House edge is probably the biggest reason for blackjack’s worldwide popularity. Real money 21 tables have always tended to favour the dealer by a lesser margin than games like roulette, craps and baccarat, making BJ much better value for players who understand basic strategy.
These days, many players prefer online blackjack to land-based options as it offers better odds. Not all games are alike, however, as there are myriad rule variations which can affect our chances of turning a profit in the long run.
Here at BlackjackTips.com.au, we will show you everything you need to know about blackjack house edge – including what it is and how it works. We will demonstrate how all the most common blackjack rules (and some of the not-so-common ones) can shift the posts one way or the other.
We’ll also detail the return odds for every digital 21 game at our top-ranked online casinos.
Best blackjack casinos
What is house edge?
Simply put, the house edge is the mathematical advantage a casino holds over the player in any given game. This is usually quantified as a percentage which describes how much a bettor can expect to lose for every $100 wagered. For example: an edge of 2.5% means you are theoretically forfeiting $2.50 out of every $100 you bet.
In blackjack, house edge is almost always calculated with the assumption that players are using basic strategy. If you don’t know this essential method of play, then there is little point worrying about the casino edge – for you will be at a huge disadvantage no matter what, even on the most player-friendly tables.
With the possible exception of video poker, blackjack is as close you will get to an even contest between the player and the dealer. Traditional games carry a house edge of well under 0.50%, which stacks up very nicely against European roulette (2.70%), sic bo (2.78%), three card poker (2.32%), casino hold’em (2.16%) and punto banco baccarat (1.01%).
Land-based gambling venues aren’t as generous as they used to be, however, and Australian casinos are among the worst in the world for high-edge 21 games. Lucky for us, there is a much more convenient and cost-effective way to play real money blackjack nowadays.
Expected returns for online blackjack games
Internet casinos carry dozens of blackjack variants for real cash play, ranging from classic single-deck 21 games to funky new-age versions which are only available on the Web.
Microgaming is a popular software provider for desktop and mobile blackjack. Chief among its catalogue are the Gold Series releases, which include Classic Blackjack Gold, which offers very low odds.
You can play every one of the titles below (as well as multi-hand blackjack and side-bet variants) at leading Microgaming casinos such as Royal Vegas Casino, All Slots Casino and Jackpot City Casino.
In addition to the most popular Microgaming blackjack titles, instant play casino sites like Guts Casino may offer table games from several other top-ranking software companies. Guts carries the following virtual 21 releases from Net Entertainment and BetSoft:
How Blackjack Rules Affect House EdgeYou might compare some of the above games side by side and wonder how one can give a higher expected return rate than the other, even though many of them appear just about identical on face value. That’s one way casino operators try to lure gamblers into losing situations, as a single seemingly insignificant rule change can make a whole world of difference to your long-term odds.The table below demonstrates how common variable blackjack rules can affect the house edge. All +/- figures are shown in relation to the conditions of Microgaming’s Atlantic City Blackjack Gold Series:
- Eight decks
- Hole card
- Dealer stands on soft 17
- Double after split allowed
- Double down on any two cards
- Aces can only be split once
- Can’t hit split Aces
- Split up to four hands
- Late surrender
- Blackjack pays 3 to 2
Positive figures (+) raise the house edge, while negative ones (-) lower it – so the rules at the top of the table are the worst, and those at the bottom are the best.Casino Edge on Side BetsMany of the games and rules listed above can also be played in conjunction with side bets.
These optional wagers come in all shapes and sizes, but all are designed for the same purpose: to trick unsuspecting punters into giving up even more cash to the casino.As a rule, every blackjack side bet raises the house edge. This includes the common insurance wager, where you can take 2 to 1 odds that the dealer has a blackjack. Yes, the higher payout odds are all fine and dandy, but they are never as high as they should be when you consider the actual probability of winning the bet.Below are the sidebet blackjack games available at our recommended real money casino sites. Don’t be fooled by the attractive returns, for some of these high-risk wagers bump up the house advantage by more than 12%.
Bonus Blackjack – Pays 50 to 1 for Jack + Aces in Spades, 25 to 1 for Jack + Ace in any other suit, and 5 to 2 for any two cards of the same suit.
Hi/Lo 13 – Bet that your initial hand will total less than 13 (1 to 1), more than 13 (1 to 1), or exactly 13 points (10 to 1).
High Streak – A progressive side bet where the payout increases with each consecutive win, from first streak (1 to 1) up to fifth streak (10 to 1).
Perfect Pairs – Win extra when you draw a mixed pair (7 to 1), coloured pair (15 to 1), or perfect pair (30 to 1) on the initial deal.
Super Sevens – Draw all Sevens on your first one, two, or three cards to win bonus payouts up to 5000 to 1.
|Game||House edge||Theoretical return|
|Atlantic City Blackjack||0.36%||99.64%|
|Big Five Blackjack||0.47%||99.53%|
|Super Fun 21||0.94%||99.06%|
|Vegas Downtown Blackjack||0.39%||99.61%|
|Vegas Single Deck Blackjack||0.35%||99.65%|
|Vegas Strip Blackjack||0.35%||99.65%|
|Game (brand)||House edge||Theoretical return|
|Blackjack Classic (NetEnt)||0.40%||99.60%|
|Blackjack Pro Series (NetEnt)||0.40%||99.60%|
|Double Exposure (NetEnt)||0.64%||99.36%|
|Pontoon Pro Series (NetEnt)||0.41%||99.59%|
|Pirate 21 (BetSoft)||0.58%||99.42%|
|Single Deck Blackjack (NetEnt)||0.48%||99.52%|
|Super 7 Blackjack (BetSoft)||0.46%||99.54%|
|Rule variation||House edge effect|
|Blackjack pays 6 to 5||+1.39%|
|Dealers hits soft 17||+0.22%|
|Double down on 10 or 11 only||+0.18%|
|Cannot double after splitting||+0.14%|
|European No Hole Card rule (ENHC)||+0.11%|
|Split up to two hands||+0.10%|
|Double down on 9, 10 or 11 only||+0.09%|
|No late surrender||+0.08%|
|Split up to three hands||+0.01%|
|Can resplit Aces||-0.08%|
|Double down rescue (surrender after doubling)||-0.10%|
|Hit or double down on split Aces||-0.19%|
|Double down on any number of cards||-0.23%|
|Player 21 wins straight away||-0.54%|
|Blackjack pays 2 to 1||-2.27%|