How Important Are the Number of Decks When Playing Blackjack?

Blackjack is played in a variety of decks from one to eight depending on the casino’s preference. We all know that blackjack multiple decks have a higher house edge compared to a single-deck. But aside from this, there are more reasons why the number of decks matters when you’re playing the card game.

It doesn’t need rocket science. The fewer the decks, the better your odds of winning are. Still, some players wonder if it actually matters since card counting bridges the advantage for the benefit of the player.

The odds of getting blackjack based on the decks

Regardless if you are playing a single deck or multiple decks, you’ll always have a composition of 1/13 Aces. But as much as the proportion of the Aces are the same across the number of decks, experts say that you’re likely to have more blackjack wins on a single-deck setup.

Why is this possible? It’s because fewer decks mean there are fewer cards going to be dealt. If you’re card counting, the scope is smaller and it will be easier to have an educated guess whether you’re bound to have a natural blackjack.

To give you a bigger picture of your blackjack odds, I’ve outlined the odds based on the number of decks:

Single-deck game: 4.83% odds of drawing a blackjack

Two-deck game: 4.78% odds of drawing a blackjack

Six-deck game: 4.75% odds of drawing a blackjack

As much as the differences are very small, it’s still a reduction on your chances of winning. Still, a card counter can easily practice deviations to compensate for the lack of blackjack wins to earn money.

Take note, too, that it’s quite difficult to find a casino that plays with a single-deck table. Since your chance of winning is high, they’d likely add more decks to increase their house edge.

You should also know that the dealer also enjoys the benefit of dealing more blackjacks when playing on fewer decks. Still, the dealer only gets even money while the player will enjoy 3:2 payout (unless you’re on a 6:5 table or a variety that pays even money).

Doubling down in relation to the number of decks

Aside from the odds of winning a lucrative blackjack hand, experts say that it’s also more ideal to double down if you’re playing on a table with fewer decks.

Let’s say that you’re dealt with a hand of 11. The basic strategy says that doubling down is the best move. True enough, a hand of 11 is not going to bust even if you get the highest card value which is 10.

If you’re playing with fewer decks, there’s a higher chance that you’re going to be dealt a 10-value card. With this, you will seal even money except if the dealer has a blackjack or if the game is a push.

In contrast, blackjack multiple decks will have more low-value cards which means the odds of getting a 10-value card is slightly lower. Again, this is just a little difference, but for those who are playing for business, it’s a big deal to know.

Still, card counters would have a better view of the odds of winning on a double down. You may have a hand of 11, but if the shoe isn’t rich, standing or hitting without doubling down would be ideal.

The good thing here is that the dealer can’t double down. I don’t know any blackjack variation that allows dealers to do this unless it’s the Ban Luck or the Chinese variation. In this version, the dealer can ask you to pay up to three times your wager if he gets a special winning combination.

How the number of decks affects house edge

The common benefit associated with fewer decks is the fact that the house edge is lower. This is why the casinos are bent to play as many decks that they can muster.

Back in the 1950s, blackjack isn’t as big as it is today. Casinos play it with single-decks, so by the time card counting boomed, casinos are losing a lot of money. From there, game variations and multiple decks were introduced.

Right now, the blackjack house edge has already increased by as much as 0.35% from the original and almost negligible version.

Still, you can use a blackjack 8 deck chart to balance the house edge.

Aside from pushing it to up to eight decks, casinos also impose rule variations on their discretion. This is why players have to study ahead of time before hitting any casino table. Balance is the key if you want to make something out of your bankroll.

In the advent of the internet, online casinos surfaced. You can easily find single-deck blackjack games, but the problem is that some have automatic shufflers. When it comes to live dealers, they tend to shuffle the cards after every round.

Fewer decks aren’t always good

It’s easy to go blind in the beneficial paradigm of fewer decks. However, it’s not always an ideal condition for your game. Fewer decks also mean you have a slightly lower chance of having a hand of 20.

Once the 10-value cards are dealt to the players, your odds of having a nice hand of 20 is decreased. And like the odds of winning a blackjack, even the dealers are affected by these odds.

Also, fewer decks mean that the casinos may use a shuffler or the dealer may shuffle the deck randomly. Although it’s a hassle to learn the ins and outs of more decks, it’s worth the shot for card counters.

Why you should choose the right blackjack variation

It’s not just about choosing the least number of decks possible. As much as it will affect the house edge, the rule variations is also an important thing to check.

You can find a two-deck game, but if splitting is limited and the payout is even money, the house edge can still be high.

This is the reason why considering the number of decks vis-à-vis the rules is crucial. As you see, blackjack multiple decks might be better at times.

