Beware of single-deck blackjack games that pay only 6:5

QUESTION: It truly amazes me how many players I saw this past weekend playing on a single-deck blackjack game that offered 6:5 for a blackjack instead of the customary 3:2. The $10 6:5 games were packed, while the standard 3:2 multideck games were half empty. Don’t they read your column? If they did, they would surely know better. — Bill W.

ANSWER: When I began writing this column 17 years ago, I advised readers to play on a single-deck blackjack game because using perfect basic strategy on a single-deck game shrinks the house edge to a meager 0.15%. Most casinos back then had plenty of single-deck 3:2 games. Today, though, they are scarce. Almost all have been replaced by the single-deck game that is 10 times inferior to its counterpart of a decade ago.

Some casinos are advertising the return of single-deck games, but in the new version, a player’s blackjack is paid 6:5 rather than the usual 3:2. This means that if you bet $10 and get a blackjack, you receive $12 instead of $15. The house keeps your extra three bucks. As a result, where the house edge against the perfect basic strategy player was once a paltry 0.15%, the edge on this game has spiraled to 1.45%.

Ground zero for this rule change was the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas. When I first caught a glimpse of it, I suspected it was doomed. Who would stand for a reduced payoff on a blackjack?

Talk about being wrong. The opposite is happening, and I may be partially to blame. The uneducated are flocking to the 6:5 single-deck game because people like me have long touted that the single-deck game offers the best odds. Knowledgeable players have shunned the 6:5 games, but I’m afraid that unless the gullible public catches on, we’re going to see more of them.

The bottom line is that casinos that advertise single-deck blackjack, or any blackjack game that pays only 6:5 for a blackjack, are employing a gimmick to take your hard-earned dough. Only the casino operator is the grand winner of this sizable differential payoff.

Mark Pilarski is a contributing editor for numerous gambling publications. E-mail questions to

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