In this analysis, we take a look at the best blackjack variants to play. Blackjack is a simple card game that can be incredibly fun to play. Particularly as many different software providers come up with new rules and features in the game. We cover the rules of standard blackjack and look at how they can vary from one game to another.
The Blackjack Basic Rules
In Blackjack, almost every single version of the game requires the player to form a hand that is as close to 21 as possible. The aim of the game is to reach 21 without exceeding it. By exceeding 21, the player or dealer will go bust. This means automatically losing the round.
Blackjack is made up of a standard deck of 52-cards. However, there are many versions that tend to play with two, four, six and eight decks. From a standard deck of cards, all numbered cards keep their face value. The picture cards (Jack, Queen, King) are all worth 10. As for Ace, it can be worth either 1 or 11, depending on the hand. In order to form Blackjack (the strongest possible hand), players are required to combine an Ace with a 10-value card.
Once all bets have been placed, an online Blackjack round begins by clicking on the ‘Deal’ button. At this point, the dealer will serve two face-up cards to the player and take a face-up and face-down card themselves.
If the dealer is revealing an Ace, it is possible to place an Insurance bet. The insurance bet costs half of the player’s initial stake and pays 2:1, essentially guaranteeing cash back if the dealer has Blackjack.
If the dealer is revealing a 10-value card, they will check for Blackjack, to avoid placing any further bets. If they do not have blackjack, the round continues as usual. Once the player has been served their cards, they will have the chance to do one of the following actions:
Below, we take a look at these in greater detail.
If the player chooses to stand, they will not receive any additional card. Instead, they keep their hand as it is and move onto the next hand or the dealer’s cards.
If the player chooses to hit, they will take an extra card. There is no limit to how many cards the player can take. The only thing that they must be wary of is not exceeding 21 and going bust.
If the player chooses to Double, they will take a third and final card. In doing so, the player will also double their stake so that they either win or lose twice as much.
If the player received two matching cards (of the same value), they can choose to split them. The split cards will be played separately as two hands. By splitting, the player is doubling their bet.
The Dealer Rules
In Blackjack, there are many different rules that the dealer will follow. The most standard ones including hitting on 16 or lower and standing on 17 or higher. However, there are instances where the dealer will hit on a 17. We go into them below.
If the dealer has a total of 17 but that includes an Ace, this is known as a soft 17. In some blackjack variants, the dealer will hit on a soft 17. If the dealer has a total of 17 but it does not contain an Ace, it is known as a hard 17. The difference between soft and hard hands are whether an Ace is included or not.
Every single Blackjack variant will have their own selection of payouts. That can vary depending on the game, the developer and even the side bets that are offered. However, in most standard formats of Blackjack, the payout will keep to the usual setting. Below, we have written the most basic payouts for blackjack games:
- A hand that is stronger than the dealer’s pays even money at 1:1. This includes if the dealer has gone bust.
- Blackjack pays 3:2
- An Insurance Bet that costs half of the player’s stake pays 2:1, ensuring money back on any dealer Blackjack
Most Popular Blackjack Side Bets
Before we get into the best blackjack variants to play, there is still one more section that has to be covered. In most blackjack games, players will find a variety of side bets that they can play. The side bets do not have any correlation with the base game.
Instead, they are another chance that players have to win. Below, we have listed the most popular side bets from various blackjack games on the internet.
Player/Dealer Perfect Pairs
First and foremost, Perfect Pairs is arguably the most popular side bet in blackjack. It is featured in almost every single variant of the game and is incredibly easy to understand. A Perfect Pair is paid out if the player or dealer’s two initial cards have the same value.
There is a difference between Player and Dealer Perfect Pairs. Most games offer Player Perfect Pairs as a side bet which requires the two initial cards of the player’s hand to match. The Dealer’s Perfect Pair side bet is won if the dealer’s two initial cards have the same value. Obviously, the Dealer Perfect Pair will only be revealed at the end of the round, once the dealer has revealed their face-down card.
In Perfect Pairs, the following winning methods available are:
- Coloured Pair – this is when the player or dealer’s two initial cards are pair, but of different colours (red/black). It typically pays 6:1
- Mixed Pair – this is when the player or dealer’s two initial cards are a pair of the same colour, but not of the same suit (clubs/spades or diamonds/hearts). It typically pays 12:1
- Perfect Pair – this is when the player or dealer’s two initial cards are exactly the same (same colour and same suit). It usually pays 25:1
If the Perfect Pairs is the most popular blackjack side bet, 21+3 is most definitely the second most. Many games will have either one or the other side bets. In 21+3, the player’s two initial cards and the dealer’s face-up card combine to form a poker hand.
