Blackjack Variations

Blackjack is such a popular casino game that dozens of blackjack variations have popped up over the years. Some of these blackjack variants have stuck around; others have gotten lost in the sands of time. A few have even become popular games on their own.

The following blackjack variations are the most popular today. If you play online blackjack, you’ll run across these variations at some point. The basic rules of each game are all similar, but there are just enough differences to set each game apart.

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Blackjack

This is the classic game that we all know. Blackjack, also known as “21,” is the most popular type of blackjack in the world. The goal in blackjack is to get as close to 21 as possible without going over. You can check out my blackjack rules page to learn more about the rules of blackjack.

The rules for blackjack can change a little from one casino to the next. The rules set listed here is the one found most often on the internet.

  • 2-4 Decks
  • Dealer hits soft 17
  • Doubling allowed
  • Splitting allowed
  • 1-2 resplits allowed
  • Doubling after splitting allowed
  • Dealer checks for blackjack
  • House advantage: 0.56% (varies but usually around this number)

European Blackjack

European blackjack is typically played with two decks of cards. There are a few player-friendly rules such as a small number of decks and dealer standing on soft 17.

The casino makes up for this by instituting the “dealer does not check for blackjack” rule. In other words, the dealer does not check for a blackjack until after you have played the entire hand. That means you stand to lose more money if you double or split during the hand. In other blackjack variations, the dealer checks for blackjack at the beginning of the hand and prevents you from doubling or splitting.

  • Dealer stands on soft 17
  • Dealer blackjack vs. player blackjack results in a push
  • Dealer does not check for blackjack (this means the dealer only checks for a blackjack after you have played the entire hand)
  • Players may only double down on point totals of 9, 10 and 11
  • Player may double after splitting
  • No resplitting
  • Blackjack pays 3:2
  • House advantage: 0.39%

Face Up 21

Face Up 21 is an interesting blackjack variation in which both of the dealer’s cards are dealt face up. This extra information gives you a great advantage in decision-making. However, this additional information comes with a price…

  • Dealer hits on soft 17
  • Dealer blackjack vs. player blackjack results in a loss
  • Blackjack pays even money
  • Players may only double on hard point totals of 9, 10 and 11
  • Players may double after splitting
  • House advantage: 0.69%

Match Play 21

Match Play 21 is quite a bit different than traditional blackjack. 10s are removed from the deck and certain hands receive special bonus payouts. This is the same game as Spanish 21 except adapted for use at online casinos.

  • All 10s are removed from the deck (face cards remain)
  • Dealer hits on soft 17
  • Player may double one time
  • Splitting allowed
  • Blackjack pays 3:2
  • House advantage: 0.76% to 0.81% (varies)

Special Payouts:

  • Match Play 21 pays 40:1 (player hand consists of three 7s of the same suit and the dealer’s face-up card is any 7)
  • Player has 777 all spades: 3:1
  • Players has 678 all spades: 3:1
  • Player has 7 cards without busting: 3:1
  • Player have 777 of the same suit: 2:1
  • Players has 678 of the same suit: 2:1
  • Player has a six card 21: 2:1
  • Player has any three 7s: 3:2
  • Player has any 678: 3:2
  • Player has a five card 21: 3:2

Pontoon

Pontoon is similar to the blackjack variation known as “Spanish 21.” In this game, the dealer starts with both hole cards face down. The casino makes up for this lack of information by giving the player 2:1 payouts instead of 3:2 payouts.

  • Any two-card hand that totals exactly 21 points is called a “pontoon.”
  • Dealer hits on soft 17
  • Pontoon pays 2:1
  • Five card trick pays 2:1
  • Player may only stand on a total of 15+ or after five cards
  • Dealer wins all ties
  • House advantage: 0.38%

Super 21

Super 21 uses the same basic rules as blackjack but it offers special payouts for certain hands.

