How to Beat the House Edge at Blackjack


Blackjack is the card game for intellectuals, mathematicians and those who like a real chance of beating the house. It has been the king of casino tables for decades, a status it maintained despite a slump following the 2008 film 21 and competition from other high-end games like baccarat, which attracts ultra-high rollers. Now, however, it’s back in the spotlight—and not because of 21 or a resurgence in popularity. Instead, it’s because of math. Fearsome when it’s on a test, mathematics can be positively friendly when it comes to winning at blackjack.

In blackjack, players and the dealer each get two cards. You can choose to hit (request more cards) or stand (keep your current hand). The goal is to get a total as close to 21 as possible without going over. When the player has a total closer to 21 than the dealer, they win. If both the player and the dealer have an equal total, it’s a tie. Winning bets pay out 1:1. If you have a blackjack, the payoff is 1.5:1.

To start a hand, players place their bets on the table and the dealer deals each player two cards face up. Players then decide whether to hit or stand. Then, the dealer reveals his or her card and, if it’s a 10, the player must split pairs (one of them will be dealt an additional card) or double down on the remaining hand. Then the player and dealer compare their hands. If the player’s total is higher than the dealer’s, they win. If they have a blackjack, they get paid 1.5:1.

A resurgence in interest has been fuelled by advances in mathematics and computer analysis of the game. It turns out that for every possible combination of the dealer’s and player’s cards, there is a play (hit, stand, split) with the highest probability of winning. But novices miss these opportunities, playing too conservatively to avoid busting, and not doubling down enough or splitting pairs when the odds are favorable.

Expert players take advantage of these opportunities, busting less often and making more money by maximizing their wins. But, even more importantly, they are able to increase their bets in favorable situations and make intelligent decisions based on information that they gather as the game progresses. The role of mathematics in blackjack means strategy, not luck, and it can turn the tables on the gambling establishment. For more on the rules and strategy of blackjack, check out our guide. And when you’re ready to give it a try for yourself, come see us at Leelanau Sands! Our friendly dealers are always ready to help. You can even try your luck at the Bonus Spin side bet that pays out a fixed payout for an Ace in the first two cards!

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