The House Edge in Blackjack Explained

It’s always nice to win a big pile of money when you play at Bovada Casino, but it’s also important to understand the odds. Every game at the casino comes with a “house edge” attached, meaning the odds favor the house slightly. This is the way casinos earn their income and pay their employees for providing excellent service.

Some games have lower house edges than others. When you play blackjack online at Bovada, you’ll be playing a game with one of the lowest house edges anywhere – which is one big reason why blackjack is the most popular casino game in the world. But if you want the lowest house edge possible in blackjack, you’ll have to employ a little strategy.

Blackjack Strategy to Help Overcome Odds

Unlike games of pure chance like craps and roulette, blackjack is a game of both luck and skill. The cards are still dealt at random from the standard 52-card “French” deck (most blackjack games use multiple decks at once), but in this game, you have several decision points along the way. After you receive your first two cards, if you haven’t been dealt 21, you have to choose which move will give you the best chance of winning the hand – or at least the best financial outcome, if you’re concerned primarily with the house edge.

Depending on whether you hit, stand, double down, split or surrender at this point, you might have more decisions to make before your turn is over. So which moves are the best? It depends on the cards in play, both yours and the dealer’s up-card. It also depends on the specific rules and conditions for the game you’re playing, like how many decks there are in the shoe, or whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 17 (“soft” meaning their hand contains an Ace, which counts as either one or 11 points).

That’s a lot to digest if you’re trying to come up with an optimal blackjack strategy. It wasn’t until computers became a thing that people figured out exactly which moves to make, based on the cards in front of them. You could learn the “basic” blackjack strategy for every game you’re going to play – if you’re eager enough, and also capable of executing that strategy with as few mistakes as possible. However, it’ll be smarter if you learn a simplified blackjack strategy first, one that you can easily learn and use to whittle away most of the house edge, no matter which game you’re playing. With that in mind, here are three blackjack tips that you can apply to all of the Bovada Casino games.

Don’t Take Insurance

We start with the easiest online blackjack tip to remember when you play, but also one of the most effective. Insurance is a side bet you can make when the dealer’s up-card is an Ace; you’re allowed to wager up to half of your current bet, and you’ll get paid out at 2-to-1 if the dealer has a blackjack. Since the dealer will only have a 10-value card about a third of the time here, taking insurance is clearly not an optimal play.

This includes those times when you also have blackjack. Some players in this position like to take insurance in order to “protect” their hand from becoming a push when the Dealer also has 21. True, you will get a payout instead of just breaking even, but the house edge will still be bigger than if you hadn’t taken insurance.

Always Split Eights (Almost)

Getting dealt a 16 when you play blackjack is never ideal – but it’s not so bad if you’re dealt a pair of Eights. That means you can split, and in this case, you should split, every single time. You’ll be much better off separating those two cards, matching your original bet in the process, and hoping for an Ace or a 10-value card to come rolling off the deck for each hand.

It doesn’t even matter what the dealer’s up-card is. There are a few players out there who will normally split Eights, but not when the dealer is showing a Nine or higher; the logic is that your 18 or 19 won’t win anyway if the Dealer’s hole card is also worth 10 or 11. But that’s not how the math works; you’re still better off splitting here, thanks to all the other hole cards the Dealer could have, and all the other ways this hand can play out.

Okay, there are some rare instances where you shouldn’t split Eights. They involve certain multi-deck games where the dealer has to hit on soft 17 – and sometimes, in games that don’t let you double down after splitting. In these games, it’s actually better to surrender your 16 and get half your wager back than split. Just in case, make sure to read the exact rules of your chosen blackjack variant before playing.

Never Split Fives (or 10-Value Cards)

Getting dealt a pair of Fives is one of the best things that can happen to you in blackjack – but not if you split them. You’ve already got 10 points in your hand, so chances are good you’re going to make a big hand if you just hit instead. Drawing to a Five is a lot uglier, and a great way to go bust at twice the price. At the same time, if you’re dealt a pair of Tens, Jacks, Queens or Kings, you already have 20 points, so don’t get greedy trying to make two blackjacks instead of standing. It’s not worth the risk.

Using rules of thumb like these will help you nail down your simplified blackjack strategy and improve your bottom line. Then you can work on the subtle changes that will optimize your play at the tables. And as always, you can try your moves for free at Bovada Casino by using the blackjack Practice mode to, then switch to Real Money mode once you’re ready to cut that house edge down to size. Have a read of our Blackjack Guide to find more online blackjack tips and other strategies! You can find plenty of Blackjack strategy articles to help you learn all of the best Blackjack tips and tricks.