Single Deck Blackjack

A common rule difference in today’s single deck blackjack games over the old days is that they pay six for five instead of three to two for blackjacks. Many players don’t think this is such a bad thing, but we are going to try to change your mind.

The rule used to be it was always to your advantage to play on a game with the fewest decks. Compared to the math of a single deck game, that of a multi-deck game seriously handicaps your play:

To see how this would affect you, if you were to play 100 hands per hour at $10 per hand, each
-0.1% of additional handicap would cost you approximately $1 per hour. Playing on a game with two decks versus one deck will cost you an extra $3.50 per hour, with each additional deck forcing you to cough up more and more of your bankroll.

Unsurprisingly, casinos started doing away with single decks so they could raise the edge, and now finding a single deck blackjack game today is a rare occurrence. There are however, casinos that are advertising, “Back by popular demand, Single Deck Blackjack.” Be careful though because if you look closely at the table layout, you might see there’s a heartbreaking message: “Blackjack Pays 6:5.”

On a typical blackjack game, a blackjack typically pays 3:2. If you bet $20 and get a natural, you’ll be paid $30. However, at these new 6:5 games, a $20 blackjack gets you only $24. Despite the fact that the game is played with a single deck, this one little rule change will dramatically lower your edge against the casino.

This new single deck game has been very successful for the casinos because the uninformed player has been told over the years that single deck blackjack is a better game than the shoe games that are now
scene on most of the casino floors. But the truth is that by accepting blackjack payouts reduced from 3:2 to 6:5 you are giving the casino a 1.39% advantage. Compare that to an 8-deck game where the house edge for a basic strategy player is a more civilized 0.58%.

So what’s the difference between the two in the real world of live action? For a $10 player playing perfect basic strategy at 60 hands per hour, the expected loss on an 8-deck shoe is $3.50 per hour. The expected
loss for the same player on a 6:5 single deck game is $8.35. That’s a fairly costly difference.

Don’t waste your bankroll on any blackjack game that pays less than 3:2 for a blackjack. Instead, play in a casino that offers the following combination of rules: Fewest decks possible; surrender, both early and late; double down allowed on any two cards; double down allowed after splitting pairs; multiple pair splitting
allowed, plus re-splitting aces; dealer stands on a soft 17; deep deck penetration; and of course 3:2 for a blackjack.

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