What is the Blackjack House Edge?
Preface: The blackjack house edge indicates the percentage advantage that the casino a.k.a. the house has over the player. All casino games online feature a house edge that is favorable to the casino, failing which the casinos would fold. The blackjack house edge is a reference to the statistical measure of the casino advantage. The reason why there is a house edge over the player in blackjack is vested in the rules of the game. For example, the true odds are always different to the odds that are paid by the casino. In other words, casinos give players less than they should be getting based on the true odds. This is not cheating; it’s simply what the casino is prepared to offer the player to ensure the casino’s continued profitability over the long term.
Let’s examine several examples before we discuss the blackjack house edge: A coin flip has a 50/50 probability of being heads or tails. If you bet on heads, you should get even money on the outcome. But, if a casino was trying to profit off a coin toss, they may require you to place a bet of $110 to win $100. This way, the casino would always generate a profit. From another angle, a 6-sided dice has a probability of one face coming up 1 time in 6, and there are 5 ways that you could roll the dice that wouldn’t result in a favorable outcome. If the casino offered you less favorable odds every time you won – such as 3:1, it is easy to see how they make money over the long term.
In blackjack, the house edge or return to player (RTP) is significantly higher than Slot Machine Games, Keno and Roulette. In fact, various studies indicate that when you use perfect blackjack strategy, including blackjack charts, blackjack calculators, and effective blackjack bankroll management, the house edge can be as low as 0.46%. Conversely, the RTP can be as high as 99.54%. Put simply, the RTP indicates precisely how much a player can expect to win back in the long term. If you bet $1,000 playing blackjack over time, you should win $995.40 back in that time. Does this always happen? Absolutely not. The RTP is a theoretical concept which is based on millions of simulated outcomes.
Since no player is likely to ever reach the total number of plays that are statistically significant enough to match the theoretical RTP, one can only posit which games are player friendly and which games aren’t. Players can significantly reduce the impact of variance on their blackjack game by implementing effective blackjack strategy, which includes careful study of blackjack strategy charts with hard and soft hands. A methodical understanding of blackjack rules goes a long way towards reducing the casino’s edge over the player.
Blackjack aficionados – mathematicians, statisticians, and players routinely attest to the intricacies of determining RTPs. For example, in blackjack games like Super Fun 21, and Blackjack Switch, the rules of play are such that players will invariably generate less favorable RTPs. Fortunately, online casinos routinely come out with updated RTP charts with audited results of the random number generators governing blackjack games. With perfect strategy, the following RTPs have been calculated:
- Casino War – 97.10% (house edge of 2.90%)
- Three Card Poker – 97.15% (house edge of 2.85%)
- European Roulette – 97.30% (house edge of 2.70%)
- American Roulette – 94.74% (house edge of 5.26%)
- Pai Gow Poker – 96.49% (house edge of 3.51%)
- Let it Ride Poker – 96.49% (house edge of 3.51%)
- Blackjack – 99.54% (house edge of 0.46%)
As can be seen, the house edge with blackjack is the lowest in this sample, and is often considered the casino game with the highest RTP. A caveat is in order: The blackjack house edge is largely dependent upon the actions of the player, vis-a-vis perfect blackjack strategy.
The House Edge is Applicable to a Substantial Number of Plays
The statistical significance of a casino house edge calculation is rooted in huge numbers of bets. When statisticians determine the house edge and RTP figures, millions of bets are factored into the equation. If blackjack has a 99.54% RTP and a 0.46% house edge, it doesn’t mean that these statistics will hold true over a small number of plays. In the short-term, anything can happen. If a blackjack player plays a dozen games of Classic Blackjack, 21+3 Blackjack, or perhaps Atlantic City Blackjack, it is quite likely that the player will win or lose any number of games. If you bet $1000 on blackjack, several options are possible:
- You can win $1500 with blackjack (3:2)
- You can win on the blackjack insurance bet (2:1)
- You can win even money with a better hand total than the dealer (1:1)
- You can win substantial sums of money by playing blackjack side bets (up to 100:1)
Or, you can lose your $1000 and come back to play another day. There are so many potential outcomes every time you sit down to a blackjack session, that it’s foolhardy to list all the possibilities. Several factors come into play, in addition to the house edge and RTP. These include the most important of all – variance. Otherwise known as ‘Luck’, variance is really the difference between the actual results and the expected advantage.
If you are an expert card counter in blackjack, you can assume a certain expected value per hour that you play. Let’s assume this is $20. If you play for 50 hours, your expected value at the end of your session is $1000. If at the end of your session you find that your actual performance has generated $800, you are $200 shy of your expected value. This is variance. By the same token, you could be substantially ahead of your $1000, possibly raking in $1300 at 50 hours, for a $300 surplus. This is variance too.
What Factors Go into Determining the House Edge in Blackjack?
- What are the rules of surrender?
- Are Blackjack side bets being played?
- Does the Dealer peak for a Blackjack?
- What blackjack variant is being played?
- How many times can a player split Aces?
- The rules of the blackjack game – stand on soft 17 or hard 17?
- How many decks of cards are being used in the blackjack game?
- Can a player Double on any cards? Cards 9, 10, 11 only, or 10 & 11 only?
As you can tell, the house edge and blackjack RTP are inextricably intertwined. These are flip sides of the same coin. Many factors can increase the RTP, notably perfect blackjack strategy.