dealer, or it may be construed as a stand.

Bust

As a player, you still have something to do even if you bust! Just place your cards face down beside your bet. If you’re very courteous and wish to lose with grace, you might even place them face down and push them slightly towards the dealer.

Make Your Intent Known!

Regardless of what type of game you are playing, I recommend doing the appropriate betting, hand signals and verbalizing what you wish to do when playing Blackjack. You do not want the dealer mistaking your decision for a different decision because what the dealer thinks you wanted to do will often stand even if you protest.

Also, if the dealer does make a legitimate mistake, do not wait until all players have played (as polite as it might seem) before announcing the mistake. Instead, announce the mistake as soon as you are aware of it so the dealer may summon over a Supervisor/Pit Boss to determine how to handle the situation.

I always like to verbalize my intent when playing Blackjack to avoid confusion, but that does not mean that you do not have to also use the appropriate hand signals. The hand signals are for the eye in the sky and they benefit both casino and player. If the dealer does make a mistake and you identify it immediately, then surveillance may have the opportunity to take a look at the situation and an error may be corrected in your favor if you used a clear and proper hand signal.

All of these things may seem somewhat confusing and/or frustrating, but you only need to play a little bit of Live Casino Blackjack before you get used to it. If you have read this and still find yourself in doubt, then by all means, stand a few paces back from a live Blackjack table and watch the other players and how they make their intentions known for a few minutes first.

Rules and Relation to Return-To-Player (House Edge)

With all of that stuff out of the way, we may now turn our attention to the Rules of Blackjack and how each one affects the House Edge of the game. While one set of Blackjack Rules as opposed to another may change what is or is not the proper playing decision, in general terms, different Rules will always have the effect of either increasing or decreasing the House Edge.

In other words, when you isolate a specific Rule, what is true for what that one rule does to the House Edge will always be generally true (though not necessarily to the hundredth or tenth of a percentage) regardless of the other rules.

While every individual Rule will have an impact on the House Edge that works to either the benefit or the detriment of the player, it is important to understand that it is the culmination of ALL of the Rules of a particular game that yields a resultant House Edge.

In other words, being able to Double on any Two Cards, for example, is better than only being able to double on ten or eleven. However, if you have a choice (all else equal) of playing a game in which Blackjack pays 3:2, or playing a game where you may double on any two but Blackjack pays 6:5, then you will always be better with the 3:2 on a Natural game. Thus, being able to double on anything is a good Rule for the player, but not good enough to overcome how bad 6:5 Blackjack is for the player.

Finally, this list of Rules is meant to be general and is not 100% comprehensive. There are often specialty Rules that will only apply in particular casinos, both Land and Online, but it does not benefit the average player to list every single unusual Rule here. One such Rule is at the Longhorn Casino on Boulder Highway in Las Vegas in which a player may Double Down on any total regardless of how many cards he already has. That rule benefits the player, but is found almost nowhere else and actually does not come up too frequently in actual play.

What Does a Winning Natural Pay

It almost disgusts me that we have to discuss this as a Rule, but when the player has a winning Natural, (starting hand total of twenty-one when a dealer does not) it was once automatic that the player would be paid 3:2. What that means is that a player betting $10 would be paid $15 in this event.

Unfortunately, there is a concept known as 6:5 Blackjack that started on the Las Vegas Strip, but has unfortunately spread to other casinos all over the United States and perhaps abroad. In that game, a winning Natural would pay $12 on a $10 bet.

One would think that nobody would ever play 6:5 Blackjack only needing to know that fifteen is a bigger number than twelve, but one would be wrong. It turns out that some people will play anything. It’s as embarrassing as it is disgusting. I could understand a player not realizing that Stand Soft 17 is a better game than Hit Soft 17 because there are some mathematical principles behind the reason for that which the average person may not be privy to. However, not understanding that fifteen is a bigger number than twelve!?

3:2 Blackjack

3:2 Blackjack is the standard pay when a player has a winning Natural and the dealer does not. I would like to say that this is still the case at most Blackjack tables, but I envision a future in which, unfortunately, that will no longer be true.

There are a few caveats that are good for the player:

Some casinos (particularly online) may have a promotion where a Natural pays 2:1. That adds 2.27% to the RTP or subtracts 2.27% from the House Edge, however you want to look at it. If this Rule applies only to suited Blackjacks, then the RTP improves by about 0.57% (assuming an eight-deck game).

