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The Many Faces of Blackjack

Blackjack Cards and Chips
Get as close as you can to 21 without going over and, whatever you do, be sure that your hand beat’s the dealers. That’s the premise of Blackjack and, even if you’ve never played a table game in your life, you can probably sit down at a table or play online, and get by with limited direction.

Blackjack is a relatively straightforward game, but there are several strategic moves you can make to better your game and probably end up with more chips than if you just wing it.

I know some people who just love Blackjack and wouldn’t think to play anything else. After all, it offers a low house advantage and, if you’re a conservative bettor, you can stretch your time at the table quite considerably.

Other players, though, like to be challenged by new games or interesting twists. You wouldn’t think you could take the basic game of 21 and do much to enhance it, but you’d be surprised. I certainly was, and continue to be, as new variations seem to keep popping up in casinos online and in person.

I am focusing on a just a few of the dozens of possibilities that are now available, especially online, as new games seemed to be added quite frequently.

Blackjack Surrender

Premise = give up on your hand when your chance of winning is small, and save half your wager in the process

Although you may find the surrender option available through some other games, this particular version is online and ensures you that you can walk away, at a price, when it looks like playing is a losing proposition anyway.

When would you surrender?  Whenever the dealer’s hand looks unbeatable by yours. For example, you have a hard 16 (no Ace involved), and the dealer has an Ace showing.

What does it cost?  Half of the original bet you made. You’re betting that the dealer now has a better hand, and it’ll cost you half of what you wagered to save the other half. Instead of potentially losing 10, you give up five and then walk away for that hand.

Multiple Action Blackjack

Premise = you still only have one hand, but place bets on multiple dealer hands

If the dealer shows a “4”, you could be golden. If an Ace is in your face, though, it could mean trouble.

Here’s how it works:  Players make three bets per dealt round. Some tables will allow only two, but I would plan on playing three if you decide this is the game for you. Everyone is dealt their hands just like regular blackjack, and the dealer receives his or her one card exposed to the table.

Let’s use the example of the dealer having a “6” showing.

Table action goes around as it normally would with everyone opting to hit or stand.

When it’s the dealer’s turn, the hole card is flipped over and the bottom card exposed. For our example, the dealer has a 6 showing and turns over a 10. Dealer hits and gets another 10 and busts. The table is paid for one hand of play as long as players still have active hands and haven’t folded or busted.

The cards all stay on the table though. You’re still playing your original hand, but the dealer is now playing the face up 6 with new hole cards.

So, let’s say this time, a 5 is revealed, and then a 10, resulting in a 21 for this hand. The table is then paid (or not) accordingly.

Is the third time a charm, the 6 is played once again, and you either win or lose based on the new hole cards.

It’s relatively easy to learn as it’s just adding bets on to traditional blackjack, and the dealer is the one doing the extra work here.

Double Exposure Blackjack

Premise = you don’t like the unknown and want to see the dealer’s cards before you make any decisions on your playing strategy

You may not like the unknown, but you’ve got to give up something to see those cards. In Double Exposure Blackjack, you do get to the see the original two dealer cards but, if you get your desired Blackjack, you’re giving up some of your payouts. Blackjacks in this game only pay out at 1:1 instead of 3:2.

Another rule is that the dealer will win on all ties unless you have an actual Blackjack (not just cards adding up to 21, but an Ace and ten).

A Double Exposure table will use eight decks and does allow for the double down on 9, 10 or 11, as well as splitting pairs. Dealers must hit on a soft 17, but you can’t wave the white flag as late surrenders are not part of the game.

Spanish Blackjack

Premise = you don’t like the number 10, but you love 7’s

I want to mention some unique hands first then we’ll get into the gameplay as this version is a bit farther away from the others regarding rules and strategy.

7-7-7 of the same suit – against a dealer’s hand that includes a 7

6-7-8

7-7-7

5, 6, or 7 cards that add up to 21

You’re still working with the overall premise of getting 21 and beating the dealer. With Spanish Blackjack, though, all of the tens are removed from the decks, so there is now a slightly lower chance of getting a Blackjack, but there are some other hands that pay out, so you’ll alter your playing strategy to account for bonus potential as well.

That 7-7-7 of the same suit pays out at 50 to 1 as long as the dealer also has a 7 in his or her hand. That’s the money hand so look for those sevens as any 7-7-7 still equates to a bonus, as does 6-7-8.

