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Blackjack on the decline – rule changes that could do similar to other games


2 Oct 2018

When Edward Thorp published his blackjack strategy book ‘Beat The Dealer’ in 1962, the game soon took on a new lease of life within the casino environment.

Prior to this, blackjack was purely a spectator to craps in terms of its popularity. But then suddenly casino visitors had the knowledge in their arsenal to realistically get the upper hand over the house.

No longer was blackjack perceived to be a game of luck like the majority of others in the casino. Instead, by counting cards, players could use math to enhance their chances of success.

What casinos did not factor into their future decisions of tinkering with the rules was that although players had the knowledge to potentially beat them, at least on occasions, many did not have the ability to make the most of it.

Some may lose the count after a few hands, while others may not have increased or decreased their bet accordingly depending on the position of the count.

Even so, adjustments have been continuously made to the rules of blackjack over the years to tilt the odds further in favour of the casino and, in turn, decrease its attractiveness to knowledgeable players.

The result in the US state of Nevada, based on figures from the UNLV Center For Gaming Research, is that between the years 2000 and 2017 the number of blackjack tables fell by over 31%.

The blackjack rule changes

The most obvious alteration has been in terms of the payout from getting dealt blackjack, which has been weakened from 3/2 to 6/5.

A successful £20 bet used to equate to a profit of £30 in a £50 payout. Following the widespread change, a blackjack only returns £44 instead.

Considering that a player can expect to be dealt blackjack once every 21 hands on average, these £6 losses soon add up and eat into profits.

For a player sitting down for a session of around 200 hands, they are £60 down before they start.

Smaller adjustments to the rules include the growth in multi-deck shoes, with the more decks in play making card counting much tougher. Finding a two-deck game of blackjack is now close to an impossible task.

Elsewhere, automatic shufflers were brought in to the tables, restrictions limited pair-splitting opportunities and dealers were also forced into hitting on soft 17.

Each to some degree tilted the odds further in the casino’s favour.

A similar possible baccarat rule change

One casino game that has retained much of its popularity is baccarat, especially among the high rollers of Asia.

In its most basic form, baccarat is fairly straightforward. Players bet on either the Player or the Banker.

Both have low house edges compared to the lion’s share of casino games. The house edge is only 1.24% on the Player and 1.06% on the Banker.

The latter of these is widely considered to be the best bet for a new casino visitor, turning up with the intention of placing one single bet and having the highest probability of winning.

However, what is significant with winning Banker bets is that they are all subject to a 5% commission required to be paid to the casino.

The reason for this is that if 1,000 rounds of baccarat are played, the Banker should win 458, the Player 446 and the other 96 are ties.

Should a player bet £10 on each hand, they would win £4,580 from their successful Banker bets and lose only £4,460 from the hands when the Player hand wins.

This would obviously leave the casino £120 down. The commission prevents this, as 5% of £4,580 is £229. This turns the expected house loss of £120 into a profit of £109.

If the casino wished to attempt to pinch a little more profit, one way to do this would be by pushing up the commission they take.

Just by increasing this to 6%, the casino would earn £274.80 in commission and make £154.80 in profit – which would be £45.80 more across 1,000 rounds than is currently the case.

Given how many rounds are played in a day, this would make a substantial difference.

A similar possible roulette rule change

The house edge established in a game of roulette is achieved by the inclusion of the green 0 on the wheel.

On a European wheel with just the one 0, the edge is regarded as being 2.70%. An American wheel also features a green 00 and here the casino’s edge is upped to 5.26%.

Many players believe that when they are making bets such as on odd or even numbers or red or black that their likelihood of success is 50/50.

However, the presence of the 0 or multiple green 0s means that this is not the case.

Imagine then if a casino looks to stretch the house edge further by adding another green segment – whether it be 000 or something else.

To casual casino goers this may not make much difference to their gameplay, but for more regular players, this only diminishes their chances of a win further.

After all, this would increase the house edge on an American roulette wheel to 7.69%.

This extra 2.63% could equate to a vast profit increase across one day’s roulette play.