Introduction to Blackjack Games and Variations
When you add together all the rules variations, side games and subtle differences in areas such as splitting aces – there are 100’s of potential variations of blackjack. You can now find a lot of these online. These range from standard rules (US or European as you prefer) through to some quirky and entertaining games loosely based on the ‘21’ theme.
Add to this live dealer games, those adapted for mobile devices and even games with big progressive jackpots – and you’ll see that Blackjack has become an entertaining games genre all of its own.
This page takes you through the broad categories of blackjack games available online and in live casinos. You will find links out to specific articles giving you details of the most popular game variations.
Popular Blackjack Variations
Standard Blackjack Games
There are two basic formats of Blackjack, known as the US rules and European Rules.
US blackjack deals two cards to the dealer at the start of each hand. One of these is face-up and the other is face-down. If the visible card is an ace or 10-card, then the dealer will peek for blackjack, which will be revealed if it is found. This means that if no blackjack is found, players know that the hidden card is between ace and nine (assuming an ace visible) or at least not an ace (where a 10 is visible). This makes a difference to the basic strategy. In the US blackjack rules, you can double-down on any score you wish.
European blackjack only gives the dealer a single card at the start of the hand. The players then act as usual, based on their total and the dealer’s visible card. Once all the players have acted, the dealer takes the second (and any more) cards from the shoe. In this format, players are only able to double-down on a score of 9, 10 or 11.
Within these two formats, the number of decks of cards used is considered to be a significant factor. All else being equal, the fewer decks, the lower the house edge in a particular game. Single deck games are considered the best of all. In live casinos, these games are watched carefully by security teams to deter card counters.
Blackjack Games with Side Bets
Many of the games you will see advertised as distinct blackjack variations are simply the standard Vegas Strip blackjack rules with a side game added on. These added bets do have a larger house edge than the main game. However, they can result in some big windfalls, and can add to the entertainment value of the game too.
The most popular variant is called ‘perfect pairs’. This is a side bet based on whether you’ll get a pair and is independent of the dealer’s hand. Bonus Blackjack has a game based on aces, with the potential for a very big payout if you hit 4 suited aces. Super Fun 21 includes a bonus based on the dealer busting – which can make this into a very entertaining game.
Blackjack is a global game, and you’ll find different variants from around the world. These can add some extra spice to your session now and again. Spanish 21 is a popular variation. This game uses a cut down deck of 48 cards, with the 10’s removed. To make up for the small advantage this gives to the house, there are some bonus payouts for specific hands. Pontoon is a British game, with its own wording and nuances. You will not see either of the dealer’s cards until all the players have completed their actions in this game.
Californians have their own set of rules for card rooms to get around the ‘no house banker’ regulations there. This involves players taking it in turn to act as the banker. This game also leaves jokers in the decks too.
Games Based on Blackjack
Many excellent games have been created which take the blackjack rules (or just theme) and make this into something new. Examples can be found at many online casinos. These include Ante Up 21, which is a hybrid of poker and blackjack. Burn 21 is a game where you can choose to discard your top card (burn it) and replace it with another one.
A popular variant here is Blackjack Switch. In this game you bet on 2 hands, and can swap the top card between them if you wish. This adds a new level of interesting strategy to the game – and can help to get you out of some tight spots too.
Some games have been especially adapted for fast-paced play on mobile devices. One great new game here is called Zappit Blackjack. This allows you do discard (Zap) your hand on 15, 16 or 17. You can find this unique variation at the Bovada Casino.
There are many more games beside these. Blackjack really has gone from a straight up card game to something where there are enough variants to keep everyone interested.