Blackjack Split Strategy

Knowing when to split cards and actually doing it at the game table, can be two different things for many blackjack players.

It’s well known good strategy that you always split Aces and Eights.  Even the most casual player can understand that and be quite comfortable with remembering and doing that when faced with that choice. 

Splitting the F’s

Another blackjack lore (there are many) is that you “never split anything that starts with an F.”  In this instance, F stands for 4’s, 5’s and faces.

As your playing strategy and knowledge advances beyond basic strategy, you come to realize that adage is not always right.  The only part that is always right is that 5’s should never be split.  Any “hard” ten combination should be played the same way.  So, if you have 2/8, 3/7, 4/6, or 5/5, play them the same.

You would think it would be bad to split faces, and that is so for a basic strategy player.  However, in some cases, when you’re counting cards, it can be advantageous to split faces.  Staying with never splitting faces, is the best strategy for most players though.

The difficult question with 4/4 is whether to double down, hit or split the pair. For the most part, splitting 4’s is a no-no, but against dealer’s 5up or 6up, you want to split.  The error many players make with a 4/4 hand, is that they will double down on this if the dealer is showing less than 6.  Again, if you think of 4/4 as a “hard” eight, like 5/3, or 6/2, you know not to double down.

Re-Splitting

It becomes a difficult choice for the amateur player when they make the correct decision to split a pair and end up with another pair to split.  What you must keep in mind is that the situation hasn’t changed, so if it was correct to split the pair the first time, it’s correct to split again.  As long as the table rules allow, you want to continue to split as long as you’re pairing up.  If it’s the correct play the first time, it will be the correct play the 2nd, 3rd or however many split chances you get in the one hand. Yes, it can become expensive, but it you win the bets, it can be a very profitable hand, especially if the dealer busts!  As long as you have the chips to bet, keep splitting if it’s the right play!

Doubling Down

It’s common for amateur players to “forget” to double down after splitting cards.  If you split and face a double down situation, you have to remember to make that double down.  The amateur probably worries about having many bets in play on a single hand, but you have to make the double down when it is there for the taking.  When you have the double down play, it’s clearly your advantage at that time, don’t save your extra bet for the next hand that might not be a winner for you.  Always jump at those times when you know you actually have the advantage, don’t be afraid.

Multi-Card Hit

While it’s not considered splitting cards, the decision to hit a multi-card 16 or multi-card soft 18 is also a difficult choice to make for the average blackjack player.

With a multi-card hard 16, you still must hit if the dealer has a 7 or better.  The number of cards you need to get to 17 or better should not be your concern.

With a multi-card soft 18, you must remember that it’s a “soft” 18, so the correct play is to hit if the dealer has 9 or better.  It’s not the number of cards, it’s the point value of the cards that count!

In Summary

Understanding splitting and multi-card strategy is what will take your game to that next level.  By not doing the above outlined strategies, and not trusting what basic strategy tells you to do, you will give back 1/3% of the advantage to the casino.  You can’t be afraid to re-split a pair,  double after a split or hit multi-card 16’s or soft 18’s.  Even if you do everything else right, you’re giving away advantage over the long run.  Trust the process!

Understanding Frequently Misplayed Hands

 

While most regular players know basic strategy, it’s been shown that several common hands are often misplayed under the stress of an actual game.  To make sure your game is at that higher level, you’ve got to avoid the pitfall of making the wrong play because of “a gut feeling.”

The most common misplayed hands are:

  • 12 vs. 3 up
  • 16 vs. 7 up
  • 11 vs. 10 up
  • A/3 vs. 3 up
  • A/7 vs. 3 up
  • A/7 vs. 9up
  • 9,9 vs. 9 up
  • 8,8 vs. 10 up
  • Blackjack vs. A up

As you look at this list, it should be hard to imagine that 8,8 is misplayed because every regular player knows Aces and 8’s should always be split.  However, perhaps because a player might have a big bet up, or have already lost the last few hands, they don’t want to lose “2” more bets, so they won’t split. 

Or with the Blackjack bet, they feel they would rather get “some” money, (take even money) as opposed to “pushing” (receiving no money) with a dealer’s blackjack.

You need to have complete faith in the basic strategy and that it will work out in the long run.  You must remember that basic strategy is based on mathematical logic.  Make sure you take the correct path based on basic strategy. The numbers do speak for themselves. 

 

Blackjack vs. A up – Correct play is NOT to take even money

Taking even money is identical to taking an insurance bet.  If you opt for even money you’re asking the dealer to payout your blackjack at 1:1, vs 3:2.  This way, if the dealer does have a blackjack, you will get paid some money instead of “pushing” with the dealer and winning no money that hand.

