Understanding the house advantage in blackjack is a must if you want to count cards and play the game with a serious expectation of profit. This understanding is the building block upon which all of your remaining blackjack skill is based.
Without being able to identify the house advantage and, more importantly, being aware of how to reduce it you have very little chance to be a consistent winner at blackjack.
What is the House Advantage?
All casinos operate to make a profit. They are not in business to entertain you. They are in business to take your money. In order for casinos to make a profit the games offered must have a built-in advantage for the casino. Otherwise, the games would be a matter of pure luck and the casinos would eventually go broke.
Casinos do everything in their power to disguise the house advantage. They do not want you to be conscious of it because if you knew what it was on many games you wouldn’t play. The best way to illustrate this is by taking roulette as an example.
If you were to play roulette and only bet on whether the number would be red or black, what would be your chance of winning? If you are like most people you answered 50%, an even money chance.
You see, the casino can’t count on making money when the odds are 50-50. They can only break even in that circumstance. So, they adjust the house advantage in their favor and disguise the adjustment. How do they do this in roulette? It is very simple. They just add two green numbers to the wheel. What has happened to your chances now when you bet on red or black? That’s right. They just dropped to 33%, giving the casino a house advantage of 66% on those bets.
In other words, for every $100 you bet you can expect to lose $66 in the long run. Now, let’s be clear that this example does not reflect the true house edge of roulette. It is a little more complicated than that. We gave a simple example to illustrate the power of the house advantage.
Games with the lowest House Advantage
If you are serious about winning money when you go to the casino, the following games are the only ones you should be playing:
Do you understand why serious players prefer to play blackjack over any other casino game? It is because blackjack offers the player the best chance of winning. The great thing about blackjack is that you can even lower the edge even more by card counting and basic blackjack strategy. You can even swing the edge in your favor if you are a superior counter.
If blackjack isn’t your thing, then craps is your best alternative with a house advantage of 1.41%.
Games with the highest House Advantage
If you are playing any of the following games then you are in for big time losses in the long run:
If you must play these games, only do so for recreation. You cannot have any expectation of a long term profit when playing these games.
Beating the House Advantage
As we mentioned above, beating the house advantage means that you must do three things:
- Play blackjack.
- Use basic blackjack strategy.
- Count cards.
These three things have the potential to make you a winner at the casino. Let’s talk a little bit about how two of them work to reduce the house advantage.
Using basic strategy to act on your hands when playing blackjack can reduce the house advantage to as little as 0.14%. In other words, when you make the correct decisions at the blackjack table you can almost make winning a 50-50 proposition. The key is memorizing basic strategy and making the correct play each and every time.
What happens when you don’t use basic blackjack strategy? Making the wrong decisions regarding hitting, standing, splitting, or doubling down can increase the house advantage to over 3%.
Card counting is the key that will swing the house edge in your favor. When combined with proper basic strategy, an accurate card counting method can give the player an advantage over the house of 0.5% to 1.00%. That may not seem like a big number, but it is plenty enough to make you a winner at blackjack.
Remember, different card counting systems reduce the edge to a greater or lesser degree. You not only need to find a system that is right for you, you also need to know and be willing to accept the edge it provides in live play.