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# Understanding blackjack odds

The goal of a blackjack game is to get a hand value as close to 21 as possible. Although a fairly simple objective, several factors influence your chances of achieving this. The most important of all of these is the blackjack odds. Blackjack is largely about betting. Learning the best mathematical decisions on the blackjack table will increase your odds of winning blackjack. However, unlike other casino games, there’s a significant amount of skill required here.

This article covers all the major details necessary to understand the odds of winning blackjack. This includes understanding the house edge and tips to give you an advantage in this casino game.

## How the house edge affects odds of winning in blackjack

The house edge is the casino’s inherent advantage over players expressed as a percentage. Casinos are profit-oriented businesses. Whether you win or lose, a small portion of your bet will always go to the casino. Fortunately, blackjack has one of the lowest house edges among all the game types you will find in a casino. For inexperienced players, the house edge can be as high as 2%. This means that players are expected to lose \$2 for every \$100 they stake in a round. However, it can go as low as 0.5% when using the blackjack basic strategy, meaning that the casino takes only \$0.5 for every \$100.

Note that the house edge is only a theoretical value, and the amount you lose over time is not fixed. You can lose more, but you can also win more than your bets and beat the house edge, which is what the best players are banking on.

You can’t eliminate the house edge completely because the casino model is designed for the house to always have an advantage. However, with the right decisions and an effective strategy, you can reduce the casino’s advantage to the barest minimum. Several parameters, such as the number of decks, the variation of the game, and sometimes the particular blackjack bet you place, can affect the house edge.

## Using strategy to learn blackjack probability

Like the house edge, using strategy can improve your odds of winning in blackjack. Basic strategy is the first way to do this. It’s a chart showing the best moves to make with any hand value you are dealt. Some typical rules are:

• Always split aces
• Never split 10s
• Always stand on a soft 20 (ace plus nine)
• Always stand on a hard 17 or higher
• Double down on a 10 against a dealer’s 2-9; otherwise hit

There are more advanced techniques, such as card counting, that take the house edge down even further. They are a bit controversial, with most casinos frowning at them. They are also difficult to implement and can almost take the fun out of the game.

The standard blackjack probability of winning using basic strategy is 42.22%, while the dealer’s chance of winning is 49.10%. Also, there is an 8.48% chance of a push, where the player and the dealer have the same hand value. These are the probabilities at play in a standard blackjack game that pays 3:2. Tables that pay 6:5 are less favourable.

At the beginning of a blackjack game, each player gets two face-up cards, while the dealer gets one face down and the other face up. Because of the objective of the blackjack game, the value of your initial hand has a major influence on your winning chances.

Getting a natural blackjack straight away (your initial two-card hand is a 10-value card and an ace) is the best scenario, and you have a 100% win probability with this hand. However, this has only a small chance of happening, about 4.8%.

When you receive your first two cards that do not make up a perfect blackjack, there are several moves you can make: hit, stand, double down, split, surrender. The decision you take can either improve or worsen your winning probability, depending on your current hand value.

For instance, if your initial two-card hand is a nine and an eight (totalling 17), you can decide to stand (take no more cards) or hit (take an extra card). If you ‘hit’, you may be lucky enough to get a four-value card and win a perfect blackjack (a hand value of 21). However, there’s also a significant chance that you’ll get a five-value card or higher and go bust (lose automatically). Weighing up both scenarios, the best decision may be to stand and avoid the risk of worsening your winning probability. Here are some other prominent hand values and their chances:

Hard 16: This is a blackjack hand that has a value of 16 and contains no ace or an ace that counts as one. Generally, the chances of winning with a hard 16 are usually less than 50%. A hard 16 is a difficult hand because it might be too high to hit without busting. Also, it might be too low to stand and expect the dealer’s hand value to go over 21.

For this reason, sometimes the best option is to surrender, which gives you 50% of your stake back. However, you can decide to split if you have two initial cards of the same value – e.g., a 16-card hand made of two eights. Here, the cards are split into two hands, and the player receives an additional card for each. This move also requires placing an additional bet on the duplicate hand.

Hard 15 or hard 14: With these hand values, the best option is to stand if the dealer has a low-value upcard of two to six. However, when the dealer’s hand is a seven through ace, the best way to optimise your chances is to hit.

Probability of going bust when you hit

• Hand value of 11 or lower – 0%
• 12 – 31%
• 13 – 39%
• 14 – 56%
• 15 – 58%
• 16 – 62%
• 17 – 69%
• 18 – 77%
• 19 – 85%
• 20 – 92%
• 21 – 100%

## Blackjack probability for the dealer’s hand

The common way to win in blackjack is to beat the dealer’s hand by getting a better hand value than them. However, even with a poor hand, you can still win if the dealer goes bust. Depending on the dealer’s upcard, you can determine their chances of going bust and base your next move on this.

The dealer has a higher chance of busting when the upcard is five or six, and this is the perfect opportunity for you to double down. After observing your own hand value and the dealer’s upcard, you can double your bet before receiving the extra card.

On the other hand, with an ace face-up card, the dealer stands the least chance of busting. This is because if the face-down card turns out to be a 10-value card, they get perfect blackjack. Having a knowledge of the dealer’s probability of busting is crucial and should inform your next step going by basic blackjack strategy.