Take this another example: casinos will offer a single-deck game but they will pair it with a payout of 6:5 for a natural blackjack. Some would even push the limits and offer even money. And since some newbie players have the notion that fewer decks are good, it’s not that hard to milk money from them.

blackjack multiple decks

How the number of decks affects your advantage

The same way that the number of decks affects the house edge, it also impacts your advantage over the casino. Each deck that’s added to the shoe will decrease your odds given that we’re dealing with the same rules.

Still, remember what the blackjack legend Bryce Carlson said about advantage: it’s affected by a lot of factors as the deck increases.

Remember, multiple decks have a flatter consistency which means that the diversity of the cards is widely spread. Whereas in single decks, every card dealt affects the composition of the shoe in drastic rates.

Also, the rule on which the dealer will stand is a big determiner. The gold standard is that the dealer will stand at Soft 17. However, some variations will state a different rule.

Going back to the number of decks, here’s how your advantage is affected on each increase and decrease:

NUMBER OF DECKSYour advantage is reduced or increased by:
10.01
2-0.34
3-0.45
4-0.5
5-0.53
6-0.55
7-0.56
8-0.57

Now that you know how the deck of cards affects your advantage, let’s take a look at how rule variations impact your chances of winning:

How rule variations affect your advantage

Rule variationsYour advantage ±
The dealer will hit at Soft 17-0.20%
Your 21 ties a dealer’s blackjack+0.20%
Early surrender+0.61%
You can’t split pairs-0.45%
You can’t split Aces-0.16%
You can only double down on a hand of 11-0.79%
You can double after split+0.14%
You can split Aces infinitely+0.14

The mentioned effects of rule variations are consistent across the number of card decks. So like what Carlson said, it’s not just about how many decks you are playing but more factors that include the deviations from the classic rules.

But what about rule variations that impact the advantage differently in different deck numbers? Let’s take re-splitting Aces as an example.

If you’re allowed to re-split Aces in a single-deck game, your advantage is increased by 0.03%. Meanwhile, the advantage increases by 0.06% when you’re allowed to re-split the Aces on a six or blackjack 8 deck chart games.

Why you shouldn’t play 6:5 games

Regardless of the number of decks, don’t consider playing 6:5 tables. This is where a natural blackjack pays 6:5 and not the usual 3:2. Those who are playing for the money will rather play blackjack multiple decks than stick to a single-deck with this kind of payout.

You only have to perform simple arithmetic to know that you’ll lose more than win in 6:5 payout. Let’s suppose you bet $10. After dealing the cards, you got a natural blackjack.

In a 3:2 setup, your $10 will win $15. But if you’re going to play with a 6:5 payment, you’ll only get $12. That’s $3 less which is a big deal, especially if you’re a high-roller.

Also, this payment scheme has a staggering house edge of 1.4%. Just to compare, a classic American blackjack game where the dealer stands at Soft 17 and pays 3:2 for a blackjack has 0.53% of house edge.

So why are gamblers still playing this? This is where the blind notion about fewer decks will come in. Many strongly think that they only have to consider the number of decks. Casino owners know this very well.

So what they’d do is offer the single-deck game and tweak the payment setup. Gamblers find it attractive; the casinos milk more money. And if we assess the situation, we know exactly who’s winning.

Counting cards and the number of decks

When it comes to card counting, fewer decks can be both a blessing and a curse. With a single or two decks, the card counter will know that his odds of getting a natural is low when all or the 4 or 8 Aces are dealt out.

In the case of multiple decks, say eight, your odds of getting a blackjack dwindles each time an Ace gets dealt. Still, it doesn’t go down to a complete zero.

Also, card counting multiple decks will take a longer course due to the number of cards in the shoe. Unlike a single-deck that can easily reach a shuffling point, multiple decks will take a while. This will put your card counting endurance to the test.

Multiple decks also mean that the card counter will have to convert the running count to a true count. If you’ve tried card counting before, you’ll know that this requires intense focus and a more complicated mathematical approach.

Still, this will depend on the card counting systems in use. Many blackjack experts have formulated unbalanced systems that will remove the need for such conversion.

When it comes to card counting, you have to check deck penetration first. Here are Ben and Colin with a short guide video:

Where to find 3:2 single-deck blackjack games

If you plan to play in Vegas, it will be a challenge to find a single-deck game that pays 3:2 for a natural. Most of the tables for this are in a 6:5 payout system.

Still, there are some casinos that are offering the lucrative 3:2 in a one-deck format. The El Cortez Hotel and Casino, Silverton Casino, and Mesquite Nevada are known to offer this blackjack format.

The Hooters Casino used to offer 3:2 payouts, but in 2017, they downgraded all the versions to 6:5 payout. Even video blackjack games pay 6:5.

Take note that each of these casinos will have different minimum table bets. Also, the peak hours may affect the wagers. Some would increase from $5 to $10 when the table is in demand.

Blackjack multiple decks may have a higher house edge, but you can always find the balance by using different strategies. Practice it and you’ll soon earn a living out of the card game.

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