6:5 Blackjack

You should never play this. Instead of paying 3:2 ($15 to $10) on a Natural, the casino pays 6:5 ($12 to $10) on a Natural. That is very bad for the player and decreases the RTP by 1.39% based on eight decks.

1:1 Blackjack

This Rule usually applies to many Video Blackjack games in Brick-and-Mortar casinos. Many of these games come with an RTP of around 96-97% and this particular rule reduces the RTP by 2.27%. I don’t really have a problem with this rule because these games can often be played for denominations as low as a quarter, and occasionally but rarely, a nickel.

Doubling Rules

The most liberal (and perhaps most common) Double Down Rule is that a player may Double Down on any two cards the player likes. However, some casinos (and Video Blackjack in Land Casinos) will restrict a player’s doubling opportunities.

Being restricted to only doubling on hand totals of 9-11 will reduce the RTP from anywhere just under one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) to just over fifteen one-hundredths of one percent (0.15%) depending on the other rules of the game. In general, the more hands a player is allowed to split to (and if doubling-after-splitting is allowed to begin with) the greater the effect of restricting hand totals upon which a player may double. Additionally, the RTP is affected to a greater extent when the game is played with fewer rather than more decks mostly owing to deck-composition strategy.

Another reason for the greater impact on single-deck is because that Doubling on a hand total of Eight and/or Eight/Soft-18, happens more frequently in a single-deck game than a double-deck game.

If the player may only Double Down on hand totals of 10-11, then that will reduce the Return-to-Player by as little as just under two-tenths of one percent (0.2%) to almost three-tenths of one percent (0.3%) depending upon the other rules.

If the player may not Double at all, which is a Rule I have never actually seen anywhere (even on Video Blackjack) but we will address, then the RTP is reduced by almost 1.5%.

Number of Decks

If all of the other Rules of the game are the same, then the fewer the decks, the better the RTP. Deck-Composition Strategy is one reason for this, but the biggest reason for it is that it is less likely for both the Dealer and Player to have a winning Natural on a single-deck game as opposed to a double-deck game. That is because the percentage of cards proportionate to the rest of the deck when a single card is removed is reduced more greatly on a single-deck game...or any game with fewer decks.

Depending on the other Rules, number of decks can impact the RTP (relative to one deck vs. eight decks) by as much as a quarter of a percent (0.25%) to just over half a percent (0.5%).

The number of decks used has a greater impact on a player in a Blackjack game that otherwise has more Liberal Rules because it lends itself to the possibility of deck-composition based strategy. Additionally, there is the effect-of-removal EoR as pertains to Naturals that we have already discussed.

Dealer Hits or Stands on Soft 17

This is simply whether or not the Dealer Hits or Stands on Soft-17, (a hand with an Ace that could add up to seventeen or seven depending on how the Ace counts) and it is always better for the player if the Dealer Stands on Soft-17. This is one of the most common rule changes that will change a player’s playing strategy as it often impacts a player decision against an Ace (or a six) based on the player’s first two cards.

The degree to which this impacts the RTP varies based on the other Rules and number of decks, but as a general Rule, Hitting Soft 17 decreases the RTP by roughly 0.18%-0.24%.

How Many Hands May a Player Split To?

This Rule simply concerns how many total hands a player may split to. Generally speaking, most casinos allow a player to Split either to two or four total hands, but three is sometimes used. The occasional Land or Online Casino may also allow, “Infinite,” Splitting, but the difference in RTP is minute compared to up to four hands because the opportunity to split to more than four hands is not likely to come up very often.

The reduced RTP is greater when the player may split to fewer hands the more decks that are being used for the game. The reason for that is because of effect-of-removal. Simply put: The more decks that there are, the more likely it is that the player will receive the same card as his initial card (or Split Card) because that Rank represents a greater proportion of the remaining cards.

Let’s look at one deck vs. eight decks in the case of splitting eights. Ignoring the dealer’s card, if a player starts with a pair of eights, then there are fifty remaining cards in a single deck, and two of them are eights, so:

2/50 = .04 or 4% of the remaining cards are eights.

In an eight-deck game, there are 416 total cards of which 32 are eights to begin with, so assuming that a player has two eights, there are 414 cards remaining of which thirty are eights, thus:

30/414 = 0.07246376811 or 7.246376811% of the remaining cards are eights.

In other words, a player is more likely to get additional opportunities to Split the greater the number of decks being played.

