CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Send to a Friend Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of Walter Thomason

Gaming Guru

 

Blackjack Rules: How They Can Help Or Hurt You

11 September 1999

A friend of mine, a recreational blackjack player, recently spent a week in Las Vegas, followed by a Caribbean cruise. He told me that he did fine in Vegas, but lost his shirt on the cruise ship.

My question to him was, "Were the game rules different?"

"Yea, a little bit. On the ship you could only double-down on 10 or 11, only split one time, and the dealer hit soft 17. And there were no single deck games, and Surrender wasn't allowed."

My friend made a mistake that many players make: He played in a casino where the rules worked against his chances of winning, which most likely accounted for part of his lost shirt.

Assuming that he played perfect Basic Strategy in both Las Vegas and on the cruise ship, his chances of winning on the ship were reduced because of the game rules.

Why are the rules different? In a word: Competition. Casinos in such locations as Vegas and Mississippi compete for the same customers and are forced to provide a good game, whereas the cruise ship has a monopoly -- it's the only game in town! -- and can establish rules that increase its win percentage.

In order to more clearly understand how rule changes can affect the game of blackjack, let's first consider a game that offers good rules for the player -- rules that reduce the game to an almost even contest between the player and the dealer. We'll then present rule variations that favor the casino, and the long-term percentage difference that they create.

Good Rules For The Player

  • One or two deck game.
  • Double-down on any two cards.
  • Split any pair, and unlimited re-split if re-paired.
  • Double-down after split allowed.
  • Re-splitting of Aces allowed.
  • Dealer stands on 17; cannot hit soft 17.
  • Surrender allowed.
  • For card counters: At least 90% of deck(s) dealt.

If casinos offer the rules listed above, the player only faces a disadvantage of a fraction of a percent, and may have a slight advantage if he or she is a skilled card counter.

What happens when these rules are altered or eliminated? Rule changes and their long-term effect are as follows:

Bad Rules For The Player

Rule Approximate Loss of % Advantage to Player
Four or more decks .54%
Can't double-down on soft hands .13%
No re-split of pairs .05%
No double-down after split .10%
No re-splitting of Aces .03%
Dealer hits soft 17 .20%
No Surrender allowed .06%
For card counters: Shuffle after every hand in one deck game or less than 60% penetration in multiple-deck games Effectively eliminates the benefits of counting cards

The fractions of a percent listed above don't seem like much, but they actually result in your long-term wins being decreased by $1.11 (or your long-term losses being increased by $1.11) for every $100.00 wagered in a casino that changes the rules in the manner illustrated above.

Obviously the smart blackjack player should risk his or her money in casinos that offer the "good" rules, and should avoid playing in casinos with lousy rules. The casinos won't change the rules to favor us if we continue to play with lousy rules!

Incidentally, rule changes can occur in other games that improve the player's chances of winning. For instance, a roulette game that eliminates the "00" from the wheel drops the house advantage from 5.26% to 2.63%, and a craps table that allows pass line bets at 10X odds vs. 1X odds reduces the house advantage from .83% to .18%.

It's generally safe to say that the good games for players are offered in areas where there are many casinos, while the bad rules for players exist where there is only one casino.

For more information on all forms of casino gaming, I recommend The Experts' Guide To Casino Games (which I edited), available at your local bookstore, from Amazon.com, or by calling 1-800-447-BOOK.

Remember: "Play smarter, not harder."

WALLY'S WORDS OF WISDOM
Copyright 1998, Walter Thomason


For more information about blackjack:

21st Century Blackjack: A New Strategy for a New Millenium, by Walter Thomason
Blackjack for the Clueless by Walter Thomason
Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Walter Thomason
Walter Thomason is the best-selling author of Blackjack for the Clueless and the editor of The Experts’ Guide to Casino Games and The Ultimate Blackjack Book.

A long-time casino gaming enthusiast, he is a frequent contributor to
The New Chance and Circumstance, Midwest Gaming & Travel, and Heartland Casino News.

His new book is
21st Century Blackjack: A New Strategy for a New Millenium. He can be reached
at PO Box 550068, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33355.

Books by Walter Thomason:

> More Books By Walter Thomason

Walter Thomason
Walter Thomason is the best-selling author of Blackjack for the Clueless and the editor of The Experts’ Guide to Casino Games and The Ultimate Blackjack Book.

A long-time casino gaming enthusiast, he is a frequent contributor to
The New Chance and Circumstance, Midwest Gaming & Travel, and Heartland Casino News.

His new book is
21st Century Blackjack: A New Strategy for a New Millenium. He can be reached
at PO Box 550068, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33355.

Books by Walter Thomason:

> More Books By Walter Thomason