By Henry Tamburin
There’s an awful blackjack game that is spreading like wildfire in casinos throughout the US. The game is played with a single deck of cards (that’s the come-on) and when a player gets a blackjack, he is paid at 6-to-5 instead of the traditional 3-to-2. That change in blackjack payoff increases the house edge by about 700% (Yikes!). Let me show you in dollars and cents what a 6-to-5 blackjack payoff costs you.
If you bet $10 and get a blackjack in a traditional game (3-to-2 payoff on blackjack) you will win $15. In a 6-to-5 game that same $10 bet will net you only $12. So you’re out $3 for every blackjack hand that you get. On average you’ll get four blackjacks per hour so for every hour you play a 6-to-5 single deck game, it costs you $12. Do you want to hand over to the casino $12 per hour for the privilege of playing blackjack? Of course you wouldn’t but that is exactly what you do when you play the 6-to-5 single deck game at a $10 minimum bet.
When this game was first introduced at the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas several years ago I thought it didn’t have a chance because I mistakenly believed that players weren’t going to stand for the reduced payoff. But unfortunately I was dead wrong as uneducated players are flocking to play these 6-to-5 single deck games to the delight of casino operators. The game has since spread to casinos in the south, mid-west, and east coast so be wary.
Why is the public enamored with this terrible game? I believe it’s because the majority of players have heard for years that “single deck blackjack games offer better odds.” That’s a fact and the smart basic strategy player can virtually eliminate the house edge in a traditional single deck game where blackjacks pay 3-to-2. The problem is that the traditional single deck blackjack game is hard to find these days so marketing the “new” 6-to-5 single deck games to the gullible public has been very easy.
The 6-to-5 game has these additional pitfalls:
1. The 6-to-5 payout rule hurts all players. That means the tourists will be adversely affected by this rule as well as the more skilled basic strategy players and card counters.
2. If you wager an amount that is not divisible by 5, your payoff for a blackjack gets worse. Suppose you wagered $8 and get a blackjack. In a 6-to-5 game you’ll get paid $6 for the first $5 of your wager and even money for the remaining $3. In other words you get paid a net of $9 which is $3 less than what you would have gotten paid in a traditional 3-to-2 game. The reason for this is that a 6-to-5 payoff can only be paid out at the correct odds if the player wagers in multiples of $5.
3. Dealers are also impacted by the 6-to-5 payout. If you make a $1 tip bet for the dealer in a traditional 3-2 payout game and get blackjack, the $1 tip bet would earn the dealer $1.50. But in a 6-to-5 game, they only get even money because of the difficulty in paying off in small change (a $1 bet in a 6-to-5 game would pay $1.20).
4. Because the math doesn’t work out with the 6-to-5 payoff, the even money option when a player is dealt a blackjack and the dealer shows an ace is prohibited. Most novice players and low rollers like to take the sure even money when they get a blackjack and in a 6-to-5 game they can’t.
5. For the most part card counting is not profitable on a 6-to-5 game unless you can get away with a very big bet spread.
6. You’ll not find a 6-to-5 single deck game on high limit tables. The reason is that high rollers wouldn’t stand for a 6-to-5 payout (the per hourly added cost for a black chip player playing heads up against the dealer in a 6-to-5 game is about $180).
It’s painfully obvious that this game is being marketed to tourists and amateur players that know very little about blackjack. So be forewarned and do not play any blackjack game where player blackjacks pay 6-to-5 (or worse: even money).
Henry Tamburin has been a respected casino gambling writer for the past 50 years. He is the author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide and was editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter. You can read his latest articles on blackjack, video poker, and his personal playing experiences at https://www.888casino.com/blog/writers/henry-tamburin