Pennsylvania may shift blackjack rules toward house

If you have been playing blackjack at the new tables in Pennsylvania casinos, you should probably take advantage of the good rules while you can. One blackjack expert (and it’s not me this time) predicts that the state will soon tighten the rules to increase the house edge.

Michael Shackelford is one of the top blackjack experts in the field and probably the best blackjack statistician in the business. Going by the name of the Wizard of Odds (including on his website), Shackleford has an unending supply of stats and odds for the game of blackjack. According to the Wizard, the Pennsylvania blackjack games have a house edge of only 0.4% when proper basic strategy is applied.

The good house edge is due to a number of rules that are beneficial to the player. First, the tables have the standard 3:2 payout for blackjacks. While that used to be a given, many casinos are now using 6:5 payouts, which greatly increases the house advantage. In addition, Pennsylvania blackjack tables have rules that require the dealer to stand on a soft 17 and allow the players to surrender.

While speaking in Las Vegas recently, Shackelford praised Pennsylvania for offering good rules for the player. However, he said that he expects the rules to get worse. “In markets where there’s not a lot of competition, you tend to see lousy rules,” he said.

Some are calling for the casinos to tighten those rules. The most suggested change is to have the dealer hit a soft 17. Another suggestion is to switch to a 6:5 payout for a blackjack. Those two changes would have the biggest impact on the house edge.

In the spring, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will get together and discuss the current rules and the possibility of changing rules. Some casino representatives want the rules changed to favor the house more. However, others worry about losing business. If Shackleford is right, though, the days of a 0.4% house edge in Pennsylvania casino are numbered.

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