Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games around and is enjoyed online and in real-world casinos by millions of players every day. However, “blackjack” really is only a broad description of a game and in just about any Vegas casino or any good casino online site you will find, at the very least, a wide variation in exact rules but also a range of different games, all falling under the blackjack umbrella. Here we take a look at some of the most widely seen variants, differences and rules and explain what they mean for you – the player – in terms of the casino’s house edge and your likelihood of making a profit.
In truth there is no widely accepted exact version of blackjack rules that you could be confident of saying “that is BLACKJACK”. There are so many slight variations possible with some similarities common in different parts of the world, but, more often, the precise rules changing according to what casino – online or otherwise – you are in.
Common variations include:
- Number of decks – this usually varies from four to eight, although you may find single-deck blackjack (if you’re lucky). The fewer decks, the better, as more decks increases the house edge.
- Double down – some casinos allow doubles on any total, others only on 9-11 and some only on 10 or 11. Doubling any first two cards gives the best return to the player.
- Blackjack – some less scrupulous casinos short-pay blackjack. Never play for less than the standard 3 to 2 return.
- Soft 17 – if the dealer hits on 17 rather than stands, stay away: it increases the house edge by a hefty amount.
- Double after split – look for games that allow the player to double after a split as this lowers the house edge.
Aside from the rule differences listed above (which, by the way, are far from exhaustive) you will also find different versions of blackjack itself (often still subject to the above rule variations).
These are more modern versions of the game, designed to offer variety and excitement but, sadly, the player always pays for this with a higher house edge. Such versions include progressive blackjack (with a huge jackpot prize) and Blackjack Switch (allowing the player to change cards but with a reduced payout of evens for blackjack and a push if the dealer hits 22), although there are many others around too.
Remember though, whatever appeal these newer games may offer, they don’t offer as low a house edge as the more classic versions, so serious players should stay away.