Over the Edge: Blackjack RTP and Why it Matters

The Best Blackjack Rules (and Worst) and How They Impact RTP

The Best Blackjack Rules (and Worst) and How They Impact RTP

Every casino game comes with a win probability. That is, the likelihood that a player will win, versus the likelihood that they will lose (i.e. house wins). Blackjack is considered an exceptional casino game for two reasons. First, it comes with one of the highest “return to player” (RTP) percentages of any other game. Second, players can make decisions that ultimately impact the height of that return.

That doesn’t mean you should dive blindly into any blackjack game. Some have higher RTPs than others. And if you don’t play the game correctly, making all of the proper decisions along the way, you won’t achieve the highest possible RTP anyway.

The intent of this page is to teach you a few simple but critical lessons about blackjack RTP, and why it matters. We’ll start with a better explanation of what RTP is, and how it’s calculated.

What is Blackjack RTP (Return to Player)?

The return to player, or RTP, is a percentage-based calculation of how much a casino game will pay out to players in the long-term (i.e. over an extensive amount of game play). In general, the rules of any casino games determine its RTP. However, in some games, the RTP isn’t static; that is to say it can be alter with the player’s decisions. Blackjack is one of them. I’ll explain why in a moment. First, let’s delve deeper into the minutiae of RTP.

As I said, RTP is represented by a percentage. If a casino game’s RTP percentage is 80%, that means players can expect to win back 80% of all their wagers. A more appropriate way to look at this – players will lose 20% of their bets. Whatever the RTP percentage is, you can subtract it from a complete 100% to get the amount the casino will win (a.k.a. house edge).

I mentioned blackjack RTPs being unique for two reasons. The first reason was because they are so inherently high. The higher the RTP, the more you can expect to win back. Most blackjack games carry an RTP of 99% or more. Some online games have been known to reach as high as 99.82%. That means the player is only expecting to lose 0.18% of their bets. Just know that…

Anything Under 100% is a Loss

99.82% sounds really high, but please note that a 99.82% return rate is not a win, but rather a 0.18% loss. In order to get a winning (profitable) RTP, the rate would have to be higher than 100%. No casino game in modern times, online or on land, has a natural RTP of 100%+. To achieve this, you would have to successfully employ blackjack card counting, and even that is getting much harder to do these days, as we’ll discuss in more detail below.

RTP is a Theoretical Concept

Also please understand that RTP is a theoretical concept. Because it is based entirely on scientific probabilities (the probability of drawing any individual card from a specific pool of cards), that theoretical RTP will come to fruition, but only in the long-term. By long-term, we’re talking about hundreds if not thousands of hours of game play.

Short-term results are rarely indicative of the actual RTP. You may play 100 hands and win or lose more, perhaps even far more, than the RTP implies. This is what we call short-term variance; the inevitable swings of gambling. You win some, you lose some, so to speak – even the ones you theoretically (probably) should have won, you may lose, and vice versa. You can get lucky and win a hand with 12, just as you can get unlucky and lose with 20.

Since there is no natural RTP of 100% or more, the fact is, if RTP were demonstrable in the short-term, there would be no winners at all.

Why the RTP in Blackjack Isn’t Static

Now to cover the second unique factor in blackjack RTP – its instability. Unlike many games, like slot machines, keno, roulette, big wheel, and others, the RTP in blackjack can change. This is simply because the player is capable of making decisions. A good decision sustains the game’s maximum RTP, while a bad decision decreases it.

Making good decisions has nothing to do with gut feelings, or trusting your intuition. They are based solely on the use of basic strategy. A basic strategy (a.k.a. perfect strategy; they mean the same thing) will determine the best possible decision you can make, based on the probability of that decision resulting in a win. Even if the probability is only 25%, if it’s the highest-probability decision you can make based on the current conditions (your hand versus the dealer’s up-card), it’s the right decision.

Can good decisions increase blackjack RTP?

Yes and no… As far as basic strategy goes, no. The RTP of the game is calculated by assuming the player will make all good (correct, perfect) decisions. The RTP is only impacted (negatively) if basic strategy is not followed.

