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Can 6-5 Single Deck Blackjack Games be Beaten?

by Dan Pronovost

Introduction

Dan Pronovost is the owner and president of DeepNet Technologies, makers of a wide range of advantage gambling training products and software (blackjack, poker, craps). Their web site is: www.DeepnetTech.com, and all products are available for free trial download. Dan is also the creator of the easy-to-use card counting system Speed Count, taught in the Golden Touch Blackjack course which is now available in Frank Scoblete's book and DVD, "Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution!": www.GoldenTouchBlackjack.com.

Unless you enjoy losing money in casinos (or youíve had your head in the sand the past few years), youíve probably heard that casinos are paying players 6 to 5, instead of 3 to 2, for a blackjack. This is a very bad thing and whether youíre a card counter or not, it doesnít take rocket science to figure out that when casinos pay you less money in a game, youíre the loser and theyíre the winners.

I and other advantage blackjack players have advocated the complete ban of 6 to 5 blackjack for the rotten apple that it is. Sign the petitions, protest march on the StripÖ players unite against 6 to 5 blackjack! Blackjack Rip Off is the only fair and correct name for this dastardly game. I say, "Give me 3 to 2 blackjack, or give me death!"

But wait just a minute. Is the 6-5 game really that bad? I wondered about that for some time (and so have some of my regular customers and readers over the years). Iíve generally spouted off the party line against 6 to 5 blackjack, but I guess curiosity has finally won out over my detest of the blatant greed of casinos. Plus, finding ways to beat the casinos at their own game is always a moving target and every (advantage) rock must be turned over and checked. Is there some reasonable (and legal) way to get an edge over some 6 to 5 blackjack games? I decided once and for all to find out.

How bad is bad?

Letís start by looking at some classic two- and six-deck blackjack games with and without card counting to see just how bad a 6 to 5 blackjack payout really is. All of the data below was generated using my companyís professional blackjack simulator, Blackjack Audit (www.handheldblackjack.com). Edge in the table below indicates the percentage of every bet, on average, that is won (in black) or lost (in red). The full Hi-Lo card counting system means the traditional Hi-Lo count system for the matching blackjack game, with all play indices, as defined by Stanford Wong in Professional Blackjack.

Rules

3 to 2 edge

6 to 5 edge

Difference

2 decks, DAS, H17, 60% penetration, basic strategy

-.4058%

-1.6197%

-299.14%

"" "", card counting with full Hi-Low, 1-4 bet spread

+.4214%

-0.8608%

-304.27%

6 decks, DAS, S17, 75% pen., basic strategy

-0.3782%

-1.5805%

-517.90%

"" "", card counting with full Hi-Low, 1-10 bet spread

+.5112%

-0.7745%

-251.51%

Not surprisingly, all players suffer a minimum 2.5 times increased reduction in edge with 6 to 5 payout, regardless of the game or their playing strategy. Even worse, the expert card counter using the full Hi-Low count system with all matching indices goes from the typical Ĺ percent edge over the casino to being a losing player. While I showed edge in the above tables (average percentage of every bet won or lost), the hourly win rates are similarly impacted. Iíve also used the same playing strategy for both the 3 to 2 and 6 to 5 games (itís possible that the optimal playing strategy varies for 6 to 5 blackjack with and without card counting, but Iím not aware of it and doubt it should change).

But all is not lostÖ

But all is not lost! What if the casino offers lucrative rules to the player along with the rotten 6 to 5 payout? Is it possible that some favorable game option can tip the edge back into the card counterís favor? This would be especially appealing to advantage players, as generally casinos consider 6 to 5 blackjack unbeatable and do not scrutinize players with the usual nasty glare of the pit boss.

