Blackjack - Online Blackjack

Do you really trust the online gambling sites for such games as blackjack? I played one a few weeks back. The dealer got 14 blackjacks to my 3 during that session. I'm just suspicious and interested in your comments. Thanks.


In the first 20 blackjacks the probability that you get exactly x of them is (1/2)20 * combin(20,x). Let me save you the trouble. Here are the odds of exactly 0 to 3 blackjacks out of the first 20:

Pr(0) = 0.0000010
Pr(1) = 0.0000191
Pr(2) = 0.0001812
Pr(3) = 0.0010872
Pr(3 or less) = 0.0012884

So, the odds of 3 or less are 1 in 776. That is not enough to warrant an accusation of cheating. It could easily be simple bad luck.

Personally, I like to see four standard deviations south of expectations (probability of 1 in 31,574) before I get suspicious. It would take five standard deviations (probability of 1 in 3.5 million) before I made a formal accusation.

According to your blackjack software tables, both the Unified Gaming and Boss Media systems give the player a slight edge. If this is so, how can the casinos that use these software systems turn a profit? Is it because relatively few players use basic strategy and/or good money management techniques?


Online casinos are not the only ones to offer positive expectation games. Using basic strategy some Las Vegas casinos offer games with a negative house edge. There are video poker games all over the country with a positive expectation assuming optimal strategy. The reason the casinos can afford to do this is that the vast majority of players make errors in strategy. As someone who has played hundreds of hours of blackjack in casinos all over the U.S., I seldom see other players playing proper basic strategy. Money management has nothing to do with it.

Just set up an account with Island Casino today. On their Unified Gaming games, what are the shuffle points for the one- and six-deck games? I presume one deck is shuffled after every hand. What about six decks?

Jay from USA

Both games are both shuffled after every hand. Thanks to Darla with Gambler's Palace (another Unified Gaming casino) for her help on this one.

I was wondering... Knowing that online casinos shuffle after every hand, making card counting impossible, I have found that there are, indeed, a few advantages.

A) You do not have to tip,
B) You can go one-on-one against the dealer (no other players),
C) You can play more hands (again, due to the lack of other players) per hour than in a real casino, and
D) you can enjoy a large betting spread without suspicion.

Do these factors make the online game advantageous in any way? Has any test been run on these systems? So far, I've done nicely -- in fact, I've done better online than in any real casino. What do you think? Any input is appreciated. Thanks!


You have already pointed out some of the advantages of online blackjack, as opposed to a physical casino. Unless you are card counting, it is to your advantage that they shuffle after every hand. In the land casinos they will usually play until a specific point is reached in the deck, finish that hand, and then shuffle. This works to the player's disadvantage because more cards will be dealt when the shuffle point is reached in a deck rich in small cards than one rich in big cards. In other words, in a physical casinos the player will see slightly more small cards than large cards over the long run, which is bad for the player. However, much more important is the fact that you don't have to feel obligated to tip in an online casino. The faster play, one on one play, and the larger spreads do not help nor hurt the casual player. I attribute your better results in online casinos to any combination of luck, better rules, and not having to tip.

What is the best site to play free online blackjack?

Heather from Alma

Bovada has lots of games you can play for fun, including blackjack. No account required, just one click and you're in. Just go to the Instant Play casino and then then click "practice" for blackjack.

Are you confident of your figures on the online software? In particular, do you really have a .53% advantage over the house just with good basic strategy? I’ve never seen anyone give figures of a player advantage before for any rules with only basic strategy.

Jack Z. from Olympia, Washington

I’m confident with that figure. It was determined using a random simulation program of mine. I speculate the creators of the software made a mistake and only intended to offer late surrender on tens and aces, as was the case with the preceding version. I called one online casino that uses Unified Gaming and they were not even aware the new software allowed for early surrender on aces. I give the house edge figures as a service to my visitors. (Update Jan 22, 2005: Unified Gaming changed the rules of their game years ago to remove the player advantage)

What are some of the best online casinos to play blackjack on, with the following criteria in mind - Best player odds, fewest decks, fairness?

