Blackjack Variations

Blackjack is probably the game that has the most diverse variations which give players the opportunity to play it in a number of different ways. The reason why so many versions exist is that the game has been a centre of attention for many years and as such, many professional gamblers developed new alternative moves and options. Nowadays, many casinos aim at suiting everyone’s needs and interests and therefore, offer not only the classic game but also many of its variations.

This is good news for players who like to experiment and try something new every time. The classic game can be found in almost every brick-and-mortar casino but some of its versions can be played only in certain places as they are sourced by specific gaming software providers. However, nowadays more and more casinos take their gambling business to the next level by offering them the opportunity to enjoy their favourite games online. This is a perfect example of how this game is used as a way to attract more potential players, many of whom might become regular customers if the casino’s deal is good.

Advantages of Playing Blackjack Variations

Players are unlikely to get bored of blackjack as this game has so many variations that even if it’s played on a regular basis, they will not be able to try them all for a very long. More than 100 different versions of the game exist which is an indicator that blacjack is one of the most popular games all over the world. They make the game even more interesting and addictive as players can try so many different variations in a number of places. Some versions impress with their unique design, whereas others are just created to be different from the original blackjack.

However, no matter which variation of the game players will choose to try, it is worth mentioning that they should carefully consider its differences and in most cases, adjustments of the basic strategy are required. Most of the variations have additional new rules which require the appropriate preparation and knowledge in advance. This is the reason why if they already love the classic version of it, it might be best to refrain from taking any risks. If they want to be on the safe side and make sure they will not lose any money by trying out something new, they can stick to the good old classic blackjack.

House Edge of Popular Blackjack variants
VariantHouse Edge
Atlantic City Blackjack0.35%
European Blackjack0.39%
Multi-Hand Blackjack0.63%
Double Exposure Blackjack0.69%
Single Deck Blackjack0.58%
Blackjack Switch0.17%
Super Fun 211.30%
Perfect Pairs Blackjack0.42%
Spanish 210.38%

Variations in the Basic Rules of Play

There are over 100 variations of blackjack worldwide but the differences between the vast majority of them mostly have to do with the basic rules of play. Some of these concern playing decisions like doubling, surrendering, or splitting. Others have to do with the dealer’s standing position, the casino odds, or the number of decks.

As insignificant as these differences may appear to players, they are important to take into account because they impact players’ long-term theoretical return. The differences in playing conditions also result in differences in optimal basic strategy decisions. Players will have to adjust their moves depending on the special rules of the game. Casino Guardian expands on some of the most relevant blackjack rule variations in this article.

Blackjack Can Use One to Eight Decks

If the rules of two blackjack games are all the same but one plays with a single deck and the second uses eight decks, the two will have different house edges. The casino advantage in blackjack grows higher along with the number of decks one adds to the game.

Thus, a single-deck game would have a lower house edge than a variation dealt out of eight decks, provided that all other playing conditions coincide. The trouble is that said conditions rarely, if ever, do coincide. Some recreational players distrust multi-deck shoe games and favour single-deck tables.

Blackjack Can Use One to Eight Decks

This is one of the main reasons why casinos still offer single and double-deck blackjack. To compensate for the very low house advantage single-deck and double-deck games yield, casinos alter some of the other rules to regain their edge. Often this comes at the expense of payout reductions, combined with rigid splitting and doubling rules.

Hole-Card vs. No-Hole-Card Games

Blackjack variations can be classified based on whether the dealer takes a hole card or not. In hole-card games, the dealer draws two cards to their starting hand, one face-up and the other one face-down. This enables the dealer to peek for a natural blackjack at their hole (face-down) card when they have an ace or a ten-value card.

Provided that the hole card indeed gives the dealer a natural blackjack, players will directly lose their bets before they can make any decisions on how to play their dealt cards unless they also have a natural blackjack. Hole-card blackjack variants are deemed more beneficial to the player.

Many casinos across Europe, Asia, and Australia do not use hole cards for the dealers at their blackjack tables. Instead, the dealer gets only one exposed card and draws their second card at the end of the round after players have decided on their moves.

The unavailability of hole cards makes it possible for players to lose several wagers to a single dealer blackjack through splitting pairs and doubling down. Some casinos compensate for this detriment with rules such as the OBO and OBBO.

