Blackjack Variants

Comparing the most popular Blackjack variations and their rules: Vegas Strip, Spanish 21, Super Fun, and Double Exposure Blackjack.

The popular casino game of blackjack has many variations, emerging from where the game is played and what rules are mostly followed locally. With the main objective of getting 21 remaining the same, such Blackjack variants are often more popular and at times, advantageous to blackjack players.

There are over a dozen popular blackjack variants played all over the world. Finding out how they stand out from each other and the playing rules is an interesting study in itself.

American Blackjack

RulesAmerican
House Edge0.5%
Number of Decks8
Dealer’s Soft 17Dealer Stands
ResplittingAllowed
DoublingAllowed
Doubling After SplitAllowed
SurrenderingAllowed
Dealer PeekOn Tens, Face Cards and Aces (Up Cards)
American Blackjack’s most common rules.

American Blackjack is the most popular form of the game, which is why; it is also referred to as Classic Blackjack or Standard Blackjack.  In this, the dealer gets both the cards right away, out of which, one is face up and one, face down, that is, the hole card. The goal of the game, as with all the blackjack variants, is to beat the dealer and get 21.

There is an option to avoid increasing wager in situations when the dealer has a natural blackjack. In such cases, the house edge is lowered by 0.05%. American Blackjack has some major differences from the European Blackjack. Apart from that, most variants are based on the standard blackjack rules and strategies with slight variations.

European Blackjack

RulesAmericanEuropean
House Edge0.5%0.39%
Number of Decks86 (can vary)
Dealer’s Soft 17Dealer StandsDealer Stands
ResplittingAllowedNot Allowed
DoublingAllowed9, 10 & 11 only
Doubling After SplitAllowedAllowed
SurrenderingAllowedNot Allowed
Dealer PeekOn Tens, Face Cards and Aces (Up Cards)No
Comparison of American vs European Blackjack rules.

European blackjack is one of the most popular blackjack variants, played all over the UK alongside the American blackjack. European blackjack places more restrictions and limitations on the players and promises a house edge of about 0.39%. The primary difference of this variant lies in the rule that the dealer does not receive his hole card until the player has made the playing decision, based on the cards dealt to him. Dealer peek or even surrendering, as such, is also not allowed in European blackjack.

Vegas Strip Blackjack

RulesAmericanVegas Strip
House Edge0.5%0.35%-0.36%
Number of Decks84
Dealer’s Soft 17Dealer StandsDealer Stands
ResplittingAllowedAllowed
DoublingAllowedOn any 2 cards
Doubling After SplitAllowedAllowed
SurrenderingAllowedNot Allowed
Dealer PeekOn Tens, Face Cards and Aces (Up Cards)On Aces Only
Comparison of American vs Vegas Strip Blackjack rules.

Vegas Strip Blackjack is one of the most popular blackjack variants around. It derives its name from the place where it is played. The Vegas strip is a four-mile stretch of the South Las Vegas Boulevard, outside the Vegas city limits. There are numerous hotels and casinos in the area.

The Vegas Strip blackjack is almost identical to the American blackjack with the main objective and most rules remaining the same. The only difference is that in this, the dealer can peek only on an ace while in American blackjack, peeking is allowed for the dealer if his up card is a face card, an ace, or a 10.

Atlantic City Blackjack

RulesAmericanAtlantic City
House Edge0.5%1%-2%
Number of Decks88
Dealer’s Soft 17Dealer StandsDealer Stands
ResplittingAllowedAllowed
DoublingAllowedOn Any 2 Cards
Doubling After SplitAllowedAllowed
SurrenderingAllowedAllowed
Dealer PeekOn Tends, Face cards and Aces (Up Cards)On Tens & Aces
Comparison of American vs Atlantic City Blackjack rules.

Atlantic City Blackjack is a blackjack variant, played widely in casinos across North America. The aim of this particular variant is to beat the dealer. At the very start of the game, eight 52-card decks are shuffled altogether. Dealers receive one hole card and dealer peek is allowed if he has an ace or a 10 value card. The payout is the standard 3:2 if the player gets a blackjack. One important feature of the Atlantic City Blackjack is that the minimum bet is $1. The betting options increase as the hand progress.