Robert from Hamilton, Canada

Assuming you put the greatest priority on player odds I would have to go with a Unified Gaming casino. You'll enjoy a player edge of 0.57% assuming you following the proper strategy.

I have just started gambling online and I am having a difficult time believing that these online casinos are really fair. Although I have tried just three different casinos, they seem to be very hard to beat. I am a fairly consistent winner in Vegas at Blackjack, but these online guys are tough. So the question is -- are the online blackjack games really fair. Thanks and by the way, I really enjoy your site. I have learned a great deal and am looking forward to applying some of your knowledge during my next trip to Vegas. Thanks again!

Larry R. from Nucla, USA

Thanks for your kind words. I think that the vast majority on online casinos are fair. However I won't claim that all of them are. Check out my casino blacklist for casinos I had problems with. Assuming you aren't playing just the bad ones, I would suggest your losing is just the result of bad luck.

Are these very fair rules:

  • The dealer deals from an infinite deck
  • Dealer stands on soft 17
  • No surrender allowed
  • Player can split any pair
  • Player can re-split, except for aces
  • Insurance offered only when player has two cards
  • Player can double down on any hand
  • Player can double after a split

These are the rules at 4 Aces casino, where I always seem to bust if I hit a 12 or 13 and the dealer wiped me out with a mind numbing over 40 21’s including twice 21’s four times in a row. They do allow late surrender even though it states otherwise in their rules. What is an infinite deck? If these are good rules could you point out a good strategy.

Douglas from Cumberland, Maryland

According to my blackjack house edge calculator, the house edge with these rules, assuming eight decks, is 0.45%. The effect of infinite decks, compared to eight, is 0.10% in the house's favor. So, the total house edge would be 0.45% + 0.10% = 0.55%.

You also seem to also imply that this casino is not dealing a fair game. Unless you provide some hard data I can't comment on that.

I want to know the best blackjack strategy card for Gamblingsoftware. The Wizards of Odds page doesn't carry a table for this software, but the Java-based games here are becoming increasingly popular.

Nevin from Philippines

You can correctly use the Cryptologic basic strategy to play at a casino.

When playing online blackjack, how do you tell when the deck is shuffled? I play Microgaming casinos (which you report as using 1 deck), but I do not know if each time I play if it is a new deck, and there are no signs of knowing when the deck is shuffled.

Brian from State College, USA

Most online casinos shuffle after every hand. Others shuffle at random times but do not indicate exactly when to the player. I have noticed Microgaming casinos flash the word "shuffling" about one hand in four.

However, if you track the cards between these announcements you will sometimes see the same card twice, which is impossible in a single-deck game, assuming you believe them about when they shuffle. As far as I know, they actually shuffle after every hand, but for reasons I do not understand, only indicate a shuffle occasionally. If I remember correctly, Cryptologic casinos do indeed indicate when they are shuffling their eight-deck shoe.

Two questions for you:

1) Regarding the basic blackjack strategies, you have for different online casino groups. Specifically, two different ones that both use single deck: Microgaming and Unifed Gaming. I cannot understand why you list 11 VS 10 as a hit for Microgaming, but as a double for Unified. Since they both use single deck, it seems the same strategy should be used here. I lose more often than win when I double this.

2) In Roulette, it seems to me that your odds would be better to bet equally on both red, and the 3rd column, or black and the 3rd column. The 3rd column has, I believe, 8 reds and only 4 blacks. Conversely, the first column has more blacks. Does betting like this lower the house edge?

Brian from Pennsylvania, USA

If you double on 11 at a Microgaming casino and the dealer gets a blackjack you will lose the total amount bet. At Unified Gaming the blackjack would be turned over immediately if the up card were a ten so there is no risk of losing to a blackjack when doubling in this situation.

