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Single Deck Blackjack

If you are a casual player of blackjack, or just sit and play online or at your favorite casino without ever looking at how many decks are being used you might be surprised to learn that a single-deck game is better financially for you. If you play a lot of blackjack the difference can be worth thousands of dollars to you!

Many online casinos use an RNG device to simulate a shoe containing eight decks of cards, and many large casinos around the world have gone to a standard eight-deck game. That’s not catastrophic, but the truth is that when you compare the two games (assuming the dealer stands on soft 17, players may split any pair, double-down on any two-cards is allowed, and double-down is allowed after a split), that single deck game is .48% better for the player. Is that a lot? On a single bet, no. On an hour worth of play, yes.

Any casino, whether online or live, wins their percentage based on players’ total wagers, so if you happen to play about 60 hands per hour at $10 per bet, you get $600 in action. That .48% totals €2.88 per hour compared to the eight-deck game. That’s a nice savings, and if you play a few hours a week for a year (7 hours x 52 weeks) you’re talking about more than $1,000. Yikes!

Single Deck Blackjack Advantages

Aside from the obvious cash savings, a single-deck game has many other advantages, and the studious blackjack player can take advantage of them to further improve their play and their success. If you learn to play Blackjack Basic Strategy, you can enjoy a nearly even-money game at the best casinos that offer single-deck games.

You’ll also see some other things that might help you, like the fact that it takes only about two minutes to get a new deck put on the game (yes, casinos change the cards periodically). Nobody likes waiting while the casino changes eight decks! When the dealer goes to shuffle a single deck, it takes only about 30-seconds. More hands, more fun! Also, a whole shoe of cards can turn the odds to the house while players struggle for a long time.

If you learn to count cards you’ll be tipped-off when the odds go bad and you’ll be able to either get down to your smallest wager, or simply quit playing and search for another game. On a single deck, the odds change quickly, but the dealer won’t get nearly as many hands out, so when the deck goes bad, the shuffle is never far away.

Whether you are counting or not, you’ll have the advantage on a single deck of at least seeing what cards are coming out and you’ll be able to react.

Taking Insurance

In most cases, taking insurance when the dealer has an Ace showing is a bad deal. Insurance pays 2 to 1, but you can only wager half of your original bet. You’ll win anytime the dealer turns over a ten-value card to go with their ace, but there are just 16 tens in the deck, and after counting the ace, the odds of winning are just 16/51 when this happens on a fresh deck. But what if the chances of winning were actually better, because you were on a game with five players and you could see all ten player cards, and there were no tens showing? Well now we know that the odds have improved to 16/41 – and insurance is a good bet. You could even take insurance as a good bet if there were two tens out (14/41).

Counting Aces

That thinking works on a single deck game, but unless you are counting cards, forget it at multiple deck games. However, since we are searching for advantages, the number of aces played (seen) is also important.

After the first round of play, suppose you have seen a dozen cards and there were no aces. Now the remaining deck is ace-rich, and if you hit a blackjack you get paid 3 to 2, but if the dealer gets a blackjack they only win even-money (1 to 1) from you. That’s a nice advantage to have. No aces in the first round means you can raise your wager and expect that in the long run you will win more money, even if you aren’t counting cards.

If you are counting cards, a single-deck game of blackjack is much easier to play. If you get distracted and drop the count you can just flat-bet and wait for a new shuffle. Your brain won’t be taxed nearly as much and as you get better you’ll be able to carry on conversations while keeping an accurate count. You’ll also get more extreme positive counts (and negative, but keep flat betting) and be able to get quicker results on your play.

Of course you’ll also be noticed easier by a well-trained Pit Boss, so keep your act up and do your best to disguise your play. Sometimes at single-deck games it is easiest to just double your wager each time the count improves. It looks more natural to the bosses, and you’ll get a higher return on your investment. You’ll also have some higher volatility.

Keep in mind that playing single-deck games, because of the quick swings in the count, will result in quick swings in your bankroll. Make sure you have adequate resources to handle the swing and sway of the cards.

Winning double-downs and splits are often the difference in having a good night at the tables and going home busted. Certainly games like Free Bet Blackjack help with bankroll and betting decisions, but use your memory and the cards shown on the layout when making tough decisions, especially when you want to double on a 9 or 10 against a dealer up-card of 8 or 9 and many tens and aces have been seen.

Single-deck blackjack is more of an art than multiple-deck games. When you get the hang of it, you’ll be painting a masterpiece. Practice, as with everything in life, makes perfect!


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