Lesson 11 – Evaluating Games

Last Updated: February 18, 2020

While almost all Blackjack games are ultimately beatable, the rewards to be gained from marginal situations do not adequately compensate you for your time and risk. Therefore, you must evaluate a game in several ways before playing it. Two primary areas of concern are the house rules of the game, including the number of decks used and the placement of the cut-card, what we call “penetration.”

Many rule changes require a change in your basic strategy, so don’t forget about the “Basic Strategy Engine”. Remember that rule changes may also affect your betting schedule.

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Effect of Rule Variations on the Player’s Edge

(Assume 6 decks, double on any first two cards, no double after splitting, resplit all pairs, except Aces, insurance is available and the dealer stands on Ace-6. This yields a -.54% advantage to the player.)

Changes which help the playerChange in the edge
Double after split+.14%
Resplit Aces+.07%
Early surrender vs. all+.70%
Early surrender vs 10 0nly+.30%
Late surrender+.08%
Single Deck+.50%
Two Decks+.20%
Four Decks+.05%
Changes which hurt the playerChanges in edge
Dealer hits A-6-.20%
Double only on 11-.46%
Double only on 10,11-.09%
Double only 9, 10,11-.09%
No resplitting pairs-.04%
No insurance (if you are counting cards)-.40%

To determine the casino’s edge over you at the beginning of a shoe, just add or subtract the rules variations from the ‘base’ game listed above. For example, if you play a double deck game which has the same rules as the base game, the casino advantage is computed as follows.

Base game -.54%
Two Decks +.20%
_____________________
Player edge -.34%

Effect of Deck Penetration

How far the dealer goes into the deck(s) before shuffling can have a major effect on your winnings. The reason is that with a shallow penetration, the ‘high’ counts which enable you to bet more occur less often in decks where the shuffle comes early. The table below shows how often counts will occur on a percentage basis at varying degrees of penetration.

Percent Occurrence at…
True Count50%65%75%85% penetration
+115151313
+28788
+33445
+41.52.534
+51122
+6.5122
+70.511.5
+800.51
+9000.5
+10000.5

Let’s examine what I’m trying to say here. If you play at a game with only 50% penetration, out of every 100 hands, only 29 will have, on average, a true count of 1 or better. Since it requires a true count of 1 to get even with the house, only 14 will be hands on which you have an advantage. Now look at the stats for a game with 85% penetration. Here, about 37.5% of the hands will be at breakeven or better and almost a quarter will be hands on which you have an advantage.

YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME AND MONEY IF YOU PLAY AT A GAME WITH LESS THAN 65% PENETRATION.

Even if a game doesn’t offer the best rules, it can still be beaten if good penetration is available. Remember that you should leave a game when the count drops below a true of minus 1 so that you spend most of your playing time making bets in what I call the ‘profit zone.’

Homework

Calculate the player starting advantage for the following:

I’ll post the correct answers to this quiz in the next lesson.



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Dakota Gullickson
Dakota Gullickson
1 year ago

Hi Ken,
I like to play a game that is single deck – NDAS – H17 game. By all the calculators that I have found online, this game house edge hovers around .2%. However, it does not allow the player to take insurance. This is not an option in any of the online calculators that I have found. Your table states that with this condition I would need to adjust the house edge by -.4%. If this is the case, my bet spread has been very wrong as the player does not get the edge until a true 1.5. Can you shed some light on this? Thanks!!!

LV Bear
LV Bear
1 year ago

I believe the only game in the United States that fits this description is the tiny-stakes game at Barton’s in Jackpot. The house edge is 0.18. House edge is generally expressed as “off the top of the deck vs. basic strategy.” The lack of insurance does not affect it, as a basic strategist never takes insurance. As for Ken’s calculation for a card counter, it’s reasonable, making the Barton’s game only marginally playable for those who play tiny stakes, and very frustrating.