All combinations of bets in roulette yield the same expected return, assuming the dreaded five-number combination is avoided. You're right that the third column has eight reds and four blacks. The probability of winning 3 units is 8/38, 1 unit is 4/38, breaking even is 10/38, and losing 2 units is 16/38. The combined expected per unit bet is return is (1/2)*(3*8 + 1*4 + 0*10 + 2*16)/38 = -2/38. Betting on black and the third column the probability of winning 3 units is 4/38, 1 unit is 8/38, breaking even is 14/38, and losing 2 units is 12/38. The expected return is (1/2)*(3*4 + 1*8 + 0*14 + 2*12)/38 = -2/38. Both combinations weight the various outcomes differently, but they average to the same number.

What do you know about the randomization process that online casinos use to simulate shuffling? How closely does it approximate the actual manual shuffling of cards in a casino? And finally the obvious: wouldn't it be fairly simple to write a randomization (shuffling) program that would give the house a bigger edge -- sort of stack the deck? Enjoy your site. Thanks.

Jim from Cincinnati, USA

I know that one software company randomly picks two cards in the deck and reverses them, and repeats this numerous times. Since learning of this technique, that is also how I shuffle in my random simulation programs. As long as any method of shuffling is done enough times the deck should be properly randomized.

Manual shuffling is more vulnerable to a biased shuffle and consequently some players try to exploit this by shuffle tracking and card clumping. There are numerous ways an online casino might cheat, but a bad shuffle I don't think is one of them.

Wanted to know if you have ever played Vegas Palms. They use Microgaming for their blackjack. I have never seen such a streaky game. I have lost 18 out of 20 hands and 1 hour later won 23 out of 30. It seems that every time I play it turns out to be a streak one way or the other. I am just happy that I have had more winning streaks than losing streaks. I also like their Cyberstud Poker. It is close to Caribbean Stud, but I think the payouts are a little different (i.e. 2 pair is 2-1, but 3 of-a-kind is 4-1).

I have yet to have a losing session playing this game. Knock on wood! One hand I did lose. I would like to get you to figure the odds of it happening. I had a diamond flush king high and got beat by a spade flush ace high. What are the odds of 2 flushes in one had?

Bert from Richmond

I have never played at the Vegas Palms. However, I have a lot of faith in the fairness of Microgaming and believe that it is just chance you are having streaky games. Cyberstud poker is the same thing as Caribbean Stud Poker, with a slightly more generous pay table. The expected return is 5.01%, as opposed to the usual 5.22% with Caribbean Stud. The probability of two flushes is (4*(combin(13,5)-10)/combin(52,5)) * (3*(combin(13,5)-10)/combin(47,5)) = 1 in 203,725.

I recently started gambling online and like your site more than any other gambling site I've found. Somewhere I remember you wrote that every online casino you'd seen shuffled the decks after every game. By game to you mean hand? Also, if they shuffle after every hand, doesn't this minimize the benefit of card counting? Is there any significant benefit to card counting in that case?

Greg from Brighton, Massachusetts

Most online casinos shuffle after every hand. However, the six-deck game at Unified Gaming casinos shuffles at a random point in the deck. I have heard of other casinos that also penetrate more than one hand into a shoe, but I don't recall which ones. If the cards are shuffled after every hand there is no use in card counting, other than applying my composition dependent basic strategy exceptions.

I noticed in your online review of casinos that you mentioned in Apolla that you played 438 units of blackjack and lost 98. Does this mean you played 438 hands and lost only 98? This is an awfully good ratio in favor of the player.

Peter from Orlando, Florida

I lost 98 units there overall. If every hand was an even money win or a loss then I would have won 170 hands and lost 268.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t possible, but is there any way to count cards when playing blackjack in an online casino? P.S. Your site is great. Being a beginner it has given me lots of good advice.

Dustin from Austin, USA

Thanks for the compliments. Most online casinos shuffle the cards after every hand. At single deck casinos (Boss Media version 1, Microgaming, Unified Gaming) you can use the cards already on the table to alter your play sometimes. See my blackjack appendix3A for all the details. There are some casinos that play into a shoe a little way but not far, and have restrictive betting limits. I have yet to be convinced of any worthwhile opportunity on the Internet to count cards.

