Blackjack Variations

Published: 08/04/2012

Blackjack should be an uncomplicated game. Simply draw cards to a total higher than the dealer’s without going over twenty-one points. However, players eager for greater variety and casinos interested in new ways to increase their advantage have caused a huge variety of Blackjack variations to be developed.

Exotic sounding games, such as Double Exposure Blackjack, Blackjack Switch, and European Blackjack, can be so different from the original game that some jurisdictions—such as the State of Nevada—prohibit them from being called “blackjack” at all. Instead, they have to assume such names as Spanish 21, Super Fun 21, etc.

Some Blackjack variations improve the House edge by 0.09%~1.39%. Among them are having the dealer hit on soft 17, limiting the opportunity for doubling down and splitting, and paying only 6-to-5 for a natural blackjack instead of the standard 3-to-2.

Blackjack variations that improve the player’s odds of winning as much as 0.08%~1.46% include being able to resplit Aces, use of a single or double deck, and wins awarded for a Five-Card Charlie—a hand containing five cards without going bust. Also benefiting the player are rules such as suited blackjacks paying 2-to-1, the ability to triple down on any two cards, and any player count of twenty-one pushing against a dealer’s blackjack.

The following Blackjack variations have become quite widespread, both online and off. But be sure to consider the pros and cons carefully before sitting down at the table, because none of them offers better odds than the standard game.

Blackjack Switch – Each player receives two hands and may swap cards between them. Of course, that means staking two hands for equal amounts. Also, the first card dealt to each hand must be kept in place; only the second cards of the hands can be traded. No penalties or surcharges apply. However, natural blackjacks pay only even money, and if the dealer’s hand totals twenty-two points, the result is a push, not a bust, as bets are returned and no winners are paid other than natural blackjacks.

Double Exposure Blackjack – This game allows players to view both of the dealer’s cards face up, which seems like a huge advantage. However, there is a big trade off to go with it; blackjacks pay just 1-to-1 and the dealer wins all pushes.

European Blackjack – No hole card is used in this variation of the game, which means the dealer’s need to “peek” is also eliminated and so is the opportunity to win on insurance before the entire hand has been played out. The dealer’s up card is all that’s dealt until all of the players’ hands stand or bust.

Spanish 21 – This game uses a 48-card deck is used, with all of the natural 10s removed. Aces may be resplit, and it is possible to hit and double down after splitting them. Other Spanish 21 rules include late surrender (except facing a dealer’s natural blackjack) and “Double Rescue” for surrendering after doubling down. Payouts differ from the standard game, too, awarding 2-to-1 for a Five- or Six-Card Charlie and 3-to-1 for a Seven-Card Charlie. Bonuses are given also for a suited 6-7-8, for three 7s and other counts equaling twenty-one points.

Super Fun 21 – Almost all the rules are different in this game. Doubling down is allowed not only on the first two cards, but on any number of cards, including a 3- or 4-card 11. Pairs, including Aces, can be split and re-split up to four hands, and doubling down on a split hand is allowed. Surrender is permitted, both early and late. Players can even surrender when an Ace is showing for the dealer, which means even more wins for the House. Super Fun 21 offers multi-card bonus, too; if the hand has not been doubled, a 5-card or 6-card twenty-one pays 2-to-1. Also, any undoubled 6-card hand valued at less than twenty points is an “instant winner,” paid even money automatically no matter what the dealer has. For blackjacks, however, Super Fun 21 pays a terrible 1:1, except a suited blackjack in diamonds, which pays 2-to-1.

Ties Win Blackjack – This variation is just like standard Blackjack, except that a push pays 1-to-2 to the player who ties, while blackjacks are worth just 1-to-1.

The most important thing to know regarding Blackjack variations is that not only the odds change but also the strategy needed to successfully play the game. Playing “by the book” at a Spanish 21 table can lead to disaster. Standard hand play charts do not indicate when to swap cards in Blackjack Switch. Keep in mind that variations have been created for fun, entertainment and to boost the casino’s bottom line. For the most part, expect the risk to be higher when playing any variation other than standard Blackjack.

Published on: 08/04/2012

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