Why Blackjack Can Be Beaten


Unlike all other casino games, blackjack is unique in that the house advantage is completely dependent upon the decisions made by the player. For example, the completely self-destructive player theoretically could play at a 100% disadvantage, hitting all hands until he busted. However, a player could actually try to lose at craps, and still wind up a winner.

Blackjack is also the one casino game in which the odds are constantly changing. Roulette, for example has a built-in house edge of 5.26%. Craps, yield the house varying odds. The best player odds give the house approximately .8% on the total amount bet. With the "double odds" offered by some casinos, the player's disadvantage is as little as .6% on the total amount bet (although the house edge on the Pass Line Bet is still 1.4%.)

Also, note roulette balls and dice have "no memory." Just because red may have come up on a roulette wheel ten times in a row, doesn't mean that the color black is now "due." The color black has the same chance of appearing on the next roll that it did before. Just because a 7 was rolled in a craps game ten times in a row, doesn't change the odds one bit of it being rolled or not rolled again.

However, cards do have a "memory." Take this extreme example: In a single deck blackjack game, four players all receive a blackjack on the first round. Well, on the second round, the chances of any player now getting a Blackjack have dropped to zero since all four of the Aces are gone!

In this example, the content of the deck is now to the player's disadvantage since a player is paid 3 to 2 for any blackjack. And as you may have guessed, if the deck held an abundance of Aces, this is to the players advantage.

Basically, when many 10's and Aces have been played, the deck favors the house. When many small cards relative to the number of Aces and 10's have been played, the deck favors the player.

The one advantage the house has over the player is the player must act first. For example, the player may bust with 23 points and it may turn out the dealer later too busts, with 24, a higher total than what the player busted with. However, the player's bet is already lost.

To compensate for that, the player has many advantages that the dealer does not have:

  • the player is paid 3 to 2 on a blackjack while the house is only paid even money on their blackjacks.
  • When it is advantageous to do so, the player is able to double his / her bet. The house never has this opportunity.
  • The player is able to split pairs and turn a bad hand into a couple of good hands.
  • If the deck is rich in 10's, the player is able to stand on his bad hands (12-16) while the dealer must hit.
  • The player is able to take insurance. (For the card counter, at times taking insurance can be the right play.)
  • If the casino offers it, the player may wish to exercise the "surrender option" and surrender half his bet. (Once again, at times a profitable play.)