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Blackjack Variants

Blackjack Variants GuideAs Blackjack has been around for centuries, but no one can really pin point the exact date or where the game originated. Some say it was the French in the 1700s; while, other claim the Romans played the game using large wooden blocks. However, one thing is for sure, the game has been around for years and on its way through history to present day Blackjack has been mixed up changed and chopped giving us several variants of the game today.

These are the most common Blackjack rules with only a few variants  slightly changing the norm of these rules:

  • 1 to 6 players can play against the dealer
  • Decks can have 52 to 416 cards (1 to 8 decks)
  • French playing cards are used
  • Play goes in a clockwise motion

You may wonder why in this short list of rules we have not mentioned that the count must always be up to 21. Blackjack is a 21 game and comes with the name 21 as well. Nonetheless, 21 is not the consistent figure used because the Spanish invented a version of Blackjack in which the score must go up to 31.

The most commonly played Blackjack games

This is up for debate of course, but we are going to start with the most common and obvious variants first because these versions of the game can be played with most of variants mentioned on this page and in the list of variants at the bottom of the page.

Every of these variants comes with its own basic strategy table:

Diagram of House Edge in Blackjack

Note: Each time you switch between games with a different number of decks, you need to slightly adjust your basic strategy. Remember Blackjack’s basic strategy is one of the only ways to become a true master of the game.

European Blackjack Variant

All over Europe Blackjack has become one of the most popularly played casino games, as with many other continents in the world. As Blackjack is believed to have originated from Europe, many believe that the European rules are the most relevant.

A tough call because in the past it is reasonable to assume that Blackjack was played with a single deck, but this does not really change the fact that Blackjack was formed in Europe. It just means that the name European Blackjack is more modern than the single-deck Blackjack game.

European Blackjack Rules

  • Six decks are played
  • Dealer must always stand on a soft 17
  • Players can double 9-11 hands
  • Double are allowed after the player splits
  • Dealer does not peek

(This means that the player must act even if the dealer has Blackjack – if the dealer does have Blackjack, then the player losses all bets even after betting)

Double Exposure Blackjack

In this version of Blackjack the dealer shows both cards face up before the player acts. Obviously the casino are not going to leave it so the player has a free ride over the dealer, so the rules have been changed slightly. Nevertheless, if this game is played correctly, Double Exposure Blackjack is definitely one of the best games to wager.

Double Exposure Blackjack Rules

Not much really changes apart from the following:

  • Both of the dealer’s cards are shown face-up
  • Ties go in favour of the dealer apart from a Natural Blackjack
  • If a player gets Blackjack, it’s paid at even odds

Some other rules may apply depending on the table you are playing at:

  • Dealer stands (+0.39%) or hits soft 17s
  • Blackjack ties are awarded to the player (+0.22%), or there is a push
  • Players can double after a split (+0.32%) or are forbidden to double after a split
  • Only 1 split is allowed (-0.71%) or re-splits are allowed
  • Doubles are allowed on 9 to 11 values only (-1.04%)
  • Doubles are allowed on 9 to 11 values only (-1.44%)
  • Double downs on the first 2 cards may or may not be allowed

Note: As you may have noticed, we have also included the expected return for each action.

Lucky 13s Blackjack

Black played with the Luck 13s rules uses the same standard Blackjack rules as most tables, but there are a few exception adding to the excitement of this game. The main difference to this game is that there are additional cards added to the deck.

  • x4 11 cards, x4 12 cards and x4 13 cards added to the deck
  • 64 cards are used in the deck (Single Deck plus the 12 cards mentioned above)
  • Dealer stand on soft 17 and above
  • Dealer stand on hard 16
  • Dealers don’t take a hole card
  • If the dealer wins with Blackjack after the player has doubled or split, the player losses all bet apart from when there is a Blackjack tie in which case bets are pushed
  • Players can split on any value even after a split
  • Players can re-split on all pairs
  • Surrender is not an option
  • Ace remains as a 1 or 11
  • Pairs of 11s, 12s or 13s means the player must split or go bust

Side Bets on Blackjack Lucky 13s

As this game was first introduced in Macau in 2014 where they love to gamble, especially on side bets in any game, it comes as no surprise that side bets are included.