Blackjack Switch

RulesAmericanSwitch
House Edge0.5%Up to 2.55%
Number of Decks84, 6 or 8
Dealer’s Soft 17Dealer StandsDealer hits
ResplittingAllowedAllowed up to three times
DoublingAllowedAllowed
Doubling After SplitAllowedAllowed
SurrenderingAllowedNot Allowed after Switching
Dealer PeekOn Tens, Face Cards and Aces (Up Cards)On Tens and Aces
Comparison of American vs Blackjack Switch rules.

Blackjack Switch is quite a distinctive blackjack variant because, in it, the player places two identical wagers plus a side bet. First, the player bets on two hands and then gets the opportunity to switch the second cards with one another, if he wants. Blackjack Switch is created by Geoff Hall, a renowned casino games inventor. The variant is played in many online casinos.

Apart from the option to switch, this game has one more prominent feature. That is, a dealer’s hand of 22 is not considered to be a bust. Instead, it is counted as a push or a draw unless a player already has a natural blackjack, not prompted by a switch or split.

Blackjack Perfect Pairs

Blackjack Perfect Pairs is an example of a side bet becoming as popular as a variant itself. So, Blackjack Perfect Pairs is a side bet that the first two cards the player gets make a pair. There are three different types of pairs with varying payout odds.

A pair is two cards of the same numerical value between 2 and 10 and the same face value for aces and the face cards. Players have to decide whether they want to place the Perfect Pairs side bet before the cards are dealt. It will then be settled before the main game is played out, based on the casino rules.

Double Exposure Blackjack

RulesAmericanDouble Exposure
House Edge0.5%0.67%
Number of Decks88
Dealer’s Soft 17Dealer StandsDealer Hits or Stands
ResplittingAllowedAllowed
DoublingAllowedAllowed
Doubling After SplitAllowedMay or may not be allowed
SurrenderingAllowedNot Allowed
Dealer PeekOn Tens, Face Cards and Aces (Up Cards)Not Applicable
Comparison of American vs Double Exposure Blackjack rules.

Double Exposure Blackjack is a blackjack variant in which the dealer’s both the cards is exposed. The absence of a hole card is what leads to the name of this variant. The house edge of this game is slightly higher than the standard blackjack one but Double Exposure is one of the most loved casino games out there.

Apart from how the game starts dealing the cards, there is a difference in payout also. Double exposure blackjack pays 1:1 as opposed to the conventional blackjack payout of 3:2. There is also no option for insurance. Secondly, players cannot push if the dealer has a tie. Basically, the dealer wins on every push unless both the dealer and the player have a natural blackjack.

Face Up Blackjack

Face Up Blackjack is a popular blackjack variant and another name for Double Exposure Blackjack. The main difference in this variant is with regards to the dealer’s cards. While in standard blackjack, the dealer’s second card or the hole card is dealt face down, in Face Up Blackjack, both the dealer’s original cards are dealt face up.

Face Up Blackjack is simple to play and most of the other rules remain the same. Doubling down, splitting, and surrendering is allowed. The hand closest to or equaling 21 wins. The payout ratio, however, is different for different wins.

Double Attack Blackjack

RulesAmericanDouble Attack
House Edge0.5%0.62%
Number of Decks86-8 (10 cards are removed)
Dealer’s Soft 17Dealer StandsDealer Stands
ResplittingAllowedAllowed except Aces
DoublingAllowedAllowed
Doubling After SplitAllowedAllowed
SurrenderingAllowedAllowed
Dealer PeekOn Aces, Tens and Face Cards (Up Cards)Allowed
Comparison of American vs Double Attack Blackjack rules.

Double Attack Blackjack is an interesting blackjack variant. It is played in some land-based casinos in the Las Vegas strip and the Atlantic City but not available at online casinos. Double Attack Blackjack is played with six to eight decks of 48 cards each as the 10 value cards are removed. There are some unusual rules attached to the game like players can double the bet while seeing the dealer’s door card. Most of these rules are advantageous to the players. Also, the game offers a side bet called ‘Bustit’ and the insurance payout is higher than normal.

