Different Forms of Blackjack

  • January 7, 2023

It could be argued that blackjack is the quintessential casino game. Its impact on popular culture has been profound, and millions of people have recognized a specific significance in the number “21.”

While countless Americans partake in the game at casinos across the country, many are unfamiliar with the other variations of the game. Like so many other familiar games, there are other versions that exist which give players better odds for their money.

In this article, I’ll dive into some alternative versions of blackjack, and explain the specific rules and advantages that set them apart from the game most people know and love.

Classic Blackjack

Whether in a physical or an online real money casino, classic blackjack remains the most popular form of the game – not just in the U.S., but in most parts of the world.

Make no mistake about it, this version is a gambler-favorite for good reason. The house edge is low, the rules are relatively easy to pick up on quickly, and it’s more social than poker.

As I mentioned, the house edge is low. With that being said, it’s important to recognize that just because you see that very appealing 0.5% edge number, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re taking advantage of it in its entirety.

The famous 0.5% that is constantly tossed around when looking at games with the lowest house edges assumes that you’re making all the right moves. The good news is that it isn’t particularly difficult to learn what the right moves should be, but it does take a little bit of practice.

If you’re stumbling upon this article without any prior blackjack experience and want to compare the rules of each version, I’ll provide a brief description (although I would assume most readers know the rules of classic blackjack):

Players go against the dealer attempting to reach 21, or be the closest to 21, without getting more than 21. Players each receive two cards and have the option to “hit” (get another card) or “stay” (keep their current cards only). If anyone, player or dealer gets cards that equal more than 21, they “bust” and lose the hand.

In the end, if you choose classic blackjack as the standard version, you’re going to give yourself a good chance to win some money.

European Blackjack

Similar to roulette, there is a European version of blackjack. Also like roulette, European blackjack offers slightly better odds to players than its American (or generally standard) counterpart.

First, European blackjack is typically played with two decks of cards. This means the cards are more predictable than other versions of blackjack that incorporate a half-dozen or more decks into one game. Another component of European blackjack that makes it more favorable to players is the dealer stands on soft 17.

A few more qualities that set European blackjack apart are: dealer blackjack vs. player blackjack results in a tie or push. Players can only double down when their cards are showing 9, 10, or 11. And finally, blackjacks pay 3:2. When you do the math (I’ll spare you the equations), the result shows that the house edge in European blackjack comes in at 0.39%. In other words, it’s about 20% lower than classic blackjack.

If you’re an experienced blackjack player and are looking to try something new, I would recommend checking out this version of the game during your next casino visit.

Face Up 21

Face up 21 puts a great deal of power in players’ hands, while removing some of the advantages of the house. In this version of the game, both of the dealer’s cards are dealt and shown face up. It goes without saying that being able to see two cards instead of just one gives gamblers tremendous insight into how they should be betting during the hand.

Unfortunately, it isn’t all good news for gamblers when it comes to this game. For example, a dealer hits on soft 17, and dealer blackjack beats a player blackjack, and blackjack only pays even money. Similar to European blackjack, in Face Up 21 players can only double down on 9, 10, and 11.

The house edge on this version of the game comes in at 0.69%, which makes it the worst on the list up to this point. While the overall house edge might be lower, if you adjust your betting strategy in accordance to the rules that require the dealer to show both cards after dealing, it still might be a better option than classic blackjack.