Why to Avoid 6-5 Blackjack Tables


Aug 2011

Ken Tucker | POSTED IN Blackjack | NO COMMENTS

If you’ve spent any time at blackjack tables, you’re probably familiar with the pay structure for a “natural,” also known as a blackjack. If you’re dealt an Ace plus a 10 point card like a face card or a ten, you have a “natural.” Traditionally, a natural pays out at 3-2 odds, meaning if you bet $10, you’d win $15 instead of the usual $10.

Beware of a slight change in the rules of blackjack offered by lots of casinos in Vegas and elsewhere in the world–look for a little card or sign that says “Blackjack Pays 6-5.” This means that instead of winning $15 for your natural, you’d have won just $12.

Believe it or not, this slight change in the rules of blackjack greatly affects the player’s odds. This rule is most often a part of a single-deck blackjack game. Since lots of blackjack players automatically assume that single-deck blackjack offers better odds, they’ll step up and play a 6-5 game without realizing the impact that rule has on their odds.

How the 6:5 Rule Affects Blackjack Odds

Let’s just write it down in black and white–a casino that pays 6-5 for a natural increases its edge by 1.39%. That means that players who use basic blackjack strategy are now at a 1.45% disadvantage instead of the standard 0.56% for an 8-deck game of blackjack. That means that the 6-5 payout rule triples the casino’s expected take, a huge difference in the odds for a single rule change.

If you bet $25 per hand, playing a standard average of 80 hands per hour, you can expect to lose $11.20 per hour of play. If you were to switch over to the single deck game (with a 6-5 blackjack payout rule), you can expect to lose $29.00 during that same hour. Considering that a blackjack game with an 8-deck shoe is supposed to be the worst possible table to play at, you’d think a switch over to a single deck game would be a smart financial decision. Not so, if they pay out 6-5 for a natural.

It is easy to forget how much a single change of the rules of blackjack affects your potential winnings. Blackjack tables where the dealer stands on a soft 17 lose about 0.21% of their edge. If a blackjack table doesn’t allow doubling after splitting, the player edge is reduced by about 0.11%. These sound like small numbers, but spread over 80 hands an hour, they can have a big impact on your bankroll. The 6:5 blackjack payout is no different.

How to Overcome 6-5 Blackjack

In the casino, you vote with your chips. The best way to get around the 6-5 payout rule is to not play any table offering 6-5 for a natural. If enough people avoided blackjack games with this rule, the casino would have to stop offering them.

Another way to beat the house when they only pay out 6-5 for a blackjack is to learn to count cards. If you step up to a single deck game (most of which payout 6-5) and you’re armed with the ability to count cards, you can still take money out of the casino’s coffers with regularity. At a single deck game, the dealer is trained to recognize card counters, so you’ll probably be asked to leave as soon as you start winning, but before you’re booted out, you can make a nice withdrawal.

The next time you’re in the casino, make sure you only play tables that pay out at least 3-2 (sometimes called 1.5-1) for naturals. If people continue to do business with casinos that only pay 6-5, they’ll keep opening new 6-5 tables.

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