  1. Protection Bet

Because of the 11, 12 and 13 hands in Lucky 13s Blackjack, player can bust on their 1st dealt cards. However, to spice up the action, you can take a protection bet out to quell this worry.

  • 22 to 25 point starting hands are paid back at 5-1
  • Any starting hands above 25 points gets a whopping 40-1 pay back
  • If the dealer has a 13 face up card, the side bet win is multiplied by 5
  • In the long run the house edge is 8.45% with this bet
Starting Hand Pay-out Odds Possible CombinationsProbability of this hand Expected Return
Player 22-25, dealer A-125790,0480.09529547.65%
Player 22-25, dealer 132551,2000.00617615.44%
Player 26, dealer A-124028,8000.00347413.90%
Player 26, dealer 132001,6800.0002034.05%
All other combinations-17,418,8320.894853-89.49%
Final Total 8,290,5601.008.45%
  1. Pairs Bet

This bet is simply there for fun. Here are the rules for the Pairs bet:

  • If the player gets a pair, the return is 12-1
  • If the dealer has a 13 score when the player has a pair, the 12-1 return is totalled up and multiplied by 5
  • The house edge on Pair Bets is 5.88%

All in all, this is a great alternative Blackjack game to play and a lot of fun. The side bets do work in favour of the house, but if you bet on them sparingly at the right times taking into account the probability of a pair or bust hand turning up, you can earn some handsome returns from these bets.

Blackjack Switch

This is a Blackjack game that is rumoured to have been invented to fulfil the cheat’s habit of switching cards. Basically players play multi-hand Blackjack with 2 hands, so there are 2 separate bets one for each hand. After the dealer has dealt, the player is then allowed to switch the second card dealt from one hand to another.

  • If the dealer busts at 22, all hands still in play are a push
  • Player Blackjack bets the dealer 22
  • There are 6 to 8 decks played in this variant
  • 2 hands and 2 bets need to made every round
  • Dealer hits on soft 17 (Although not in all casinos)
  • Dealer peeks when the face-up card is a 10 or an Ace
  • Blackjack ties are pushed
  • Players can swap their 2nd card with the 2nd card in the other hand
  • Doubles are permitted on any 2 cards and on splits
  • Re-splits are permitted up to a maximum of 4 times
  • Blackjack is paid at even odds

Other rules may apply such as early surrender is said to be allowed in some Russian games, and dealer stands on 17 in some Canadian venues.

Doublet Blackjack

Gamesys N.V. is an online real money gaming provider, and they came up with Blackjack Doublet. As the rules of this game are fairly obscure and the popularity high, it is worth a mention.

All the usual Blackjack rules apply, but there are some additional perks to the game:

  • 6 decks are used
  • The dealer does not play with a hole card
  • Player double or split before the dealer discovers Blackjack. That means all bets will be lost regardless
  • Dealer will stand on soft 17 hands
  • Players can double on splits
  • Players can double on any hand
  • Resplits permitted up to 4 times on any hand
  • Double Down Rescue: Surrender is only permitted once a player has doubles

Never Bust Blackjack

This variant is quite rare, but one Blackjack expert reports seeing it Planet Hollywood in Last Vegas a few years ago where 8 decks are played and Blackjack pays 6-5. In addition, in the UK Never Bust Blackjack is a popular variant if you can find a casino that plays these rules.

It is very similar to Casino War because the card that busts either the player or dealer hand is always discarded. This means that the player or dealer can never go bust; hence the name, Never Bust Blackjack.

In addition, players don’t have to make any decisions for themselves apart from how much to bet.

