How to Play Neverbust Blackjack

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Blackjack players hate to bust. The only way to beat the dealer is to have a hand in play on the table when the dealer turns over the hole card. It makes one wonder, “What if there was a version of the game in which the player cannot bust?” That’s exactly the question answered by “Neverbust Blackjack,” a game invented by ShuffleMaster that debuted in Las Vegas casinos in 2011.

The Basic Rules

Neverbust Blackjack has some very different rules from the standard game of “21.” Although the object is still to beat the dealer by getting as closer to 21 without going over, whenever the dealer or player does exceed 21, the bust card is removed and the resulting total is the hand’s final value. For example, if a player holding a J-5 draws a seven, the final total is 15, not 22.

Many of the other standard rules have also been changed. There is no doubling down or splitting. Bother player and the dealer must draw cards until their hands reach 17 or higher. Natural blackjacks pay either the customary 3:2 or 6:5, depending on the casino offering the game. When insurance is available, it pays 2:1 if successful. And perhaps the oddest rule of this game is that the dealer automatically pushes on a final total of 15, no matter what total the players obtains.

Playing with eight decks from a shoe, the 6:5 version of Neverbust Blackjack provides the House with a built-in 3.24% advantage, thus making it one of the worst variations among table games on the casino floor. There is not much improvement if the number of decks is reduced to one. The House edge is still 3.26%. If 3:2 is paid for a natural blackjack, however, the margin is reduced to 1.88%.

Playing Strategy

In essence, the player must play using the same rules as the dealer. The one exception may be soft 17, if the player is allowed to stand while the dealer must draw. No decision tables are required for doubling down, splitting, hitting or standing. And because there are so few decisions to be made, the game plays out very quickly. In fact, the fast pace of Neverbust Blackjack is part of its appeal.

One area in which the player can affect the outcome is in choosing to take insurance or not. In general, however, insurance is a bad bet, giving the House an advantage of 5.88% at single deck tables, 6.80% at double-deck tables and from 7.25% to 7.47% when four to eight decks are in play. Even when offered even money for a natural blackjack facing the dealer’s Ace, the tradeoff is not a good one, working to casino’s advantage.

The expectation for Neverbust Blackjack is that the player will catch a blackjack on 4.52% of all hands and win another 34.68% of all hands outright. Pushes will make up about 17.45% of all hands. That leaves the dealer winning on 43.35% of all occasions. Clearly, the best strategy for Neverbust Blackjack is to avoid the game entirely. As with most opportunities in life, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

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