No, "6-to-5 Blackjack" isn't Blackjack that you play at 4:54pm. It is an atrocity and one of the worst things to happen to Blackjack in the past few decades.

What is 6-to-5 Blackjack?

Remember when corporate America took that thing you loved and changed it into some horrible 💩 all in the name greed? Maybe they took your sports team's iconic stadium and rebranded it with their garbage name. Maybe they replaced your favorite soda's sugar with high fructose corn syrup. Or maybe they rebooted your favorite childhood movie and cast Will Smith as a singing blue genie.

Corporate Turds like 'Enron Field', Coke's new formula, and Will Smith as Aladdin's Genie
After renaming the Astrodome to Enron Field, the Houston Astros later went on to cheat their way to a World Series Championship in 2017.

Well, corporate America has done it again. They've ruined blackjack.

A few years back, casinos introduced something called "6-to-5 Blackjack" and it's slowly been taking over low-limit tables in Las Vegas.

It looks like Blackjack.
It feels like Blackjack.
It even smells like Blackjack.

But there's a HUGE difference: 6-to-5 Blackjack short-changes your Blackjack bonus by 60%.


Let's say you make a $20 bet. When you start your hand with a two-card 21, it's considered a "Natural Blackjack"A starting hand of 21 in Blackjack. Also called a "Natural Blackjack" or just "Blackjack". A natrual hand in Baccarat is a starting hand of 8 or 9 by either the Banker or the Player and no cards are drawn. (or just a "Blackjack"), and you're supposed win $20 plus an extra $10 bonus for a total of $30. In 6-to-5 Blackjack, you only win $6 for every $5 you bet for your Blackjack (hence "6-to-5"), for a total of $24. Subtract your original bet of $20 and your bonus is only $4!

With 6-to-5 Blackjack, the $10 Blacjack bonus you deserve would be reduced to just $4!

Blackjack Type Initial Bet Total Win
for 2 Card
Bonus Amount
3-to-2 Blackjack
$20 $30 $10
6-to-5 Blackjack $20 $24 $4
Penalty for 6-to-5 Blackjack $6
You're getting screwed
Just say "NO" to short payouts

The House Edge of 6-to-5

You can calculate the cost of playing 6-to-5 Blackjack pretty easily. To start, you need to know how frequently you can expect a starting hand of 21 and I promise it's easy to remember (You'll be quizzed on this later).

On average, you will receive a Blackjack every 21 hands.

So estimating the cost of this rule variant becomes pretty easy. Multiply the probability of having a Blackjack (\(1 \over 21\)) by the probability of the dealer not having a Blackjack (\(1 - {1 \over 21}\) or \(20 \over 21\)) and the change in your payout, which is 60% of your regular half-bet bonus (0.50 of your bet), and you get:

\begin{align} {1 \over 21} \times {20 \over 21} \times -0.60 \times 0.50 & \approx -0.0136054 \\ & \approx \color{red}{-1.36054\%} \end{align}

Which is a great approximation for the actual cost of this rule variant! When you look at the actual cost of the rule, it comes very close:

Number of Decks House Edge
3-to-2 Blackjack
House Edge
6-to-5 Blackjack
Overall Change
for 6-to-5
1 0.03119% -1.36358% -1.39477%
2 -0.25532% -1.62881% -1.37349%
6 -0.42622% -1.78591% -1.35969%
8 -0.44686% -1.80485% -1.35799%

The actual change in house advantage depends on the number of decks in play, because with fewer decks, the frequency of receiving blackjacks goes up. This is because receiving an Ace as your first card increases your chances of receiving a Ten as your second card (and vice versa) when you have fewer decks. The more decks you use, the lower this effect.

6-to-5 versus other Table Conditions

How does this rule change compare to other table conditions?

The 6-to-5 rule variant has by far the biggest affect on the casino's house advantage amongst all rule variants.

Increasing the Number of Decks

How bad is it? Well, after the 6-to-5 payout change, the next biggest change would be moving from single deck Blackjack to 8 deck Blackjack. Increasing the number of decks from 1 to 8 increases the house edge by 0.48%. That makes the 6-to-5 change almost 3 times worse!

Hitting Soft 17s

Besides changing the number of decks in play, casinos can add to their edge by hitting a Soft 17 instead of standing. This change will only cost the player 0.2125% in house advantage, making the 6-to-5 rule more than 6 TIMES WORSE!

The Rest is even Smaller Potatoes

And as we go through other possible rule variants, everything else just gets dwarfed by 6-to-5.

Nothing comes close
Before the introduction of the 6-to-5 variant, the house edge of Blackjack was very low for even some of the worst conditions.