  • Blackjack odds can vary from 6-5 or 3-2
  • Player and dealer continue to hit until their hand reaches 17 or higher
  • Both the player and dealer must hit a soft 17
  • There are no double downs or splits permitted
  • If either the player or dealer hand goes bust, the card that made the hand bust is removed. No more cards will be dealt, and the remaining cards will determine the end score for that hand. For example, if a player hit on 15 and gets a Jack, the Jack is removed and the hand is counted as a 15 score
  • If the dealer’s hand scores 15, then this is a push
  • Insurance bets are paid back at 2-1

Multiple Action Blackjack

In Multi Action Blackjack, players can place 2 or 3 bets on their hand. Each bet is separate in this case because the dealer plays a separate hand against each bet versus the player’s single hand. For the casinos, this is a great game because it means the dealer can play twice as many hands over time compared to standard Blackjack games.

All the standard Blackjack rules apply:

  • 6 to 8 decks are played
  • Splits are permitted
  • Double downs are permitted

Multi-hand Blackjack Variant

In many cases players can opt to ‘Play the whole table’. Some casinos will allows this, and if you play online, then you will have seen plenty of multi-hand tables on offer.

Your strategy can change slightly here, but at the end of the day each hand should still be played according to the basic strategy chart that is relevant to style of Blackjack and the rules being played on any given table.

In a live casino the player may play up to all 6 position, whereas online games generally come with readymade multi-hand tables with 3 to 5 position available to play.

In some brick and mortar casinos they have managed to design tables with up to 7 or 8 position on them. Generally this goes against the flow and rules of play; however, the casino is boss and as long as the law allows it, then there is no reason why not!

Online Blackjack

Since 1994 online Blackjack has been a hit. The game is a lot faster at online casinos compared to when played live. This is largely because bets are quick, pay-outs are automatic and the dealer is automated.

Players tend to spend money quicker when playing online, but at the same the same time they also get through their variation much quicker. If they happen to be a disciplined follower of basic strategy, then this means in the long run the player can make more money at a quicker rate.

Live Dealer Suite Blackjack

With some people not trusting the automated RNG algorithms and other just looking for action as close to live Blackjack play as possible, then the Live Dealer Suits online are a perfect compromise; especially if you have a 100 inch + flat screen to play on!

Live dealers stand at the tables with a web cam feed and extra-large cards on the tables so players can get that live play vibe straight from their living room. Microgaming’s Live Dealer Suite has become a hit online with its sexy theme.

Here players can choose to play on their own private table, play multi-hand Blackjack, single-hand Blackjack or play on a multi-player table.

Side Bet Bonus Blackjack Games

There are so many side bets in Blackjack these days. Mostly they add fun to the game with the additional chance to win a little bit more cash. Most of the time the house has a considerable edge on the side bets; hence, you will never see a card counter place bets on any side bets offered.

Side betting is very prevalent in the online casinos as virtual technology allows for the inclusion of side bets very easily; whereas, on the brick and mortar casino scene side bets are not overly common. That is obviously aside from the aforementioned Blackjack Lucky 13s game.

Where can I find plenty of side bet and a variant of Blackjack games?

One of the most diverse Blackjack games out there right now is an online version created by Microgaming called Premier Blackjack where there are 4 different tables to play. You literally open the game and have the choice to play on any of the below tables.

Switching Tables

During game play you can decide to change tables at any time. An option of 4 different game styles will be presented. Each game has 4 different table styles to choose from just to keep things interesting and fresh. You then instantly swap tables without having to close the game and selecting a new table.

