Gambling Tips > 6:5 Blackjack

The following sign is posted at the entrance to the Four Queens Casino in downtown Las Vegas. It says in plain English:


WE DON’T DEAL NO STINKIN’ 6:5 BLACKJACK


Bravo to the Four Queens! They are the first casino to openly proclaim that the 6:5 blackjack games are a rip-off. Hopefully, this will be the start of a movement that will ultimately rid this abominable game from casinos everywhere. You can help eliminate this game and I’ll explain how in a moment. But first let me clarify the issues with the 6:5 game so you understand why I, and other casino-player advocates, have been warning the public to stay away from this game.


Historically, a blackjack hand has always paid 3:2. So if you bet $10, you will be paid $15 (a 3:2 payoff). This assumes, of course, that the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack on the same hand.


Single-deck games have traditionally attracted more blackjack players because they believe they have a better shot at winning playing against one deck. In fact, knowledgeable players who use the basic playing strategy in a single-deck game can reduce the house edge to virtually zero.


Casinos have tried Super Fun 21, a single-deck game with a mix of rules that gives them a higher house edge. But casino bosses have to pay a royalty for this game, which they dislike. Then, a Las Vegas casino discovered that by simply changing the blackjack payoff from 3:2 to 6:5, they can enjoy a healthy edge on a single-deck game, and not have to pay royalties to anyone. And so was born the 6:5 single-deck game.


The 6:5 payoff alone increases the house edge by almost 1.4 percent (no, that’s not a type). Therefore, the overall casino advantage for a typical 6:5 single deck game where the dealer hits soft 17 and players can double down after a pair split (das) is about 1.45 percent. The latter is nearly nine times greater (gulp) than a traditional 3:2 single deck game being offered nowadays in some casinos, and about three times greater (ouch) than a decent six-deck game.


But instead of talking percentages, let’s talk dollars and cents so you can really see how much a 6:5 game costs you. Suppose you play two hours of blackjack at $10 a pop and you are dealt an average of 80 hands per hour. A blackjack occurs about once in every 21 hands, so on average you should expect to get four blackjacks per hour, or a total of eight in two hours. Each of those blackjacks should earn you $15 (with a 3:2 payout on a $10 wager), but instead you get paid only $12 in the 6:5 game. You are shortchanged $3 on every blackjack, so in the course of two hours of play, you have been shortchanged $24. That is an atrocity.


Casinos also love the 6:5 game because it virtually eliminates those pesky card counters, since many find the house edge too tough to beat with card counting. And get this: some brazen Las Vegas casino bosses are trying to implement the 6:5 payoff in double-, six-, and even eight-deck games (no, I’m not joking). This would increase the house edge, on some games, up to an appalling 2%!


6:5 games also have these additional pitfalls, which most players are not aware of:


  1. If you wager an amount that is not divisible by 5, your payoff for a blackjack actually gets worse. For example, if you bet $8 and get a blackjack, you’ll get paid only $9, which is equivalent to the payoff odds of 5.625:5 rather than 6:5 (casinos will pay 6:5 on the first $5 of your wager, and even money for the remaining $3). When the game was first offered, I bet a red ($5) and pink ($2.50) chip on a hand and was dealt a blackjack. At 6:5 payoff odds, a $7.50 wager should pay an even $9, but the dealer paid me only $8.50. I tried to politely explain to the dealer and then to the shift boss that 6:5 on $5 is $6, and 6:5 on $2.50 is $3 therefore I should be paid a total of $9. My plea fell on deaf years.


  1. In a 3:2 game, a player can take even money if he is dealt a blackjack and the dealer shows an ace. But the math doesn’t work in the casino’s favor on a 6:5 game, so they won’t allow players to take even money.


  1. The game is mostly offered on low-limit tables in tourist locations where blackjack players tend to be less sophisticated about the game (“milk the tourists” mentality). Knowledgeable players with limited bankrolls are also faced with this dilemma: either play the 6:5 game with lower betting limits, or play the better 3:2 multiple-deck games, but with higher betting limits. If they opt for the latter they often get less play time because they tap out sooner as a result of overbetting in relation to their modest bankroll. Either way, they get screwed.


  1. Casinos tout their single-deck games on marquees without mentioning the 6:5 payoff. Signage on blackjack tables alerting players to the 6:5 payoff is often minuscule and not read by players. Many players, in fact, don’t realize the change in blackjack payoff when they first sit down and play until after it occurs.


To show you the magnitude of the problem, according to the December issue of “Current Blackjack News” (www.bj21.com), the 26 casinos on the Las Vegas Strip have 210 blackjack tables with the 6:5 game (that’s 20% of all the blackjack tables). But this isn’t just a Las Vegas problem. You’ll also find the 6:5 game in Atlantic City, the South, the Midwest, and elsewhere.


The bottom line is that unless players do something about it, the 6:5 game will ultimately ruin blackjack. So what can you do to help?


  1. Don’t play any 6:5 blackjack games. Instead play only games that pay 3:2 on a blackjack.

  2. Voice your displeasure about the game to a casino supervisor, your casino host, and even the casino manager. Be sure to also tell them you are taking your business to casinos that don’t offer this wretched game.

  3. Warn your friends and family, who are planning to visit a casino, about this outrageous game.


It’s clear that in their attempt to make more money, casinos are actually ruining one of the best games for players. Don’t let this happen. Just say NO! to 6:5 blackjack games.