The former is an abbreviation of Original Bets Only. In the event of a dealer hitting a natural blackjack, players lose only their original wagers. Additional wagers posted on double downs or splits are returned to the player. From a mathematical perspective, the OBO rule is the same as the peeking rule for dealer naturals. It takes away around 0.10% from the house edge.

The OBBO abbreviation stands for Original and Busted Bets Only. This rule is in force whenever the dealer draws a blackjack and the player has split a pair. The original wager instantly loses in this case and so does the split wager but only on condition it has busted. Additional wagers made on doubling down are not lost. The OBBO rule adds only 0.03% to the house edge.

Shuffling Procedures

Shuffling procedures can influence the winning odds for players who count cards. Card counting is effective at manually shuffled tables as well as against automatic shufflers. However, some card rooms have switched to using Continuous Shuffling Machines. These devices are much-dreaded from the perspective of card counters.

Instead of the dealer placing the cards into the discard tray, the discards are fed back into the machine at the end of each round. The decks are continually reshuffled, rendering card counting completely ineffective. The shoe basically never ends.


The use of continuous shufflers is also detrimental to players who follow the basic strategy because it further worsens their odds. The dealer no longer has to pause for a reshuffle, which accelerates the speed of the game.

The basic strategy player ends up going through a greater number of hands per hour. This ultimately causes them to lose more money in the long run since basic strategy only reduces the casino’s advantage, without offsetting it entirely.

Blackjack Pays 6 to 5

Certain casinos that host blackjack games pay for blackjacks at odds of 6 to 5 instead of offering the standard 3 to 2 payout. At first glance, this may not seem like a big deal but it can be extremely detrimental to players in the long term. The 6 to 5 payout is predominantly offered at single-deck and double-deck tables.

The catch here is simple – players essentially get paid at poorer odds for the most valuable hand they can obtain in the game. A blackjack variation with a $10 bet yields a net profit of $12 rather than $15 as is the case in 3-to-2 games.

This reduction alone increases the casino advantage by the appalling 1.39%. The payouts for blackjacks are printed in a large font at the layout. You should always check this before sitting down.

Variations in Doubling Rules

Some online and land-based gambling operators would allow players to double down on any first two cards they are dealt, regardless of their total value. This increases players’ odds of winning in some instances when the dealer starts their hand with weak cards and is more likely to lose the round.

Operators are also aware of this, which is why some of them would permit you to double down only on totals 9 through 11 to boost their edge. A good blackjack table also enables patrons to double down after they split. Games where doubling after splitting is unavailable have a 0.14% higher house edge.

Variations in Splitting Rules

The number of times players are allowed to split may also be different, depending on where you play. Many online blackjack variants enable you to split pairs a maximum of three times. Exceptions are often made for pairs that comprise aces that normally cannot be resplit.

Few variations of blackjack offer patrons the RSA rule, which allows players toresplit aces. This decreases the house edge because the ace is the best card a blackjack player can start a hand with.

The latter statement also explains why RSA has become such a rarity in blackjack. By removing this rule, gambling operators are essentially attempting to restrict the situations when players have an edge. Sure enough, the absence of RSA increases the house edge by 0.08%.

The Option to Surrender

Surrendering the first two cards your hand is dealt with is altogether unavailable in some online and land-based blackjack variations. We advise you to refrain from playing games without surrender since this move can minimize your losses in some situations.

Casinos that offer this option typically support late surrender, in which case you can forfeit your hand after the dealer has peeked for a natural or has offered you insurance. The other version of this rule, early surrender, originally appeared in US casinos in the 1970s but quickly became obsolete.

With early surrender in place, patrons could fold bad hands and collect half their bets back before the dealer had checked for a natural or offered insurance. The rule was highly beneficial to patrons, even yielding a tiny edge over the house for basic strategy players. This ultimately led to the early surrender’s demise and its removal from the blackjack tables.

Blackjack Games with Side Bets

Some blackjack variations have additional wagering options in the form of side bets, enabling more daring players to win greater payouts with nominal wagers. Side bets come in different shapes and forms but one thing all of them have in common is that they boost the casinos’ long-term profits.