If they can successfully form one of the following poker hands, the 21+3 side bet is won. Here is how you could potentially win:
- Flush – if the three cards all have the same suit, the payout is 5:1
- Straight – if the three cards all follow a consecutive order, the payout is 10:1
- Three of a Kind – if the three cards all have the same value, the payout is 30:1
- Straight Flush – if the three cards all have the same suit and follow a consecutive order, the payout is 40:1
- Suited Three of a Kind – if all three cards are exactly the same, the payout is 100:1
One of the most popular side bets in blackjack is the Buster, as the player wins if the dealer goes bust. That way, both the side bet and the base game bet can both be profitable. The Buster side bet pays out depending on how many cards the dealer busts with. The winning methods include:
- Three or Four cards – if the dealer busts with these many cards, the payout is 2:1
- Five cards – if the dealer busts with these many cards, the payout is 4:1
- Six cards – if the dealer busts with these many cards, the payout is 18:1
- Seven cards – if the dealer busts with these many cards, the payout is 50:1
- Eight or more cards – if the dealer busts with these many cards, the payout is 250:1
Furthermore, the player will maximise their profits if they have a Blackjack. By having Blackjack whilst placing the Buster side bet, the player can potentially receive a lot more if the dealer busts.
- If the dealer busts with seven cards and the player has Blackjack, the payout is 800:1
- If the dealer busts with eight or more cards, and the player has Blackjack, the payout is 2000:1
Much like the Buster side bet, Lucky Lucky is also available in some of the best blackjack variants to play. It also is formed with the use of the player’s two initial cards and the dealer’s face-up card.
The following winning methods are available for this side bet:
- If the sum of all three cards is 19 or 20, the player will receive a payout of 2:1
- If the sum of all three cards is 21, the player will receive a payout of 15:1
- When the cards are 6, 7, 8, the payout is 25:1
- When all three cards are 7s, the payout is 50:1
- Having a combination of suited 6, 7, 8 pays 100:1
- Having a combination of suited identical 7s pays 200:1
If you enjoy the 21+3 side bet, there is a chance that you will like the Top 3 even more. The Top 3 side bet is similar to 21+3 but more difficult to win. However, with great risk comes great reward. The payout for the side bet are definitely more improved than 21+3. The bet will pay out if the player’s two initial cards and the dealer’s face-up card can form the following poker hands:
- Three of a Kind pays 90:1
- Straight Flush pays 180:1
- Suited Three of a Kind pays 270:1
Another popular side bet is the over/under 13. As the name suggests, it pays out if the player’s two initial cards are either over or under 13, depending on what the player has bet on. If the player has successfully predicted whether their total will be over or under 13, the payout is 1:1.
The Super Sevens side bet will pay out if the player’s first card is a 7. If that is the case, the player wins their bet. By having more 7s on the table, the payout is even bigger. Here is how the winning methods apply for this side bet:
- If the first player card is a 7, the payout is 3:1
- For two unsuited 7s, the payout is 50:1
- For two suited 7s, the payout is 100:1
- If the player’s third card is also an unsuited 7, the payout is 500:1
- If the player’s third card is a suited 7, the payout is 5000:1
The Lucky Ladies side bet is played by using the player’s two face-up cards. It offers a variety of different payouts for the two initial cards. The payouts included are:
- An unsuited total of 20 pays 4:1
- A suited total of 20 pays 10:1
- If 20 if formed by two matching cards (same rank and suit), the payout is 25:1
- Two Queens of Hearts pays 200:1
- Two Queens of Hearts when the dealer has Blackjack pays 1000:1
The Royal Match side bet is won if the two face-up cards for the player are from the same suit. The following payouts include:
- Having a combination of the 4 and 7 of Clubs pays 5:2
- Having a Royal Match of King and Queen of the same suit pays 25:1
Last but not least, the Hot3 side bet is formed from the player’s two initial cards and the dealers face-up card. If the trio have a combined total of 19, 20, 21 or are three 7s, the side bet wins. The payouts include:
- A total of 19 pays 1:1
- A total of 20 pays 2:1
- An unsuited 21 pays 4:1
- A suited 21 pays 20:1
- Three 7s pays 100:1
The Best Blackjack Variants to Play
Now that we have covered the majority of popular side bets you will find in blackjack variants, it is time to focus on the games themselves. Although blackjack is a historic game that is over three hundred years old, it has developed into several variants. The best blackjack variants to play are listed below. They are in no order from best to worst. We have simply compiled a list of the best blackjack games and how they differ.
One of the most popular blackjack variants is European Blackjack. It is usually played with six decks of cards. The game is quite strict and tends to only allow players to split once per hand. Players can also only Double Down on totals of 9, 10 and 11 (also split hands).
There is no surrender option in European Blackjack. The dealer is required to stand on all 17s. European Blackjack has the standard payouts for players. A few variants of this game may offer the Perfect Pairs or 21+3 side bets.
Vegas Strip Blackjack
Not only is European Blackjack one of the most popular variants, so is Vegas Strip Blackjack. As the name suggests, the game was developed in Las Vegas many years ago. It is played with four decks and requires the dealer to immediately check for Blackjack if they are revealing an Ace or 10. It is possible to split your hand once and Double on any total. Yet again, the dealer stands on all 17s and the game offers the standard payouts.