For the purposes of RTP, we will assume that a player may Double-After-Splitting and we will compare one deck to eight decks. Having made those assumptions, the RTP is reduced from anywhere between roughly 0.03% and roughly 0.055% depending on whether the player may split to two or four total hands.

If the player may not Split at all on an eight-deck game, the RTP is reduced by about 0.57%. That Rule is usually reserved for Video Blackjack games.

Double After Split

This rule does what it says on the box, it is simply whether or not a player may Double After Splitting. The exact difference in RTP is based upon number of decks, how many hands a player may split to to begin with and upon what hand totals a player may split.

The opportunity to DAS will present more frequently with a greater number of decks, the ability to Split to more than two hands and the ability to Split on any total.

If we are to generalize, the inability to Double After Splitting will generally reduce the RTP anywhere from roughly 0.12% to 0.15%.

Player May Resplit Aces (RSA)

This Rule just concerns whether or not a player may Re-Split Aces or whether or not each Ace is just dealt a single card and that is what the player ends up with. Most Blackjack games do not allow for the Re-Splitting of Aces or for Split Aces to be hit upon.

Again, the greater the number of decks in use the more the effect on the RTP will be if the player may Resplit Aces, that is because the player is more likely to end up with a Pair of Aces multiple times. Additionally, if the player may only Split to two hands to begin with, then the ability to Resplit Aces is a non-issue because the player would already have his/her two hands.

We will look at ReSplitting Aces as improving the RTP since the general rule is that a player cannot do so. That being the case, the ability to ReSplit Aces improves the RTP by anywhere from 0.03-0.07%, roughly and generally speaking.

Player May Hit Split Aces (HSA)

This is another Rule that invokes something that the player usually cannot do, so we will look at it from the perspective of improving the RTP to be allowed to do so. Much like Re-Splitting, this Rule concerns how Split Aces may be handled. Once again, most casinos simply draw an additional card to each of the two Split Aces and the result is just the result.

This opportunity will present itself more often the more likely the player is to Split Aces to begin with, therefore, it has a greater impact on the RTP the more decks that there are due to effect-of-removal.

Generally speaking, being permitted to Hit Split Aces improves the RTP by roughly 0.13%-0.19% depending on the number of decks used and other rules.

Player Loses Only Original Bet Against Dealer Natural (Dealer Peek)

In most Blackjack games both in the United States and Online the Dealer takes a hole card and, ‘Peeks,’ for a Natural before allowing play to continue. In jurisdictions where the dealer does not take a hole card, or casinos in which they do not have the dealer take a hole card, the Rules will often be such that a dealer Natural will result only in the loss of the player’s original bet. In other words, Splits, Doubles, etc...will be treated as though they never happened.

However, in some casinos in which the dealer does not take a hole card a player will lose ALL bets, which will impact a player’s strategy pretty seriously when the dealer has an Ace showing.

Almost Universally, the Dealer taking no hole card AND all player bets losing against a Dealer Natural reduces the RTP by roughly 0.11%. This is very close to the case regardless of any other Rules or number of decks used.

Surrender Yes/No

This Rule simply concerns whether or not a player may Surrender. It is better to be allowed to Surrender than not be allowed to Surrender and the inability to Surrender reduces the RTP, generally, by anywhere from .02%-.075% mostly depending on the number of decks used and IF the dealer Stands Soft 17. If the Dealer HITS soft-17, then the ability to Surrender becomes more important (and the player does it more frequently) and the inability to do so may reduce the RTP by roughly 0.09%-0.1% assuming eight decks are used.

Conclusion

Those are the Basic Rules and Procedures of Blackjack as well as the impact the Rules may have on the Return-to-Player, so I hope you enjoyed them. Once again, there are many other Rules that are possible, (such as five-card Charlie winner) but the vast majority of any other Rules that are not mentioned simply do not come up very frequently.

If there are any Rules that you are curious about and cannot find on your own, please shoot me a private message to, ‘Brandon James,’ and I will either give you the answer or point you in the right direction. If you believe that a Rule is common enough (and convince me of same) that it should be included on this page, again, shoot me a message.

Hopefully, you will all have a better understanding of the game of Blackjack after reading this page and will know the basics of how to comport yourself at a Land Casino game, should you have the opportunity to play at a live table. Thank you as always for reading and please message me with any questions you may have.

Latest Casino Bonuses profile image Latest Casino Bonuses LCB Reviewer - last updated 2022-03-28
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