As a general rule of thumb, these extra wagers have a higher house edge, which is why players should not experiment with them way too often. Another important thing to keep in mind is that the advantage the casino holds on side bets is closely related to the wagers’ paytable. The payouts do not necessarily coincide across all casinos and tables.

Blackjack Games with Side Bets

The most common side bet you can find in blackjack is Perfect Pairs, where the player wagers the first two cards dealt to their hand will comprise a pair. The top payout is awarded for suited pairs.

Another side bet that enjoys popularity among more daring players is 21+3, which wins when the first card of the dealer and the player’s first two cards comprise a qualifying poker hand. The payout depends on the ranking of the poker hand.

Lucky Ladies is another favourite of blackjack side bettors. This wager is successful whenever the player’s starting hand comprises paired Queens or a total of 20. King’s Bounty is a similar wager, only the top payout of 1,000 to 1 is awarded for a pair of Kings of spades when the dealer has a natural.

The Lucky Lucky and Buster side bets have also been incorporated into some online blackjack variants. With Lucky Lucky, players can collect higher payouts for various suited or offsuit combinations that form totals of 19, 20, or 21. The Buster side wager pays whenever the dealer goes over 21 with a given number of cards. The more cards the dealer draws to the bust, the more money the Buster side bet pays.

Other Interesting Side Bets

The competition within the gambling industry is fierce. Hence, software companies are looking for ways to add extra flavour to the gameplay. Aside from the aforementioned side bets, some blackjack variants offer other interesting optional bets. One of them is Super Sevens. It is based on the first three cards the player receives. If the first card is 7, the side bet wins. The payout may reach up to 5,000:1 provided that your hand consists of two suited 7s and the dealer’s first card is a suited 7. This bet comes with a house edge of 11.4% if the game is played with 6 decks of cards.

Suit ‘Em Up is another blackjack side bet, allowing casino fans to bet on whether their first two cards will be suited. The payout depends on the suited cards. If you have a pair of suited aces, you will pocket a payout of up to 50:1. Provided that you have suited blackjack, your payout will be 10:1. For suited pairs, the house pays 5:1, while suited eleven comes with a payout of 3:1. The lowest payout associated with this side bet is 2:1 and players need to have two suited cards regardless of their rank to win it.

Some blackjack variations offer the so-called 21 Madness side bet. The side bet wins if the total value of the first two cards you are dealt is 21. When playing blackjack, you might be offered to place a streak bet. It is a side bet on how many times you will win in a row. Provided that you split in the meanwhile, the bet takes into account the outcome of the round. If the outcome of the round is even or a push, then it does not count toward the side bet. You can bet on winning 2 to 5 rounds.

Over/Under 13 is a blackjack side bet allowing casino enthusiasts to bet on whether the total value of their first two cards is over/under 13. Provided that your two-card hand totals 13, then the house wins. Red/Black is a side bet very similar to Over/Under 13. Blackjack devotees bet on the color of the dealer’s upcard. Both side bets feature a 1:1 payout.

Some blackjack variations feature another side bet called Bonanza Blackjack. Players bet on the total value of their first two cards to be 20 (including two 10-valued cards or a soft hand) and the dealer’s upcard to be 10-valued. Provided that the cards of the player and the dealer are of the same rank and suit, you will boost your bankroll with up to 2,500:1. That is the maximum payout associated with this side bet. If the cards are of different rank and suit, then the payout is 10:1. For the same suit cards, the casino pays 20:1, while for the same rank – 30:1.

How to Prepare Before Trying a New Variation

Many experienced gamblers get familiar with the rules prior to taking any actions such as sitting on the table and betting as this way they are able to find out which versions work in their favour in advance. Furthermore, many casinos set their own rules of the game in order to make it more appealing and enticing for the players but the chances that they also favour the casino are very high. This is the reason why gamblers should not only carefully consider the rules of the blackjack variation they are going to play but also pay special attention to the casino as well. Understandably, the gaming house will always have a built-in advantage over the players as after all this is the main reason why it offers the game in the first place.

Moreover, the card decks were increased a few times in the past in order to make the game more difficult as the developed strategies and theories really helped the players and changed the game’s history. They also contributed to the creation of many different variations of blackjack because when the fundamental principle that lies behind the game was revealed, gaming experts were able to predict to some extent in what way the game will be influenced if something was changed. This is just another example of how knowledge plays a crucial role in the gaming world and not only.