Vegas Downtown Blackjack
One of the most similar games to Vegas Strip Blackjack is Vegas Downtown Blackjack. The main differences include the fact that the game is played with two decks. Players can Double Down on any hand whilst it is possible to split three times. Furthermore, players can even split unlike 10-value cards. If the player has an Ace and 10 in a split hand, it does not count as Blackjack. The game offers an Insurance bet but not Surrender. Lastly, the dealer must hit on all soft 17s.
Atlantic City Blackjack
In Atlantic City Blackjack, the rules are slightly different to any of the variants you have read before. The game was developed in Atlantic City and is played with 8 decks of cards. One of the main advantages of Atlantic City Blackjack is that it offers a Late Surrender. This allows the player to abandon their hand, after the dealer has checked for Blackjack. It is possible to Double Down on any hand whilst Splitting is allowed once per hand. The dealer will always stand on 17 and the payouts are the same as the standard.
Double Exposure Blackjack
In Double Exposure Blackjack, the dealer’s two initial cards are served face-up. It is played with six decks of cards and permits Splitting once and Doubling Down on totals of 9, 10 and 11. It is not possible to Double Down after a Split.
One of the most important features in Double Exposure Blackjack is that the dealer will win any tied hands. There is no push for returning bets after a draw. Instead, the dealer will win. However, this does not apply for Blackjack. Any player Blackjack will win – provided the dealer does not have Blackjack – but will only pay 1:1
In Blackjack Switch, the player will be playing with two hands simultaneously. After receiving their two initial cards on both hands, the player will have the chance to switch the top two cards. This will allow the player to have a chance of forming a better hand and defeating the dealer.
The thing to consider here is that Blackjack Switch is played with 6 decks of cards. The dealer will stand on all hard 17s but hit on any soft 17s. Moreover, to balance out the odds for the dealer, they do not bust on 22. Instead, if they have 22, the bet is returned as a push. This does not apply for Blackjack. It is possible for players to Split once per hand whilst Doubling Down is also an option.
Free Chip Blackjack
One of the most exciting blackjack variants is Free Chip Blackjack. It is played with 6 decks and gives players the chance to Split and Double without doubling their bet. Thus, if they lose, only the initial stake is taken.
Players can only Split for free on cards A to 9. Furthermore, it is only possible to Double for free on any hard 9, 10 or 11. The game also has a few advantages for the dealer, including a push bet if the dealer busts whilst the player has 17. Another perk for the dealer is the bet is returned as a push if they bust whilst their face-up card is 10.
The game has several side bets included such as Perfect Pairs, Free Fortune and Buster Bonanza. The Buster Bonanza side bet is similar to the standard Buster bet, as it requires the dealer to bust in order to win. As for the Free Fortune, the player can win up to 1000:1 if they split three times and Double Down on each one of them after splitting their main card.
All Bets Blackjack
In All Bets Blackjack, the gameplay is set out with 6 decks of cards. The game is not difficult to understand and incredibly straightforward to learn. One of the most appealing things about All Bets Blackjack is that players will benefit from a total of six side bets. The side bets involved are Player Perfect Pairs, Dealer Perfect Pairs, 21+3, Top 3, Lucky Lucky and Buster.
Essentially, Cashback Blackjack is one of the best blackjack variants to play online. It gives players the chance to receive a cashback depending on the strength of their hand. After the dealer has served the two initial cards to the player, the player can decide whether they want to continue playing with the hand or abandon their cards and receive a cashback for it. The cashback depends on their hands but does not count the dealer’s face-up card.
In Cashback Blackjack, there are several side bets involved including Dealer Perfect Pairs, Player Perfect Pairs and 21+3. The game offers the same payout as standard blackjack games.
Last but not least, we cover Spanish 21 as one of the best blackjack variants to play. The game is played with six to eight decks of cards (depending on the provider) but has a twist to it. In a standard deck, there are only 48 cards, as opposed to the usual 52 cards. That is because all 10s are removed from the deck before the game starts.
Furthermore, Spanish 21 has other player advantages in it. That includes all Blackjacks winning (even if the dealer has blackjack), all drawn 21 totals win (even if the dealer has 21), the option to Double Down on any total, the option to Surrender at any time (even after Doubling) and re-splitting and Doubling on any split cards. The game has many perks but unfortunately, Blackjack only pays 1:1. The payouts are also slightly different in the game, as opposed to the standard blackjack payouts.
Where to Play these Games?
If you have enjoyed reading about these games, remember that you are in the right place to play them. We have a selection of online casinos that have a variety of different blackjack games. Thus, if you ever wanted to check out these games for yourself, head on over to the best online blackjack casinos for your options.
The Bottom Line
To conclude, we hope that you have enjoyed reading about the best blackjack variants to play. We have a variety of different blackjack games that have their own set of rules, features, side bets, presentation and gameplay. If you ever want to try out these games for yourself, all you need to do is browse through our site to find your options.
Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games because it is so easy to play. The rules are fairly straightforward but may vary from one game to another. That is why you ought to read through this guide just to know more about your options before you start playing. It can also be a good idea to play the demo version beforehand, to become fully acquainted with the game before you start playing.