Unfortunately I’ve seen it time and again, a player wants any kind of money if they’ve lost the last few hands, and wants to take the sure win.

With the insurance bet usually being ½ the original bet and paying 2:1, you would at least make “even” money should the dealer have a 21.  If you don’t take the insurance bet and the dealer has 21, you “push” and don’t win anything with your 21.  If you take the insurance and the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, you lose that insurance bet (half the original bet,)    but are still paid 3:2 on the blackjack.  However, you’re only winning even money because that extra half bet you win with the blackjack, was used for your losing insurance bet. 

That is why players will take the insurance, in order to seem like they at least win something.  It’s hard to watch your blackjack push when you think you should automatically be winning the hand!  You have to have the mindset that a push is at better than a loss, because you don’t lose any money.  Don’t be afraid to match a dealer’s 21 and push!

 

You must realize that, on average, the dealer will have blackjack with you only four out of thirteen times.  So, more often than not, you will win your 3:2 bet, as opposed to taking even money or insuring.  The other four times you will tie, not lose any money at all.  Insurance is a sucker bet for the most part, which is why casino’s offer it! 

A/7 vs. 9up – Correct play is to hit

Here is one time that assuming the dealer’s down card is a ten should help you make the correct play.  If you think the dealer has 19, you know an 18 won’t win, so go ahead and take the hit.  There is no way you can bust with one more card.  It’s been figured out that you will win nine out of twenty times if you hit to a hard 17, soft 19, or better.  If you stand with the soft 18, you’ll win eight out of twenty times.  So, do you give yourself eight chances or nine chances to win, the choice is yours!

 

 

 

 A/7 vs. 3up – Correct play is to double

Many players feel that the soft 18 is strong here because the dealer stands a great chance of busting.  It’s been calculated that standing with this hand wins 58% of the time, however, doubling down on this hand wins 55% of the time.  So for only a 3% drop in your chance of winning, making double on a single hand is worth the risk. 

 

 

 

A/3 vs. 3up – Correct play is to hit

What makes the difference here to just a regular hit is that basically Ace/”small” vs. dealer’s “small” is considered a bad double.  If you hit this hand, the advantage is still slightly on your side, however, if you double, the odds drop to 50/50, making it a bad choice.  There are plenty of soft hands that are good for doubling, but this isn’t one!

 

 

11 vs. 10up – Correct play is to double

This hand is often misplayed by merely hitting, because players fear the assumed 10-count hole card.  Once again, through proven stats, you’ll hit a 20 or 21 more often than the dealer will have 20.  Remember, it’s  more likely than not, that the dealer’s hole card is less than 10. It’s been figured out that you win six out of eleven times if you double down on this hand.

 

16 vs. 7up – Correct play is to hit

Here again, if you assume that the dealer’s hole card is a 10, you have to hit for any chance at winning. Players will stand with 16 because of the fear of busting.  They fear the bust and all of a sudden want to hope that the dealer has anything but a 10-count.  Of course that’s totally backwards logic.

With a 7up, the dealer will bust only 3% more often than with a 10up. (26% vs. 23%)  The player’s chance to bust remains the same with either dealer up card.  If you think about the fact that you have many more cards that won’t bust you, as opposed to the number of cards that will bust you, it should make you more comfortable to take the hit.

12 vs. 3up – Correct play is to hit

This hand is probably the most misplayed hand in blackjack.  Once again, beginner player’s assume the 10 hole card and feel, “better to let the dealer bust than me!”  But if you think about the fact that there are only 4 cards that will bust you, and 5 cards that give you at least 17, making the correct choice of hitting should be easier.

The dealer’s 3 against your 12, is not as weak as you might initially think.  If the dealer has a 10-count in the hole, only a 9 or 10 will bust him.   With a 4, 5 or 6, the dealer’s chance of busting is increased significantly, so standing with a 12 is correct.

The dealer will make a hand five out of eight times, with a 3up.  Your chance of hitting to a 17 or better against a 3, is a little bit better than standing.  

Final Thoughts

The professional blackjack player won’t misplay the above hands.  They are often misplayed by the regular player, who knows the right move, but misplays under a pressure situation.  It’s hard to have the discipline to play the correct strategy if the cards are not particularly running in your favor.  However, that is exactly the time to make sure you are playing correctly.  Don’t let the pressure of the situation have you making a bonehead play. Trust that the basic strategy, based on mathematical analysis, will give you the right pieces to complete that profit puzzle!

Blackjack Attack, 3rd Edition Review

This is the 3rd and last edition for author Don Schlesinger, of his Blackjack Attack books. It is his largest and probably best reference book, with well over 500 pages and more than 400 tables and charts.

The book includes a compilation of 13 years of articles that were published through Arnold Snyder’s Blackjack Forum.  The Blackjack Forum has been and still is a great resource for any level blackjack player. It also includes brand-new material that has never been published.