The Question I have is about Microgaming Blackjack. I have played the for fun version of about 10 online casino trying to determine the best one and I run into a question I have yet been able to understand. Out of about 1000 games or more at each casino I found out some days using the basic strategy for the casino from your web site I stay just about even with the dealer and some times show a small credit profit. But other days I am lucky to win 20 hands out of 100. And I never stray from the strategy and just bet an even bet. Is this normal that some days the random generator is set up to sway the dealers way for a long period of time and if so does it ever sway the players way that much too? I sure would like to know more because I really enjoy the game and am not wanting to make a lot of money but when you are betting min. and it eats away 200 credits in no time this does not seem normal odds. Please if you can educate me on this I would think you very much.

Dean from Winston Salem, USA

In my strong opinion the variation you’re observing is the result of random variation in the cards, not where you’re playing. I suspect you are exaggerating about sometimes only winning 20 hands out of 100, that would be very unlikely. Some people believe that Microgaming has a "take down" mode in which the player will lose like crazy for a period of time. It is to be expected that in any game the player will occasionally have bad losing streaks, as well as good winning streaks. So these alleged "take down" periods I think are just normal bad luck and that all Microgaming casinos deal a fair game.

Love your site! It’s amazing. My question is regarding on of your answers about "robot players" for online casinos. You said: "These robots take a lot of expertise and time to use but if done properly can turn a computer into a money making machine," and that essentially, this is why casinos sometimes don’t pay out. What I don’t understand is, you’ve insisted, as any statistician will, that no matter what you do, you will end up losing in the long run. So, my question is, how can using a robot make any difference? Who cares, and why would the casinos see this as a problem? Even if they play perfect BS, the house still has the advantage, right? Regarding expected outcomes in BJ, I’ve seen your tables in appendix 4 about standard deviation and found it very helpful. I’m curious to know though, what are the chances of going down as soon as you start playing, and not coming back up to an average of 100% (after factoring in the loses due to the house edge)? What would the chances be over 100, 200...1000...10000...100000, etc., hands be?

And last, could you please help me understand why it’s a "fallacy" that a win becomes more probable after a series of losses? The way I see it, since the expected outcome is an approximately 99.5% return, then if after 1000 hands, you’re at 78%, then, by definition, it would necessitate that the next hand being a win must be more likely to occur. People say that cards "don’t have a memory", but isn’t the natural curve, in essence, its memory??? Please help me understand this point! Thanks a lot.

Steve from Canada

You’re right, if you used a robot player against an ordinary game you would only lose more. However some casinos do offer games with a player advantage if played properly. Unified Gaming had a blackjack game with an 0.5% player edge for several months, but no longer. Many Real Time Gaming casinos offer a joker poker game with an expected return of 100.18%. Other casinos have promotions in which the player who plays the most hands in a period of time wins a prize, in which a robot player would have a clear advantage. About your second question the bell curve is a forward looking estimate of the sum of many random variables. You can not mix together past and future events. Once an event has happened it is no longer a random variable but a cold hard outcome. If you played 1000 hands of blackjack with a return of 78% then you fell on the tail end of the bell curve during that play. Starting from hand 1001 your results could fall anywhere on a new bell curve. I hope this helps, but it really takes a course in statistics to truly understand.

What is the best blackjack program to purchase for my pc. I want to learn to play BJ but since I am a beginner the tables are too intimidating. Since we have to drive 130 miles one way to the nearest casino, that’s too expensive to learn.

Floyd from Mattoon, Illinois

I would download some Internet casino software and just play in free mode. However to learn proper basic strategy I would recommend making flash cards with every possible play. Dealing out cards at random will not test you often enough on the soft doubles and splits.

Do you have or can you make up a basic strategy chart for Lasseters’s blackjack? I couldn’t find one on the internet.

Boyd from Canton, USA

Here you go...

