Blackjack Variations

Blackjack is a classic casino game that has been played by gambling fans for decades but there have been hundreds of attempts to improve it and make it more interesting and challenging. Throughout the years, different casinos, individuals, and casino software developers have created over a hundred variations of the standard rules that were once prevalent on the Las Vegas Strip.

The huge variety of games based on Twenty-One, as it is also known around the globe, could be contributed to the nature of blackjack. It follows a set of simple, yet flexible rules and even the slightest change in them could sometimes result in a very different game. While some variations were created by altering just a couple of rules, other versions of the game were only roughly based on classic blackjack. Furthermore, certain forms of the game evolved outside Las Vegas, where the rules were standardized in the middle of the 20th century. As a result, we have now games that are slightly similar to blackjack but they have different gameplay, names, and payouts.

Classic Blackjack

1Тhe classic form of the game

Before we describe the different versions of blackjack, we should clarify what is considered to be the classic form of the game. Its rules were invented at the beginning of the last century and soon, a standard version of the game was introduced in Las Vegas, Nevada. Today, it is still offered at certain casinos but the majority of gambling venues have adapted it in accordance with their needs.

Under the traditional rules of American blackjack, this is a multi-player casino game that uses 6 French decks of cards – decks consisting of all 52 cards from 2s to Aces. The game is played against the house, represented by the dealer – players receive 2 face-up cards, which are compared to the dealer’s cards. The dealer draws a single face-up card in the beginning and is allowed to pull a second one once players have acted.

2The objective

The objective is, of course, to beat the dealer by getting a hand with a value that is as close to 21 as possible without exceeding this result. All cards from 2 to 10 are counted at their face values; cards from Jack through King are counted as 10; and Aces can be either 1 or 11. The strongest hand in the game is blackjack (an Ace and a 10-value card) and it pays 3:2. Players who beat the dealer by having a higher total receive a payout of 1:1.

3The Players Decisions

While players can decide what to do with the hand they are given, dealers play under the house rules. Under the standard rules, the dealer is required to Hit to 16 and Stand on a total of 17 or higher. Players are allowed to Hit, Stand, Split pairs, and Double Down on their initial hands. Splitting is usually allowed up to three times per round and doubling can be made on any two cards or after a split. There is an exception for Aces – no Hitting, Doubling or Resplitting is allowed to split Aces.

Once the player decides to Double, a third and final card is dealt to his hand and his bet is doubled. Another option at the beginning of each round is Surrender and it is available after the dealer checks the hole card for blackjack. Players who decide to Surrender against a dealer Ace give up half of their stake and end the round. Insurance can be taken and it pays 2:1.

Rule Differences in Blackjack

1The number of decks

The majority of blackjack variations have been developed by simply adding a few small changes to the set of rules explained above. Any variation of these standard rules results in a slightly different game and an increase or reduction in the house edge. One of the most important rule variations include the number of decks of in use – blackjack could be played with anything from 1 to 8 decks and the more decks are in play, the worse the odds for winning will be. The difference in the house edge between single and 8-deck games could reach 0.45%.

2The Soft 17 rule

The next rule that varies across casinos and even from table to table in the same casino is the Soft 17 rule. In many games, the dealer must Hit on Soft 17 rather than Stand. This rule alone increases the house edge by around 0.20%.

3The payout for a blackjack

Another aspect of the standard game of blackjack that is often changed is the payout for a blackjack. An increasing number of casinos are now offering less for player blackjack, which adds 1.40% to 2.30% to the house edge for games paying 6:5 and 1:1, respectively.

4Resplit and Doubling

It is also important to be able to Resplit a few times per round. Some blackjack variations allow hands to be Split just once, whereas a liberal, quite rare rule permits Aces to be resplit, as well. Certain games restrict players’ option to Double – some do not allow Doubling on split hands, while other variations allow Doubling only on hard totals of 9, 10 or 11.

5The hole card

Many blackjack variations, including those played across Europe, do not feature a hole card and instead, the dealer draws a second card once players have acted. Usually, this suggests worse odds for the player – a dealer blackjack would, in this case, win the round and the player would lose the original stake plus any additional bets for Splitting or Doubling. For this reason, games with the Original Bets Only rule are more favorable to the player – in them, the player loses only the mandatory bet against a dealer blackjack, whereas all other bets are pushed.

As a result of the rule changes, a huge number of variations of the standard game have been developed over the past few decades. Some of these versions exist only as online games and others can be found in both online and land-based casinos. When choosing a variation, players should take all rules into account and determine whether the odds are good or not. Below, we have listed some of the most popular blackjack variations, along with their specific rules and house edge.

Atlantic City Blackjack
Double Exposure
European Blackjack
Pontoon
Spanish 21
Blackjack Switch
Blackjack Double Attack
Match Play 21

Other Blackjack Games to Consider

When choosing a blackjack variation to play, fans of this classic game should also take the location or the platform they wish to play at into account since online blackjack is very different from the experience at a land-based casino, for example. There are also live blackjack games available to desktop and mobile devices, blackjack games that can be played for free and variations with progressive jackpots. With such an impressive variety of games on offer, however, finding the right game could be a challenge.

Online Blackjack or Blackjack in Land-Based Casinos
Live Dealer Blackjack
Mobile Blackjack
Blackjack Variations with Progressive Jackpots