21st Century Blackjack

21st Century Blackjack is probably one of the most unique variants of blackjack  It was invented, by an Irvine, California company called Casino Gaming Concepts, to “get around” the 1860 California law that made it explicitly illegal to play the game of “Twenty-One,” among other gambling games where the player bets against the house.

It is similar enough to standard blackjack for players to want to play, but also varies enough to not be considered an illegal game under the California law.  It is mostly played in California, as you might imagine.

It is also sometimes called 21st Century No-Bust Blackjack, because one variant is that there is no “busting” in this game.

The Differences

While the list of differences may seem lengthy and complicated, the basic goal of the game remains similar to blackjack, in that, as a player, you try to get closer to 21, than the dealer, without going over.

  1. The game is played with multiple decks of cards, from 2-8 decks, with 1 joker included, per deck of cards.
  2. The maximum hand is 22, also called a natural
  3. The joker is considered wild and helps a player get a hand of 22
  4. Players are allowed to bet on other hands
  5. There is no house dealer.  There is a “dealer/bank” button that moves around the table, giving players the chance to act as the dealer as the game goes on. (This may vary depending on the casino)
  6. There is no bust…a player/dealer with a hand value over 21 that is also higher than a player’s hand, results in a push
  7. A player/dealer with a hand value over 21, but lower than a player’s, over 21 hand, results in a loss for the player
  8. The player/dealer does not actually receive cards for that round, but “acts” as the bank for the round.  The player/dealer gets the money if the dealer wins, but also must pay the players if the dealer loses.
  9. The casino usually charges a fixed amount to play, usually $1 to play and $2 to act as the dealer.  This is how the casino makes money on this game.
  10. The casino may or may not provide an employee or a player with a large bankroll, (detected by the large bankroll in front of them) to cover all bets on the table.  If a player chooses to act as the dealer, but doesn’t have enough money to cover all bets, the large bankroll person will step in and cover what remains, and then splits all wins and losses with the dealer.
  11. A player can place up to 3 bets on his hand, designated by 3 betting circles on the table in front of his hand. 
  12. A player may also bet on another player’s hand by placing a wager in one of that player’s betting circles.

RULES OF PLAY

  • The maximum hand value is 22, or a “natural”
  • A “natural” beats all other hands
  • A “natural” is formed with 2 Jokers,  a Joker and an Ace, or 2 Aces
  • In some casinos, a “natural” of 2 Jokers, pays extra
  • A “natural” for both a player and the player/dealer, results in a push
  • Other than when paired with an Ace or another Joker, a Joker paired with anything else results in a hand value of 21
  • There is a dealer/bank button that moves from player to player as the game progresses.  The button stays with 1 player only a specified number of hands
  • There is usually a bet limit, but players may bet that limit in each of the 3 betting circles
  • A player does not bust if his hand totals more than 21, play continues until the dealer’s last move and then rules will determine wins and losses
  • Player may double down on  and receive 1 additional card
  • Splitting is allowed
  • Surrender is allowed after first 2 cards
  • Player must hit 12 or less
  • Player must stand on hard 20 and up, and hard/soft 21, 22
  • Player may double down on 11 or 12 and draw up to two additional cards
  • A player may not double down, split or surrender if they have a Joker
  • If a player and the player/dealer tie with hands less than 21, it is a push
  • A player cannot hit if the player/dealer’s up-card is a joker
  • Player/dealer hits soft 18 or less
  • Player/dealer stands on hard 18 or more
  • When a player and player/dealer go over 22, it’s a push if the player’s hand value is lower than player/dealer’s
  • When a player and player/dealer go over 22, a lower dealer hand results in a win for the dealer.
  • Card values are the same as regular blackjack, except for the joker, which has no value except to pair with any other card to value 21 or 22.
  • Some rules may vary depending on the casino

How to Play

  • Player’s place their initial bet and one of them opts to be the player/dealer (or bank)
  • Two cards are dealt to each player, each face up, with the dealer receiving his first card face down (the hole card) and the 2nd card face up
  • If the player/dealer has an Ace or 10up, the hole card is checked to determine if he has a natural.  If he does have a natural, all players hands lose, except if a player also has a natural and that player pushes
  • If the player/dealer doesn’t have a natural, play continues with each player deciding to hit, stand, double down, split or surrender
  • The player/dealer is last to play and either hits or stands.  When his play has ended, winners and losers are decided and payouts are made

