Variants Of Blackjack

Variants of Blackjack Cards

 

This is part of a series about Blackjack Strategy Guide:

1 How to Play Blackjack 2 Blackjack Trainer 3 Blackjack Basic Strategy 4 Blackjack Charts 5 Blackjack Odds 6 Blackjack Side Bets 7 Blackjack Myths8 Guide To Online Blackjack 9 What Are Blackjack Tournaments? 10 Blackjack Legends 11 Choosing A Blackjack Table 12 Variants Of Blackjack 13 Blackjack Rules Around The World 14 How To Win At Blackjack

 

There is much debate over the origins of blackjack, some even claiming it goes as far back as the Romans, though it is generally thought to have originated in France around 1700, an offshoot of other card games popular in the casinos at the time. 

In this article, we're going to discuss:

What is beyond doubt, is that blackjack itself has inspired various variants of the game that can be played in both land-based and online casinos. In this section we will take a look at four of the most popular versions: Spanish 21, Blackjack Switch, Super Fun 21 and Free Bet Blackjack.

Spanish 21

This variant is played with 48 cards instead of 52, as the four 10s are removed. This is not good for players, increasing the house edge to around 2%. However, to even things up, the playing rules are more relaxed. 

For example, if a player gets 21 in Spanish, they win, irrespective of the dealer’s hand. Surrender and doubling down is allowed at any point, and some hands (e.g. a 5-7 card 21) pay a bonus, always at odds of greater than evens. 

Here are some more differences in Spanish 21 odds compared to traditional blackjack. Rules can vary slightly between casinos.

  • Blackjack can be played with 1.2.4.6 or 8 decks. Spanish 21 is played with 6 or 8.
  • Blackjack pays off 3/2 or 6/5, but it is always 3/2 in Spanish 21.

In blackjack, a player pushes when they and the dealer have 21, yet in this game the player always wins if they have cards to the value of 21 in Spanish.

Because of the missing 10s, a playing strategy is more complicated than for blackjack. It is possible to get a low house edge though with a 6-pack S17 game.  Card counting can give players an edge, but risk of detection is greater.

Blackjack Switch

As the name suggests, this game allows players to switch cards between two hands. Thus players must play two hands with equal stakes. They are then given the choice of keeping or switching the second card in each hand, thus giving players an advantage. One switch could transform two bad hands into two great ones.

Naturally there are two catches in blackjack switch rules:

  • All player blackjacks pay even money
  • If the dealer’s hand adds up to 22, all players’ hands push, except a blackjack

Otherwise, the other rules follow conventional routes. Six decks are used usually, or occasionally eight. The dealer will hit soft 17 at most casinos, and players can double down on any two cards and also after splitting a pair. 

In Las Vegas rules, cards are dealt face up, and the dealer will peek at the upcard to check for blackjack if they have a 10 or Ace upcard.

It is not easy to decide much of the time whether switching cards gives you an advantage against the dealer’s upcard. It takes practice and a knowledge of strategy charts to master the switching strategy for blackjack switch.

Super Fun 21

A variant of blackjack created by card-counter Howard Grossman. Its liberal rules are popular with players. They are as follows:

  • Doubling is allowed on Super Fun 21, on any number of cards, including after pair splitting, and with Aces
  • Surrender allowed on any number of cards, and after doubling down
  • Pair splitting allowed on any cards of the same value (e.g. two different picture cards)
  • Resplits allowed, including Aces, for up to 4 hands
  • Player blackjack beats a dealer blackjack, and one in diamonds pays 2/1
  • Player hand of 20 or less with 6 cards or more is always a winner, unless player doubled down
  • Player 21 hand with 5 cards or more pays 2/1, except once more after doubling down
  • Dealer hits on a soft 17

Mostly Super Fun 21 is played with a single deck, which adds to its appeal. But as always, there is a catch:

  • Player blackjacks pays out at evens, except when it is a diamond suited blackjack

As a result of this, use of a basic strategy will see a house edge of about 1%. The basic strategy is similar to this game’s strategy, but a few changes are required regarding when to hit or stand.

Free Bet Blackjack

This game has a novel variation in which the dealer can pay players for double downs and splits. It is available with all variations of decks, though the most popular version of free bet blackjack uses six decks, H17, DAS, no surrender, resplits (including Aces) up to four hands, with a 3/2 blackjack payout.  

The free doubles and splits work in the following ways:

  • Free doubles - On hard totals of 9, 10 and 11, the player stake is matched with a free bet. The dealer then issues one more card, completing the hand. Doubles are not free for hands with an Ace
  • Should the player lose, they only forfeit the original stake.
  • If the hand ties, or pushes, the player gets the original stake back.
  • If the player wins, they are paid for the original stake, and for the bet.
  • Free splits: a pair is separated into two hands, and a free bet allocated to the second hand, except on 10s. 
  • Further doubling down and splits are allowed, and more free bets allocated.

The catch on free bet blackjack is a “Push 22” rule that states that a dealer hand of 22 will push/tie all unbusted player hands, except blackjack (paid at 3/2).

 

Bottom Line

Blackjack variants offer a fun alternative to the main game for casino players. They are available to play in many land-based and online casinos. All the games use the standard game and apply novel twists to a few of the rules. 

The four most popular variants offer changes that can help players, but always come with at least one caveat that restores a small house edge. Because of the rule changes, they will require the learning of new strategies, though following the basic strategy is still necessary most of the time.

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