Effects of Charlie Rule on House Edge in Blackjack

Posted By: Date: 10/20/2012 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

For the record, no, the title of this article is not referring to your dear old Uncle Charlie, or anyone else you may know by that name. The term ‘Charlie’ refers to a specific rule that is not commonly found in most blackjack variations, but when it is, it can be highly beneficial to the player.  In blackjack, the Charlie Rule applies to any hand of 5, 6 or 7 cards that does not bust. The number of cards required to win the Charlie will determine its name. For example, if being dealt 5 cards to a single hand without busting automatically wins, it is called a 5-Card Charlie. If 7 cards without busting wins, it’s a 7-Card Charlie.

The 7-Card Charlie rule is obviously more common than the 5-Card or 6-Card Charlie because it is a lot more difficult for a player to be dealt 7 cards without busting. For this to happen, the average card value would have to be 3. The following is a list of each Charlie’s effect on the casino’s house edge.

  • 7-Card Charlie: -0.01%
  • 6-Card Charlie: -0.16%
  • 5-Card Charlie: -1.46%

As you can see, the 5-Card Charlie rule is the best, dropping the house edge by more than one entire percentage point.

The payout for a 5-Card, 6-Card and 7-Card Charlie can vary from one live or online casino to the next. If the blackjack rules payout on all three hands, the most common pay table would be:

  • 7-Card Charlie: Pays 3-to-1
  • 6-Card Charlie: Pays 2-to-1
  • 5-Card Charlie: Pays 3-to-2

In cases where only a 6-Card and/or 7-Card Charlie pay, the payouts may be lower or higher, depending on the rest of the pay table. The casino will always adjust the payouts in such a way that the house retains at least a slight advantage over the player. For this reason, when 5-Card Charlie payouts are present, the rest of the rules and payouts will be altered to benefit the casino more so than a standard blackjack game.

Obviously, when the Charlie rule appears in a blackjack game, it can change the standard strategy by which players should generally never deviate. There are situations where a player should not split 2’3, 3’s or 4’s since the totals are already low, and then again situations where splitting these low hands can be better as they could produce more low hands.

One surprising strategy calls for splitting Aces in any circumstance except when the dealer has an Ace showing. A starting hand of 2 sounds pretty nice, but splitting the Aces affords too high of an opportunity to win both hands by standard rules, thus splitting is the appropriate move.

Players should always be careful not to risk too much on the chance of hitting a Charlie. When a hand is one-away from a Charlie, a hard total of 18+ should absolutely never be hit, regardless of what the dealer is holding, and a hard total of 17 should only be hit when the dealer shows 1, 2, 9, 10 or Ace. Soft totals are much easier to work with, for obvious reasons. Any soft total that is one-away from a Charlie should be hit. A soft total of 18 or less should be hit even if it’s 2 away.

There are some very precise blackjack strategy charts available on the internet regarding the Charlie rule and proper deviations from basic strategy. It is recommended to find a blackjack strategy chart that applies specifically to the complete rules and payouts of the blackjack game you are playing.