I just wanted to make sure that the correct play in the Microgaming single deck game of A,A vs A is to split as shown on your basic strategy card. I’m pretty sure the correct play would be to hit, at least with 4 decks, and it just seems that with all the 10’s left you might lose twice your bet pretty often. Not that I don’t believe you but I just wanted to make verify. Any chance you have the EV of hitting vs splitting on this hand?

William from Pittsburgh, USA

I’ve been questioned about this several times and continue to maintain that despite losing the total bet the option to draw to split aces overcomes the European no-peek rule, thus splitting is the better play. Based on one deck the expected value of each hand (considering the possibility of a dealer blackjack) is -0.532849 for hitting and -0.223277 for splitting. So splitting is better by about 31% of a unit. Splitting is also better for the 4-deck game, which no Microgaming player should be playing since a 1-deck game with the same rules is available.

Why do land casinos make you bet more when playing a second hand in blackjack? When playing on line is there an advantage when playing two or more hands?

Brian from Independence, USA

I think the reason for this is that they don’t want a minimum bet player hogging up two spaces. This will slow down the game and possibly prevent bigger bettors from playing. Not all land casinos have this rule, I think it is more prevalent in Atlantic City, where tables are more crowded, than Las Vegas. Whether online or a land casino there is no advantage to playing more than one hand.

I have down loaded many black jack games from internet both stand alone and on-line. Had played for long time and felt the games are different in difficulty to win especially the slot, (pardon me if I am wrong). If it is true than is there any way to find out if the online games are truly random or any trusted organization we can get truly depend on?

Clint from Singapore

It is a good sign if a casino has an independent auditor to review the log files for fairness and randomness. I used to provide such a service to online casinos myself.

Hi! I have a question regarding the Microgaming no hole card rule for single deck BJ game. I remember reading in some forum that you concluded there is no difference to the HA whether the hole card is dealt or not at the beginning of the game. Is that true? I do notice that Microgaming has a higher chance of blackjack.

Taking as an extreme example:
Dealer - Ace
Player - 2,A followed by A,A,2,2 (soft 19).

Wouldn’t the dealer’s chance of BJ be increased by the fact that 4 more non-face cards were removed by the player in a single deck? On the other hand, the player can never remove enough face cards to significantly lower the chance of dealer’s blackjack. Please let me know what you think. Thanks.


Although I don’t remember saying that it is true. The probability of the dealer’s hole card being a ten is the same whether it was dealt up front (as in Microgaming casinos) or after the player’s turn (as in European casinos). In your example, yes, the dealer’s chance of getting a blackjack does go up, but it would go up either for the next card in the deck or a hole card. An unseen card is an unseen card, much in the same way the effect is the same whether the dealer burns a card or deals one less card out of the shoe. I hope this answers your question.

Is there software that will count cards as you input them? Can this be used to play online blackjack? Or does online blackjack shuffle after each hand?


Yes. Have a look at Beejack. Most, but not all, casinos shuffle after every hand. I don't know if it practical to actually use this product. If you try it please let me know how you do, I might like to try it myself.

Note: The link to Beejack was removed in 2014, due to a potential virus with that site. Proceed there with caution.

I read about someone winning 1.3 million at an Online Casino in Caribbean Stud and not being paid because they used robot play. What is robot play, how does it win, and why is it illegal?


First, the game was Caribbean 21, not Caribbean Stud. The casino this money was won from alleges that the player used robot play, which is against their terms and conditions. If this is true (the player denies it) then it is within their rights to forfeit the winnings. Robot play is a program that can read the cards on the screen and can play against the casino by itself, by simulated mouse moves and clicks, or keyboard actions. Some casinos don’t allow it because they have some games with a theoretical return slightly over 100%. Robot play could ensure nice expected hourly profits for the person using it, but not enough to bother actually playing. A good example is Boss Media’s single deck blackjack game with a player advantage of 0.11%. Some casinos with no positive expectation game allow robot play and others do not. I do not know why those with no positive expectation games prohibit robot play. Some skeptics claim they retain the right to avoid paying big winners, simply by alleging robot play. In this situation the casino has released a taped confession in which the player offers to sell the robot. However the player says it was taken out of context. It is a long story, for more details follow this link to Casinomeister’s forum on this topic.

