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Blackjack with Multiple Decks

For most players the number of decks used on their favorite blackjack game means nothing to them. In fact, they don’t really care if the cards come out of a shoe of 2, 4 or 6 decks or are pitched by hand from a single deck. They just want to play cards. That’s one of the great things about blackjack. Not because people don’t care, but because they care about playing so much they’ll make wagers on any game offered.

A single-deck blackjack game with typical Las Vegas Strip rules is almost a full half-percent better for a player than a shoe game of eight-decks with the same rules. Over the course of an evening, the difference in odds doesn’t make much difference, but in a month or two of play, the savings (given a choice at your favorite casinos) can be substantial.

Given good rules like double-down on any two cards, re-split of aces, stand on soft 17, and split up to four hands, the eight-deck shoe game has less than a 1% house edge for perfect basic strategy players, but fewer decks is better.

Multiple Deck Odds

Six decks is .02% better for the player

Five decks is .03% better for the player

Four decks is .06% better for the player

Two decks is .19% better for the player

Single Deck is .48% better for the player

So obviously, given the choice, you choose fewer decks. No question about it. Plus, a single-deck game offers observant players a chance to take a few liberties with larger wagers when no aces are showing, and taking insurance at the right time. Multiple deck games do not. As a general rule, never take insurance on multiple deck games unless you are counting cards and have the correct count.

Multiple Deck Advantages

There are some advantages to multiple deck play. At some casinos, especially those online, multiple deck games offer better rule variations than single deck games, such as double-down on any two cards compared to single-deck games where the double-downs are restricted to 10 and 11. Surrender may also be offered on multi-deck games.

If you are playing online, you won’t really know when the decks are being shuffled, so it matters little how many decks are being used. You can’t count cards or do any shuffle-tracking, so play where the odds are best.

There is a chance that you’ll see some minor chances to improve your odds on Live Dealer blackjack games, but they are likely to be 8-deck shoes where the cut-card is placed at 4-decks, which means you are really only being dealt half the shoe. This game is fine, but counting is probably useless – but it can be a good practice session – although added rules like surrender and insurance may be viable.

Streaks on Blackjack Shoes

Scientists will tell you that streaks don’t exist, which only means they can’t be predicted, because of course they exist. And, while you may have some great winning streaks at a single-deck game (partly because your odds are better), a shoe game can provide a monstrous streak on lucky occasions.

Players who raise their wagers slowly as they are winning seem to do better on six and eight-deck shoe games. While there is no scientific data to support the idea that this occurs, experienced casino managers may beg to differ. Sometimes a shoe is hot and players seem to rack-it-up while the dealer continually busts for the entire shoe, which doesn’t seem to happen on repeated single-deck shuffles!

Card Counting

Multiple-deck card counting is more difficult than keeping track of the numbers with just 52-cards. Practice and discipline are very important, and using an advanced count is optimal, although a simple Plus-Minus is better than nothing. The Aces and Fives count used on a single and double deck games won’t be very successful on a shoe of six or eight decks.

Because there are so many cards in a large shoe, the count is likely to go way negative or way positive for many hands. When the count is negative the player should simply get down to their lowest wager, or quit playing altogether and wait for the next shoe. Most casinos allow players to sit out, but part of your act will be keeping your reason for doing-so believable.  You can’t do it too often, but taking a phone call or going to the restroom works; just make sure you get back before the start of the next shoe.

When the count goes positive, you’ll want to get larger wagers out, double-down more, and keep raising your wagers while you’ve got the chance. Positive counts also point to taking insurance.

Players will also find that multi-deck games can offer more hands per hour if a shuffle machine is used to shuffle one set of decks while the other set is in use. If no shuffle machine is used, a good single-deck dealer may actually get more hands out per hour.

Bankroll Considerations

There are some minor considerations for your bankroll with regard to single and multiple decks of blackjack play. If you make more aggressive wagers on a single or double deck game when the count goes up (to take advantage of the quick changes in count) as opposed to a slower, more methodical raise in wagers as the count goes up on a six or eight-deck game, you will have more volatility on the single deck. You’ll also be more noticeable to experienced Pit Bosses!

In addition, single deck games with the best rules are often offered at casinos, but only for a higher minimum bet. Multi-deck games are more likely to have better rules with lower minimum wagers.

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