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
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

Online Blackjack or Blackjack in Land-Based Casinos

Apart from the obvious difference between live and online blackjack, there are many more pros and cons of both to consider. Let’s start with the advantages of playing blackjack in an online casino – the digital, RNG-based form of blackjack is much easier to play than the real-life game in brick and mortar casinos. Many beginner players prefer betting against a computer rather than an actual dealer since they have constant access to the rules and payouts of the game, as well as to strategy cards.

Besides, most online casinos offer demo versions of their games, including blackjack so one could practice for hours or even days without risking any actual money. Patrons should also know that the table limits of RNG casino games are usually low and it is possible to start playing for as little as $1 per hand. Playing blackjack over the Internet is also much more convenient and virtual casinos are accessible from any place and at any time.

In addition, you do not need to wait for a free seat at the blackjack tables in online casinos – there are even live dealer blackjack games with unlimited seats, which is, of course, impossible in brick-and-mortar casinos. The diversity and sheer number of blackjack variations online are also impressive and players can easily compare the different rules and payouts before choosing a real-money game.

The biggest disadvantage of online blackjack over the games in land-based casinos is probably the fact that the RNG software of virtual games makes techniques such as card counting practically obsolete. Players who can count cards well without being detected by casino staff would prefer the real-life experience. In an actual casino setting, they have the chance to gain an advantage over the house by counting deeply into the deck and predicting what cards will be dealt next with at least some level of accuracy. The Random Number Generator in virtual games, on the other hand, acts as an automatic shuffler of the cards so any attempts for counting would be futile.

Live Dealer Blackjack

Along with the dozens of RNG-based variations of blackjack available online, players can also opt for live dealer blackjack. Featuring professional croupiers and technologically advanced streaming platforms, live casinos allow players from any part of the world to “sit” on various low or high-limit tables. There are also VIP and high-roller tables, which are otherwise only available at the largest and most prestigious casinos in Las Vegas or Macao.

Although the majority of live dealer games follow the standard rules you would find in land-based casinos, the gameplay is similar to RNG blackjack, yet a bit slower. Players are often allowed to bet “behind” other players, i.e. to bet on the hands of others. Besides, most live dealer variations of blackjack have at least several side wagers that could be made.

Mobile Blackjack

Mobile casinos have risen in popularity in the past few years and the vast majority of operators also offer different blackjack games to their mobile users. They could be downloaded as apps on the device or played directly in the browser as part of the mobile game offering of an online casino. The mobile-friendly gaming collections are still quite limited compared to the games available for desktop but most apps offer at least three or four different titles to blackjack aficionados.

Generally speaking, mobile blackjack is very similar to the desktop game – usually, the design is simpler with more compact menus and fewer features but the gameplay remains the same. The mobile versions of blackjack follow the same rules and have the same betting limits, so they are incredibly easy to access and play for both Android and iPhone users.

Blackjack Variations with Progressive Jackpots

There is one more type of blackjack games to consider – progressive blackjack. Most gamblers are well aware of the progressive jackpots usually featured by lottery games and slot machines. These jackpots do not have a fixed amount and instead, they rise with every bet placed on the game. When it comes to progressive blackjack, it is quite unusual and could only be found online.

Games of this type are typically standard blackjack variations, following the traditional Vegas rules, Atlantic City-style or European, no hole card games, and the progressive blackjack can be unlocked with some specific hand. For instance, the player can hit the jackpot if he collects three 7s of diamonds. As these games are rare and played by fewer gamblers, their progressive jackpots are not as impressive as those offered by lotteries. Still, the prospect for winning a jackpot adds much more excitement to the game.

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