Switching Online Blackjack Tables

Table 1: Multihand

  • 2 decks played with European Blackjack rules
  • 5 hands can be played against the dealer simultaneously
  • Splits allowed
  • Double downs allowed on 9, 10 or 11
  • No double downs on splits
  • Insurance pays 2-1
  • No surrender allowed
  • Dealer stands on 17
  • Blackjack pays 3-2
  • All other wins even odds

Table 2: Multihand with Side Bet Bonus

  • 2 decks played with the following rules
  • 5 hands can be played against the dealer simultaneously
  • Dealer hits soft 17
  • Double downs allowed on any cards
  • Double down on splits
  • Split to make up to a max of 4 hands
  • Aces permitted to split just once
  • Split Aces receive only 1 card
  • Any 10 value cards can be split
  • Dealer and player must stand when 11 cards have been dealt

Side Bet in this game is decided on the cards

  • Jack and Ace spades pays 30-1
  • Jack and Ace suited pays 25-1
  • Any 2 suited cards pays 5-2
  • Optional side bet
  • The bet only counts for the first 2 cards dealt
  • Side bets can only be placed alongside a standard bet

Table 3: Blackjack with High Streak Side Bet

  • 2 decks played with the following rules
  • 1 hand can be played
  • Dealer stands on all 17 hands
  • No peeking
  • Double downs only on 9, 10 and 11
  • Split only once
  • Split Aces and Tens are 21 and not Blackjack
  • Unlike 10 cards cannot be split
  • If 11 cards are dealt to a hand, player/dealer must stand

Side bet in Blackjack High Streak depends on how many hands are won consecutively

  • A second consecutive win will trigger the high streak
  • 2 consecutive wins pays even odds
  • 3 consecutive wins pays 2-1
  • 4 consecutive wins pays 5-1
  • 5 consecutive wins pays 10-1
  • Optional side bet
  • A standard bet must be placed to activate the side bet

Table 4: Blackjack Hi/Lo Side Bet

  • 2 decks played with the following rules
  • 1 hand can be played
  • Dealer stands on all 17s
  • No peeking
  • Double downs only on 9, 10 and 11
  • Splits can make a max of 2 hands
  • Ace 10 hands from splits count as 21
  • Unlike 10s cannot be split
  • 11 cards to hand forces player/dealer to stand

Side bet is decided on the hi/lo value of the first 2 cards dealt

  • Bet 1-12 as the total of the first 2 cards = even pay
  • Bet 14-21 as the total of the first 2 cards = even pay
  • Bet total 13 as the total of the first 2 cards = 10 to 1
  • Optional side bet
  • Main bet must be placed to participate in the side bet
  • Ace always counts as 1

With so many variants does basic strategy become confusing?

All basic strategy does is tell you as the player what your optimal move is mathematically in a certain situation. However, where it does become a little confusing is when you have to memorise a new basic strategy chart because you are swapping between games.

If you want to play Blackjack, the trick is to learn the basic strategy that goes with the game that you play most often. Pretty obvious stuff! Once you have all the moves down and memorised, you can then start switching between variants learning where the basic strategy changes are quite quickly.

Most of the time, only a few simple changes are made to the way the player should act. This can definitely begin to get confusing when you know so many basic strategy tables and switch between games a lot. This is something card counters have had to do because they tend to play in different casinos not drawing too much attention themselves by winning consistently at any 1 casino.

European Blackjack has UK and global versions

In the past when you play European Blackjack in the UK, splits on 4s, 5s or 10s were not allowed on European Blackjack tables. Saying that, this rule has now changed and UK casino cannot enforce this rule any longer. Nonetheless, when it was in action, it changed the way players would play their basic strategy, and thus this became confusing for some players.

Dealer stands on soft 17 or dealer hits on soft 17

Here is an example of how basic strategy still changes using today’s current Blackjack rules. On some tables a dealer will stand on soft 17

Soft 17 combinations:

  • A-6
  • 8-9
  • 10-7, J-7, Q-7, K-7

Here are just a few examples of the different Blackjack variants that are out there:

  • 2 Face Blackjack
  • 21 Burn Blackjack
  • 3 Card Blackjack
  • Blackjack Challenge
  • Blackjack Plus
  • Burn 20 Blackjack
  • Diamond Blackjack
  • Doublet Blackjack
  • Exchange Blackjack
  • Free Bet Blackjack
  • Lucky Blackjack
  • Power Blackjack
  • Ties Win Blackjack
  • War Blackjack

Regional Blackjack Games

Of course as with poker and roulette as well as many other casino games, the region can have an effect on the game.