Being the third edition, it is targeted at the more advanced blackjack player.  If you’re a beginner or less experienced player, you might feel much of it is over your head.  Though it reviews the basics, it is for the player who understands basic concepts and is looking to get their game to that next level of  profitable blackjack on a consistent basis.

He has gotten contributions from some of the sharpest minds in blackjack research. Working together with these other experts, they explain how they’ve broken new ground in many different ways.  Through their research, they feel they have “The World’s Greatest Blackjack Simulation”  system.  It gives you the complete set of 8-deck charts, optimal betting ramps, risk-of-ruin equations, and how to test the formulas’ accuracy, providing the reader great new research.

What you will find new in this edition are chapters 9, 12, and 13.  Respectively, the enhanced SCORE (Standardized Comparison of Risk and Expectation), article, explaining the differences of various blackjack games and card counting systems, is new for chapter 9.  Chapter 12 takes you on a walk down the Vegas Strip, and Chapter 13 shows the research on shoe-departure points, as well as risk-averse strategies.  And there are new appendices with new and revised tables, strategy expectation tables, how rules variations can effect play, and much, much more.

As a final note, this “Ultimate Weapon” third edition of Blackjack Attack provides essentially all the tools that an advanced blackjack player should have in their arsenal of knowledge, to exact a full-out mugging on the casinos.

Click here to perfect your game!

What is the House Edge

The house edge can be described as the built in advantage the casino has in games, in order for the casino to make money. It is the casino’s average profit on a player’s bet. It is well known that blackjack has the lowest house edge in all casino games, which explains the popularity of the game.

If you’ve ever wondered why blackjack has the best odds for the player, it’s because the casino has just one advantage in blackjack, which is the fact that the player makes the first move in the game.

Think about it, if the player decides to take a hit and busts, the house wins right away, without making a move. Even if the dealer busts later in the deal, that player that already busted, still loses.

Ok, say you try the strategy of never busting yourself. With that, the dealer will make 17 or better more often than you, so you still lose in the long run. When the first player to bust automatically loses, the player who has to act first, is at a distinct disadvantage. That distinct disadvantage has been calculated to be 8% for the player.

Yes, that is a ridiculous advantage for the house, so that’s why the developers of the game decided on rules that would bring down that percentage, making it a more enticing game to play.

PLAYER-FAVORED RULES

  • Blackjack paying 3-to-2 vs. even money
  • Hit/Stand at will vs. dealer hitting on 16 and standing on 17
  • May double down vs. dealer no doubling
  • May split pairs vs. dealer no splitting

As you look at the above rules, it does show that basically all the rules favor the player, except for the fact that the player must act first. The dealer also has to follow strict rules that must be played exactly the same, every time, so the dealer plays like a robot.

Maybe that’s why some dealers seem a bit grouchy! You sometimes hear players saying certain dealers are tougher than others, when actually every dealer plays by the exact same rules! In reality, no dealer is tougher than another. Therefore, the house edge over a player is ultimately decided by how well the player uses the favorable rules of the game!

PLAYER OPTIONS TO CUT HOUSE EDGE

  • 3-to-2 blackjack payout cuts house edge by 2.25%
  • Correct hitting/standing strategy cuts house edge by 3.25%
  • Correct doubling down strategy cuts house edge by 1.5%
  • Correct pair splitting cuts house edge by .5%

That totals a 7.5% player advantage if perfect strategy is used by the player, leaving the .5% house edge for casinos.

The casino doesn’t have to beat every player every time. Even the tiniest margin, as in blackjack, is enough to make it a viable game for the casino to offer players. All the casino has to do is make it a game that you will play and the casino will win in the long run.  That’s how and why the house edge works.

It can be said that there is some skill involved with blackjack. If you learn basic blackjack strategy, you can practically erase the house edge and actually enjoy profitable gambling when playing blackjack! However, as I have stated before, it is a game of chance and winning cannot be guaranteed, considering the house edge, but the chance at winning with blackjack is much better than any other casino game.

Why Play Blackjack

Getting down to brass tacks, it’s a very simple game to understand and actually play.  If you find yourself in a casino and want to “try” a table game, blackjack rules are quite simply to figure out.  As a player, your card total must beat the dealer’s card total, without going over 21.  What can be more simple than that?



Let’s keep in mind that casino games are there as a revenue source for the casino!  All casino games were developed to be mathematically difficult to beat over the long run.  The casino wants to stay in business, so if you, as a player, had a chance at beating the casino on a regular basis, that casino would not be in business for very long.

So, the best way for a casino to stay in business is to have games of chance that use the element of “replacement,” such as roulette or craps.

