Understanding The Casino’s House Edge

Posted August 31, 2009 by Andrew in Articles

Poker House OddsNo matter what the ads tell you, there’s no such thing as completely overcoming the house odds in blackjack. The casino will always have a slight advantage; they have to, it’s a business for them. They wouldn’t be dumb enough to bother with running a gambling operation where they have a higher risk of losing to the players.

The rules of blackjack (or any other game) are designed to give them a higher edge. However, good blackjack players can play a hand well, and thus beat them in spite of the odds. It’s the challenge that makes the game so exciting. You can’t lower the inherent risks of the game, but you can use the elements to your advantage, and win anyway. To do this, though, you have to understand what the “house edge” (also called the house advantage) is.

The house edge comes from the fact that the dealer plays his hand last. Any players that exceed the 21 limit lose long before it’s his turn. They bust out, and the casino makes a profit already…even if the dealer also busts. The only time the casino actually shells out any cash is if there are players that don’t bust.

The burden of winning lies on the player, not the dealer. Whatever his cards happen to be, you’ve got to do well or “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.”

Given that scenario, what do you do? You can even the odds by adapting the same strategy that dealers use: standing on 17 or higher, and hitting on 16 or less. This means you have roughly a 29% chance of busting, just like him. Well, almost. He still has a house advantage of about 8%, since he can win the bet of the players regardless of his cards. Or a house advantage of 6%, since you are compensated three to two when you get a blackjack.

Now let’s whittle down the house edge a little more. Improve your basic strategy, make it almost perfect, and it goes down to 5%. You also have better chances when you play a six deck game, and if the dealer doubles down on any number of cards (that reduces house advantage by as much as .21%!)

However, some setups increase the house edge — which will also increase the kind of earnings you can get if you beat them, so just weigh your risks. Play an eight deck game and the house edge increases by about .02%. Not that bad. Well, what about these: when the dealer hits a soft 17, or doubles down on a 9 to 11 only, then house advantage increases by as much as .22%. The rule of “no double after splitting pairs” also adds to the casino advantage by .13%, while natural pays 6 to 5 makes it leap an additional 1.45%.

Whew! Can you feel the pressure?

Different gambling sites have different house advantages, so review the game rules and see whether or not you’re comfortable with it. Of course, the higher their advantage, the higher payouts they give—it’s all part of the territory. The basic thing is that you know what you’re up against.

About the Author


Andrew Keyes is a poker enthusiast, a writer, researcher, speaker, and consultant. You can visit to get poker articles along with winning poker tips, tested poker strategies, the latest poker news, free poker tools, cool poker resources, and more! Visit today and you can download some of the best poker bots for automating your poker play!