Are there any basic strategy exceptions for doubling and splitting on the Internet when cash back applies to the total amount bet (thus giving the player an extra incentive to double or split). Please assume a cash back rate of 0.1%.


I could not find any hand where an extra 0.1% would cause a change in strategy. The closest case I could find, based on six decks and the dealer standing on soft 17, is A,4 against a dealer 4. In that hand doubling costs the player just under 0.3% in expected value compared to hitting. So if you can get 0.3% or more then double that hand. Other borderline hands I examined cost the player at least 1% to double or split, and I have never seen cash back that high in blackjack.

I was at the Luxor this week and I noticed a blackjack machine that looked much like a video poker machine. Do these things use random generators like online, or do they work like slot machines?


Using a random number generator _is_ the same as working like a slot machine. Online blackjack, slot machines, and video blackjack all use random number generators.

It is a Nevada state law that an electronic game with representations of cards or dice must be based on fair odds. So the game should be fair with odds the same as in a hand dealt game having the same rules.

I noticed that all video blackjack games that I've played in Vegas pay even money on a blackjack. Is this fair according to the rules of blackjack? Because in a previous question (July 4, 2004) you said, "It is a Nevada state law that an electronic game with representations of cards or dice must be based on fair odds. So the game should be fair with odds the same as in a hand dealt game having the same rules."


What I meant was that images of cards on the screen had to be statistically fair. For example if you took a tally of each card observed in the initial hand of video poker or video blackjack you would see the distribution approaching a flat line over time, much as you would in a hand dealt game. However there is no law that the standard rules of blackjack must be followed. The machine can legally offer horrible rules like the player losing on ties. The only caveat is that the theoretical return must be at least 75%.

Hi, I found a Double Exposure game where the ties push. The full rules are:

  1. 6 decks.
  2. Dealer hits soft 17.
  3. All ties push, except player wins tied blackjack.
  4. Player can double on hard 9 to 11 only.
  5. Player can re-split, including unlike tens, to four hands.
  6. Double after split allowed.
  7. Draw to split aces allowed.

This must have a player advantage, can you tell me what it is?


As I'm sure you know this game is offered by Lucky Chance casino. Using the appropriate basic strategy for these rules the player advantage is 7.2%! Wait it gets even better. You can bet three hands at once of $5 or more each and if you get a blackjack on all three you win a progressive jackpot that is currently at $18095. The probability of getting three blackjacks in three hands is 1 in 10552. So the progressive is worth an extra $1.71 per hand. On two days while I played they also offered 15% rebate on losses, calculated whenever you exited the game. So I simply exited after every hand, except on a push.

However I'm suspicious if the player advantage is too high. I checked Winner Online and found they allegedly used to offer a video poker game with a 120% return, although they use a normal pay table now. That is two red flags. Lucky Chance offers a 100% immediately bonus up to purchases of $500, so I put them to the test. It was my goal to either make a fortune on their Double Exposure game or prove the game was not fair. Following are my results:

  • 313 of single hands: net win of 32 units.
  • 1959 hands of 3 spots at once: net loss of 29 units.
  • 2272 total hands: net win of 3 units.

Given a 7.2% advantage my expected win was 163.6 units. The probability of only winning 3 or less is 12.4%. This is using a standard deviation of 1.17 for a single hand and 2.68 per hand for playing three at time. My source of the 1.17 is a random simulation using Stanford Wong's Blackjack Count Analyzer and I multiplied that by 2.28 for 3 hands, based on the standard deviations for regular blackjack for 1 and 3 hands as found in my blackjack appendix 4.

This certainly does not rise anywhere near enough to make any accusations. In addition I recorded results all sorts of ways but every test came out looking normal. I would have played longer but the game play is extremely slow and I went broke. The reason I went broke is I did worse on larger bet sizes and my first few hours I didn't record results but they were not good.

So I failed on both my goals. I was too skeptical to deposit again and already wasted several hours on the game. However, if you wish to take a crack at it then be my guest.

