How to Play Free Bet Blackjack

Published: 10/11/2013

What blackjack player hasn’t wished upon occasion that someone else would pay for his/her bets? Playing with someone else’s money is the ultimate form of security. So that’s exactly what game developer Geoff Hall had in mind when he invented Free Bet Blackjack, a variation of standard blackjack that allows players to double down and split without risking any additional wagers. As one pundit has put it, “It’s like playing with a generous boyfriend at the table who makes all the supplemental bets for you and lets you keep the winnings.”

The Basic Rules

Introduced to casinos by ShuffleMaster since 2012, Free Bet Blackjack generally follows the rules of standard blackjack. It is played with six standard decks of cards dealt from a shoe. The dealer must hit on soft 17, natural blackjacks pay the customary 3:2, late surrender is allowed, doubling down after splitting is also allowed and pairs can be re-split up to four hands, Aces included. Note, however, that split Aces receive just one card

The difference shows up in two big ways, both related to additional wagering. First, the player is offered “Free Doubles’ on hard counts of 9, 10 or 11, not just with two cards but with any number of cards. The player’s original wager will be matched by the placement of a “Free Bet” token next to the betting circle and one additional card will be dealt to the hand. This will result in one of three potential outcomes: a) if the dealer wins, the player forfeits only the initial wager; b) in case of a push, the player’s original wager is refunded; or c) if the player wins the hand, the player’s original wager is returned along with double that amount in winnings.

Second, the player is offered a “Free Split” for any pair except tens. The player may divide the pair into two one card hands, with the original bet on the first hand and the “Free Bet” token on the second. Additional Free Doubles and Free Splits may be taken as the hands play out. The dealer will collect the original wager or the token from any losing hand, return the initial bet in case the first hand pushes and pay an amount equal to the bet for each winning hand, replacing any token(s) with real chips.

There is a catch, of course. Any time the dealer busts with a total of exactly 22, the result is a push on all hands, regardless of their values. This rule applies to natural blackjacks as well any hand the player holds valued at 21 or less. According to ShuffleMaster, this rule results in an overall House edge of 0.79% for the game.

Playing Strategy

In Free Bet Blackjack, it is possible to play Free Bet hands a bit more aggressively than the original wager hand. Free Bets, of course, should never be surrendered, but surrendering the initial bet is the proper play when holding 15~17 facing the dealer’s Ace, 15~ facing a ten and 16 facing a nine. Because splitting costs nothing and the player’s liability is limited to the amount of the original bet, the proper strategy for this game is to split any pair against any up card with the exception of fives or tens. Stand on a pair of tens and take the Free Double on a pair of fives treated as hard count of 10.

Similarly, always take the Free Double facing any up card when holding a hard count of 9, 10 or 11. It is also possible to double down using one’s own funds when holding a soft hand, and this should be the case when holding soft 16~18 against the dealer’s six as well as soft 17~18 against the dealer’s five. For Free Bet hands, this range can be widened to soft 16~20 against the six, soft 17~19 facing a five and soft 18 against the dealer’s four.

It is always appropriate to hit on hard counts of 5~8 or soft counts of 12~15, no matter what the dealer shows. Stand on 18~21, with the exception of the soft doubles mentioned above. Holding a Free Bet hand facing the dealer’s 7~A, hit on hard totals of 12~17 or soft totals of 16~18 with two exceptions: stand with hard 17 against the dealer’s ten and with soft 18 against the dealer’s seven.

Published on: 10/11/2013

Go To bet365
Open Account Offer
Up to £100 in Bet Credits for new customers at bet365.
Min deposit £5 and 1x settled bet requirement to release Bet Credits. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply.
Comment on this article
Your Name:
Your Email:
What is  + 7