Often seen as the Holy Grail of blackjack, many casual players have gotten the impression that single deck blackjack is the best possible game for any blackjack player. In some ways, this is true; having fewer decks does work out in favor of the player, so having only a single deck is the best possible situation for a player to be in, assuming all other rules are the same.
Of course, that’s the tricky part: often times, casinos will offer single deck blackjack to entice players, but change other blackjack rules to tilt the game in the house’s favor. This means that some single deck blackjack games can be good for the player, but others can be very, very bad.
Single Deck Blackjack Rules
In most ways, single deck blackjack is played in the same way as any standard blackjack games. All of the playing rules are exactly the same; there are simply fewer cards in the shoe. This means that the dealer is going to shuffle the cards very quickly; often (especially online) this means shuffling after every hand.
In addition, in live single deck blackjack games, you’ll probably find that the cards are dealt face down. This can make the game slightly more exciting and adds some atmosphere to the game, but that’s not really the purpose of this change. Rather, it is done to prevent the players from getting too much information based on the cards that have been dealt during the hand. If you were at a single deck blackjack table with four players, and you could see all of the cards that are normally face up on the table, it wouldn’t be that hard to recalculate the odds and change your strategy on the fly to gain an advantage over the house! In fact, there are even some “composition-dependent” strategy adjustments you can make just by looking at your own cards, which can lower the house edge even further.
Bad Single Deck Blackjack Games
Many live single deck blackjack games – and some online casino games, as well – may look like a good deal at first glance, but turn out to carry a very high house edge compared to a typical blackjack game.
The biggest thing to look out for is a single deck blackjack game that pays only 6-5 on a blackjack. This may not feel like a major change; after all, blackjacks are rare, and on a $10 bet, it’s only a $3 difference in how much you get paid ($12 instead of $15). But this one rule change is enough not only to offset the advantages of playing with a single deck, but actually makes the house edge much larger than it would normally be.
Given a fairly normal set of blackjack rules, playing with only a single deck instead of with eight decks reduces the house edge by about .48% – definitely a significant help to the player. However, paying only 6-5 on blackjacks increases the house edge by 1.39%! This means that a single deck blackjack game with 6-5 blackjacks is much worse than any standard blackjack game. Casinos may also allow the dealer to hit on soft 17s, which increases the house edge by about .22%. These rule changes can result in single deck blackjack games with house edges as high as 2%!
Good Single Deck Blackjack Games
Luckily, there are some great single deck blackjack games available online. These games use favorable rules and 3-2 blackjack payouts to make the game as fair as possible for the player. Both Boss Media and Microgaming casinos feature single deck blackjack games with house edges of just over 0.1%.
Single Deck Blackjack Video