If you get the opportunity to hit repeatedly, that could also pay off as there’s a bonus for any 5, 6, or 7 cards that add up to 21. If you are dealt something like 3-4-2-6-6, you’re a winner in more ways than one.

Players that receive 21 always win, and double downs, splitting and re-splitting of hands are allowed.

Before you give this game a try, just be sure you remember the bonus hands, as you will need to play this version differently to reap the most benefit.

Blackjack Switch

Premise = you like to control things, so you move cards around amongst your two hands until you’re happy

First off, just by the very nature of the game and the ability to switch, you can tell this is a different type of experience. Whereas players receive just one hand, this time they’re all dealt two.

An example will clear up the mystery here. You’re dealt two hands:

  1. Ace and a 6
  2. Ten and a 5

Just looking at those two hands and the answer will immediately jump out at you. Switch the Ten for the 6, and you now have:

  1. Ace and ten = 21
  2. 6 and 5 = 11 (the ideal hand to hit)

Not all hands will not obviously be this straightforward, but you get the idea.

What do you give up though?  Switching cards will increase your chances, so don’t be fooled and think that the casino will just let you get away with that. If the dealer gets a 22, it’s a push instead of a bust. And, just like in Double Exposure, your Blackjack payout goes down from 3:2 to 1:1. Remember, that you’re also playing two hands with two identical bets, so you’re putting out double the money during every round.

It’s fun though, whether you’re a control freak or not. You take more charge of your playing strategy with the ability to manipulate two different hands.

Perfect Pairs

Premise = it’s all about the side bet

Perfect Pairs is a game for players who just think more action equates to more fun. The side bet isn’t the wisest if you’re someone who plays by the odds, as the house edge the side bet exclusively is 5.79%.

However, it’s exciting to have the possibility of getting a 30 to 1 payout which is what the perfect pair bet pays.

Even if you don’t get two identical cards (same rank, same suit), you can get 10 to 1 odds on a colored pair (same rank and color like Jack of Hearts with a Jack of Diamonds). You are also paid 5 to 1 on a mixed pair (same rank, different colors and suits, such as Jack of Hearts, Jack of Spades).

Zappit Blackjack

Premise = you don’t like your hand, why should you keep it?

I’d play this one for the name alone because it sounds quite intriguing, doesn’t it?

Zappit allows players to turn in their hand and get a new one if they’re dealt a total of 15, 16, 17, or 18. Now, the dealer will first check for Blackjack but, if they don’t have one, the player will then receive two brand new cards and play a different hand.

The catch? You knew there’d be one, didn’t you? Zappit Blackjacks are only paid out a 1:1. However, if a blackjack is caught without the zappit option, it’s a 3:2 payout just like a regular game. Also, a dealer 22 is considered as a push and not a bust, so that’s no fun.

European Blackjack

Premise = neither you nor the dealer can tell if the dealer has been dealt a Blackjack

There’s only one thing that makes this game different, and that’s not knowing if the dealer has a Blackjack or not before you decide what to do with your hand.

In a regular Blackjack game, the dealer is dealt one hole card and one face up. If the face-up card is an Ace or a ten, the hole card is then checked and, if it applies, the Blackjack is flipped over and play ends immediately.

In European Blackjack, the dealer does not take a peek at the second card, so players move forward with that unknown. That one rule increases the house edge by .11% so to balance the scales; there are a few player advantages. The first being that European Blackjack is played with only two decks. More decks, like six or eight, provide a better house advantage. Dealers also stand on a soft 17 whereas they typically hit it in most other versions.

Blackjacks are paid out at the usual 3:2 odds and insurance is available if the player is showing an Ace. Pairs can only be split once, though and no re-splitting of Aces is allowed.

More, more, more…

There are so many more variations of Blackjack that it would take books to hold all of the rules and strategies involved. The ones I’ve noted illustrate some pretty simple twists on the game of 21 that can shake things up a bit for dedicated Blackjack players looking for something new.

The side bet on Perfect Pairs demonstrates the only notable shift in house odds as that side bet is a tough one to get. However, the extra wager usually starts out at just $1 or £1, so it might be fun to try something new and hope for a lucky hand to come your way.

If you’re looking for the absolute best game for odds in your favor, search out a single deck classic Blackjack game as it comes with just a .13% house edge. Remember, fewer decks are better for the players.