Progressive Blackjack

RulesAmericanProgressive
House Edge0.5%37.94% (it decreases as additional bets are placed)
Number of Decks86
Dealer’s Soft 17Dealer StandsDealer Stands
ResplittingAllowedNot Allowed
DoublingAllowedAllowed when hand total is 9, 10 or 11
Doubling After SplitAllowedNot Allowed
SurrenderingAllowedNot Allowed
Dealer PeekOn Tens, Face Cards and Aces (Up Cards)Not Allowed
Comparison of American vs Progressive Blackjack rules.

Progressive blackjack is a commonly played blackjack variant that combines classic blackjack with a progressive side bet option. The main objective is the same, that is, to get as close to 21 without busting while playing against the dealer. Progressive Blackjack is played with 6 decks of cards, reshuffled after each round.

Players can hit, stand, split or double down after the opening hand, like in standard blackjack. The dealer must stand on soft 17 too though he is not allowed to peek. The most important feature and the main point of difference is that players can go for a progressive jackpot by placing an additional bet.

Spanish 21

RulesAmericanSpanish 21
House Edge0.5%0.37%-0.79%
Number of Decks86 and 8 (10 are removed)
Dealer’s Soft 17Dealer StandsDealer can Hit or Stand
ResplittingAllowedAllowed ( Up to 4 hands including aces)
DoublingAllowedAllowed
Doubling After SplitAllowedAllowed
SurrenderingAllowedAllowed
Dealer PeekOn Tens, Face Cards and Aces (Up Cards)Allowed on Aces and Face Cards
Comparison of American Blackjack vs Spanish 21 rules.

Spanish 21 is an interesting blackjack variant that is closer to the standard blackjack but distinctly different from European blackjack. It is played all over the world, including Australia and Malaysia. It was first introduced in 1995 and is also referred to as Pontoon.

Spanish 21 is played with 6 decks of cards but the 10 from each deck are removed. Players are first dealt two cards and they continue receiving cards till they decide to stand, without busting. Doubling down, resplitting, and surrendering at any time, all these are allowed. What makes Spanish 21 a specially loved blackjack variant is the wide range of side bets, including insurance, that the game offers.

Super Fun 21

RulesAmericanSuper Fun 21
House Edge0.5%1.2%-1.6%
Number of Decks81, 2 or 6
Dealer’s Soft 17Dealer StandsDealer Hits
ResplittingAllowedAllowed (Up to 4 hands including aces)
DoublingAllowedAllowed
Doubling After SplitAllowedAllowed
SurrenderingAllowedAllowed
Dealer PeekOn Tens, Aces and Face Cards (Up Cards)Allowed on Aces and Face Cards
Comparison of American Blackjack vs Super Fun 21 rules.

Super Fun 21 is a relatively newer variant of blackjack. It was invented by Howard F Grossman, patented in 1999, and is widely played in live casinos as well as blackjack tables. With many rules remaining the same as that of the standard or American blackjack, Super Fun 21 is a liberal game when it comes to the splitting rules.

Players can split hands up to 4 times without restrictions. Doubling after a split and splitting aces are allowed too. Doubling down on any card is allowed for the players. In Super Fun 21, a player’s blackjack hand always beats the dealer’s same hand.

Free Bet Blackjack

RulesAmericanFree Bet Blackjack
House Edge0.5%0.52%
Number of Decks86
Dealer’s Soft 17Dealer StandsDealer Stands
ResplittingAllowedAllowed (Up to 4 hands including aces)
DoublingAllowedAllowed
Doubling After SplitAllowedAllowed
SurrenderingAllowedNot Allowed
Dealer PeekOn Aces, Tens and Face Cards (Up Cards)Allowed
Comparison of American Blackjack vs Free Bet Blackjack rules.

Free Bet Blackjack is a popular blackjack variant, invented by Geoff Hall. The most prominent feature of this variant is that while splitting or doubling, most of the time, the player does not have to risk his own money. Like in Blackjack Switch (another invention of Geoff Hall), all the bets are considered push if the dealer gets a 22.