PAYOFFS

  • All payoffs are to the extent the player/dealer has the money to cover all bets
  • Order of payoff or collection is determined by the player/dealer’s hole card and is in clockwise order. The player/dealer will place an action button in front of the first hand and go clockwise from that point.  If the hole card is an Ace, the payoffs start with the player immediately to the left of the player/dealer.  If the hole card is a two, payoffs start with the second player to the left of the player/dealer, and so on.
  • Order of payoff can make a big difference if the casino doesn’t offer the “large bankroll player” or employee who would cover any bets the chosen player/dealer can’t pay.  If the player/dealer doesn’t have enough money to cover all bets, the players whose bets weren’t covered, would get no action, no matter if they would have won or lost.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned in the beginning, though the rules and differences may seem great, the game play is not that different from standard blackjack.  If you’re an avid blackjack player, it’s a game that will challenge you a little more, having enough difference to keep you from getting bored with play.  Also, if you’ve ever thought that being the “bank” or “dealer,” would be cool, this game gives you the opportunity to do that!  Different can be fun!

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Double Attack Blackjack

This variant offers many twists and is seen mostly in Atlantic City.  It is similar to Spanish 21, in that, blackjack pays even money and the player can double down after seeing the dealer’s first card, before seeing their own card.

RULES

  • 8 Spanish 48-cards decks are used (all the 10’s are removed)
  • Dealer stands on a soft 17
  • If a player takes insurance, a dealer peeks for blackjack
  • Insurance payout is 5 to 2
  • A player has a right to double down after splitting
  • A player can split aces once and receive one more card
  • All cards except aces can be re-split 4 times (this can vary depending on the casino)
  • No re-doubling for this type of blackjack
  • A player can double or surrender any time during a game

The dealer gets the first card dealt and the player can then choose to double their bet, namely, the “Double Attack.”  The bet actually can be just a slight raise, but maxed at double the original bet.  If the player later splits, that bet must match the “double attack” bet.

BUST IT – Side Bet

This bet is a bonus bet in the game.  The player has the opportunity to bet whether or not the dealer will bust with 3 total cards.  This bet does have to be made before the dealer’s up-card is dealt. The payout will depend on what the “bust out” card is for the dealer and is as follows:

  • Third card is a face card. Pays off 3 to 1.
  • Third card is a nine. Pays off 6 to 1.
  • Third card is an eight. Pays off 8 to 1.
  • Third card is a seven. Pays off 10 to 1.
  • Third card is a six. Pays off 15 to 1.

There is also a special payout if the dealer busts with 3 eights (888) and is as follows:

  • The eight is the same color. Pays off 50 to 1.
  • The eight is the same suit. Pays off 200 to 1.

Additional Bust It Side Bet

Though not typically done at many casinos, the Bust It side bet can also be made on the total number of cards the dealer busts with and those payouts are as follows:

  • Dealer busts with 4 cards. Pays off 2 to 1.
  • Dealer busts with 5 cards. Pays off 4 to 1.
  • Dealer busts with 6 cards. Pays off 12 to 1.
  • Dealer busts with 7 cards. Pays off 50 to 1.
  • Dealer busts with 8 cards. Pays off 250 to 1.

Best Strategy for Double Attack Blackjack

Using traditional blackjack strategy should allow for a decent return on your money. You can trust that typically doubling down on 9, 10 and 11, as well as splitting Aces and eights should continue to be your playing strategy.

When the dealer’s card is low, say 2-8, is the best time to double attack.  If the dealer’s up card is a 9 or better, it’s best not to double.

Taking insurance in this game is slightly more favorable, because the payout is better.

Final Thoughts

While Double Attack Blackjack could be looked at as a bit more advanced, it’s a fun version for many blackjack fans.  The additional rules and bets don’t have to be memorized, just enjoyed. If you’re want a little more excitement with your blackjack fun, try this version.

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Play Free Bet Blackjack

Another popular Blackjack variant is Free Bet Blackjack.  This version was created by Geoff Hall, who also invented Blackjack Switch, Zombie Blackjack and Zappit Blackjack.

The big difference from regular Blackjack is that the player doesn’t risk his own money when splitting or doubling down, for the most part.  I’m sure you thinking that’s great, show me where to sit!  Fortunately it won’t take long to understand the rules, especially if you’re already familiar with regular blackjack.

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Rules

Apparently the rules have been modified since the original launch in 2012, and casinos can develop their own rules, but the following are considered the standard.

  • Six decks
  • Dealer hits soft 17’s
  • Blackjacks pay 3 to 2
  • Double after split allowed
  • Double on two cards only
  • Re-split pairs up to four hands, including aces
  • No surrender

Three major changes from a standard game:

  1. FREE DOUBLES – with a 2 card total of 9, 10, or 11.  The player’s bet is matched with a “free bet” button and the player receive 1 additional card.
  2. If the dealer wins, the player loses only his original bet.
  3. If the player “pushes,” the player gets back only his original bet.
  4. If the player wins, the player get back his original bet, plus double the original bet.