Most Played Variations

As blackjack is a casino table game that involves money, it is best to get familiar with some of the most played variations of it before sitting on a table and betting a significant amount of money. Such famous versions of the game are Super Fun 21, Double Attack Blackjack, Spanish 21, Atlantic City Blackjack, and many more. Each variation of the game is different in terms that it gives players respectively a higher or lower chance of gaining an advantage over the casino and win. This is due to the fact that each version has its own rules and subtleties which is the reason why if one strategy works well on one, it might not be so successful on another.

Super Fun 21

Let’s have a look at some of the most played variations of blackjack and find out what makes them the first choice to many passionate players. Super Fun 21 is one of the most famous versions of the game and it was invented by Howard Grossman, a blackjack expert and prominent gaming consultant in Las Vegas. The main difference in comparison to the classic game is that Super Fun 21 offers players a round of betting before the cards are dealt.

During this time, they have the chance to ‘hit’, ‘stand’, ‘double’ or ‘surrender’ on any two cards and this is what makes this version very interesting and exciting. Moreover, if players have a natural blackjack, they always beat the dealer’s hand, a rule which works in their favour and increases their chances of winning.

Microgaming’s Super Fun 21

Double Attack Blackjack

Double Attack Blackjack, often abbreviated as Double Blackjack, highly resembles another variation of the game – Spanish 21. The common similarity is that the four ten-valued cards are excluded from each deck and this variation is also played with eight packs. The basic rules and objective of the game remain the same as players still need to form a total as close as possible to 21, without surpassing that number.

The most significant aspect of this variation is that as soon as the dealer receives his first two cards, players can double their initial bet. Another interesting option that is also available is that they can take advantage of the move surrender whenever they want.

Playtech’s Double Attack Blackjack

Triple 7’s Blackjack

Triple 7’s Blackjack is an exclusive variation of the game which is perfect for casino fans of the slot machines. It is extremely popular at online casinos and it is played by many players globally due to its interesting nature.

The game gives them the chance to take part in huge bonus payouts and win progressive jackpots. To do so, they are required to place a small side bet. All side bets are added to the jackpot pools of the game, causing them to increase incrementally until somebody wins the top prize.

The payouts are determined according to the players’ card combinations and their hand’s total. This version also differs from the rest of the blackjack variations due to the number of involved decks as it is usually played with five. The full jackpot hits when a player gets three consecutive 7s of diamonds, dealt on a single hand. Smaller prizes from the pool are awarded for other suited or offsuit combinations of 7s.

Microgaming’s Triple 7’s Blackjack

Vegas Strip Blackjack

Vegas Strip Blackjack is a very popular variation of the game which is commonly played in Las Vegas but it can also be found in a number of online casinos. Even though the game rules are pretty much the same as in the classic Blackjack, it has its subtleties that should be taken into account.

Players need to bear in mind that some casinos impose particular changes to the rules which is the reason why they should always take their time to consider them prior to playing. Some of the specifications that may vary are the number of decks involved and whether the dealer hits or stands on soft 17.

In general, Vegas Strip Blackjack is played with four decks and the dealer stands on soft seventeen. The cards are dealt according to US house rules. The dealer checks their hole cards when they start with a hand consisting of ten-value cards or aces. Players can double down on any first two cards dealt to their hand, regardless of their value, including after they split a pair. Splitting is restricted to a maximum of four hands. Resplitting and hitting split aces are also against the rules.

Microgaming’s Vegas Strip Blackjack

Chinese Blackjack

Another variation of the game that is worth mentioning is called Chinese Blackjack. As the name indicates this version comes from China and it is particularly played during Chinese New Year. In this variation, all of the players need to reach 16 or above, and the dealer has the chance to have a look at a particular player’s hand and hit again before making any bets.

Some of the rules of this version are not the same as the classic Blackjack which is the reason why players should be extra cautious and make sure they are familiar with them beforehand. Whatever version players may choose to try, it is essential to know the rules by heart, have a reliable strategy, choose a trustworthy casino and of course get lucky in order to win.