How Do Online Casinos Maintain A Decent Hold On Blackjack?

31 July 2018 4 minutes to read
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Despite its deceptively small house edge (HE) it is important not to underestimate blackjack. In this article we’re going to explain how the online casinos maintain a respectable hold on you even though the game only has a small edge to the house.

The drop on blackjack is where players exchange their cash for chips. The total gross revenue that is made at the same table is known as the hold. At times the totals can be a loss but over a period of time the total levels out at about 15%.

Now the million dollar question? How does a game with a 2% disadvantage manage to win so much cash even though many players use basic strategy that allows them to play at an even lower advantage of 0.6%?

Rest assured that there is no cheating involved, we consider it a combination of time and the size of the player’s bankroll. It’s safe to say that the bankroll issue comes into play twice. The casinos have an unlimited bankroll, as such they can afford to take any size wagers over and over again regardless if they win or lose. Because players have limited bankrolls they’ll stop playing the moment they run out of money.

If we consider the ‘Time’ factor it favors the casinos as well because they can take wagers from players 24/7. A player can only get in so many hands before his or her time or money runs out. Casinos have many tables that allows them to even-out the bumps. Even with a tiny 0.6% edge to the house the casino wins because it has the same house edge for every single hand that is played. It’s a given that players will make multiple wagers, every single one of them will be at a disadvantage because as a function of time the hold increases.

The Art of Illusion

If you are wondering why the dealer seems to make more hands than you do it’s because they do. A blackjack expert said it’s like a jar filled with a thousand marbles where you win if you pick a green marble and lose if you pick a red marble.

With 497 green marbles and 509 red marbles after 100 hands you will lose 6 more marbles than the dealer (house edge 0.6%). The reality is that over the course of 100 hands you will win 43 times, push 8 times and lose 49 times. After 100 hands you will lose 60 more hands than the dealer! Not nice.

The good news is that you make up for most of your losses by getting paid 3 for 2 on each blackjack, in a 1,000 blackjack hands you’ll get around 48 blackjacks. The rest you will get paid by splitting pairs and by doubling down at the right time with the right cards. The lesson here is don’t be afraid to double down aggressively and to split your pairs (when you have two 8’s). It’s important that you do them correctly, or you’ll walk away a loser from the table every time simply because the house has an unfair advantage over you.

Skill Versus Luck?

If you are a blackjack tournament player by the end of the year the casinos will gain some insight how much luck and skill is involved. Personally we think that the skilled players will finish ahead of the luck players. Let’s say a skilled player gets in the money 1 in 5 tries (27% of the time) compared to an unskilled player or beginner who gets in the money because of luck 5% of the time. Can we rank that player’s skill between 5-27%. Would you say for that player that tournament blackjack is 23% skill and 77% luck?

To put matters into perspective for the first round a typical tournament has 6 players seated at the table. Skilled players will advance to the semi-finals with the most chips while the odds of making the semi-final by luck alone are 6 to 1. And, if the top two chip counts advance to the championship round, the odds of making the final by luck are 18 to 1, or around 5%.


Blackjack Probabilities

For what it’s worth the player’s hand of 17 will always lose against the dealer’s ”up” card over the long run except if it’s a 6. It may come as a shock to many players that the dealer will make their hand more often than they will ”bust” no matter what the ”up” card is they’re dealt. Players often complain that the cards get ”ugly” or ”bad”, more often than not they’ll get more ”decision” hands than ”pat” (good hand) hands. We’ve added a chart that outlines the probability of each hand over the long haul:


Probability of Player Hands Two Card Count Frequency

Blackjack        4.8%
17 – 20           30.0%
2 – 16             38.7%
No Bust          26.5%
Total             100.0%

Players who understand the probabilities of blackjack tend to be more successful since they have a ”realistic” idea what to expect. To play a winning game of blackjack it’s important to play perfect pairs, know the odds and the casino’s hold over you. Where possible try and cut out the element of luck because blackjack is a game of skill.

Players often get mad if they don’t receive a ”pat” hand every time, or when the dealer doesn’t bust when he has an up card or a six. Always keep your emotions out the game and above all never get mad at the dealer. You’ll be surprised to know that most dealer’s are rooting for the player.

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