At the Privilege Casino you can’t split aces, but you can double. How would it change the strategy assuming Cryptologic rules 6 decks and how does it increase the house edge?


Not being allowed to split aces increases the house edge by 0.18%. You should only double against a six, otherwise hit.

In Boss Media single-deck blackjack the player has the edge? What’s the catch? So I could go to one of the online casinos and play it using optimal strategy AND win over the long run? What am I missing?


I’m sure they still make money on the game due to player mistakes. There are also forms of video poker here in Vegas that return over 100% with optimal strategy. Again, the casino counts on player mistakes to bring them under 100%. With most games that do pay over 100% the edge is so small it isn’t worth ones time to play the game as a living. However if you are going to play anyway you may as well get the best odds possible.

Thank your for your informative column. I have been using the "Fun" mode to practice the basic blackjack strategy online (Golden Palace and Grand Online Casino). I generally do well on the fun mode, but when I go to "Real Money" mode I start losing quickly using the same strategy. Do the online casinos change the software randomness for "Fun" mode letting us win, only to entice us to deposit real money.

Mike from Prescott, Arizona

You’re welcome. It’s rare for online casinos to intentionally let players win in free mode. I know the Elka casinos used to do this (for which I blacklisted them), but fortunately they seem to have vanished. If anyone can show me hard evidence that a casino is intentionally allowing players to win in fun mode I would be happy to investigate it. Hard evidence means, at a bare minimum, a record of hands won and lost in each mode, for several dozen hands. Simply telling me that you lost "a lot more" when in real mode is useless.

Dear Wizard, I have read your comments about online blackjack and the fact that the decks are shuffled after each hand. Is there a casino online that has less shuffling or if not, am I forced to play live dealer blackjack which has more decks stacked and at least I can be aware of when shuffling does occur. Cheers.

Ken from Oxford, UK

Perhaps you misunderstood the point I was trying to make in my blackjack appendix 10. The bottom line is that unless you are a card counter shuffling after every hand, as opposed to using a cut card, is a good thing. The house edge is reduced 0.02% in a 6-deck game, to 0.11% in a 1-deck game, by shuffling after every hand.

Hi wiz, as always, thanks for the great site and love your columns and especially the relationships questions. I have a question about my online blackjack play. I have been playing for quite a while and keep a record or my results. I play two $5 hands against the dealer, thus a total initial bet of $10. My total amount wagered, including doubles and splits, is just over $680,000 at this moment. I calculate my expected loss to have been $3,000 (after factoring the number of total bets into initial bets/hands) at a house edge of 0.5%. However, my actual loss is a far greater amount of $8,500. For such a reasonable sized sample, that seems to be a fairly large discrepancy. I don’t know if that means the game is less than fair (I have no reason to believe so) or I am just experiencing an unfortunate result. What do you think? Are there any reasons to be suspicious based on these results? PS: fortunately, I am still making money due to the bonuses but not as much as I would have expected, and that is the disappointing part. Thanks and all the best.

Mick from Port Kembla

Thanks for the kind words. So you have played 680,000/5 = 136,000 hands. According to my blackjack appendix 4 the standard deviation per hand, playing two hands at a time, is 1.91. So the standard deviation of 136,000 such hands would be 136,0000.5*1.91 = 704 hands. Your losses above expectations are $5,500, or 1,100 hands. So you are 1,100/704 = 1.56 standard deviations south of expectations. The probability of doing this badly or worse can be found in Excel as normsdist(-1.56) = 5.94%.

I lost a lot of money playing Cryptologic Blackjack today. While I don’t think anything is fixed, one aspect of my play seemed well outside the range of probability. Within 35 hands, the dealer showed a 6 seven times and won each time. This was verified through the logs. If the probability of a dealer bust is 56% with a six, my calculation suggests the odds of this independent event happening six consecutive times is 0.23%.