We could all use a little Chaaaaaaaange!

One negative aspect of 6-to-5 Blackjack that I almost never hear discussed is that you end up with a lot of odd chips that you wouldn't normally have in front of you.

For pretty much ALL betting units, getting paid 6-to-5 on a Blackjack will leave you with chips you wouldn't normally have to deal with.

Base Betting Unit You have mostly Blackjack Payment 6:5 Chips used to pay in 6:5
$10 Red Chip ($5) $12 Red Chip ($5) Red Chip ($5) 2 Red
White Chip ($1) White Chip ($1) 2 White
$20 Red Chip ($5) $24 Red Chip ($5) Red Chip ($5) Red Chip ($5) Red Chip ($5) 4 Red
White Chip ($1) White Chip ($1) White Chip ($1) White Chip ($1) 4 White
$25 Green Chip ($25) $30 Green Chip ($25) 1 Green
Red Chip ($5) 1 Red
$100 Black Chip ($100) $120 Black Chip ($100) 1 Black
Red Chip ($5) Red Chip ($5) Red Chip ($5) Red Chip ($5) 4 Red

It's true that some bet sizes will also get mismatched chips with standard 3-to-2 Blackjack, but this only with specific betting units ($25 bet getting paid $37.50 on a Blackjack is a prime example), and this inconvenience is greatly mitigated because it only takes one extra blackjack to make that half-bet whole.

After receiving that second blackjack in 3-to-2, you can use those two half-bets to make a full bet on the next hand. So on average in standard Blackjack, you will only be sitting with those odd chips for 21 hands (Pop-Quiz: Do you remember why?).

But after receiving your first Blackjack in 6-to-5, you'll be sitting there with only 20% of your unit bet in odd chips, and you would expect to sit there for much longer before you can reconstruct a full-sized bet.

On average, you would expect to wait for another 4 Blackjacks or 84 HANDS (4 x one Blackjack every 21 hands), and the entire time you're waiting, your stack of odd chips will just continue to get awkwardly larger.

What am I going to do with all these odd chips?
Not only are odd chip denominations annoying, but they often make their way to the dealer's tip box

Why Does Having Odd Chips Matter?

I'm not bringing this up because I'm some neat freak who obsesses about keeping his chip stacks the same color. I'm bringing this up because you will occasionally get pressured into tipping away those odd chips.

Even though I've found most dealers to be quite professional and courteous while playing Blackjack, I've run into a fair number of dealers who are more than vocal and sometimes downright rude when you win a few hands and haven't made a bet for them.

So in addition to getting short-changed on your payouts, now you've got a crabby dealer mad-dogging you as your odd-chip Blackjack scoreboard grows larger and larger.

I'm very much in favor of tipping dealers who are pleasant and who deal you good hands. These dealers depend on tips to make a living, and they should be rewarded for doing their job well. But if you're tipping away your Blackjack bonus, there's almost no chance that you're going to walk away a winner in 6-to-5.

Why do People Play 6-to-5 Blackjack?

Because most people are Donkeys. I say most because you're reading this post, so at least you're trying to be a smarter about it!

There are four main reasons why people play this horrible game:

It's often paired with Single Deck

The 6-to-5 payout is often combined with single deck Blackjack, a table condition that is characterized as being "player friendly".

While this is generally true, when paired with 6-to-5, the single deck game becomes the carrot casinos offer before beating you with their stick.

And it's worse than you might initially think.

As we have already discussed, the 6-to-5 payout penalty dwarfs the benefit of switching from 6 deck to single deck. Your initial estimate for the overall affect would be to just add the benefit from single deck blackjack (+0.457%) and subtract the penalty for 6-to-5 (-1.365%), but the overall benefit to the house is even worse.

This is because most of the benefit from lowering the number of decks is from the increase in blackjack frequency. With the lower 6-to-5 payout, the benefits of single deck are Nerfed.

\begin{align} EV_{1deck} + EV_{6 to 5} & < EV_{1deck + 6 to 5} \\ 0.45742 + -1.36504 & < -0.93736 \\ -0.90762 & < \color{red}{-0.93736} \\ \end{align}

As you can see, the actual change in negative Expected Value (EV) Expected Value - the amount you would be expected to lose. is greater than the sum of the two conditions applied independently.

It's Your Only Choice at Lower Limit Tables

I've heard people say that 6-to-5 is good because it offers a way for casinos to offer Blackjack to players who can't afford the higher limit Real Blackjack tables.

I strongly disagree. You wouldn't try to make flying more affordable by removing your plane's stabilization system. Sure, more people could afford flying, but the experience would be completely uncomfortable and people flying for the first time would likely never fly again.

