How Many Decks Are Used in Blackjack?

min read
A dealer counts casino chips in preparation for a game of blackjack. Multiple decks of cards are on their left, with the one deck face up and spread out.
BetMGM Jun 19, 2024, 5:34 PM

New to the world of online casino games and live dealer blackjack, in particular? Then you’re probably still working on crafting a strategy that fits your unique playing style. There are many considerations when going about this, including the number of decks used in the game. The number of decks has a dramatic impact on the overall gameplay experience and odds.

Read on for everything you need to know about the various deck configurations in online blackjack, live dealer blackjack and classic casino blackjack. You’ll also get a brief overview of the game’s rules and some helpful tips for responsible gambling.

Single-Deck Blackjack

Single-deck blackjack is a classic variation of the game that uses only one standard deck of 52 cards. It’s also the most popular form of the game, particularly since it has a lower house advantage.

Some of the benefits of single-deck blackjack include the following.

Improved Odds

With fewer decks, the player has a higher chance of beating the dealer.

Strategy Simplicity

Single-deck blackjack has simpler basic strategy charts compared to multiple-deck variants. This makes it easier for players to learn and implement optimal strategies.

Card Counting Potential

The limited number of cards in play makes single-deck blackjack more susceptible to card counting techniques, where skilled players can gain the upper hand by tracking high- and low-value cards. Just remember that many casinos — both online and traditional — frown upon card counting, so it could get you banned from future games.

Multiple-Deck Blackjack

Most modern casinos counter the player advantages of single-deck blackjack (and increase the house edge) by using multiple decks. An example of a deck configuration used in the US is double-deck blackjack, where, as the name suggests, the dealer uses two standard decks of cards, totaling 104.

Six-deck and eight-deck blackjack are the most common configurations seen on the casino floor today. You guessed it — these variants use six and eight standard decks, amounting to 312 and 416 cards, respectively. The increased number of decks further tilts the odds to benefit the house. As a result, players need to be more cautious while managing their bankroll and strategy. The use of six decks also makes card counting a lot more challenging — another advantage in the casino’s favor.

Four-deck blackjack is a slightly less common variant, which falls between double-deck and six-deck blackjack regarding odds and complexity. 

Blackjack Rules

While the number of decks used in the game can affect gameplay, the rules remain the same regardless of whether the dealer uses one or eight (or more) decks. Here’s a breakdown of how to play both online blackjack with a live dealer and classic casino blackjack:

The Goal

Your aim is to get a hand with a total value closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand, without exceeding 21. If your hand exceeds 21, it results in a ‘bust’ and you lose the round.

Card Values

Number cards (2 – 10) are worth their face value, face cards (king, queen and jack) are each worth 10 and an ace can be worth either one or 11, depending on the player’s choice and the overall value of the hand.

Gameplay

  • The game kicks off with your bet before the dealer places two cards face-up for you. The dealer places one of their cards face-up and the second card face-down.
  • You then need to make decisions based on the value of your hand and the dealer’s visible card:
    • If you ‘hit,’ you’ll request another card from the dealer. You can hit multiple times until you’re satisfied with your hand or you’ve gone bust.
    • If you choose to ‘stand,’ you’ll refuse any more cards and stick with your current hand value.
    • If you opt to ‘double down,’ you’ll double the original bet and receive one additional card. After that, you must stand.
    • It’s also possible to ‘split’ if your first two cards have the same value (e.g., two 9s.) If you do this, you’ll split the hand into two separate hands. Each hand receives an additional card and you continue playing each hand independently, with separate bets.
    • Finally, you can place an insurance bet (usually half of the original bet) if the dealer’s face-up card is an ace. This protects you in case the dealer has a natural blackjack (a 10-value card or face card as their second card.) If the dealer has blackjack, the insurance bet pays 2:1.
  • Once you’ve made all your decisions, the dealer reveals their facedown card:
    • If the dealer’s hand value is 16 or less, they must hit and draw additional cards.
    • If the dealer’s hand value is 17 or more, they must stand.
  • Once the dealer completes their hand, the dealer’s hand is compared to your hand.
  • The potential outcomes of the round are as follows:
    • If your hand goes over 21, you lose the round.
    • If your hand value is closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand without exceeding 21, you win the round and receive a payout of 1:1.
    • If your hand and the dealer’s hand have the same value, it results in a ‘push’ or tie. In that case, you’ll get your bet back.
    • If the dealer’s hand goes over 21, you win the round.

As a beginner, it’s always a good idea to follow a basic blackjack strategy. This type of strategy is based on mathematics and suggests the “best” play for every possible combination of player hand and dealer up-card. It considers the probabilities and expected values of each decision. 

Basic strategy charts are available online, indicating whether to hit, stand, double down, split or surrender based on your hand and the dealer’s up-card. Following basic strategy minimizes the house edge and gives you the best chance of winning in the long run.

Tips for Responsible Gambling

Blackjack is the online casino game with the lowest house edge, so it’s no wonder that it’s rising in popularity alongside poker and jackpot slots! Of course, it’s easy to get carried away when you’re having so much fun, which is why it’s important to follow responsible gambling practices and go into a game with a set bankroll (never bet more than you can afford to lose) and a time limit. Remember to seek help if you ever have any concerns regarding your gambling behavior via the national helpline: 1-800-GAMBLER.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are casino experts with a wealth of knowledge of the online casino industry at all levels. Their coverage includes company news, game reviews, how-to instructional articles, strategy guides, and editorials showcasing BetMGM’s superior product and game library.