One of the most-exciting things in blackjack is getting a “natural” hand, where your first two dealt cards equal 21. Provided the dealer doesn’t also have 21, you’ll receive either a 3 to 2 or 6 to 5 bonus payout.
Here’s how much you’d get for each of these payouts based on a $10 bet:
- 3 to 2 payout = $15
- 6 to 5 payout = $12
Many recreational blackjack players are happy to get a natural under any circumstances. And $3 doesn’t seem like a big difference in the scenario above.
This is especially true when considering that you’ll only receive a blackjack 4.75% of the time in a 6-deck game. But changing a natural blackjack payout from 3:2 to 6:5 does have a noticeable impact on your odds of winning.
The house edge increases by 1.39% when the natural payout is lowered to 6:5. This difference is profound enough to the point where players wonder if it’s even possible to beat 6:5 games.
I’m going to cover how you can improve your chances of winning in 6:5 blackjack with basic strategy. And you may be surprised to learn that it’s theoretically possible to beat 6:5 games when counting cards under the right conditions.
But first, here’s a look at when land-based casinos began switching to the 6:5 format and why they did it.
Shifting Casino Focus Caused Rise in 6 to 5 Blackjack
Mostland-based blackjack games used to feature 3 to 2 payouts. This meant that you could pick just about any blackjack table and have a solid chance of winning.
But many blackjack tables around the world now have 6 to 5 payouts. This is obviously worse for players, because it’s harder to find beatable blackjack games.
This isn’t to say that casinos don’t still care about gamblers. But many don’t consider gambling part of an all-around entertainment experience, which includes nightclubs, restaurants, shows, and spas.
Las Vegas strip casinos are a perfect example of the gambling industry’schanged focus. It’s hard to find 3:2 payouts on the Vegas Strip, because these casinos are hyper focused on their amenities.
You must now go to downtown Vegas and Boulder Highway to find the majority of 6 to 5 tables. These casinos cater to gamblers first, and they often have player-friendly blackjack rules.
Meanwhile, casinos on the Vegas Strip and other parts of the world realize that many blackjack players are savvy enough to avoid 6:5 games. It’s not difficult for the average player to google blackjack rules on their smartphone and learn that natural payouts are highly important.
But casinos can still fool blackjack novices by offering single deck blackjack with 6 to 5 payouts. Casinos hang signs above these tables, so that players are attracted to the single deck aspect.
Some inexperienced blackjack players know that single deck games are better than 6 or 8-deck tables. But single deck blackjack has a higher house edge than 8-deck games with 3:2 natural payouts.
All other rules being equal, the 8-deck game would have a house advantage that’s 0.8% lower than the single deck game.
8 decks raise the house advantage by 0.59% when compared to a single deck. But an 8-deck game also sees the house edge lowered by 1.39% when accounting for 3 to 2 payouts (1.39 – 0.59 = 0.8%)
Lower the House Edge with Other Good Rules
The good news is that you can find plenty of online blackjack games with 3:2 payouts. Unfortunately, this is becoming harder in land-based casinos.
Your area may only offer 6 to 5 blackjack tables in land-based casinos. This leaves you either forced to play online or looking for 6:5 blackjack with good supporting rules.
I suggest that you avoid playing any blackjack game with 6:5 payouts
But if you can’t stay away from the land-based tables, then you should at least find other good rules.
Here are key rules that you want to watch for when choosing a blackjack table:
- 3:2 natural blackjack payouts – Lowers house edge by 1.40% in comparison to 6:5 payouts.
- Double down on any total – Lowers house edge by 0.25% in comparison to only doubling down on 9-11.
- Dealer must stand on a soft 17 – Lowers house edge by 0.2% in comparison to the dealer hitting a soft 17.
- Double down after splitting – Lowers house advantage by 0.17% when allowed.
- Re-splitting aces – Lowers house edge by 0.08% when allowed.
- Late surrender – Lowers the house edge by 0.07% when allowed.
- Number of decks – A single deck swings the house edge in a player’s favor by 0.02%. An 8-deck game gives the house a 0.57% advantage.
Odds are that you won’t find every favorable rule in a single 6 to 5 blackjack game. But most casinos will offer multiple favorable rules to help make up for the 6:5 payouts.
Assuming you play at a 6:5 blackjack table with all the other rules being optimal, you’re still facing a 1.02% house edge with perfect strategy. This figure increases as you begin taking away player-friendly rules.
Most players won’t come close to beating a blackjack game with 6 to 5 payouts when using basic strategy. But again, you can at least work the house advantage down closer to 1% with other good rules.
Ideally, your local casino(s) will offer 3:2 payouts, which is much better than any 6:5 game.
How to Beat 6 to 5 Blackjack with Card Counting
Even the public knows that card counters can beat blackjack.
The answer is that card counters have a much-tougher time beating blackjack.
Card counters gain their edge by betting more when the count is in their favor, or rather the shoe is rich in aces and 10s. More aces and 10s means a higher chance of getting a natural blackjack and more quality double-down opportunities.
A card counter using the Hi-Lo system spreads their bets when the true count is at least 2+ or higher. Allow me to quickly explain the Hi-Lo system before getting into the true count:
- Hi-Lo system assigns values to three groups of cards.
- 2-6 = +1
- 7-9 = 0
- 10-A = -1
- You gain +1 each time a 2-6 is dealt, because this card range favors the dealer by lowering their odds of busting out.
