The blackjack rules that push up the house edge

Ask anyone why blackjack is their game of choice and there’s a good chance that they’ll mention the house edge. It’s this low house edge that makes the game so attractive and it’s why hoards of people seek it out. However, the problem is that not all blackjack games are quite the same and some see that house edge on the up. 

Of course, we already know that playing perfect basic strategy is the best way of tipping things further in your favour. We also know that doing this is the best way to keep your bankroll healthy for as long as possible. However, just as important is your game choice. Yes, you need to master basic strategy but you need to be choosing the right games too.

If your casino of choice is on the smaller side then there’s a good chance that all blackjack tables will have the same rules. If, however, you’re playing somewhere bigger you may find that the rules differ from one table to the next. You’ll certainly find that this is the case if you’re playing on the Vegas Strip.

If you’re a higher roller, you’ll typically find that there are favorable rules as the casinos are looking to attract you to play. Some of the worst rules tend to be found in the high footfall areas where the casinos try and attract as many people as possible as they’re wandering through.

It definitely helps to know which of these rules you need to be avoiding. Here’s a look at the ones that have the biggest impact on the house edge.

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High House Edge Blackjack

High House Edge Blackjack – The dreaded 6:5 payout 

When it comes to the biggest impact on the house edge, it’s the payout for a natural blackjack that you need to look at. There’s no excuse for not knowing what the payout is as this is the rule that’s clearer than any other as it’s posted in a larger, easy-to-read, font.

If you can find the traditional 3:2 payout for a natural blackjack then you want to be taking a seat at that table. If you’re someone playing lower stakes, you may think that it doesn’t really matter but it does still add up over time.

To see the impact, it’s easiest to look at a wager. If you wagered $10 and there was a 3:2 payout then you’d win $15. If you placed the same wager but the payout was 6:5, your win would be reduced to $12.

Okay, so we’re talking about a $3 difference and that may not seem much. However, think how many $3s there are during the course of a night, a month or even years of playing. 

High House Edge Blackjack – The impact of the number of decks 

The number of decks being used isn’t strictly a rule, but it is something that you need to consider before you decide to play. The reality is that the number of decks will impact the house edge and it’s best to understand how.

The more decks of cards there are, the higher the house edge goes. Let’s assume that all other rules were the same, a game using a single deck would have a lower house edge than one where there are eight.

So, is this difference a big deal? Well, if you’re looking at a single-deck game vs an eight-deck one, the difference can be as high as 0.48%. If you look at blackjack that pays 6:5, you’ll find that these are single or two decks games. That’s because the casino is trying to negate the advantage that you’re gaining from playing with fewer decks. 

High House Edge Blackjack – Dealer hits on soft 17

No matter where you play blackjack, there’s a good chance that you’ll be facing the rule that says a dealer has to hit on soft 17. This can vary from state to state and Pennsylvania is the in the minority as it typically says that dealers must stand.

This blackjack rule serves to add another 0.22% to the house edge.  It’s one that you’ll be able to find out about with ease as it’ll be clearly displayed on the table. 


Almost all blackjack games that you’ll come across in a casino won’t allow surrender. This is another rule that adds 0.08% to the house edge. If you’re keen to find a game where you can surrender, these tend to be abundant in high-limit rooms. Again, games for high rollers tend to be that much more favorable so that you’re inclined to wager as much as possible.

Limited double-down options

If you find a casino where you can double down whenever you want then you can be sure that you’ve found one that has player-friendly rules. However, this rule isn’t quite so easy to come across these days.

There are plenty of blackjack games now that will only allow you to double down on certain hands. This is one of those rules that you’ll tend to find in high-footfall areas but can often be avoided by heading to the high-limits room.

The reason this rule has an impact is that basic strategy has clear instructions when it comes to doubling down. If you can’t follow these instructions then the house edge goes up. The impact is between 0.9% and 0.18%. Again, the impact here is hardly huge but it certainly adds up over the course of a night.

Final thoughts

When you look at these rules in isolation, the reality is that the impact on the house edge isn’t hugely significant. However, if you find a game that has a combination of these rules, you can soon find yourself playing at a huge disadvantage.

Of course, playing blackjack is about fun and entertainment, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to win. When you know the rules to be looking out for you can ensure that you have the best chances possible. Choose the right game, master basic blackjack strategy and watch your bankroll grow. 

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