Blackjack: Game Variations

March 29, 2023

Not all blackjack games are created equal. Some rule variations are good for the player, and some are bad. The house edge shifts may seem small, but they make a big difference in a game where the total house edge is less than 1 percent against a basic strategy player. Here are some common variations and their effect on the house’s window:

Doubling after splitting allowed pairs: A very good rule of thumb for the player is to cut the house edge by 13 percent. In areas where several casinos are within a reasonable distance, the player should choose games in which doubling after split is allowed.

Redivision of Aces allowed: In most casinos, the player who divides Aces receives only one more card in each Ace. But if the player receives another Ace, some casinos allow the resulting pair to be redivided. This option cuts the house edge by .03 percent. It’s rare to find a game that goes even further by allowing the player to draw more than one card for a split Ace, an option that cuts the house edge by .14 percent.

Early Surrender: When the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, the dealer checks to see if the face-down card is a 10 to complete a blackjack before proceeding with play. If the house allows the player to surrender half of the original bet instead of playing the hand before the dealer checks for blackjack, that is an early surrender. A great rule of thumb for the player, and one that is rarely encountered, early surrender cuts the house edge by .624 percent. Giving up can easily be misused by beginners who have not mastered basic strategy.

Late Surrender: Found more often than early surrender, but still not common, late surrender allows the player to forfeit half the bet instead of playing the hand after the dealer checks for blackjack. This decreases the house edge by .07 percent in multi-deck games, 02 percent in single deck games.

Double Limited by Hard 11 or 10: Some casinos do not allow the player to double on totals of less than 10 or on flexible hands. The net is a .28 percent increase in the house edge.

The dealer calls 17 flexible: If, instead of standing on all 17, the dealer calls for hands including an Ace or Aces this can be as total either 7 or 17, the house increases its advantage by .2 percent.

Blackjack pays 6-5: Common in single deck games on the “Las Vegas Strip”, this game is a fund-breaker for players. For example, a two-card 21 pays just $ 6 for a $ 5 bet instead of the usual $ 7.50, which adds 1.4 percent to the house edge – more than the usual house edge against basic players’ strategy experienced in almost every game with the normal 3-2 return.

Now that you know how to play, let’s explore some of the finer points of the game.