[toc]Played correctly, blackjack offers players one of the best returns of any game in the casino. But as favorable as the game known alternatively as “21” is, some versions of the game are still notably better than others.
For the committed player, simple and seemingly innocuous rule tweaks can mean the difference of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, in expected return over the course of a year.
Breaking down the rules of Live Dealer Blackjack
All told, Live Dealer Blackjack offers a fairly advantageous set of rules that falls just short in a couple of areas.
First, the good.
- Naturals pay 3:2. There’s been a movement in some land-based casinos toward 6:5 payouts. Luckily this hasn’t reached the NJ online casino market yet, as the downgrade is very damaging to player return rates.
- Players can double after a split.
- Players can double on any two cards.
- The dealer peeks for blackjack before players take their action, meaning they can’t lose more than one unit on a dealer blackjack
Now, the not-so-good:
- The shoe consists of eight decks.
- Late surrender is not allowed.
- Players cannot hit split aces.
These rules are somewhat uniform in New Jersey, and only have a slight detrimental impact on player returns.
Finally, the bad:
- Dealer hits on soft 17.
This may not seem like a big deal, but by hitting on soft 17, the house gains a few tenths of a percentage point edge over the player. This adds up over the long haul.
Golden Nugget lists the return of its Live Dealer Blackjack game at 99 percent, although in actuality it’s closer to 99.3 percent.
How does Live Dealer Blackjack stack up
Compared to other blackjack variants on the site, Live Dealer Blackjack ranks near the bottom. But that’s more because the other blackjack rule sets are just that favorable.
Even Micro Limit Blackjack ($0.10 minimum bet) is about as good a game as Live Dealer Blackjack, despite only paying 6:5 on off-suit blackjacks, and 2:1 on suited naturals.
This averages out to 7:5, which is just worse than 3:2. But the gap is further offset by 3:1 payouts on 777 and 2:1 pays on a 5+ card 21. According to Golden Nugget, the return-to-player for this game is 99.3 percent, or roughly the same as it is for Live Dealer Blackjack.
The other software driven blackjack games are generally better than Live Dealer, with returns varying between 99.5 – 99.6 percent.
Most of the difference is made up by the “stand on soft 17” rule, although a couple variants lose some of their edge by dealing from a smaller shoe (four or six decks).
That being said, the difference in return between Live Dealer Blackjack and the very best blackjack game on Golden Nugget Casino is still a mere 0.30 percent. That might be enough for the daily gambler, but the average player probably won’t feel much of a difference from variant to variant.
For them, it might be worth losing a small fraction of their return to partake in the communal aspects of Live Dealer Blackjack. Not to mention, some players simply feel more comfortable gambling with real cards.
Wait, but what’s stopping players from counting cards?
Astute players might reason that Live Dealer Blackjack players actually have a better chance of winning, despite the poorer rules, because there’s nothing stopping them from counting cards.
Yes and no. It’s true that digital blackjack decks are shuffled after every hand, rendering it impossible for players to count. Contrarily, Live Dealer games are dealt from a shoe.
However, the cut card for Live Dealer blackjack is placed approximately halfway into the shoe. And 50 percent penetration is simply not deep enough for counters to gain an edge.
Also, eight deck games are not conducive to counting. So while the counter may be able to shave a small portion of the house edge off, it’s just not going to make the game an advantage play.
From a pure value perspective, Live Dealer Blackjack is among the lesser blackjack games at Golden Nugget Casino. But it’s the only variant present on the site that offers a close approximation of live casino gambling.
For some, that might be worth the trade-off of the slightly more advantageous rules found at the digital tables.