This is one of those stories that keeps going around, and we get quite a few queries on. Is it myth or the straight up truth?
For those who haven´t got a clue what we are talking about, the theory goes that some casinos rig the house cards to give them a higher advantage on their blackjack tables, by removing all the Kings for example (although this would be a bit ovbvious. Better to remove one king, one queen a jack and a 10). Many players suspect that the odds have been stacked against them in some casinos.
Well, we wouldn´t say that this is an impossibility, and we are sure that somewhere, sometime this has happened, in dubious premises, but if you head to a well known casino, or play online at a reputable site, this practice would be dangerous and counter productive, as it is fairly easy to spot. Normal blackjack odds give the house an edge at blackjack anyway, and that´s assuming that everyone is playing the perfect strategy. Throw in the fact that many people play an imperfect blackjack strategy, and the house has enough margin to pay out the winners and run its business thankyou very much.
It´s an interesting topic, however, and begs the question- how much effect does it have if a casino pulls some cards out of the pack?
Well, rest assured, if the casino is pulling out Kings and Queens, it is going to seriously dent your odds. Less 10-value cards or Aces mean you´ll get dealt less blackjacks and remember, blackjack pays out at 3-2. And less 10s, means less 21s when you double down on 11, and less 20s when you double down on 10.
There is one game that gives us an excellent steer: Spanish 21. This variant of blackjack has all the 10s removed legally. You just have to see how the payout schedule has had to be inflated to make this particular variant attractive to players to understand the impact of removing the 10s. You can double down on any number of cards, surrender even after doubling down, blackjack always win over the house blackjack, you get bonuses on 6-7-8 and 7-7-7, and bonus payoffs kick in on five-, six- or seven-card 21s. There´s a whole raft of extra sweeteners.
A general rule is the following: if you remove a 10-value card from one deck, the house edge moves up by around 0.5%. So to experience a 0.5% increase in the house egde in a blackjack variant that uses a 6 deck shoe, the house would have to remove 6 10 value cards, and so on. If you took out all four Jacks from a single-deck game, you are talking about a significant move on the house edge- around 2%.
So- the morale of the story is- if you suspect this, go to another casino. At the end of the day, you can only generally vote with your feet. But just bear in mind the human psychology- if you are on a losing run, you´ll probably be looking to blame someone else.
One thing you should always look out for when you are playing online blackjack, or blackjack in a casino for that matter, is to avoid those games that only pay out 6-5 instead of 3-2 on a blackjack. A payout of 6-5 on blackjack almost moves the house edge up as much as the example we gave above, where 4 Jacks were stripped out of a single deck game. Best avoided!