A common example is a single-deck blackjack game coupled with a 6 to 5 blackjack payout. This configuration was the hallmark introduction of this scourge to the great classic table game several years ago, as even ploppie players believe (or know) that less decks is better in blackjack. So, letís look at a bunch of other possible positive edge variations along with the 6 to 5 payout rule:

Rules

6 to 5 edge

1 deck, DAS, H17, 50% pen., Full Hi-Low, 1 to 3 spread, heads up play

-0.6089%

"" "", with S17

-0.4799%

"" "", with S17 and late surrender

-0.3600%

So far, even with the best traditional Hi-Low single-deck card counting and rules, weíre still playing a losing game. But Blackjack Audit has a very useful table among its many reports, that shows the edge the player (or casino) has at different true counts. Letís look at the data for the game in the second row of the table above (single deck, DAS, S17):

True count

Edge

Avg. Win/Loss in bet units

0

-1.05%

-0.1192

1

-0.39%

-0.0658

2

0.05%

0.0087

3

0.84%

0.1459

Whatís interesting to note here is that the player does get a positive edge once the Hi-Lo true count reaches 2. In a normal game of blackjack, this is usually 1 (or zero, in the case of the lucrative and distinct single deck game with the above rules and a 3-2 payout on a blackjack,). So, the card counter should not be increasing his bets until the true count is 2 or higher, rather than 0 or 1(doing the latter, gravely worsens the counterís total edge in the above simulations). So, letís see what happens if we change the bet pivot to a true count of 2 (instead of 0, as it was in the simulations above):

Rules (base: 1 deck, DAS, S17, 50% pen., Full Hi-Low)

6 to 5 edge

Bet spread: TC = 2: 2 units, TC >=3: 3 units

-0.3850%

Bet spread: TC =2: 2 units, 3: 4 units, 4: 6 units, >=5: 8 units

+0.2514%

Changing the bet pivot to a true count of 2 certainly improved our edge, even with the same 1 to 3 bet spread, but not enough to yield a positive edge game.

But, changing to a 1 to 8 bet spread did the job!

Generous single deck blackjack with 6 to 5 payout
can be beaten with a very large bet spread!!

Sorry for the shouting in bold italics folks, but even I was astounded by these results when I saw them. I had heard rumors for years that 6 to 5 blackjack was beatable in rare circumstances, but didnít really believe it was possible in practical games, or would yield a marginal edge at best.

So, how realistic is the proposed game and rules above? To begin, a 1 to 8 bet spread in regular single blackjack would normally never be tolerated: youíd be shown the door and 86ed before you placed your second big bet! Further, single deck blackjack is not normally dealt out to 50% penetration (youíd be lucky to get three rounds dealt with three players, or worse two rounds with four players i.e., Rule of 6). But casinos, and the public at large, consider 6 to 5 blackjack generally unbeatable, and casino heat is very low. Creeping up your large bet spread slowly and quietly is a very plausible strategy (i.e. when the pit critters are not looking).

And as further evidence, consider what happens if you "wong" out all hands when the true count is less than zero. If you do this, then your edge increases to a whopping 0.9475%! Not all casinos will let you sit there and choose which hands to play, especially since this would mean not playing about 50% of the hands. But again you may find the surveillance on your game is very low with 6 to 5 blackjack payout, especially if you keep your session playing times under Ĺ hour.

Conclusions

Contrary to popular belief, 6 to 5 blackjack is beatable by expert card counters with the best rules and a very aggressive game plan. If you can find a casino with a 6 to 5 single deck blackjack payout, offset by generous rules and a tolerance for large bet spreads, then you might well have a beatable game on your hands.

This study shows how important it is for expert card counters to keep a powerful blackjack simulator in their arsenal of advantage play training tools. No table of blackjack simulation numbers is going to provide the insights into beating this game.

DeepNet Technologies produces a wide line of blackjack training products, including software for windows, Pocket PC and Palm OS. We invented Speed Count, the simplest advantage play count system ever devised, now available in the Golden Touch Blackjack Revolution! book and DVD. For a complete line of our training software bundles, visit our web site: http://www.deepnettech.com/bjbundles.html

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