Blackjack streaks and the house edge

If you’ve been reading this blog, you have probably read over and over that following basic blackjack strategy can reduce the house edge to 0.5%. That is one of the lowest house edges of any casino game. However, it is still a disadvantage. Even with the edge that low, it means that you would lose 0.5% of your wagers to the casino, with you losing more money than you’re winning.

A common response to that is “well, if I’m at a disadvantage and am bound to lose money, why would I play blackjack?” That’s a good question. A disadvantage, however small, is still a disadvantage. So why would anyone gamble on a game where they have a disadvantage? There are a few reasons.

First of all, playing blackjack is fun. Just like going to a theme park, seeing a movie, or going on a vacation, having fun costs money. A trip to a casino shouldn’t be looked at as a way of making money. Instead, it should be looked at as entertainment. Like most entertainment, it usually isn’t free.

Having said that, just because you’re at a disadvantage doesn’t mean you can’t make money. Any thinking to the contrary is due to a misunderstanding of odds. Odds tell you how likely something is to happen, but that doesn’t mean that unlikely things don’t happen. They happen all the time. The odds of being struck by lightning at some point in your life are 1 in 6,250. Despite that, there are people who have been struck multiple times. That’s not “defying the odds,” because if you take the total number of people struck by lightning, the statistic still holds up.

The same goes for blackjack. The odds say that you will lose $1 out of every $200 that you wager. However, you could also wager $200 and win $50. You could also wager $200 and lose $75. The house edge doesn’t mean you will lose 0.5% of every hand, every sitting or every trip to the casino. What it means is that in the long run – and we’re talking thousands or millions of hands – the casino will win 0.5% of all money bet on the game of blackjack.

That is in the long run. Short term, it is quite common to go on a good streak and win lots of money at the blackjack table. It is those exciting streaks that make people come back to the table again and again to play. Also, anyone who counts cards, and does it well, can actually gain an advantage over the house. Keep in mind, though, that the casinos frown upon card counting. Though it isn’t illegal as long as you’re not using anything to help you count, casinos will often remove and ban a player who is caught counting cards.

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