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Blackjack Rule Variations

Anyone who has been to a casino either online or in person knows there are dozens of different blackjack games being offered, and each one has its own unique rules. Small rule variations can make a big difference in how a game is played, and can require players to change their strategy to keep up.

The following elements all contribute to blackjack rule variations. When playing an unfamiliar style of blackjack, spend some time practicing first, and be sure to read the rules and understand how everything works.

Players who are unfamiliar with any of these terms can learn more about them by reading up on blackjack rules.

Rule Variations

Every little change to classic blackjack rules will swing the odds either in favor of the house or in favor of the player. These changes are not very big, but don’t let this catch you off-guard. A rule change change that adds just a fraction of a percent to your edge over the house can make a big difference over time.

Dealer’s hand rules
The most common rule that a blackjack dealer must follow is to stand on a hand of hard 17. Some black jack variations change this to soft 17, which is a big advantage for players. When the dealer is required to stand on a soft 17 the player’s edge increases by 0.22%. Other dealer rules might be found, but these are rare.

Doubling Down
Doubling is considered dangerously profitable for players –  so much so that casino generally have strict limitations about when and how a player can double down. In general the rules state that players can only double down after the first two hands or on cards valued between 9-11, but this varies widely.

Doubling after a split
Not many blackjack variations let players double down after splitting a pair, but when . The reason is simple – this rule change improves the player’s advantage by as much as 0.14%

Splitting and re-splitting aces
Splitting aces, along with re-splitting aces if another one shows up after the first split, is very god for players (+0.08 to +1.12%). Most blackjack variations only allow aces to be split once, if at all, but some games allow aces to be re-split for up to 4 different hands.

Surrendering
Surrender is not allowed very often. This is because it allows a player to minimize an expected loss. Games that do allow surrender generally have specific rules about when players can and cannot surrender. The most common is “late” surrender which means after the dealer has checked for a blackjack. Early surrender is rarely seen.

Insurance
Insurance bets come with an unusually high house advantage, and are therefore very common, but once in a while players might come upon a blackjack game that does not allow it.

Payout
Usually, blackjack pays out at 3:2, but this isn’t always the case. There are some online blackjack games that pay out 1:1 for a blackjack hand, which significantly reduces the edge players have over the casino. Watch out for these games.

Side bets and special payouts
This last category is actually the biggest. Many online blackjack variations try to spice up games by offering side bets and special payouts. There are dozens of ways this is done, so we certainly won’t list them all, but each one changes the odds of the game, and also changes the strategies needed to win. This variety is part of what makes playing blackjack online so much fun.