The only way to increase the RTP above its theorized height is to employ further strategies; more than what basic strategy calls for. This would require counting cards and adjusting bet sizes based on the current count. Even this is mostly (but not entirely) ineffective, due to casinos reshuffling before the deck/shoe reaches 50% depth. If you’re serious about achieving a winning RTP in blackjack, card counting is still a subject worth exploring.

Why do Different Blackjack Games have Different RTPs?

Every blackjack game comes with a long list of rules. Every rule impacts the game’s RTP in some way, either positively (in the player’s favor) or negatively (in the casino’s favor). Therefore, each time a rule is altered, it creates a new variant of the game, with a different RTP.

There are more than a dozen rules that will lower a game’s RTP, and nearly two dozen that can increase it. The following table will give you a better idea of what rules are good (positive RTP change) versus those that are bad (negative RTP change).

Positive Blackjack Rules +RTP Impact
Blackjack Pays 2 to 1 +2.27%
5-Card Charlie +1.46%
Suited Blackjack Pays 2 to 1 +0.57%
Single Deck Game +0.48%
Early Surrender against Dealer Ace +0.39%
Player Wins Blackjack Ties, Pays 3 to 2 +0.32%
6-Card Charlie, Pays 3 to 2 +0.31%
5+ Card 21, Pays 2 to 1 +0.24%
Early Surrender against 10 +0.24%
Double Down on Any Total +0.23%
Ace+10 after Split is Natural Blackjack +0.19%
Double Deck Game +0.19%
Draw to Split Aces +0.19%
6-Card Charlie, Pays 1 to 1 +0.16%
Double Down after Split +0.15%
Double Down Rescue +0.10%
Late Surrender +0.08%
Resplit Aces +0.08%
Late Surrender against 10 +0.07%
Four Deck Game +0.06%
Five Deck Game +0.03%
Six Deck Game +0.02%
Negative Blackjack Rules -RTP Impact
Split up to 2x -0.01%
Double Down on 9, 10, 11 only -0.09%
Split 1x only -0.10%
Dealer Doesn’t Peek for Blackjack -0.11%
No Double After Split -0.14%
No Splitting Aces -0.18%
Double Down on 10, 11 only -0.18%
Dealer Hits Soft 17 -0.22%
Blackjack Pays 7 to 5 -0.45%
No Splitting Allowed -0.57%
Blackjack Pays 6 to 5 -1.39%
No Doubling Allowed -1.48%
Blackjack Pays 1 to 1 -2.27%
Dealer 22 Pushes except against Blackjack -6.91%

Always Play Blackjack with the Highest RTP

If you’ve been reading along up until now, I shouldn’t have to explain the reasoning behind this. RTP determines the amount of money you can expect to win back (in the long-term). Because that RTP is always less than 100%, you can never expect to win back all of your bets, or make a profit (in the long term). So, if you’re all-but destined to lose money playing blackjack, it only makes sense to choose a game in which you’ll lose the least amount of money. Hence, you should only play the highest RTP games available.

Are You Not Entertained?

I certainly don’t mean to sound cynical, but we have to be realistic about this. Yes, you can win money playing blackjack. People do it all the time – especially in the short term. But you cannot expect to win. What you can expect is to have a good time. Gambling, after all, is a form of entertainment. If you’re not entertained, why play?

Think of it this way. Almost every form of entertainment costs money. Playing the highest RTP blackjack games, while employing basic strategy, is kind of like getting a good discount rate on your entertainment, but with a slight chance of getting back more money than you paid for it. That’s not a bad deal at all.

Highest RTP Blackjack Games that can be Played for Bitcoin

If you’re into the crypto coin movement, you’ll be glad to know there are a lot of crypto casinos offering high RTP blackjack games to Canadian players. I would encourage you to shop around, do your research, and see what’s out there.

The best we’ve found in our considerable experience is Blackjack Bonus by 1×2 Gaming. It comes with an impressive RTP of 99.82%, with basic strategy applied. See our perfect strategy for Blackjack Bonus for more info on how and where to play it.

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George Thomson is a Bitcoin enthusiast and all around crypto currency nerd... When he's not busy researching crypto, he likes hiking the national parks of British Columbia . He lives in an eco-friendly home with his wife Jana and their two daughters, Sandra and Rose. His favorite word is "sustainability".
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