  • Dealer hits on soft 17
  • Splitting is allowed
  • Blackjack pays even money
  • Diamond Blackjack (two diamond cards that total 21): 2:1
  • Five card 21: 2:1 (non doubled hands only)
  • Six card 21: 2:1 (non doubled hands only)
  • Six cards that total 20 or less (instant win): even money
  • House advantage: 1.16% to 1.20% (varies)

Perfect Pairs Blackjack

Perfect Pairs Blackjack uses regular blackjack rules but it allows for an extra side bet at the beginning of each hand. The Perfect Pairs side bet is a wager that your first two cards will be of the same value. This side bet is not affected by the outcome of each round.

  • Dealer hits on soft 17
  • Splitting is allowed
  • Players may double down once
  • Blackjack pays 3:2
  • Players may play up to 5 hands at a time
  • House advantage: 0.42%

Side Bet Payouts:

  • Mixed Pair (any two cards of the same rank): 5:1
  • Colored Pair (any two cards of the same rank and same color): 10:1
  • Perfect Pair (any two cards of the same rank and suit): 30:1

Multi Hand Blackjack

Multi hand blackjack is just a blackjack variation in which you can play more than one hand at a time. This is one of the most popular blackjack variations for players who get comfortable with single hand blackjack. The multi-hand version adds excitement and keeps the game running at a quick pace.

Most real money gambling sites use the following rules:

  • Dealer stands on soft 17
  • Players may only double on point totals of 9, 10 and 11
  • No resplitting is allowed
  • Dealer does not check for blackjack
  • Insurance is resolved at the end of the hand
  • House advantage: 0.63%

Spanish 21

Spanish 21 is very similar to the card game Pontoon (described above). In this game, all the 10 cards are removed from the deck. The removal of all 10s would normally result in a higher house advantage, but Spanish 21 makes up for that by offering players a bunch of player-friendly rules. In fact, Spanish 21 is often one of the best games in the casino for the player.

Spanish 21 is played mostly in live casinos, so the rules can vary quite a bit. The following set of rules is pretty standard:

  • Dealer stands on soft 17 (at most casinos)
  • Blackjack pays 3:2
  • Resplitting is allowed (including Aces)
  • Player blackjacks beat dealer blackjacks
  • Players may double down once on any points total after any number of cards.
  • Players may double after splitting
  • Player may surrender after doubling
  • House advantage: .38 to .78% (varies)

Special Payouts

Spanish 21 offers a variety of special payouts. These payouts vary from one casino to the next, but the following payouts are the most common. Most casinos do not offer these bonus payouts after doubling or splitting.

  1. 5 Card 21 pays 3:2
  2. 6 card 21 pays 2:1
  3. 7 card 21 pays 3:1
  4. 678 of mixed suits pays 3:2
  5. 777 of mixed suits pays 3:2
  6. 678 of the same suit pays 2:1
  7. 777 of the same suit pays 2:1
  8. 678 of all spades pays 3:1
  9. 777 of all spades pays 3:1
  10. If the player has 777 of the same suit and the dealer shows a 7 of any suit, a bonus payout of $1,000 is given to the player. This bonus jumps to $5,000 is the player wagered $25 or more at the beginning of the hand.

Blackjack Switch

This is an interesting variation in which you are dealt two hands and are given the option to trade the second card dealt in each hand. This is a major advantage but the casino makes up for it with two rules:

  • A dealer total of 22 points results in a push
  • Blackjacks pay even money

Other Blackjack Switch rules:

  • Dealer hits on soft 17
  • Resplitting is allowed
  • Dealer checks for blackjack
  • Doubling allowed on any points total
  • House advantage: 0.16% to 0.58% (varies)

Sources for house advantage numbers on this page

Most of the numbers for the house advantage of these games comes from the Wizard of Odds website. The Wizard of Odds is a trusted gambling website that deals heavily in mathematics for sound gambling advice.

I also got blackjack house advantage information from this site.

I relied on these two sources heavily but also cross-referenced them with a variety of other resources.

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