The Blackjack House Edge – Full Tables vs. Empty

Question: I've heard that it's always better to play blackjack when the table is full of other players instead of playing against the dealer at an empty table. Why is this? Does the house somehow have a bigger edge the fewer players there are at the table?

In blackjack the house edge on the actual game doesn't change, no matter if there are seven players at the table or just one. And while you will still win or lose the same amount of hands no matter how many players there are, at an empty table you are just going to do it a lot faster.

Dealers at a full, seven-seat blackjack table can deal about 60 hands an hour, though they often don't manage to get through more than 50. On the other hand, when it's just you against the dealer the game flies and you might play 250 hands in a single hour. That's a massive difference.

So, if you play $5 a hand, at a full table you are going to wager no more than $300 in an hour of play. With the same bet at an empty table you'll be betting as much as $1,250 in the same amount of time. With a bankroll of $1,000 you might not even last an hour one-on-one with the dealer, where you could play all night at a full table.

Question: I know that the house edge for a European, single-zero roulette wheel is normally 2.7%. But what about on an automated roulette slot machine? It's a single-zero wheel, but does the house somehow make more money because it's a video roulette machine?

The most important thing to check before you start to play a video roulette machine is if it offers the same payouts as on a normal, live table. Some machines look great because they feature single-zero wheels, but they lower the payout to 34-1 or even 32-1, which gives the machine an enormous edge.

However, if you check the pay table and the machine pays out 35-1 like it's real-live cousins, then you are getting the exact same odds as you would with a live ball and wheel. One thing to be careful of, though; a roulette slot machine goes through 4-5 times more spins per hour than the real thing, so make sure you keep your bets low to avoid getting wiped out before you can finish your first drink.

About The Author

Journalist and author John Grochowski is one of the foremost experts on casinos in America. He writes a syndicated weekly gambling newspaper column and he is a frequent contributor to gambling magazines, websites, and radio programs. His books include the best-sellers The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Casino Answer Book.

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  • "Bets must be made before a new blackjack hand is dealt. You cannot place a bet or change your bet once the dealing starts, so remember to pick up any winnings before the next hand.'

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  • "Baccarat is a French word, therefore the game is pronounced in French. To sound like a pro: the 't' at the end is silent, while the first syllable should be 'baa' like a sheep."

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