D-Money
D-Money
1 year ago
Reply to  LV Bear

Thanks LV Bear, your response is super appreciated. I have a follow up question for you if you don’t mind. Since you should only be taking insurance at a +3 anyways and at a +3 in this game your edge is around 1.3%, would that take .4% off of your edge if and only if the dealer shows up with an Ace, bringing your edge in that scenario down to .8%? Just wondering how to calculate the game. I don’t want to make any assumptions. Thanks!

LV Bear
LV Bear
1 year ago
Reply to  D-Money

Please post the question in the “Card Counting, Advanced Strategies” section of the forums.

aidan
aidan
1 year ago

Do you have to remember the variations to players edge or can u just use a calculator to do so?

Luis AVB
Luis AVB
1 year ago

Lesson 11

Changes which hurt the player Changes in edge
Dealer hits A-6 -.20%
Double only on 11 -.46%
Double only on 10,11 -.09%
Double only 9, 10,11 -.09%
No resplitting pairs -.04%
No insurance (if you are counting cards) -.40%

And 8 Decks?

Maestro
Maestro
3 years ago

“YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME AND MONEY IF YOU PLAY AT A GAME WITH LESS THAN 65% PENETRATION.”
65% is the standard for ALL games, irregardless of the number of decks?

Toledoron
Toledoron
3 years ago

Enjoy reading and gaining more knowledge relative to
Playing a stronger game of blackjack.
Thank you for the good info.

stefan
stefan
3 years ago

ken I wish all the best 4 you in 2017 and just wanted to express a big thank you for your time and informations on bj !!!

Stefan
Stefan
4 years ago

Hello ken.any numbers of avantage of disavantage in european bj.the european no hole pick card for the dealer i think its hurts the players right?also a surrender offer in europe against all dealers cards except an ace before the dealer delt any card to the palyers its the same percent avantage like u have in usa for the full early surrender? Thanks for the answer!

Jay
Jay
4 years ago

Hi Ken,

I play at a casino with the following rules (Quebec):
Table minimum is $20.

Natural pays 3 to 2
8 Decks
75% to 80% penetration
Dealer hits soft 17
Double any two cards allowed
Double after split allowed
No Surrender
Dealer peeks
Insurance available on dealer face up A
Splitting limited to a max of 4 times
No moves allowed after splitting Aces (stand,stand)
If dealer and player land a natural blackjack, the play is a push (Not sure on this last one, I may be wrong and they may still pay out 3 to 2.)

How do you recommend we beat this setup?

Jay
Jay
4 years ago
Reply to  Ken Smith

Thanks for the reply, Ken!

These rules have been very discouraging! I’ll proceed with the Hi-Lo because I’ve been practising it with these rules for about a year now and I’ve developed a high degree of comfort keeping the running count and playing perfect basic strategy. Unfortunately, both playing sims at home (kitchen table style) and at the house, we seem to be on a downward & losing curve, but it’s difficult to judge because I don’t think we’ve reached the long run by far 😛

Luckily, I play with a team of 3 so back-counting might be viable 🙂 and the recommendation you’ve provided as far as bet spread and bank roll really puts things into perspective!

It’s too bad there’s not another table with different rules within 400KMs of where I live… the house we play at might have up to 3 different tables open at once but on the bright side, its a smaller casino and its a lot more calm than most.

Jan Charles
Jan Charles
4 years ago

Hi Ken,
I really love the site but there is something I cant really understand:

According to the table you get a true count of 7 or better a 0% of the time with 50% deck penetration. But in a single deck game if the first 7 cards dealt are low you already have count of a little bit over 7. So you clearly have a true count of 7 or better over 0% of the time. Is the table wrong or am I doing something wrong?

Fred M
Fred M
4 years ago

Hi Ken,
First let me say I have learnt so much from your website and I am using it to play online live with favorable results.

My question is, the site I play on go to about 65% penetration before using a new shoe, with an 8 deck game. Should I only play at the table when it is a new shoe? Or is it OK to join and play even if I estimate 2-4 decks in the discard pile?

