Blackjack Basic Strategy House Edge

Basic Strategy by Software Provider. For convenience we’ve compiled the rules, House Edge and Basic Strategy tables for the Blackjack games offered by most of the major online software providers. Click the links below to view the Basic Strategy tables for individual games. Basic Rules and Payouts; Doubling Down; Splitting; House Edge and RTP; Strategy and Tips; Hall first introduced Free Bet Blackjack in June 2012 at the Golden Nugget Casino in downtown Las Vegas and himself deems it his most successful creation to this date. The game mostly plays like conventional blackjack with two major differences.

If you happen to enjoy Blackjack Switch, there is a good chance you might get intrigued by Free Bet Blackjack. Both variations were invented by professional gambler Geoff Hall, a highly acclaimed figure in the landbased gambling circles.

Hall first introduced Free Bet Blackjack in June 2012 at the Golden Nugget Casino in downtown Las Vegas and himself deems it his most successful creation to this date. The game mostly plays like conventional blackjack with two major differences. Players get to double down and split on certain two-card hand values for free.

Basic Rules and Payouts in Free Bet Blackjack

Free Bet Blackjack is normally dealt out of a six-deck shoe and requires the dealer to hit soft totals of 17. Minimum bets are typically either $5 or $10. The round starts with players posting their chips in the betting circles corresponding to their spots on the table.

Once bets are posted, all participants receive two face-up cards, except the dealer whose second card is dealt face-down. A starting hand of an Ace and a ten-value card is an instant winner and returns a payout of 3 to 2 although an increasing number of gambling halls choose to cut down the odds for blackjacks to 6 to 5. Regular winning hands pay out even money.

Players have a choice from the usual playing decisions like hitting, standing, doubling down, and splitting. Surrendering a hand is no longer permitted in Free Bet Blackjack.

The free doubling down and splitting rules are outlined in the sections below but they come at a cost. Instead of busting on hands that total 22, the dealers in Free Bet Blackjack push with the players. Thus, if the player’s hand totals 21 or less and the dealer has a total of 22, the player’s wager is considered a tie.

Payouts for the Push 22 Side Bet

Some gambling halls like San Diego’s Pala Casino give players the opportunity to earn extra money with the Push 22 side bets. The payouts for these optional wagers are as follows:

  • 50 to 1 for a dealer with suited cards that total 22
  • 20 to 1 for a dealer hand of 22 that consists of cards of the same color
  • 8 to 1 for any hand combination of the dealer that totals 22, regardless of suit and color

Doubling Down in Free Bet Blackjack

Regular doubling down is permitted on any two-card total. However, the player gets to double down for free on two-card hands of 9, 10, and 11. In this instance, the dealer matches the player’s initial wager with a free bet chip and deals one more card to the hand.

If the player wins, the dealer pays the successful double with real money. If the dealer wins, the player loses only the original bet they have posted and the free-play chips are removed from the felt. When the two push, the player gets their original wager back. Free doubling is also allowed after the player splits pairs.

Splitting in Free Bet Blackjack

At Free Bet Blackjack tables, players can split for free all pairs with the exception of 10s, although splitting 4s at no cost was also prohibited initially. The pair is then divided into two separate hands and a card is automatically drawn to each one.

The hands are played one at a time, with players having the option to hit, stand, double for free, or resplit for free. Resplitting is possible to up to four individual hands, including those consisting of Aces. Respectively, a free-bet chip is used for each split hand. Should the player win, their free chip is replaced with a real chip that equals the amount of the initial wager. If the dealer wins, they collect only the players’ original bet.

House Edge and RTP

When Free Bet Blackjack first hit the floors of Las Vegas casinos, players had the opportunity to exercise the late surrender decision, i.e. to fold their starting hands in exchange for half of their original wagers. However, it was soon established this led to a significant reduction in the house edge, which dropped to 0.21% only.

Gambling halls then decided to boost their own advantage by removing the surrender option altogether. The rules outlined above presently yield a house edge of around 1%, which is still rather decent for a game where you get to double down and split for free. Respectively, this corresponds to a long-term theoretical return-to-player percentage of 99% at 3-to-2 tables.

Strategy and Tips for Free Bet Blackjack

The optimal strategy here bears a number of similarities with that for conventional blackjack but there are several exceptions you need to have in mind when you attack the Free Bet Blackjack tables. The first exception is that players should split all pairs for free except those consisting of 5s where they should double at no cost instead.

Keep in mind splitting 10s is generally a bad idea. If you insist on doing it, nevertheless, remember the free split rule does not stand on paired 10s and you will have to pay for this decision. You should also double down for free on any two-card total of 9, 10, and 11, regardless of what the dealer’s exposed card is.

House edge means the percentage of the player's bet the casino wins on average. This is worth figuring out since the size of house edge has everything to do with how likely you're to win. Educated players always find the games with the least house edge possible and therefore win the most - or at least lose the least.

For example, if house edge is 1.89%, the player loses $1.89 on average out of every $100 bet he makes. Obviously the player doesn't lose that amount on every single bet; you might win two hands and then lose six hands in a row but in the long run the loss will be about $1.89 per bet. One of the goals of Gaming the Odds is to teach you all about perfect blackjack strategy and to minimize the house edge. You can find several house edge percentages for blackjack game variations below in order to help you to find the best games.

The Amount of Decks

Blackjack Basic Strategy House Edge

Firstly, what kind of an effect the amount decks has on casino's advantage? The table below displays the house edge for a standard blackjack game: blackjack pays 3:2, the dealer stands on soft 17, doubling is allowed for any two cards and splitting to four hands is allowed.

