Of course, the blackjack dealer doesn’t always win, but many people feel the dealer wins a disproportionate number of times in blackjack. It’s a basic rule of the casino business that the house only offers games where it has an “edge”.
The house’s edge is baked into the game.
But the edge doesn’t guarantee the dealer will always win. Over the long run the dealer should only win slightly more often than a perfect player.
So what gives?
The old adage “perception is reality” works on one level because you play the game by how you perceive it. But on another level appearances can be deceiving. And sometimes the players themselves are responsible for the deceptive appearances.
Here are 7 reasons why the blackjack dealer always seems to win.
1 – Players May Not Understand Probabilities Well Enough
If you’re not trying to count cards, then you don’t even need to worry about the probabilities. Basic blackjack strategy takes all that into consideration.
In blackjack there are only two kinds of probabilities players should think about. The first and most well-known is the division between theoretical return to player and house edge.
Contrary to some players’ thinking, the house edge doesn’t predict how often the house wins. The house edge predicts how much money the house keeps. The assumption behind the house edge is wager-neutral.
Although the house needs to win a lot in blackjack to get ahead, the differences between payout odds and probabilities of card play create the edge. In any gambling game, if there is a statistical 50-50 chance of a certain outcome, the house will pay less than 1:1 on the odds.
The only other probability players need to care about is the probability that the next card they are dealt helps them. How many people are playing at your table doesn’t matter. What matters is what’s left in the shoe when it’s your turn for a card.
2 – The Number of Hands You Play per Hour Matters
If you’re playing head to head with the dealer, you can go through as many as 200 hands in an hour. If there are four other people at the table with you then each round takes longer. You’ll play fewer hands per hour.
Just using basic strategy against the house, you’ll lose money over time. The game is designed to pay slightly less than the true probabilities allow. So the more hands you play, the more likely the house will “win” your money away from you.
You should still win a lot of hands against the dealer. The house’s strategy is a long game. The more hands you play the more likely they’ll keep some or all of your money.
3 – Bad Game Play Provides the House with a “Hidden” Edge
The casino counts on most players making mistakes or bad calls. An inexperienced player makes a bad call. An experienced player who should know better makes a mistake.
Either way, if you hit or stand when you shouldn’t you make it more likely that the house wins.
If you split when you shouldn’t you make it more likely that the house wins. If you miss an opportunity to split it’s not so bad but you could win twice or more against the house on a favorable split.
Player strategy often enhances the house’s strategy. And whereas you decide your strategy on the fly the house is playing by a very simple rule book. House strategy never changes.
I imagine a guy dancing around a fight ring, trying to show off, while the dealer waits to whack him hard in the face. Your opponent isn’t going anywhere, trying to do flashy moves, or hiding anything. He’s just waiting for you to do something stupid.
With few exceptions players sometimes make it easy for the dealer by using the wrong strategy.
4 – The House Undermines Your Advantage Play
If you count cards the way most people advise you to, you’ll raise and lower your bets in a predictable fashion. This is like jumping up on the table, waving your arms, and shouting “hey, I’m counting cards!”
That strategy may have worked well in the 1960s but today’s casinos just shuffle the cards. All your counting is wasted time and energy.
This is why card counters like to work in teams. They can be more subtle, although the casinos still look for coordinated play.
Continuous shuffling machines may have ruined card counting forever. If not, the larger shoes and option to reshuffle on a whim make card counting a less rewarding strategy for most players.
If it seems like the house is winning more than you think they should, it could be you’re counting cards badly or needlessly.
5 – Are You Tipping the Dealer?
The dealer literally wins when you leave a tip. While this is considered a courteous habit and one I myself practice, it makes it all that much harder for you to get ahead.
I limit my tips to when I leave the table. I’ve seen some players split their winnings on big bets with the dealer. Assuming that’s completely legit, it still reduces the player’s winnings.
Whether you tip the dealer or not, the house is winning if you do tip the dealer. Those tips help casino employees pay their bills. I’ve seen some people argue against tipping because it “supports the system”.
I don’t think it’s fair to push casino employees into a moral quagmire. Either tip or don’t tip, but the tip costs you money. It does affect your win-loss ratio proportionate to how often and how much you tip.
6 – Is the Dealer Feeding You Bad Advice?
I’ve played a few tables where the dealers answered player questions. Blackjack dealers don’t have to be expert players. They only follow one strategy.
If you’ve got a friendly dealer who shares advice, he or she may be well-intentioned but that doesn’t mean they know the best strategy.
I’ve never questioned the integrity of a blackjack dealer. But they may push a progressive bet option. If you want a guaranteed way to improve the house edge in blackjack, go for the progressive wager on the side.
7 – Are You Using a Betting System?
Sooner or later someone sits down at the table with a betting system ready to go. Card counters raise their wagers when they believe the deck favors them but I’ve seen other betting systems.
One guy alternated his bets. He played $25 on one hand and $50 on the next. If he had played perfect strategy it shouldn’t have mattered.
When you talk betting strategies with people someone always brings up the Martingale System. The strategy is simple. Only make minimum wagers until you lose and then double your wager on the next bet to win back what you lost.
The Martingale System requires an endless supply of money, luck, or both. I’ve never met a great blackjack player who believed in a betting system. The best players I’ve sat next to had a set wager amount they always played and stuck to their games.
One of the most important things in gambling is to manage your expectations. The more you expect to win the greater your disappointment will be.
When people allow their expectations to get out of hand they try to make up for disappointment with risky bets. I’ve been one of those guys who got so frustrated he started making aggressive wagers.
When you stop caring about how well you’re playing you should walk away from the table. You can always go back later when you’re feeling better.
The only way the house doesn’t win is if you enjoy yourself and stay in budget. Dropping $200 at a casino is no different from buying $200 concert tickets.
If it’s all for fun and you enjoy yourself the house can’t take that away from you.