- You get -1 each time 10 through ace are dealt, because your chances of getting a natural blackjack diminish.
The goal is to bet more with a high positive count, because this means the shoe is rich in aces and 10-value cards.
The regular count that you get is called the running count. But you want to convert this to a true count, which is more accurate for shoe (multi-deck) games.
You divide the running count by the number of remaining decks in the shoe get a true count. You must estimate the number of decks based on the number of the cards in the shoe.
As an example of calculating the true count:
- You estimate that the shoe has four decks left.
- Your running count is +8.
- 8 / 4 = +2 true count.
The last step of using the Hi-Lo system is to decide your bet spread. This refers to the gap between minimum table bet and your highest wager.
If you’re sitting on a blackjack table with a $5 minimum bet and your highest wager is $100, then you have a 1-20 spread. The 20 comes from how the highest bet is worth 20 minimum wagers.
Many players take things a step further by creating a unit size, so that they know when to increase their bet spread based on the true count. Here’s a common example used by the MIT Blackjack Team:
- Unit size = $25
- +1 or lower true count = minimum bet ($5 in this example)
- +2 true count = 1 unit (+25)
- +3 true count = 2 units (+50)
- +4 true count = 3 units (+75)
- +5 or higher true count = 4 units (+100)
Your true count won’t normally be above +4 in a single shoe. Therefore, the highest spread will normally be between 1-15.
Of course, you can always tweak your unit size as needed to achieve a large bet spread. But the downside is that you’re likely to draw more attention from the pit boss and security.
Now that I’ve explained how to use a card counting system and spread your bets, the next step is to figure out if you can beat a game with 6 to 5 payouts.
This becomes harder when dealing with Hi-Lo or natural blackjack payouts. But it’s still theoretically possible to beat a 6 to 5 game under the right conditions.
The only problem is that you need near-perfect conditions to win consistent profits from a 6 to 5 game. Look at the rules on a standard 6 to 5 table below:
- Single deck
- 6:5 natural payout
- Dealer stands on a soft 17
- Double down after splitting
- House edge = 1.04% with perfect strategy.
Even with the other favorable rules, this table still has a higher house advantage than the average 3 to 2 table. That means you must look for tables with ideal card counting conditions to overcome this.
You’ll need a game that allows large bet spreads without drawing heat and around 50% deck penetration, which is how far the dealer goes into a shoe before reshuffling.
I mention 50% deck penetration, because few single deck games even make it to this point before being shuffled – let alone the 70-75% deck penetration you’d want with a 6 or 8-deck game.
You need a minimum spread of 1-10 before even gaining a slight advantage under these conditions. A 1-15 or 1-20 spread would be ideal in terms of making a 6:5 game worth your while.
Some casinos are liberal with the lower end of this range. But your chances of being asked to leave the table (a.k.a. being backed off)increase when spreading 1-20 or beyond.
Card counters who have the right personality and ability to blend in with casual players have a better chance of getting away with high spreads. It also helps if you know what the pit boss and security look for regarding card counters.
But the average counter will have a tough time spreading their bet high enough to beat 6:5 tableswith card counting.
Other Ways to Beat 6 to 5 Blackjack
I’ve established that it’s hard to beat 6:5 blackjack as a solo card counter using conventional methods. But you can also use a technique called “wonging in” to improve your odds.
Invented by gambling author Standard Wong, this strategy sees you stand off to the side of a blackjack table and count cards. You wait until the deck has a positive true count of +2 or more before taking a seat.
Most casinos don’t allow “mid shoe entry,” though, which minimizes the effectiveness of wonging. Some pit bosses are also suspicious when a new player sits down at a $10 minimum bet table and immediately wagers $150 or more.
Another way to beat 6 to 5 blackjack is with the “Big Player” technique, where two or more players work together. This strategy was made famous by the MIT Blackjack Team and is a good way to avoid casino detection.
This technique begins with “spotters,” who scout games while making minimum table bets. When the count is positive, they send a secret signal to the Big Player, who merely observes games until receiving this signal.
The Big Player sits down and immediately begins betting large amounts to take advantage of the positive count.
This works better than solo counting, because the Big Player doesn’t have to raise and lower their bets. Instead, they simply look like a high roller when making large wagers right away.
Sure, you have a better chance of beating 6 to 5 games with a team. But it doesn’t make sense to play these games when you can still find 3 to 2 tables in many Vegas casinos.
The original question at the beginning of this post was whether it’s possible to beat 6 to 5 blackjack game. And the answer is yes.
But there are some notable asterisks, including that you must spread bets larger and find favorable 6:5 tables. Using a larger bet spread means that you take a bigger risk of being backed off or even banned from a casino.
Other options include wonging in and forming a blackjack team. Wonging in comes with the same problems as bet spreading, because you either won’t be allowed mid-shoe entry or will draw extra attention for entering late into a shoe.
A blackjack team has a more-realistic chance of beating 6 to 5 blackjack than a solo counter. But it doesn’t make much sense to choose these games when a team can instead opt for 3:2tables.
It’s best to choose 3 to 2 blackjack whenever you have the opportunity. This benefits both card counters and basic strategy players in the long run.
But 6 to 5 blackjack isn’t the worst casino game in the grand scheme of things. Most of these tables offer less than a 2% house edge, which is lower than what you’ll see with many casino games.
6:5 blackjack is harmless in moderation when you use correct strategy. But look for 3:2 tables whenever possible so that you can improve your chances of winning even more