Replacement, in this instance, refers to the concept of “independent results” occurring after each round of play.

With roulette, if the number 17 comes up, that number remains in play for the next spin of the wheel, it is not taken out.  In craps, if 9 is rolled with the dice, all faces that add up to 9 remain in play for the next roll of the dice.  Therefore, 17 is just as likely to come up again in roulette and 9 is just as likely to come up again in craps, on the very next turn of play in the two games.

Since there is no “process of elimination,” no number is ever “due to come up.”  The odds will never change for the next roll of the dice or spin of the wheel.

With blackjack, it would be like having the cards shuffled after every deal. That doesn’t happen.

Unmatched Advantage

Blackjack is one of the few casino games where the player can make a decision after the bet has been made.  Whatever the decision is, will either increase or decrease the chance of the player winning the bet.  For example, if you know that “hitting” in a certain situation, will win 53% of the time, as opposed to “standing,” winning 46%  of the time, you definitely want to hit, to give yourself a better shot at winning.  Therefore, depending on how well you know the correct move, blackjack can be more profitable in the long run than other casino games.

Because of the thousands of computer-generated hands played, a knowledgeable blackjack player will only give up a 1/2% edge to the house in a typical multi-deck game, by just playing according to a basic strategy chart. When most casino table games average about a 3% edge for the house, you have to agree 1/2% is a bargain!

The second advantage goes back to the replacement theory.  Once a card is played in blackjack, it goes to a discard pile and not used again until a shuffle occurs.  It is a game of “dependent results.”  As more cards are dealt, certain hands become easier to make and other hands more difficult to make. The player’s odds continue to shift with every card dealt.

It’s been determined that a player’s chance of being dealt a blackjack can be anywhere from 1 in 17, to 1 in 25, depending on how the cards have played.  That type of thing just doesn’t happen in other casino games!

Blackjack, hands down, gives you the best odds! It is the most freely beatable over the long run, of all casino games.

HIGH STREAK BLACKJACK

High Streak blackjack is a variation of standard blackjack that rewards hot streaks with big payoffs and blackjack euphoria.  With standard blackjack, the big profits happen when you’re able to win several hands in a row.  That’s exactly what High Streak Blackjack is about!

As you would imagine, card counters should absolutely love High Streak Blackjack because of this component.  Yes, knowing when the deck is favorable for the player, will help the smart card counter to take advantage of the bonus side bet offered in High Streak blackjack and accumulate a sizable profit. But there are of course rules in place that will fight that player advantage as well.

At this time, High Streak is primarily found in online casinos. You don’t see it in land-based casinos yet, but with the advancing popularity, it may be only a matter of time.

THE BASICS OF HIGH STREAK BLACKJACK

High Streak blackjack is played exactly like regular blackjack.  The main difference is the High Streak bonus side bet.  When a player makes this side bet, they are eligible for the bonus payout if they get two winning hands in a row.  As soon as the player has a losing hand, the side bet is forfeited and the bet must be played again in order to be eligible for the bonus payout.

The game is usually played with two decks of cards.  To make it difficult for card counters, the cards are shuffled after each hand.

BONUS PAYOUTS

After two consecutive winning hands:

  • Two consecutive winning hands are paid at 1-1
  • Three consecutive winning hands are paid at 2-1
  • Four consecutive winning hands are paid at 5-1
  • Five consecutive winning hands are paid at 10-1

Having a streak of multiple winning hands at the blackjack table may seem to be simple enough thing, especially when you understand basic blackjack strategy and know how to count cards. Not so.  Because of the card shuffling after every hand of play, the game becomes much more randomized.  Even so, knowing and applying card counting and basic blackjack strategy can give you a very slight edge.

A blackjack is paid at 3-2 odds and insurance pays 2-1.  Surrender is not allowed.

The Online High Streak Blackjack Table

The online High Streak blackjack table looks, for the most part, like a standard blackjack table. The betting area of the table, however, is a bit more involved:

  • There is a rectangle marked “Click to place bets.” This is where you place your regular bet on the game.
  • There is a circle marked “High Streak Bet.” This is where you place your optional High Streak side bet.
  • There are additional circles labeled “2nd Streak,” “3rd Streak,” “4th Streak,” and “5th Streak.” You don’t place bets in these circles. Instead, your High Streak bet will move, automatically, into these circles as your blackjack winning streak continues.

Each of your High Streak bets moves to the next higher circle, where it becomes eligible for a higher payout.

PLAYER OPTIONS IN HIGH STREAK BLACKJACK

After the cards have been dealt, you will be allowed to act on your hand, unless the dealer has blackjack.  If the dealer has blackjack, the game is over and you lose your main game bet and the High Streak side bet if you placed one.  If the dealer does not have blackjack, the following options are available:

  • You may stand on your total
  • You may hit your total
  • You may double down a total of 9, 10 or 11
  • You MAY NOT split unlike 10-value cards
  • You may split a pair ONE time
  • You MAY NOT double down after a split
  • You may take insurance if the dealer shows an ace.

