Blackjack: The House Edge Explained

House edge is part of casino gaming. Without it, casinos would be unable to provide patrons with the games they crave. Although it’s not possible to eliminate house edge from casino games in the long run, it is possible to reduce it in certain games in order to maximize value. If you’re curious about the impact of house edge on your bankroll and eager to learn new ways to minimize it, this article is for you.

Expressed as a percentage, house edge is the portion of bets that goes to the house, as dictated by odds and payouts. It’s a theoretical percentage that becomes more accurate the longer you play. The Return to Player is the opposite of the house edge; it’s the amount of money staked minus the house edge. For example, if a house edge is 3%, the Return to Player would be 97%. 

Certain games have higher and lower house edges than other. Typically, the simpler a game is, the higher the house edge will be. For example, it’s well known that table games have lower house edges than slots, since you get to make decisions with table games and not so much with slot games. Online Blackjack has some of the lowest house edge of all online casino table games, since you make many decisions every round. 

In order to get that ultra-low house edge from blackjack, you need to make the optimal move every time, and that’s possible for anyone thanks to the accessibility of basic strategy charts. These charts take into account the number of shoes that are in the deck and whether or not the dealer hits or stands on soft 17. Based on the dealer’s up-card and the player’s hand, you’ll see the optimal move for every scenario when you look at the chart. 

Blackjack Strategy to Help Overcome Odds 

Let the Dealer Bust

In blackjack, sometimes you’ll be looking to beef up your score, while other times, you’re better off sitting back and seeing if the dealer will bust. When the dealer shows a 4, 5, or 6, for instance, the odds are good that the dealer could bust; standing is the best move here—even for hands as low as 12. The second-tier of dealer bust cards are 3 and 2; the recommendation is to stand with hands as low as 13.

Know When to Split

Splitting in Blackjack is an option any time you’re dealt a pair. Some hands are no brainers for splitting. Aces and Eights, for example, will always perform best when split. Most blackjack games force you to stand after receiving one more card following split Aces.

Other hands are less intuitive. Sixes, for instance, should be split only when the dealer has the potential to bust (Six or lower). Fours should never be split under any circumstances, and Nines are almost always split, except when the dealer’s up-card is a Ten, Ace, or Seven. Splitting hands has you decide if you think your hand would be better off intact, or would improve if divided and potentially combined with a Ten.

Double Down with Confidence

Almost every blackjack game gives you the option of doubling down on a hand. The “Double Down” lets you double your bet after getting dealt your initial hand and then requires you to stand after receiving exactly one more card. It’s a great option for scores of 11 and 10, and is also a good move for a score of 9 when the dealer has a good chance of busting. But beware: if the dealer has a Ten or Ace, you should double down only with an 11.

Doubling down is a different story with soft hands. Any time the dealer has a Seven or higher, you shouldn’t be doubling. Six and below, however, and the recommendation is to double with certain scores.

Pass on Insurance 

Insurance pops up as a side bet option when the dealer’s up-card is an Ace. You’re essentially banking on the dealer’s hole card being a 10. The bet costs half of your primary bet and pays 2 to 1. 

If your goal is to minimize the house edge in blackjack, avoiding the insurance bet is the way to go, as this side bet comes with a hefty 7.4% house edge. The only time seasoned players will take the bet is when counting cards and determining that the shoe is rich in Tens. But since it’s not possible to count cards online, since the deck is shuffled after every round, it’s best to pass on insurance when you play blackjack online at Bodog Casino.

Only Play Full-Pay

New payout structures for blackjack have been circulating in casinos the past few years, and this new blackjack rules will have a significant impact on your bankroll. The most common one is the 6:5 blackjack payout. Instead of paying 3:2 for landing a blackjack, which is a score of 21 right off the bat, these games offer 6:5 payouts. It may seem like a pretty small change at first glance, but these games increase the house edge by 1.39% and over time, they will be much more expensive. When betting $10, you get paid $15 on 3:2 blackjack, whereas the payout decreases to $12 for the 6:5 variant.

All of the blackjack games in our casino, including the blackjack games in our Live Dealer casino, pay the full 3:2 for landing blackjack, so you can rest assured that you’re getting the best deal possible.

Playing blackjack gets more competitive and fun when you begin to incorporate optimal play into your gameplay. Whether you want to simply follow along with the strategy chart, or compare and contrast the rule variations between games, just taking a few steps to ensure that you’re getting good value for your money is a good feeling.

If you're feeling more prepared to take on the dealer in your very own game of blackjack, then head over to our online casino today and see how the above tactics help.