  Regular doubling is allowed on all other two-card totals.

  • FREE SPLITS – With all pairs, except 10’s, the player’s cards are split into 2-one-card hands.  The player’s original bet is placed with the 1st hand and a “free bet” button is placed with the 2nd hand.  Each hand is played out one at a time, (where “free doubles” and “free splits” are still allowed).  For winning hands, the “free bet” button is replaced with chips equaling the original bet. Losing or push hands result in the dealer taking back the ‘free bet” button.
  • Dealer pushes with 22. If the player has 21 or less and the dealer busts with 22, the player’s bet is a push.

Basic Strategy

Strategy will depend  on whether you playing your real money hand or the “free bet” hand.  This is because with a ‘free bet,” a push is just as bad as a loss.  Therefore you want to be a bit more aggressive with a “free bet” hand.  Afterall, you’re not playing with your own money.

An easy thing to remember strategy-wise, take every free double and free split opportunity you can.  It’s free money!

Worth Playing?

Free Bet Blackjack was accepted by casinos because they know the idea of “free money” is appealing to gamblers.  The idea is that players will make larger original bets, hoping to get the opportunity of a free double or free split and thereby win bigger.

If you are a skilled player and a card counter, Free Bet Blackjack can result in some very profitable sessions.  The question is whether or not you can stay disciplined in play and make the bigger bets, only when it’s most opportune and not in hopes of hitting a big free bet.

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European Blackjack, Rules & Strategy

With Europe being the place where Blackjack was said to be born, the European version does vary slightly from the classic American standard and therefore more and more players look to challenge themselves with the European version.  It is mostly played online and in some rare instances, can be found in land-based casinos.  Rules can vary slightly depending on the casino you play at, so always be sure to look at their complete set of rules before sitting down at the table.

Oddly enough, you can find the European version played with anywhere from 2-8 decks of cards, so verify how many decks are being used at the casino you choose to play at.  Playing with 6 decks is most common.

Standard rules with any version:

  • – No Peek – dealer doesn’t look at hole-card, player loses total bet on dealer blackjack
  • – Dealer must draw to 16
  • – Insurance is allowed
  • – Cards are shuffled after each round

 

Rules that can vary depending on the version:

  • – Splitting allowed only once and only with identical cards (cannot split King/Queen, for instance)
  • – No splitting of 4s, 5s, or 10-valued cards
  • – If Aces split, player can only receive 1 additional card on each ace
  • – Blackjack pays 3:2
  • – Dealer always stands or always hits a soft 17
  • – Player can double on any two cards
  • – Double after split may or may not be allowed
  • – Surrender may or may not be allowed, though not if dealer is showing an Ace

As you can see, there can be several differences involved depending on where you play the game.  Make sure you understand all the rules to the version you opt to play, so you can strategize accordingly.

European Blackjack Strategy

The fact that the cards are shuffled after every round, makes it difficult to count cards, so don’t expect to practice your card counting skills playing European blackjack!

The first notable variant is that splitting of 4’s, 5’s and 10’s is not allowed.  This can vary depending on the casino you’re playing at.  While classic strategy tells you not to split those pairs anyway, the rule was set to make sure it’s not done.  By splitting, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to increase your bet and win more, something the casino doesn’t want to happen.

The variant considered most significant is that the dealer is not allowed to take a look at his face down card until all players decide what they want to do.  In most versions, the dealer is dealt only one card first anyway. Remember, with classic blackjack, the dealer will check for a blackjack if he has an Ace showing.

That changes strategy slightly because if the dealer eventually has blackjack, a player may have double downed or split cards, losing the additional bets.  With classic blackjack, the dealer immediately checks for a blackjack, “saving” the player from making additional bets on a “losing hand”.

Compared to classic American blackjack, in European blackjack, your play should be more conservative.  You’ll be doubling down and splitting less often.  For instance, when the dealer has a ten or an Ace, you don’t want to be doubling down so quickly, because he still may have 21 and you would lose even if you do make 21 yourself.

Conclusion

This is a great choice if you want to try a different version not too far off the classic blackjack. The differences are minor and easily figured out, so it makes it an easy game to fight the boredom of classic blackjack.

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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.

Spanish 21

This is one of the more popular variants of blackjack.  The reason why is because it’s still possible to gain the edge over the house when you play, if played properly.

 

PLAYING RULES

The reason it’s called Spanish 21 is that a 48-card “Spanish deck” is used. A Spanish deck has the 4 10’s removed, leaving 48 cards.

Remember, 10’s are considered player friendly in regular blackjack.  Without 10’s in the deck, the house edge raises by almost 2 percent.