  • Atlantic City Blackjack
  • Australian Blackjack
  • California Blackjack
  • European Blackjack (UK)
  • European Blackjack (Except UK)
  • Panama Blackjack
  • Spanish Blackjack
  • Vegas Blackjack

Attack Blackjack Games

These are variants are usually a lot of fun. Basically a player can increase his/her wager after she has seen the dealer’s up card. This makes for a lot of fun when you know your basic strategy well.

  • Double Attack Blackjack
  • Triple Attack Blackjack

It is worth noting that Blackjack is only paid at even odds on these games.

A list of 21 Blackjack Games

Some people like to separate games that are strictly called Blackjack and the games that use the term 21 on the table, and so we have also separated all 21 games into their own list.

  • Canal 21
  • Caribbean 21
  • Extreme 21
  • No Bust 21
  • Pick One 21
  • Player’s Choice 21
  • Player’s Edge 21
  • Spanish 21
  • Super Fun 21
  • Triple Up 21
  • Ultimate 21

Other games based on Pontoon, Blackjack and 21

Due to the 21 formation of Blackjack rules, there are many games that follow virtually the same system as Blackjack, but with their own little quirks, so we have listed them here.

  • Instant 18
  • One Up
  • Pontoon: Australian
  • Pontoon: Real Time Gaming
  • Rummy
  • Siete y Media
  • Space Jack
  • Three Way Action
  • Triple Shot

Australian Pontoon

Aka Spanish 21, this is in fact a version of Blackjack in which the house edge is lower than anywhere else in the world. The house only has a 1 to 3 advantage over the player. This has made the games extremely popular in areas such as Sydney where many Blackjack players that just happen to be passing by down under can’t help but to pay a visit to one of these vastly popular tables.

A good way to keep the card counters at bay

There is one hitch to this game. Card counters have to give it up for the dealer because less 10s destroys their strategy, especially when 4 to 8 decks are involved. Take out a minimum of 16 cards with the value of 10 in a 4 deck game and a maximum of 32 cards worth 10 points in the 8 deck version.

Making up for the lack of 10s

Card counters will stay way well clear; which the casinos are not too bothered about in the slightest. Even in a normal game without card counting this lack of 10s puts the house in the driving seat. Nonetheless, it isn’t all bad news as Australian Pontoon comes with a host of bonuses. Probably the biggest advantage is that the player gets to see the dealers cards and

Australian Pontoon Rules

  • 4 to 8 decks in action
  • 48 cards per deck (No ten denomination cards)
  • Dealer hits soft 17
  • Doubles are permitted after splits
  • Dealer will not take a hole card
  • Players can double on a 9, 10 or 11

(Doubling on a soft Ace hand would mean the Ace must count as 1)

  • Late surrenders are permitted
  • Player losses if dealer gets Blackjack
  • Double Down Rescue – player can surrender after doubling
  • Player 21s or Blackjacks immediately wins
  • 5 card 21s pay out 3to 2 Blackjack odds
  • 6 card 21s pay 2 to 1
  • 7+ card 21s pay 3 to 1
  • 6-7-8 any suit pays 3 to 2, suited pays 2 to 1 and spades pays
  • 7-7-7 any suit pays 3 to 2, suited pays 2 to 1 and spades pays 3 to 1
  • 7-7-7 suited with a 7 up card from the dealer pays out $1,000 if the bet was between $5 and $24 and $5,000 is paid of the bet is over $25 – plus all players on the table will get a $50 bonus on top; however, it does not count on double downs or splits
  • Player 21 wins even when the dealer shows Blackjack

This is actually the short version. There are plenty of other rules and bonuses that go with Australian Pontoon, and some slight variations in the rules when you play the Spanish 21 version of this game.

Finally, thank you for reading our website, and please contact us with any questions you may have and we will be publishing the best questions in our blackjack FAQ section.