Novice players already make tons of mistakes. Combine that with the 6-to-5 tax, and these players will be even more likely to lose. These losing players are unlikely to graduate to higher stakes.

Forbes blames Blackjack's decline in popularity primarily on the 6-to-5 payout.
Forbes agrees that Blackjack's decline in popularity is due to the 6-to-5 payout.

Blackjack has been suffering a decrease in popularity for decades. I believe that making the game nearly impossible for new players to win will ultimately be its death. Here's a quote from a Forbes article titled "Blackjack's Rise And Fall Shows What Drives Customers Away" that seems to agree:

The biggest offender, though, was 6:5 blackjack. This variation, which is regrettably common in Las Vegas casinos, cuts the payout on blackjacks from 3:2 to 6:5; that $150 win we celebrated in the third paragraph is now only $120.

New players will be destined to lose and the gap in revenue between people who grew up with 3-to-2 and new players only familiar with 6-to-5 will continue to widen, driving revenue down even further.

People Don't Understand Fractions

Some people see the "6" and the "5" and just associate it with a higher payout than the normal 3-to-2 payout. You'd think that people would have better math skills than that, but remember when the A&W Restaurant chain tried selling a 1/3 pound burger and it failed because people thought it was smaller than McDonald's Quarter Pounder?

"Well of course the Quarter Pounder's bigger! The Quarter Pounder's got a 4 in it and the Third Pounder's only got a measley 3!"
- those people, probably

Well A&W's marketing department seems to have learned from their mistakes and they've reintroduced the burger as a 3/9th Pounder!

The A&W 1/3 lb Burger failed
The A&W 1/3 Burger failed because customers reportedly believed it was smaller than McDonald's 1/4 pounder (weight before cooking).

As silly as this might seem, not understanding fractions affects a fair amount of the population and is probably a significant reason why 6-to-5 is tolerated.

Ain't Nobody Got Time Fo' Dat

Possibly the biggest reason why people end up playing at these tables is a combination of both ignorance and indifference. Unfortunately, gambling is becoming less and less of an attraction for tourists. Casinos now need to provide ultra-fine dining, and A-List DJs and performers in their night clubs and theaters.

Tiesto and Adele booked to headline at Las Vegas casinos
A-List resident artists are high in demand and cost a pretty penny... when they actually show up

For these new-school Vegas tourists, gambling is just background noise. They don't know much about any of the games casinos offer. They've never even seen a Blackjack Basic Strategy card. For the new generation of Las Vegas tourists, even taking a second to calculate whether 6-to-5 pays more standard Blackjack isn't worth the mental effort. They know they're going to play anyway.

So after a night of partying with Tiësto at the club or after eating at Michelin Star Rated Joel Robuchon, these people will sit down at whatever Blackjack table the casino has and tolerate whatever shitty rules they offer.

Stand up to Corporate Greed!

6-to-5 Blackjack isn't real Blackjack. My hope is that by educating the Donkeys of the world we can eventually turn the tide on this rule variant as well as the deluge of similar changes soon to follow.

In the grand scheme of things, 6-to-5 Blackjack is far from the worst game that casinos offer. Double-Zero Roulette is much worse with its house edge of 5.26%. Single deck 6-to-5 only has a house edge of about 1.7%.

So why does 6-to-5 Blackjack piss me off so much? Because Blackjack used to be a game that people could play at any betting level and be almost even with the house if they took the time to study how to play.

Gamblers were rewarded for memorizng the 281 Basic Strategy decisions (which you can now learn in your sleep!). If someone wanted to be lazy and accept poor odds, they could just play Roulette. If someone wanted better odds but had a lot of money, they could play Baccarat. But now low limit players have really nowhere to turn for an option with a low house edge.

But worst of all, casinos are just giving you a shitty experience and not giving you anything in return.

I hate using the term "Slippery Slope", but it's more than appropriate here. This isn't a hypothetical slope that is coming down the road in 5 to 10 years. This is already happening. It's a garbage chute greased with hot butter and we're all being actively shoved down it.

Every time consumers accept crap like this, corporations come back with more ways to screw us. We're already seeing this with ridiculous changes like Triple-Zero Roulette (7.69% house edge), casino parking fees, and don't even get me started on Resort Fees when booking a hotel.

So don't play 6-to-5 Blackjack.
Don't let your friends play 6-to-5 Blackjack.
Mock people playing 6-to-5 Blackjack.

If you can help stop this insanity, maybe together we can prevent the birth of "Quadruple Zero Roulette", "Ties-Count-as-a-Loss Baccarat", and "11-to-10 Blackjack".

🎰Gambling/Gaming | 🧮 Math/Programming/Technology