Gay Card Counter
Gay Card Counter
4 years ago

Just want to be sure I understand . . . it is possible in a game with only 75% penetration (standard deck and half cut out from a six deck shoe) to have a true-count north of +9, right. It doesn’t happen that often but there have definitely been times when 1/2 of the six deck shoe has been cashed and the running count is 20 thus making the true-count – if I understand your teachings correctly – +10, right?

Alex
Alex
4 years ago

Dear Sir

I am 20 and I have just started playing blackjack. Your site has been extremely helpful, in the past two weeks I have gone through all the lessons and have done all the homework. I am counting five decks, ten times a day and I am also practicing game situations regularly. Tomorrow, I am hoping to try my luck at the local casino with my new knowledge. Now I think I can count without a problem at the casino because the dealers are extremely slow especially the ones covering the early shift. However, I would like to ask you a question about penetration which I am not certain of. Now the dealer at the casino puts the cards from the discard tray into the shoe after every hand so does that mean that to calculate my true count, I would always have to divide by five as they use five decks.
Please help me

Jose
Jose
4 years ago

Hi, Ken

I’m playing in a on line live casino. It is an european style, 8 decks, 80% penetration, S17, double only in 9, 10 and 11. Split only once. Double after split is not allowed. You can hit after split Aces. I type this data in the MGP’s software and the advantage is -0,63. Is it beatable if I play with TC>1?

John
John
5 years ago

Love your site and tutorial. I’ve really been enjoying playing blackjack because of it. However, I’m confused or have a problem with one thing. You say to walk away when TC is -1. If I actually walked away, I’d wind up never playing. -1 occurs very very often, I don’t understand how you expect people to walk away. One time I went to the casino with my friends and we took up the whole table, so I was able to sit out a bunch of hands…when the count was negative, without looking suspicious. That was awesome. But I just can’t figure out how to do it when playing not-with-friends without looking suspicious. Can you give me a few pointers? Thanks

John
John
5 years ago
Reply to  Ken Smith

Alright, noted. At least that’s one less thing I have to worry about doing wrong. Thank you for such a quick reply!

Kanatis
Kanatis
5 years ago

Hello Ken

I have a question about which count is more preferred. I play in 2 casinos one of which is 4deck with 75% penetration and the other one is 6deck with 85% penetration. Obviously the best casino to choose is the second one but my question is that i use Hi-Lo count, but some say that the Knock-out count is more preferred for shoe games even if it is an unbalanced count, so which of these 2 counts is the best for these 2 casinos??
I find Hi-Lo profitable and easy but i find KO count easy as well, so does the KO count have more success than the Hi-Lo count for the casinos that i attend to???
Will i have more success by using KO count rather than Hi-Lo count in those casinos??
Please Help 🙂

Savvas
Savvas
5 years ago

Hey Ken,

I just started counting cards and i found 2 casinos with good rules but i don’t know which is better. In both casinos the dealer stands on S17, double on any 2 pairs is allowed, resplitting is allowed and after splitting aces you get one card and black jack pays 3:2. But the first one is an 8-deck with 85% penetration while the other is 4-deck with 65-75% penetration. Which one should i prefer?

Jim
Jim
5 years ago

Thank you very much Ken, love your website.

Jim
Jim
5 years ago

Dealer only has one card on table, player can surrender before the first third card deal out of the shoe.player can surrender on dealer’s ten but not A. so what is the advantage for player for this rule. if ES is +0.7%, what is the advantage for this kind of surrender?

Jim
Jim
5 years ago

Hi Ken,

I calculated my local casino edge based on the infor you give.
our rule is 6 decks, double on any first two cards, double after splitting, resplit all pairs, except Aces, insurance is available,dealer stands on H-17.
so my calculation is: -.54% -0.2%(H17)+0.7(ES)+0.14(DAS)=0.1% is this right? if it is right, does it mean player have 0.1% edge over casino?
thanks for all you have replied on other topic.