Negative Variations

Negative variations in blackjack refers to the different blackjack games and rule variations that negatively affect the house edge for players.

It’s important to understand how the different games and rules will impact you so that you can choose games that are more in your favor. The casino will have an edge over you no matter what you do, shy of counting cards. So you’re out money no matter what game you play. But you might as well do what you can do reduce that.

Blackjack Rules That Negatively Affect the House Edge

Here is a list of rule variations that will negatively affect the house edge. Write these down or memorize them so that when you go to the casino you know what games to avoid (when possible).

  • Blackjack pays 6:5 – The standard blackjack payout is 3:2, however you’ll come across your share of casinos that pay 6:5. This increases the house edge by 1.39%. If the casino pays 1:1 that will increase the house edge 2.27% and there is a .45% increase for 7:5 payouts.
  • No peek with 10 showing – This increases the housed edge .10% because players will lose all bets made from splitting and doubling down if the dealer happens to have a blackjack.
  • Player cannot double after splitting – This increases the house edge .14%.
  • Player may not split aces – This increases the house edge .18%.
  • Dealer hits soft 17 – This increases the house edge .22%.
  • Dealer bust on 22 is a push – What this means is that instead of busting on 22 points, the hand is considered a push against player 21 point hands. This increases the house edge 6.91%.
  • Player loses 17-21 ties – There are a few combinations including 17-18, 17-19, 17-20 and 17-21. The house edge will be increased by 3.58% to 8.86%.
  • Number of decksSingle deck blackjack will have an edge of .17%, but an eight deck game will have a .65% edge.

This covers the majority of them. I realize that a 3 or 6 percent increase doesn’t sound like much, but think about this; the house edge for blackjack is already around 5% if you’re not using basic strategy. So you’re increasing the house edge by 50-100 percent. That’s huge in the grand scheme of things. It all adds up.

What Blackjack Variations Have the Biggest Disadvantages

From our research these blackjack variations have the worst house edge. These all assume that the player is using basic strategy.

  • Blackjack Switch – With optimal strategy blackjack switch has a .58% edge. However, it can be as high as 1% depending on rules (dealer standing on soft 17 and switched blackjack automatically wins)
  • Super Fun 21 – This has a house edge of 1.16% to 1.30%.
  • Perfect Pairs – With the side bonus this has a house edge of 2%.
  • Double Exposure Blackjack – Depending on where you find it the house edge is 1.5% (although it can be found lower).

Notice that all of these games have a house edge of over 1%. That’s high when you compare it to the .28% house edge that normal blackjack has when you use optimal strategy. In some cases it’s 7x as much.

Blackjack Side Bets & How They Impact the House Edge

What you’ll notice is that it’s not so much the games that have the biggest impact on the house edge, but the side bets that make them unique from other blackjack games. Here is a list of the worst side bets and the blackjack variations they are available in.

  • Super Sevens – This pays when the player is dealt a 7 first. The payouts get larger if each card is a seven, with the payouts being different for unsuited and suited cards. This has a house edge of 12 percent.
  • Version 5 – This is a progressive jackpot on ShuffleMaster and TableMax machines. This has a house edge of 62%.
  • Bet the Set / Pair Square – This pays when the players first two cards are a pair, and pays more if they’re suited. This house a house edge of as high as 15%.
  • Bet the Set – This is a progressive variation that pays when a player is dealt a pair. This has a house edge of 27%.
  • Lucky Ladies – Any player 20 point hand wins (something). This has a 24% house edge.
  • Bonanza Blackjack – This pays when the player has any 20-point hand and the dealer has a 10-point card. This has a house edge of 18%
  • Wheel of Madness – This is a $1 side bet that if the player wins, he gets to spin a prize wheel. This has a house edge of 22-24%.
  • Straight 8’s – This is like Lucky Lady; it pays on the players first 2 up cards. This has a house edge as high as 15%. The house edge gets smaller the more decks in play.
  • Super Split – This has a house edge of 23.40%.
  • Perfect Charlie – This pays based on the first 3-5 cards of the players initial hand on hands like 2/3/4, 2/3/4 suited any order, 2/3/4/5 suited in order, etc, with the harder to make hand the highest paid out. This has a house edge of 38.97%.

There are lots more. Some have relatively smaller house edges, even as small as 2%. But they’re still all bigger than the .28 percent edge you get playing optimal strategy blackjack. At the end of the day, side bets in blackjack are sucker bets. You might as well be playing slots.