Are single-deck games better than multi-deck games?

Copyright © 1994 – 2017By Michael Dalton All Rights Reserved
FAQ 7: Originally published in Volume 5 Issue 4 of Blackjack Review Magazine
RETURN TO THE BLACKJACK FAQ

The Theory of Blackjack by Peter GriffinYes… and no! A multi-deck game has an inherent 0.5% – 0.6% 1) According to Peter Griffin’s Theory of Blackjack, the player’s basic strategy expectations in a standard Las Vegas Strip rule game are as follows: 1 deck = +.02%, 4 deck = -.48% and an infinite number of decks = -.65%.  disadvantage over a single deck game with the same rules. Much of this difference is due to the effect of removal of cards (i.e., removing one card in single deck has a big effect, whereas its removal in a shoe game is negligible). On the other hand, it is much easier to find good rules and conditions in shoe games. The bottom line is that although single- and double-deck games are inherently better than shoe games they are also easier to manipulate in the casino’s behalf.

Almost half of the 0.5% difference mentioned above is due to the reduced favorability of doubling down in more than one deck. Additional decks, however, make busts less likely, since you can draw to hands like 2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2 (for 18) which are impossible in single and double deck. Busting less often helps the dealer’s hand more than yours, since the dealer is forced by the rigid rules to hit more often than you. Blackjacks are also less frequent, which is bad since you get paid 3 to 2 for those. The 0.5% cost to the basic strategy player is more than all but the very best package of favorable extra rules will give you. 2) This paragraph summarizes part of Michael Hall’s explanation on the subject found in rec.gambling’s FAQ file available at Blackjack Review’s Internet Web site.

Many of today’s card-counters have avoided the single-deck game. Although beatable single-deckers may still exist in this country it is hard to find games that will tolerate heavy action (i.e., bets of several hundred dollars and up) for very long. Low stakes players, however, can often find good games in places such as Reno and Las Vegas but players have to be careful and understand what a beatable single deck game is! Single deck penetration is directly related to the number of other players in the game and the rounds being dealt.3) See the Winter 1996 issue of Blackjack Review, page 7 for a chart outlining the minimum requirements for beating the single deck game.  Also, it is much easier for the dealer to cheat in a hand dealt game.

Beatable two deck games can be a lot easier to find. Casinos are usually not as paranoid about the double decker and you will often find yourself in a position to get money on the table without being shuffled up on.

“I will take a good cut and lousy rules any day!”

Of course, the shoe game can be found everywhere and given the right conditions these games can be beat as well. Many of the shoe games are better suited for team play and some can even be beaten with shuffle tracking.

The most important criteria to beating any game are the penetration level and rules, however, I will take a good cut and lousy rules any day! Each of these games must be approached differently and they require unique skills if you want to have any chance of bringing home the money.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. According to Peter Griffin’s Theory of Blackjack, the player’s basic strategy expectations in a standard Las Vegas Strip rule game are as follows: 1 deck = +.02%, 4 deck = -.48% and an infinite number of decks = -.65%. 
2. This paragraph summarizes part of Michael Hall’s explanation on the subject found in rec.gambling’s FAQ file available at Blackjack Review’s Internet Web site.
3. See the Winter 1996 issue of Blackjack Review, page 7 for a chart outlining the minimum requirements for beating the single deck game. 

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