Free Bet Blackjack stands out by its allowance of free doubles on hard totals of two cards of 9, 10, or 11, apart from the regular doubles. Simultaneously, free splits are also allowed on all pairs except the 10.

Standard Rule Variations

Following are the standard rules based on which, the blackjack variants are played. They differ for each game and are also determined by the house rules, at times.

Dealer’s Soft 17

Dealer’s soft 17 is a situation when the dealer has a 17 that includes an ace. Now, in some types of blackjack, it is compulsory for the dealer to hit on the soft 17. In other variations, however, the dealer must stand on soft 17. The dealer’s soft 17 rules are very crucial because it affects the players following the basic blackjack strategy.

Number of Decks of Cards

Almost all blackjack variants are played with multiple decks of cards. The exact number of decks, however, can vary between 2 to 8. Single deck games are usually not allowed by casinos because these increase the house edge and make card counting easy. The more the number of decks, the higher is the house edge, with the rest of the rules remaining the same.

Resplitting

Splitting again after an initial split is called resplitting and in most blackjack variants, it is allowed under certain circumstances. However, all blackjack variants do not allow resplitting. The rule is an advantage to the players and in games where it is not allowed, the house edge increases by around 0.1%.

Doubling

In some forms of blackjack, there are restrictions on which cards the players can double down on. In European blackjack, for instance, doubling down is allowed only on totals of 9, 10, or 11. In some variations of blackjack, the players are allowed more flexibility in doubling down. They can increase their bet by 100% or even more.

Doubling After Splitting

In most blackjack variants, players are allowed to double after splitting. In a few variants, however, doubling after splitting is not allowed. When players are not allowed, it is certainly a disadvantage, increasing the house edge by approximately 0.15%.

Surrendering

Surrendering is when a player can forfeit his hand after the deal, at the cost of half his stake. In some blackjack forms, surrendering is allowed and in some others, surrendering is not allowed. Also, there are different rules about the situations in which a player can surrender. The surrendering rules have an effect on the house edge and determine if the game will be advantageous to the players.

Dealer Peek

Dealer peek is when the dealer can check for blackjack if his up card or exposed card is an ace or ten. The hand ends right there if it is a blackjack. In some variants like the American blackjack, dealer peek is allowed on aces, tens, and the face cards. In some others like the Vegas strip blackjack, dealer peek is allowed on the aces only. Dealer peek is one rule that is usually advantageous to the players and reduces the house edge by 0.1%.

Payouts

The standard payout in most of the blackjack variants is 3:2. It does not usually change based on the variation of the game. However, some casinos can reduce the blackjack payoff to 6:5, only if all the other rules of the blackjack being played are favorable to the players. A reduced payout increases the house edge by 1%.

Blackjack Variations – FAQ

Here are some of the common questions about the Blackjack variations answered in brief:

What is the most played blackjack variant?

American blackjack also referred to as the Classic blackjack, is the most widely played variant of the European blackjack.

In American blackjack, the most basic difference is that the dealer gets his hole card before the players make their playing decisions.

What blackjack variation is the most advantageous to players?

Perfect Pairs is the blackjack variant that is most advantageous to the players.

Although Perfect Pairs is a side bet, it is so popular that it is considered to be a blackjack variant in itself. There is a chance of a big payout with this variant.

When does dealer peek apply in blackjack?

The dealer peek applies in blackjack when a hole card reader, a security device, is used in the game. The purpose of a dealer peek is to enable the dealer to determine whether the value of his first two cards is a blackjack without having to bend.

This lessens the probability of the dealer giving away information or being in collusion with a table agent.

How many different types of blackjack are there?

There are more than twenty variations of blackjack. Each has slightly different rules and house edge than the others.

Which blackjack game is the most fair?

Spanish 21 is considered to be the fairest blackjack variant because it allows the players to quickly gain the edge while playing. This variant is extremely popular also because of its very high payout odds.

This precisely sums up everything about the best blackjack variants along with pertinent information and insight into each type.