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Blackjack Game Odds

Understanding the odds is a major factor in becoming a successful player at blackjack. Blackjack is one of the only casino games that is beatable, meaning that by acquiring the right skills, players can swing the advantage into their favor.




Article Highlights:

Gaining The Advantage   |   Strategy   |   Event Frequency   |   House Rules   |   Summary

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For beginners, professionals and players in between, blackjack is a universally popular casino game due to its fast pace, relative simplicity, and excellent odds.


Gaining The Advantage

An important step in mastering blackjack is learning how to play using basic strategy. Players who rely solely on hunches and gut feelings to play will likely give up a much greater edge to the house. Basic strategy is relatively easy to learn and anyone can do this with a little practice online. Learning to play blackjack using perfect basic strategy will reduce a casino's edge to a mere 0.80% - the second lowest among all table games - and slightly to far better odds than those offered at roulette tables and slot machines, respectively.

Blackjack is a dependent variable game, meaning that as each card is dealt from the deck(s), the odds of any remaining card - like an Ace or 10 - coming up next is constantly changing. If you're playing a single deck game, before any cards have been dealt, you know that the odds of any Ace being dealt are 4 out of 52. If the first two cards dealt are both Aces, then there is only a 2 out of 50 (or 1 in 25) chance that the next card will be another Ace. Over time, experts have used computer simulations to determine that high cards like Aces and Tens are beneficial to the player, and conversely, small cards are good for the dealer. If you are able to keep track of which cards have left the deck, you would obviously stand a better chance at knowing which cards remain, hence which ones are most likely to be dealt on the next draw. This is where the house edge is nullified, and the player begins to build a small, yet sizable edge over the house. Such is the advantage of becoming a skilled blackjack player.

While there are some differences between online blackjack and blackjack at land-based casinos - perhaps most notably the use of continuous shuffle at some online casinos - this article focuses mainly on the basics, which can be applied to most versions of the game.



Adjustments In Strategy

Once you have learned basic strategy, and then how to track the count while playing, the next step is to vary your playing strategy to account for the current game odds at any given moment. If you know that the deck is loaded with face cards, you might not want to hit on 12 against the dealer's up card of 10, knowing that there is an increased likelihood that you will bust. If the deck has lots of tens, you may decide to risk doubling on 11 against a dealer's Ace, even though basic strategy says not to. It is small modifications in play that will cut into the house's edge and put those percentage points on your side.

Other variations in play include changing your betting level. If the odds favor the player, bet bigger. If they favor the dealer, bet smaller. This is common knowledge, but mastering the art of knowing when and how to bet is a key factor in becoming a skilled player. Something to keep in mind is that while adjusting your bets according to the odds at any given time, do so in a reasonable manner. This means avoiding the rapid escalation of bets when the odds shift into your favor. Regardless of whether you're playing real money blackjack at the Borgata in Atlantic City, or a game of multi-player at your favorite online casino, if you jump from 10 to 100 units a hand, chances are someone will notice. Pit personnel are trained to keep an eye out for exactly this sort of thing, so you will need to moderate or disguise your betting. If the odds are in your favor and you win a hand, double your next bet, or raise it by one unit. This is a very natural betting pattern that any player might use, and much less likely to draw unwanted attention. Also note that many online casinos' software employ mathematical algorithms that are programmed to detect wild swings in betting. So, since there is no pit boss to give you the boot at your own computer, the odds of many blackjack games at online casinos do not favor the player when making a large escalation in bet from one hand to the next. Stick with a similar raising strategy to what you'd use at a land casino, and you will be better off.

Event Frequency

Another important factor in blackjack mastery is knowing how often certain events occur. Maybe you've wondered how often blackjacks come up, or what the win/loss/tie breakdown is between players and the house. On average, a player will win 44% of the time, the dealer 48% and 8% of hands will result in a tie. With these odds, you might logically deduce that a player will lose more money than he or she will win. However, you must also take into account the built-in player advantages that blackjack offers like doubling down, splitting, and the fact that blackjack pays out at 3 to 2. While you will likely end up losing more hands than you win, you should just about break even monetarily, because you win more when you do win. If you win a double down, you get twice what you would expect than for winning only one hand, but it still counts as a single win for the player. Also, if the dealer gets a blackjack, you lose only your initial bet, instead of 1½ times the bet, which is what a player wins by getting a blackjack.

The event frequency chart to the right shows us that both the player and the dealer can expect a blackjack at a rate of 1 out of every 20 hands, or 5% of the time. An important thing to remember is that when a dealer shows an Ace, odds are that he or she will make a blackjack 32% of the time, meaning there won't be one the other 68% of the time. If the dealer has an Ace showing, you will be asked if you would like to take the insurance bet, which pays 2 to 1. Since the dealer will not have a blackjack 68% of the time, that's about how often you can expect to lose this bet, thus reinforcing why basic strategy says never to take the insurance bet. So when should you take the insurance bet? Only when you're an expert card counter, and the plus count is sky high, letting you know that the odds are actually in favor of the dealer having a ten card under that Ace. Even then, it is still a risky proposition, so, as a wise guy might say: "fuhgeddaboudit"!

House Rules' Effect For Players

If you've played blackjack in more than one location, odds are the rules of the game had slight variations. Las Vegas Strip rules are different from Downtown Las Vegas rules which are different from Atlantic City rules which are different from online blackjack rules and so on. So why is there no international standard for blackjack table rules? Basically, casinos like to be able to make small changes in their games to either attract or deter certain types of players. While probably more than half of the tourists and other recreational players only bother to look or inquire about a game's rules as far as the table minimum, smart players know that particular rules have direct relationships on the player's edge. Certain rules impact the edge favorably for players, others add to the house advantage. Looking for a game that has good rules is another important factor in improving your odds.

The house rules chart (to the right) shows us what percentage (positive or negative) different rule variations commonly found at today's casinos will have on a player. Starting at the top, definitely avoid all games where the dealer wins ties. This gives the house a big edge. Next, the lower the number of decks being used, the better the odds for players. Regardless of whether you're playing basic strategy, counting cards, or just guessing, single and double deck games give you better odds of winning. When you play multiple deck blackjack games dealt from a shoe, a blank card (usually colored red or yellow) will be inserted towards the end of the stack. All cards up to this card will be dealt during the game. Once the card is reached, it is time to shuffle. Depending on where the card is placed, the odds will improve or decrease for players. This is known as "penetration". Closer to the end of the stack (deeper penetration) is good for players because more cards will come out of the shoe during a game, meaning you have greater chances of predicting the remaining cards as the game progresses. Shallow penetration is bad for the player for the opposite reason. If the marker card is left only halfway into the stack, the odds of predicting what will be drawn next is greatly reduced. Taking it a step further, by playing single and double deck games, you can eliminate this scenario almost entirely as all the cards are usually dealt out.

Going back to the chart, you can see that being able to double on only 10 and 11 has a negative effect for the player, while being able to double on three or more cards and doubling after splits has a positive effect. Look for games where the dealer stand on all 17s - which are pretty common at most land casinos. Avoid games where the dealer does not take a second card until after the players are done. While surrender has a positive effect for players, it is rarely found these days, and even more rarely utilized properly. For more information on surrender, see our blackjack frequently asked questions section. Lastly, try to find games where you are allowed to re-split aces. Most games give you but a single card on each Ace when you split them, and do not allow resplitting of Aces. If you get an Ace on top of your split Ace, naturally you would want to split again, rather than stand on a 12, so this rule can have a big impact on player odds.


Blackjack is a fun and exciting casino game that is popular with players largely because it is beatable. Become a skilled player and the odds will shift into your favor, giving you a positive expectation of winning. This means that over time, playing blackjack will result in more winning sessions and less losing ones. Understanding basic strategy and counting techniques are critical to your success, but also having good betting strategy and knowing how rules impact the odds is equally important. Little things like these help players. Be sure to at least learn basic strategy, and then you will likely be better skilled than 80% of all blackjack players worldwide. All it takes is a little practice.



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  Related features
  Event Frequency  
  Player win
  Dealer win
  Push (tie)
  Player Blackjack
  Dealer Blackjack
  Dealer Blackjack
(with Ace showing)
  Player busts on 16
  Player busts on 15
  Player busts on 14
  Player busts on 13
  Player busts on 12
House Rule Effect
Dealer wins ties
Eight Decks
Six Decks
Four Decks
Two Decks
Double only on 10, 11
Dealer hits soft 17s
No dealer hole card
No resplitting pairs
Late Surrender
Double after splits
Double on 3 cards & up
Resplit Aces
Early Surrender



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