Adam from Toronto

At Cryptologic they use 8 decks and the dealer stands on a soft 17. According to my blackjack appendix 2, the probability of the dealer busting with a 6 up is 0.422922. So the probability of not busing is 1 - 0.422922 = 0.577078. The probability of not busing 7 times out of 7 is (0.577078)7 = 2.13%.

I’ve been playing 100-hand bonus deuces wild video poker at Bodog. When I have no 2s in my hand but an inside straight possibility you say to hold the inside straight chance. Typically I’ll end up with maybe 25 coins back. When playing hands with garbage in them I’ve thrown them away and often I’ve ended up with at least that much if not better. So I was wondering, should play be modified a bit when playing 100 hands at once? Or is it actually something with the pay table that causes that one play not to be quite right?

Steven from Cary

I see Bodog follows the 1-2-3-4-4-9-15-25-200-800 pay table, which is known as “Ugly Ducks” and returns 99.42% with optimal strategy. Although I don’t indicate an Ugly Ducks strategy on my site, my Not so Ugly Ducks strategy should do quite nicely, and is indeed accurate for this play. To answer your question, the strategy depends only on the pay table. The number of hands makes no difference. What is right for one hand is right for 100 hands. On average you should get about 34 coins back playing the inside straight and 32 coins back tossing everything. However, actual results will vary. I would say you’ve just been unlucky with the inside straights if you have only been getting back 25 on average.

Could You please make a chart for Party Poker single deck blackjack. Also, with best play, what are the odds.

Mark H. from New York

As I read them, the rules are:

  • 1 deck
  • Dealer hits soft 17
  • Double only on 9 to 11
  • Double after split allowed (subject to 9 to 11 rule)
  • No surrender
  • Blackjack pays 3 to 2
  • Dealer always peeks for blackjack

Here is the basic strategy.

The house edge under these rules is 0.16%.

At BetJamaica I played 30 hands and lost 21.5 units. What is the probability of that?

T.P. from Medford, NJ

The standard deviation per hand in blackjack is 1.15 under Vegas Strip rules (source). This can vary, depending on the rules, but since you didn’t state them, we’ll go with 1.15. So, the standard deviation of 30 hands would be sqrt(30) × 1.15 = 6.30. I don’t know what their blackjack rules are, but let’s assume a house edge of 0.4%. So in 30 bets, you would expect to lose 30 × 0.004 = 0.12 units. Your losses exceeded expectations by 21.5-0.12 = 21.38 units. That is 21.38/6.3 = 3.39 standard deviations south of expectations. The probability of that is 0.000349, or 1 in 2862. I’m afraid this doesn’t rise to the level to make any kind of accusations. If you still suspect something fishy, I would gather a larger sample size.

Is it just me or does the sound of offering "live blackjack" on online casinos just BEG for card counting?


I agree, that does seem like a good advantage play. At the 5dimes live casino game they offer the following rules:

  • 6 decks.
  • One burn card at the beginning of the shoe, and one with every dealer change, which occur every 30 minutes. If the supervisor has to step in, which I’ve seen happen twice, then three cards are burned.
  • Dealer stands on soft 17.
  • Early surrender, except against an ace.
  • Double after split allowed.
  • Split to two hands only.
  • No hole card, but player loses original bet only to dealer blackjack.
  • Bet ranges: $5-$250, $10-$250, or $25-$500

The house edge under these rules is 0.24%.

The rules say the penetration is 75%. Twice I counted the number of cards seen per shoe, and I got 211 both times, which is 68%. Shortow, a member of my forum, placed two videos of the cut card placement on YouTube: Video 1 Video 2. It looks to me like the penetration was a little deeper in video 2. I would say it ranges from 60% to 70%, depending on the dealer.

Not only could the player easily count this game, but he could use a calculator on a separate screen to make perfect decisions. The Blackjack Real Time Analzyer is one product that does this. However, I have no idea what kind of game protection they employ. With every card scanned, it would not be difficult to determine the correlation between count and bet size and raise a red flag if the correlation was sufficiently positive.

If you give it a try, I'd be interested to know what happens.

This question was raised and discussed in the forum of my companion site Wizard of Vegas.