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How Many Decks Are Used When Playing Blackjack?
If you are playing blackjack at home, you’re probably playing with just one deck of 52 cards. However, when playing online blackjack, this might not be the case. In fact, it’s a lot more common that a blackjack game is played with between six and eight decks of cards. But why? And what difference does it make?
Well, in this guide, we’ll look at how many decks in blackjack, the number of cards in a deck, how the decks of cards work, the games with multiple decks of cards - and how you choose which one is best for you.
Understanding the Deck in Blackjack
In blackjack, understanding the deck of cards is vital if you want a better experience when you come to play blackjack. The game uses a standard deck of playing cards - made up of 52 cards. However, it's important to know that often, multiple decks are used in casino blackjack games.
Composition of a Standard Deck
So, firstly, how many blackjack cards are in a deck? Well, a standard deck of blackjack playing cards consists of four suits - hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades, with each suit containing 13 cards - making a total of 52 cards in the deck. These cards are divided into ranks: standard numbered cards (2 -10), face cards (J, Q and K) and the Ace.
Multiple Decks in Casino Play
However, in most casino blackjack games, you won't encounter one single deck, but multiple decks shuffled together. The number of decks used can vary. It could be 1-deck blackjack, 4-deck blackjack, 6-deck blackjack, 8-deck blackjack, or even more, depending on the variant you play and the casino you’re playing at. That being said, it’s worth being aware that using more decks affects many aspects of the game, including how you play and the odds.
Card Values in Blackjack
Understanding the values assigned to each card in blackjack is essential before you play:
Numbered Cards: Numbered cards - 2 to 10 are worth their face value. For example, a 2 of hearts is worth 2 points etc.
Face Cards: Face cards - J, Q and K are all worth 10 points each.
Ace: The ace can be worth either 1 point or 11 points, depending on what is best for your hand. This means more flexibility - and is known as the ace's "soft" value. If you are dealt a card with an Ace, it is called a ‘soft’ hand.
Understanding the composition of the deck - along with card values, means that you can make informed decisions when you’re playing.
Blackjack Games with Multiple Decks
When you head out to a casino, you’ll notice that in many variations of blackjack, multiple decks of standard playing cards are used. The use of multiple decks will mean that there are important differences in gameplay that you will need to consider - compared to single-deck blackjack games.
Six to eight decks are often the most common to find at blackjack tables. So, let’s take a look at how and why multiple decks are used in blackjack games and what this means for you as a player:
Why Multiple Decks are Used
There are several reasons multi-decks are used in casinos and a blackjack game:
Longer Playing Time: One of the main reasons for using multiple decks is to make the game last longer. In a single-deck game, the cards can be quickly reshuffled, which can lead to shorter rounds. However, multiple decks tend to slow down the game - making it better for both players and casinos.
Card Counting: Some players attempt card counting techniques to try and gain an advantage in blackjack. Multiple decks make card counting a lot more difficult because trying to track the cards used is a lot harder than keeping track of a single deck of cards - and this usually discourages professional card counters.
How More Decks Affect You
But how will this affect you as a player - if you’re not a card counter?
Higher House Edge: Games that use more decks usually have a slightly higher house edge. This means that, on average, you may have a slightly lower probability of winning. However, this effect is minor.
More Complex: Playing a multi-deck game can lead to more complex decision-making in some situations. For example, you may need to consider the composition of multiple decks when you’re deciding whether to hit, stand, double down or split.
Fewer Variables in Card Distribution: The distribution of cards tends to become more uniform - for instance, it's less likely that you’ll see long streaks of high or low cards.
How it Works in a Game
In a multi-deck games, the live dealer normally uses a shoe (that holds and dispenses cards) to deal out the cards to players. The cards from all the decks used are shuffled together before the dealer places them in the shoe. During the game, the cards are drawn from the shoe, and after every round, they are usually put in a discard tray. When a certain percentage of the cards have been dealt, the dealer will then reshuffle the cards from the discard tray back into the shoe, where they will be played again.
Ultimately, multiple decks in blackjack can make the game more unpredictable - and more difficult for players with a higher house edge existing. Although it can slightly alter some elements of the game, the basic rules and objectives are exactly the same - you need to beat the dealer without going over 21.
Choosing Multiple-Deck or Single-Deck Blackjack
So, what should you choose? Multiple deck or single deck? Well, this depends on you as a player, and it all comes down to personal preference. With that being said, let’s compare the two to help you make a more informed decision:
Single Deck Blackjack
Better Odds: Single-deck blackjack usually offers better odds with a lower house edge - with fewer cards in play, it's easier for you to track the composition of the deck and make better decisions.
Simplicity: Single-deck blackjack is simpler - making it a great option for anyone new to the game.
Shorter Games: Single-deck games often have shorter rounds since the deck will need to be reshuffled more. This can mean a faster-paced game - which some players may prefer, but others may not like as much.
Multiple Deck Blackjack:
Longer Games: Multiple-deck blackjack games usually offer longer rounds based on the way blackjack decks are used.
Makes Card Counting Harder: Multiple decks make card counting harder, potentially leading to more of a balanced game that some players may prefer.
Slightly Higher House Edge: As mentioned above, multiple deck games usually have a slightly higher house edge - and although this difference is pretty small, some players may not like this.
More complex: With multiple decks, you may come across more complex situations that require more thoughtful decision-making, which can make deciding how to play your hand trickier. It can even influence the blackjack strategy you decide to use.
Ultimately, how many decks are used in blackjack depends on the game - and the choice between multiple-deck and single-deck blackjack is simply about what your preferences are. If you're new to the game or you prefer simpler gameplay with better odds, then single-deck blackjack may be the better choice.
On the other hand, if you prefer a longer game with a more relaxed pace and don't mind the added complexity and slightly higher house edge, then multiple-deck blackjack could be for you.
Online blackjack games come in a wide range of options, so make sure to pick a blackjack table that suits you and check how many decks are used too.