All player decisions in High Streak Blackjack should be made based on basic blackjack strategy

DEALER OPTIONS IN HIGH STREAK BLACKJACK

The dealer must hit any total of 16 or less.  The dealer must stand on any total of 17 or more.

If the dealer goes over 21 at any point in the game, the player wins their bet and also adds one win to their overall streak.

STRATEGY IN HIGH STREAK BLACKJACK

Of course, knowing when to make the bonus side bet is most important to the player.  With card counting pretty much negated by the repeated shuffling of cards, a player needs to somehow anticipate a winning streak.

Many players state that they only play the High Streak bonus side bet after losing 3 hands in a row.  They figure that the law of averages will put them on a winning streak after that.  The problem with that rationale is that over the course of time, a player can still go through many losing hands before the number of winning hands evens out that number.

Many regular player feel if you’re going to play High Streak blackjack, the best strategy is to make the minimum bonus bet each time you have the opportunity to do so and look to set up that 5-hand streak.

Playing High Streak Blackjack

Let’s take a look at how a good 5-game winning run in High Streak blackjack can payoff:

Hand 1: The player starts with a $10 regular blackjack bet, and an additional $5 bet in the High Streak bonus bet circle. He wins the hand. His $5 bonus chip moves from the High Streak Bet circle to the 2nd Streak circle, and his $10 regular bet pays out 1-to-1 as in a regular blackjack game. The player receives $10.

Hand 2: The player again bets $10 as his regular blackjack bet and $5 as his High Streak bet. He wins again. His 2nd Streak bet pays out 1-to-1 and moves to the 3rd Streak circle, his High Streak bet moves to the 2nd Streak circle, and his regular bet pays out 1-to-1.  The player receives $5 + $10=$15.

Hand 3: The player repeats his blackjack and High Streak bets, and wins his third consecutive hand. His 3rd Streak bet pays out 2-to1 and moves to the 4th Streak circle, his 2nd Streak bet pays out 1-to-1 and moves to the 3rd Streak circle, his High Streak bet moves to the 2nd Streak circle, and his regular bet pays out 1-to-1.  The player receives $10 + $5 + $10=$25.

Hand 4: The player repeats his blackjack and High Streak bets, and wins his fourth consecutive hand. His 4th Streak bet pays out 5-to-1 and moves to the 5th Streak circle, his 3rd Streak bet pays out 2-to-1 and moves to the 4th Streak circle, his 2nd Streak bet pays out 1-to-1 and moves to the 3rd Streak circle, his High Streak bet moves to the 2nd Streak circle, and his regular bet pays out 1-to-1.  The player receives $25 + $10 + $5 + $10=$50

Hand 5: The player repeats his blackjack and High Streak bets, and wins his fifth consecutive hand. His 5th Streak bet pays out 10-to-1 ($50), and his $5 chip in the 5th Streak circle is returned to him as well. His 4th Streak bet pays out 5-to-1 ($25) and moves to the 5th Streak circle, his 3rd Streak bet pays out 2-to1 ($10) and moves to the 4th Streak circle, his 2nd Streak bet pays out 1-to-1 ($5) and moves to the 3rd Streak circle, his High Streak bet moves to the 2nd Streak circle, and his regular bet pays out 1-to-1 ($10). The player receives $50 + $5(his original bonus bet chip is returned to him) + $25 + $10 + $5 + $10=$105.

So with a streak of 5 winning hands, the lucky player receives $10 + $15 +$25 + $50 + $105 = $205, while betting only a total of $15 per hand, or $75.

Feeling Lucky?

High Streak blackjack is the online blackjack game to play when you’re feeling extremely lucky. Regular players know they have days when the cards just seem to fall right.  Those are the days to jump online and play High Streak blackjack, to take advantage of your winning streaks with the bonus payoffs.

Bonus Blackjack

 

What is Bonus Blackjack?

With such a simple name, you can figure that there are probably several different versions.  I will first go over the online version by Microgaming.  It has been made popular because of the optional side bets that can pay as much as 50 to 1.  It is defined as a hole card game (where the dealer looks at his face down card if the up card is an Ace or a 10 value card) that uses 2 standard decks of cards.

Rules of Play

  • The dealer hits on soft 17
  • Player may split cards up to 3 times, creating 4 hands of play
  • Player can split non-matching 10 value cards
  • Player can split Aces only once and only 1 additional card is dealt
  • Player can double down on any 2 cards, even after a split
  • Any split Ace and a 10 value card will only create 21 points, it is not considered a Blackjack

Double down wagers must equal 50% of original bet.

There is NO SURRENDER in this Bonus Blackjack.

You are allowed to play 1 or up to 5 hands at a table.

Basic Payouts

  • Winning hands pay 1:1
  • Blackjack pays 3:2
  • Insurance pays 2:1

BONUS PAYOUTS

  • Any 2 suited cards (First 2 cards dealt) pays 5:2
  • A suited Ace and Jack pays 25:1, with the Ace and Jack of Spades paying 50:1

Bonus Blackjack – Land Casinos

Land casinos may play with up to 8 standard decks of card.  There are different bonus bets and different payouts for the bonus bets.  There are also at least 4 different versions you could see at different casinos.

Additional Bonus Side Bets and Payouts –

               Version 1

  • The player and/or dealer gets Blackjack pays 15:1, if both the dealer and player get blackjack, composed of Ace and Jack  of spades, a progressive pot is won

               Version 2

  • Player hand of 777 pays 500:1
  • Player hand of 678 pays 50:1
  • Suited Blackjack pay 20:1

             

               Version 3 (played with 1 standard deck and based on 1st two cards dealt)

  • Player and dealer blackjack pays 25:1
  • Player suited blackjack pays 10:1
  • Player unsuited blackjack pays 3:1
  • Pair pays 2:1
  • Suited cards 1:1

               Version 4

  • Player and dealer blackjack pays 25:1
  • Player suited blackjack pays 15:1
  • Suited pairs pays 10:1
  • Unsuited blackjack pays 5:1
  • Unsuited pair pays 3:1

Sum It Up

Bonus Blackjack is equally suited for any level serious player, as well as for those who just want to play for fun.  The 678 and 777 bets are fun to take a chance at because you would probably be “going for it” despite correct strategy play.  Why not try to hit a BONUS!

Chinese Blackjack

This is one of the most peculiar or fascinating blackjack variants available.  It is extremely popular in the Southeast Asia casinos.  Chinese Blackjack is also known as Ban-Nag, Ban-Luk or 21-point. Outside of Southeast Asia, you will primarily find it online, not in land-based casinos.

Principles of Chinese Blackjack

While there is no limit to the number of players allowed, it is usually played at a table with 5-6 players.  All players are playing against a dealer.

The goal is to get as close to 21 point as possible without going over, while beating the dealer’s hand total.

It is played with only 2 decks of cards.  Cards are valued exactly the same as in standard blackjack, except for aces.  Face cards are valued at 10 and numbered cards are valued at their numeric value.

The value of an ace depends on the number of cards the player has.  If a player has two cards, the ace can count as 10 or 11.  If a player has three cards, the ace can count as 1 or 10,  If a player has four or more cards, the ace will only count as 1.

Each player is dealt two cards, face down, with the dealer being the last to receive cards.

Player Options

Here’s where the fun differences begin.  While the players have the option of hitting or standing pat, there are certain hands in Chinese Blackjack that are immediate winners.

Immediate Winning Hands:

  • A Ban-Ban – Having two aces.  It is paid off at 3-1 immediately, unless the dealer also has a Ban-Ban, or an “escape hand” (discussed later). In the case of a tie like that, the player does not collect.
  • A Ban-Nag – Exactly the same as a standard blackjack, an Ace and a 10-value card.  It is paid off at 2-1, unless the dealer has a Ban-Nag or Ban-Ban.
  • An Escape Hand – A starting hand totaling 15.  If a player is dealt a “15,” he may opt to continuing playing the hand or he may resign the hand and get his bet back.  This also applies to the dealer.  If the dealer is dealt a 15, he can opt to continue playing or resign the hand.  If he opts to resign the hand, the hand is over and the cards are shuffled to start a new deal.
  • A 5-Dragon – A player hand of 5 cards that totals 21 or less.  If the total is less than 21, the pay off is 2-1.  If the total is exactly 21, the pay off is 3-1.
  • Pairs – If dealt a pair, the player is paid double his bet
  • 7-7-7 – If a player is dealt two sevens and gets another one after hitting, the player is paid 21 times his original bet.

If a player busts with 5 cards, the player has to pay double his wager.

 

Dealer Plays

The more intriguing differences start here.  The dealer is the last to act on his hand, once all players have made their decisions of play.  If the dealer holds a powerful hand, the player can easily lose big.

Except for a total of 15, the dealer must hit to improve his hand, if he has 16 or less.  With 16-20, he may “reveal” a certain number of  player hands before deciding whether to hit or stand.  Basically the dealer can check if his hand already beats a player’s hand, before deciding to take one more hit.  If the dealer gets 21 without busting, the hand is done and all players lose their original bets.  If the dealer busts, all players are paid even money.

If the dealer is lucky enough to get a 5-Dragon without totaling 21, all player lose must PAY the dealer TWICE their original bet.  If the dealer hits a 5-Dragon that totals 21, all players lose and must PAY the dealer TRIPLE their original bet!  Fortunately that doesn’t happen too often, or a player could go through their bankroll very quickly!

House Edge

It should be recognizable that the house holds a clear edge over the player with this game.  Because of the possibility of having to pay the dealer triple your bet, this is truly a gambler’s game!  Sure, there is skill involved in playing Chinese Blackjack because you can use some basic strategy, but the house edge is still quite significant.

 

Final Thoughts

As you can imagine, with the unique and complex rules variations, Chinese Blackjack will challenge even the most experienced blackjack players, making it an increasingly popular online blackjack option.  I believe what makes it intriguing and popular for experienced players is that there are several winning scenarios that payout at 2:1 or better.  With standard blackjack, except for hitting a blackjack, your wins are paid out at even money. It’s another great choice if you’re bored with the standard blackjack game.

 

Play Super Fun 21

This is a Blackjack variant usually found in Las Vegas casinos, but more and more online. It is played basically the same as standard blackjack, with a few additional rules to make it more exciting for game players. 

Rules Variations:

  • Game is usually played with 1 standard deck of cards, but may be played with up to 8 decks
  • Dealer hits on soft 17s
  • Player blackjacks always win
  • Double allowed after splitting
  • Can Re-Split Aces
  • Can Split and Re-Split up to four hands
  • Can Hit and Double down with split Aces
  • Player can Double on as many cards as they like
  • Late surrender available
  • Double Down Rescue is available – Where a player surrenders half of their wager after Doubling Down
  • If a player has a hand totaling 20 or less with six or more cards, they automatically win, excluding after Doubling, even if the dealer has 21
  • If a player has a hand of 21 with five or more cards, they automatically win, at a payout of 2:1, excluding after Doubling
  • Blackjack pays out at 1:1, instead of the usual 3:2
  • Special side bet of Blackjack with both cards Diamonds, pays 2:1, can be up to 300:1 in some online games

 

Super Fun 21 Strategy

As you should imagine, basic strategy for Super Fun 21 is slightly different than for standard blackjack.  It can be found online and I suggest you definitely take a look at it and use it to ensure in bringing down the house edge as much as possible.

Should you play the game in a land-based casino, here’s a list of important rules to know for a one deck game:

  • Always Double Down on a hand of nine when the dealer’s up card is a two, three, four, five, or six
  • Double Down on a hand total of 10 and 11 against any dealer up card
  • Surrender after Doubling Down (Double Down Rescue) with a hand total of 16 or less, if the dealer has an eight, nine,10, or Ace
  • Surrender after Doubling Down with 17 if the dealer has an Ace
  • Surrender shouldn’t be opted for unless the player has a hand of four cards or more

As noted above, surrender is used more strategically in this variation.  With standard blackjack, surrender is suggested very sparingly.  These tips above have been determined to be the best moves to make statistically against the dealer’s up card online. If you practice playing online, you can always have a “strategy chart” opened in another tab, to view, so you can make the perfect move.

General Online Payouts:

  • Blackjack: 1:1
  • Standard win: 1:1
  • Insurance win: 2:1
  • Diamond Blackjack: 2:1
  • Five Card or more 21: 2:1
  • Six card or more with a value of 20 or less: 1:1

Because the player has so many more chances to win, the payouts are tighter.  For example, since the player wins on all blackjacks, the payout for blackjack is only even money.

The best part about this variant is when there is a hand of low cards, the player has a high chance of making 21 with five cards, while a hand of high cards gives you the chance to score Blackjack – resulting in more chances to win.

Remember, allowing the dealer to hit on soft 17’s, increases the house edge greatly.  Essentially, the dealer gets a free card, because he can’t bust with a soft 17, he can basically only improve his hand.  This is how the house gets a slight advantage back, despite the seemingly many ways for the player to win.

 

Final Thoughts

Super Fun 21 is one of the wildest variations of blackjack available, thereby living up to it’s name.  There’s a lot of ways to win and that’s what makes it more fun for players.  Sometimes beginners aren’t even aware they’re playing a blackjack variant because they’re having fun winning somewhat easily. As always, remember it’s a game of chance wth a greater chance of losing if you play for long.  However, it’s another fun break from standard blackjack if you’re bored.

Pontoon

The game was first introduced in France. As in classic blackjack, Pontoon players are trying to obtain a score of 21 to beat the dealer.

It is played mostly online, but can also be found in land casinos on occasion.  Online or offline, you play against the dealer/banker. The Casino can use two and more card decks for the game, with the 10’s removed, like for Spanish 21. Eight decks are usually used when playing online.

The game can be played with just 2 players, but 5-8 is best.

Pontoon Blackjack is played like conventional blackjack, but the terminology and rules are slightly different.

The dealer/banker wins all tied hands, while ‘hits’ are called ‘twists’ and to Stand is called a ‘Stick’.

There are extra payouts for some hands but still very similar to classic blackjack.

 

Pontoon Blackjack Rules

Dealing in Pontoon

Before the first deal, one player is chosen at the table to be the banker (dealer). The banker does have the advantage in Pontoon, so the first banker is usually chosen by drawing for high card in the deck.  Players place their minimum and maximum bets before play.

Cards are dealt face down to each player, starting with the player who is immediately to the left of the banker. Everybody can look at their cards except the banker.

Card Values and Scoring in Pontoon

All face cards are worth ten points, while the numeric cards are their numeric value, for example the 5 of hearts is worth 5 points.  As in classic blackjack, the aces are either one or eleven.

Scoring is done by adding up the total points of your cards and not going over 21, while beating the banker’s count total.  If a player goes over 21, they bust and lose. If the player and the banker have the same amount, the banker will win and the player will lose.  There are no “ties” in Pontoon. 

Pontoon Terms

As stated earlier, some terminology is different in Pontoon, compared to classic blackjack.  For instance, “twist” is used for “hit,” and “stick” is used for “stand.”  To double the bet is called a buy, not doubling down, as in classic blackjack.

A hand consisting of an Ace and a face card (total value of 21) is called a Pontoon.

Pontoon Strategy & Differences

 

Because players have choice in Pontoon they can reduce the casino advantage to less than 0.5% by playing optimally. The complete set of optimal plays can be found online.

Not knowing any of the dealer’s cards makes the Pontoon strategy a bit more complicated than classic blackjack.

When you play online, the rules can vary. For example, in most versions of Pontoon, you can only double the stake when you buy a card. As in any blackjack game you play, be sure you know all the rules before sitting down.

Once you buy a card, the banker deals you an extra card. If your hand is still lower than 21, you can buy one more card. The same works for the fourth and the fifth card.

If you choose to buy one or two cards and twist another one after that, you cannot buy more cards even if your hand value is still under 21

If you go over 21, you bust.

In classic blackjack, you can make whatever dumb move you want, like standing on 9. But that’s not allowed in Pontoon. In Pontoon, you must twist on any hand that totals 14 points or less.

Finally, while insurance bets or surrender  are usually not allowed in Pontoon, the possibility to split pairs remains. When you have like value cards (e.g. two 9s, two face cards, two Aces), you can split them into two different hands.  It requires a new bet for the new hand, and then the gameplay continues as normal.  You play with one hand and then with the other. If the next card you get is equal in value to the first two, you can split again and play with three hands. Though highly unlikely, you could split up to four playable hands.

In some variations of Pontoon, online included, you can only split Aces.

Hand Ranking and Payouts

The best hand you can get when playing Pontoon is of course a pontoon. It’s an ace and a face card. It beats all the other hands in the game. However if the banker has a pontoon also, it’s a losing hand for the player because all ties go to the banker. There are no “ties” or “pushes” in Pontoon.  As the player, you will either win the hand or lose the hand, for sure.

Having a pontoon online pays 2 to 1. Though, it can vary depending on where you play.

The next best hand is a Five Card Trick.

If you are lucky enough to get a hand of five cards totaling 21 or less, it beats other hands of 21 made up of 3 or 4 cards. This hand also pays 2 to 1.

By default, a hand of three or four cards totaling 21 points is next best. It beats all the other hands except a Pontoon or a Five Card Trick.

If none of the above apply to the specific game, the winning hand is the one that has most points but doesn’t go over 21. And that pays 1 to 1.

Basic Pontoon Strategy

Of course there is optimal strategy for winning at Pontoon, (searchable online) however, here’s a few basic tips that will you allow you to play and learn the game and not lose your shirt!

Always stick with a total of 18 or more Being that close, you don’t want to take the risk of busting
With a 4-card hand, twist on 17 Though a double bet is risky, going for the Five Card Trick is worth it
With a 4-card hand of less than 17, buy card (double) You have a great chance at a Five Card Trick, which is the best when you already have more than 2 cards
Always split 2  Aces Obviously gives you a great shot at a Pontoon


To Sum Up

Pontoon is easy to learn and interesting to play. You’ll find it mostly on the internet and outside the U.S.

Compared to classic blackjack, it will seem quite odd, but the differences are what makes it a challenge and worth finding a casino to try it at least once.  If you’ve gotten bored with classic blackjack, try Pontoon.