To compensate for the absence of 10’s, the rules for Spanish 21 are much more liberal than the regular game of blackjack.

For example, if you get 21, (hitting to 21 as opposed to being dealt a blackjack) you always win even if the dealer has 21. Within a traditional blackjack game, if you hit to 21, you would “push” if the dealer ends up with 21 as well. Winning hands of 5,6 or 7 cards will pay a bonus.  You’re allowed to surrender at anytime, even after hitting, doubling or pair splitting.

The table below summarizes the typical Spanish 21 playing rules compared to the traditional game of blackjack.

 

Traditional Blackjack vs. Spanish 21 Blackjack
  Blackjack Spanish 21
Number of Decks 1,2,4,6,8 6 or 8
Dealer Soft 17 Rule May Hit or Stand May Hit or Stand
Blackjack Payoff 3-2 or 6-5 3-2
Player Blackjack (2 cards) Always pushes when Dealer has blackjack Always wins, even if Dealer has blackjack
Player 21 (3+ cards) Always pushes when Dealer has 21 Always wins, even if Dealer has 21
Doubling Down Only after initial 2 cards Can double on any number of cards
Doubling After Splitting Usually allowed Always allowed
Resplitting Pairs Usually up to 3 or 4 hands, except Aces Up to 4 hands, including Aces
Late Surrender Sometimes allowed Always allowed, even after doubling, splitting and hitting
Insurance Pays 2-1 Pays 2-1*
    *Considered one of the worst bets in a casino because of the increased house edge

(Note: There may be some slight differences in rules from one casino to another.)

 

BONUS HANDS

Spanish 21 often pays a bonus for 5, 6, and 7 card hands that total 21, as well as, 6-7-8 and 7-7-7 hands. The payoffs for these bonus hands vary but they are all greater than even money.

EFFECT OF THE MISSING TENS

You can probably understand the thrill in Spanish 21 because of all the different rules and bonus hands that are offered. However, beware, missing those 4 10’s does make a big difference in how the game works out. If you were to play with the same strategies of traditional blackjack, you’d lose your money before your seat was warm!

Why? Because the ratio of low cards to high cards in Spanish 21 will obviously be different from that of traditional blackjack.  In a 52 card deck, 4 out of 12 cards (30.8 percent) are 10-value. In Spanish 21, it is cut down to 3 out of 12 cards or 25 percent are 10-value.

The key point is that these major differences in rules should have a great effect on the playing strategy, meaning it is a bit more complicated.  You know the house doesn’t want to make things too easy for you!

Here’s a solid example: If you have a stiff 12 – 16 in traditional blackjack and the dealer shows a 2–6, you would stand (except you would hit 12 against dealer’s 2 and 3). With Spanish 21, hitting becomes more inviting because you have less chance of busting because of fewer 10-value cards. Plus, if you hit to 21, you automatically win.

Accordingly, some of the traditional “stand on stiffs” becomes “hits” in Spanish 21. When your stiff hand contains 4,5, or 6 cards, traditional strategy tells you to stand (or double) regardless of the number of cards in your hand, in Spanish 21, considering the bonus payouts, the number of cards in your hand can influence how you would play a hand.

Yes the strategy is more complicated, but it can be mastered with study and practice. There are several sources available for accurate Spanish 21 strategy.  Here’s a couple to checkout: The Big Book of Blackjack by Arnold Snyder and The Pro’s Guide to Spanish 21 and Australian Pontoon by Katrina Walker.

HOUSE EDGE

For a 6-deck, S17 game, the house edge (as a percentage of initial wager) using the Spanish 21 basic playing strategy (U.S. standard rules) is only 0.37 percent (from Katrina Walker’s book).  For a 6-deck, H17 game, the house edge becomes .78 percent. As you can see, the game with S17 is much more player friendly than one with H17; however, to achieve these low house edges, you must learn the Spanish 21 basic playing strategy.

REDOUBLE OPTION

The redouble option is available in some land-based casinos.  This player-friendly option allows a player to double down again after doubling and getting a card. For example, if you were to double down with a 7-2 and drew a 2 for an 11, you could double down again.

With redoubling allowed, the house edge decreases slightly (For example, from 0.78% in H17, six-deck game to 0.42%). Yes it’s great that the house edge goes down, but also remember that having to learn the correct strategy for this redouble option makes the basic playing strategy for Spanish 21 even more difficult.us

Conclusion

Because Spanish 21 offers the player plenty  of options, it provides a sense of excitement not found in traditional blackjack.  Therefore, more and more players are flocking to Spanish 21 for the thrill of a new challenge. Almost all casinos are offering it now, with tables full of players looking for a more exciting game of blackjack.