The casino table game known as Stravaganza is played with five standard decks of 52 cards. It is somewhat similar to Blackjack in that the object of the game is to obtain a hand with a point total higher than that of the dealer’s hand.
However, unlike Blackjack with winning hands limited to 21 points or less, there is no point limit in Stravaganza, so it is not possible to “bust.” The more points contained in the hand the better. Court cards (King, Queen, Jack) count as ten points, Ace count as one point and all other cards are counted at face value.
The game of Stravaganza begins with each player placing a bet, which must be no less than the table minimum and no more than the table maximum. The dealer then deals two cards face up to each player and three cards face down for the House. Each player is then given four options, depending on the total points of his/her two cards combined.
The first option for the player is “money back”—to take the full amount of the original bet back and end the hand. This is only possible when the two-card total is five points or less and such cases it is always the best choice.
The second option is “rescue bet”—to take back half of the original wager, rather like “surrender” in Blackjack, and end the hand. This is only possible when the two-card total is between six and nine points.
The third option is “sit,” which means to continue playing with the two cards dealt and the original bet remains unchanged. This is only possible when the two-card total is between 10 points or more.
The fourth option is to “play on” and receive a third card. This is possible regardless of the point total, but it does require placing a second wager equal in value to the original bet, so it is only done when the combined value of the two cards is quite high, such as two court cards totaling twenty.
After all players have had the opportunity to make their choices, the dealer reveals the three cards in the House’s hand. When the House’s total is higher than the player’s, all wagered amounts are lost. When the player’s total is higher than the House’s, all wagered amounts pay even money. And when the hands have the same point count, the result is a “push,” no winner, and all wagers are returned.
As can easily be seen, there would be no House advantage whatsoever to Stravaganza if these were the only rules, so a twist was added to the game to create a slight edge. If a red Ace is the second or third card turned over in the House hand, all wagered amounts are lost. If a red Ace is the first card, all original bets are lost, second bets are returned and point totals are irrelevant.
To offset this disadvantage to the player, most casinos and Internet versions of Stravaganza offer a special bonus for three card hands that contain three of a kind. This is typically a payout of 3:1 on the first amount bet, regardless of point total.
Another bonus commonly offered to players is a payout of 3:2 on the first bet if the three-card hand contains only court cards. The court cards can be of any rank. They need not pair and point totals are ignored for the bonus.
A few versions of Stravaganza also offer a Progressive Jackpot Side Bet. The player has the option of making an additional wager for the opportunity to win a bonus for hands listed on a separately displayed Progressive Paytable. The top prize is triggered by receiving three Kings of hearts. Lesser amounts can be won for other winning combinations and payouts are made at the end of the hand.