Many recreational blackjack players love the game so much that they want to know everything about it. Despite my mathematical acumen I love numbers – especially when it involves gambling.
While I’ll never be a true advantage player, knowing more than the basic information for casino games makes me more confident in risking money as a hobby. I like to make informed decisions spending money on anything – including gambling.
Sometimes choosing a wager or game to play is based on how often I think a bet might win.
For a non-blackjack example, I bet on Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels to win American League MVP at +350 odds. The implied odds of him winning the award are about 22%.
When I placed the wager I thought he had a 40% chance to win. In theory, I made a smart bet as the odds were on my side. Time will tell if this was a good bet but I felt confident enough that the advantage on this wager was in my favor.
This is no different to me than knowing the house edge when playing blackjack. Playing the best blackjack games using perfect basic strategy gives me a fair chance to win. If nothing else, the sessions should be longer which is more fun.
The casino always has the house edge but reducing its advantage puts me in a good place to maximize fun while in the casino. Not only should I play longer but the odds are better that I’ll walk away as a winner. This is the opposite of someone who just plays back blackjack games and doesn’t care to use correct information like basic strategy.
Dealer Busting Odds
Learning basic strategy puts a player in the best place to keep the blackjack house edge as low as possible. The tactics didn’t come from anywhere. They’re based on simulations of millions of hands of blackjack.
While anything can happen during an individual game or session, the math and strategy hold true over time. All gambling math is an approximation over millions of games.
Dealer bust odds can be the same. The information is a good gauge of what should happen when a dealer has a certain card showing.
- 2 – 35.3%
- 3 – 37.4%
- 4 – 39.6%
- 5 – 41.9%
- 6 – 42.3%
- 7 – 26.2%
- 8 – 24.3%
- 9 – 23%
- 10 – 21.3%
- A – 11.6%
There isn’t anything particularly surprising with the dealer bust odds. The data essentially lines up with basic strategy plays.
Final Dealer Hand Odds
Since we’ve looked at the possible bust rates for dealers, let’s take a look at the odds of what their final hand will look like.
Some of the information may be surprising. We tend to remember the bad hands when playing blackjack and it feels as if a dealer delivers themselves a natural 21 way more than the odds show.
- Natural 21 – 4.82%
- 21 (3+ cards) – 7.36%
- 20 – 17.58%
- 19 – 13.48%
- 18 – 13.81%
- 17 – 14.58%
- 16 – 28.36%
While the natural 21 odds are just short of 5%, the total odds of the dealer ending up with 21 at the end of a hand seem slightly more in tune with what we see.
The dealer will finish their hand with a total of 21 slightly more than 12% of the time. This may still seem low but it’s closer to reality in my mind.
To break this down in math we can all imagine a dealer will end up with a 21:
- 12 of 100 hands
- 6 of 50 hands
- 3 of 25 hands
Looking at this in smaller numbers sounds about right on average.
Odds Of A Player Being Dealt A Certain Hand
Now that we’ve looked at the odds of the dealer’s hands, let’s take a look at the player. The information below is how often a player will receive a certain type of hand.
- Blackjack – 4.8%
- Standing Hand (17-20) – 30%
- Decision Hand – (1-16) – 38.7%
- No Bust – 26.5%
It’s always helpful to remember that this math is accurate over millions of hands played. While blackjack is a game of skill, it’s always surprising to see how often a player must use their knowledge of basic strategy.
Even if a player stands, they can still be using the correct basic strategy. That said, just under 40% of the time a player will have to make a decision on whether to hit or stand.
Knowing when to hit or stand in blackjack is what seemingly separates sharper players from the most recreational of all.
Changing The House Edge
We’ve looked at the math behind blackjack. Casinos make blackjack rules but it’s up to players to decide whether or not to risk their money.
Casinos often have multiple blackjack games with different rules. Players have the advantage of choosing where to spend their money.
Here are a few rules to consider before sitting at a blackjack game. Each of these blackjack rules can change the house edge for or against the casino.
- The Number of decks: The more decks in play the better the edge for the casino.
- Dealer hits/stands on soft 17: When the dealer has to hit a soft 17 the house edge will decrease.
- Double down: When a player can double down at any time the house edge is decreased by .11%.
- Double after splitting: When players cannot double after splitting the house edge is increased by .14%.
- Resplitting. The fewer times you can split and/or you’re not allowed to split aces, the better the house edge is for the casino.
- Every little change in blackjack rules will have an impact on the house edge. Unfortunately, the most favorable options are only available to players at higher-limit games.
For example, dealers hitting on soft 17 is rarely available for players in Las Vegas for under $25 per hand. There are also casinos that have games that only allow doubling down on a 10 or 11.
Casinos might have more favorable rules for the same denomination. It never hurts to do a lap around the casino and find the blackjack game with the best rules that fit your budget.