Number of DecksHouse Edge
Single Deck-0.03%
Two Decks+0.25%
Four Decks+0.38%
Six Decks+0.42%
Eight Decks+0.44%

Under those rules it would actually be profitable to play according to basic strategy with a single deck. It's always optimal to play according to basic strategy but in the vast majority of cases you're still going to have negative expectation.

Game and Rule Variations

Blackjack Games

Let's move on to the next table, which features other blackjack game variations and their house edges. In order to make it easier to compare these games, all the house edge percentages are for six-deck gamesunless otherwise stated.

GameHouse Edge
Atlantic City Blackjack+0.42%
Blackjack Switch+0.58%
Double Attack Blackjack *+0.61%
Double Exposure Blackjack+0.67%
European Blackjack+0.62%
Multiple Action Blackjack **+0.42%
Pontoon Blackjack+0.45%
Spanish 21+0.37%
Super Fun 21+1.40%
Three Card Blackjack+2.10%
Vegas Downtown Blackjack+0.62%
Vegas Strip Blackjack+0.53%

* Played with a specific amount of decks (which isn't six).
** Multiple hands played but probability equal to standard blackjack.

Blackjack Basic Strategy House Edge Advantage

The table above was made to give you some idea of which games are better to play than others. It's also important to remember that some casinos may operate with slightly different rules which either increase or decrease the house advantage of the game.

Blackjack Rule Variations

What about other rule variations, then? I'm going to list some of the more common blackjack rule variations and their house edges. The tables below consists of changes made to standard blackjack rules:

Dealer Hits Soft 17
# of DecksHouse Edge
Single Deck+0.15%
Two Decks+0.45%
Four Decks+0.59%
Six Decks+0.63%
Eight Decks+0.66%
Player Can Only Double 9-11
# of DecksHouse Edge
Single Deck+0.11%
Two Decks+0.36%
Four Decks+0.48%
Six Decks+0.52%
Eight Decks+0.54%
Player Can Only Double 10-11
# of DecksHouse Edge
Single Deck+0.26%
Two Decks+0.48%
Four Decks+0.58%
Six Decks+0.61%
Eight Decks+0.63%
Dealer Doubles on 17
# of DecksHouse Edge
Single Deck-0.03%
Two Decks+0.25%
Four Decks+0.38%
Six Decks+0.42%
Eight Decks+0.44%
Player Can Resplit Aces
# of DecksHouse Edge
Single Deck-0.06%
Two Decks+0.20%
Four Decks+0.32%
Six Decks+0.35%
Eight Decks+0.37%
Blackjack Pays 6:5
# of DecksHouse Edge
Single Deck+1.36%
Two Decks+1.62%
Four Decks+1.75%
Six Decks+1.78%
Eight Decks+1.80%

A couple of conclusions: first of all, the last section ('Blackjack Pays 6:5') shows you how unprofitable it is to play those games. Never play a game where blackjack pays 6:5.

Secondly, games where the player can resplit aces are preferable for the player. Try to find those games. It's also good for the player when the dealer doubles 17.

Blackjack Side Bets

And finally, blackjack side bets and house edges for them.

Side BetHouse Edge
21+3 Blackjack+3.20%
21 Madness+23.00%
Bonus Blackjack+24.00%
Match the Dealer+3.10%
Perfect Pairs Blackjack+4.10%
Royal Match Blackjack+6.50%
Super Match Blackjack+2.60%
Super Sevens Blackjack+11.70%
Bust It Blackjack+7.00%

No, casinos didn't include the 'side bet' option just to give players a better chance of winning. As you can see, side bets are good for the casino and bad for the player even if they might make the game a bit more exciting.

Favourable Blackjack Rule Variations for the Player

Here's a list of blackjack rule variations favourable for the player:

  • The less decks the better. (Games with one deck are the best.)
  • Double down on any 2 cards.
  • Blackjack pays 3:2.
  • Resplitting aces allowed.
  • Dealer stands on a 17.
  • Early/late surrender.
  • Low deck penetration (for card counters).
  • Insurance (for card counters).

Favourable Blackjack Rule Variations for the Casino

  • Side bets.
  • Double down on 10 and 11 only.
  • Dealer hits a soft 17.
  • The more decks the better.
  • Blackjack pays 6:5
  • Low deck penetration (against card counters).
  • No doubling down after splitting.
  • Not allowed to resplit aces.

I suggest trying to memorize these lists and look for games with beneficial blackjack rule variations for the player. Rule variations in favor of the casino should obviously be avoided.

Blackjack House Edge: FAQ

Do bet sizes impact house edge in blackjack?

It makes no difference whether you bet $10 or $10,000 - the house advantage stays the same. The amount you lose or win per bet changes, of course, depending on how big of an edge either you or the casino's got.

Which blackjack game has the smallest casino edge?

Suggesting all games are played with six decks - which is a common size for a blackjack shoe - Spanish 21 has the best house edge for the player according to the blackjack house edge table on top of this page. Standard 21 Blackjack is good too since you can actually have the edge by playing perfect basic strategy with a single deck. Hard rock tampa blackjack.

How big is the house edge if I count cards?

This depends on many variables, such as which blackjack card counting systems you're going to use. In case you're using a highly complicated system, play perfectly and manage to find a good game to play, you may have a significant edge (even 3% or 4%).

Blackjack Basic Strategy House Edgewater

Additional Resources: