Online Blackjack Variations - More to Choose From
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Online blackjack comes in a variety of flavors. All of them have a different set of rules and the odds you get will vary a little bit with each form, but any kind of blackjack is still one of the best games you can find at a casino, if you only consider the odds.
The amount of decks in the different variations may vary - from just one up to eight - but for card counting or similar purposes this makes little difference, as the decks are "shuffled" prior to every deal when you play online.
The different casino software platforms offer their own range of blackjack variants, but one thing they have in common is that there are lots and lots of blackjack varieties available; from the basic Vegas Strip variety, via progressive jackpot blackjack, to even more exotic formats such as a version with two dealer upcards.
This article will take a look at some of the most common and popular blackjack variations you'll encounter online. Most online casinos use one of the two most popular and arguably best software platforms - PlayTech or MicroGaming. Below you will find descriptions of the blackjack variants offered at these casinos, respectively.
Vegas Strip Blackjack
When you first visit an online casino, you quickly discover that there are several variations of blackjack available. The most common variant, and perhaps the most popular, is the classic Vegas Strip Blackjack. This version of the game is well known for its exceptionally low house edge, and uses the standard rule set that has become synonymous with the word blackjack worldwide.
Other popular versions include Double Exposure Blackjack, where both of the dealer's cards are exposed, Double Attack Black, where the player may double his bet after the dealer's up-card is dealt but before his own cards are dealt, and Blackjack Switch, where the player is dealt two hands and is allowed to switch cards between them. The best Blackjack strategy might vary a bit between these different versions. But sticking to regular basic blackjack strategy works for all variations of blackjack.
In some Blackjack games you are also allowed to "surrender". If you believe that the odds are strongly against you, you are allowed to surrender and only lose half of your original bet. This can occur if you hand is, for instance, 15 or 16 and the dealer has an ace or ten showing. It may sound a bit strange not to take another card, but it actually improves your long-term winning chances. If you have the option to play blackjack with the surrender option then you should always do so, as this improves your odds of winning.
The skill factor has also made blackjack popular in tournament form. Of course you will need quite a bit of luck to win an online blackjack tournament, but with a good strategy you will need significantly less luck than your average opponent. It's also great fun to match your wits against real opponents instead of the house.
Most online casinos nowadays offer regular tournaments in blackjack and other popular casino games. One of the most popular forms of blackjack tournaments is Elimination blackjack. If you apply basic blackjack strategy when playing elimination blackjack you might come out on top. Especially against opponents who rely more on "feel" than the actual odds.
PlayTech's Blackjack Surrender uses six normal 52-card decks. The decks are shuffled before every new hand is dealt. Player blackjack always wins, and the dealer must stand on any 17. The difference between Blackjack Surrender and regular blackjack is that the player is allowed to "surrender," i.e. give up the hand and get back half your bet.
In all other aspects Blackjack Surrender is played like ordinary blackjack, but since you get better odds in the Surrender version, it makes more sense to play this one than the regular variety.
The "surrender" feature is useful if the player for instance has a hard 16 and the dealer has an ace or a ten showing. This way you only lose half your bet when it's very likely that the dealer has you beat.
Tip: Always surrender if you have 16 and the dealer's up card is an ace, a ten or even a nine. If you have 15, you should also surrender if the dealer has a ten.
The standard blackjack variety at PlayTech is the most basic form of blackjack with all of the standard rules, but no surrender option is available. It has six standard 52-card decks and the player is allowed to double down on any first two cards. The dealer stands on any soft 17.
When you have doubled down, you only receive one additional card. You may split any pair, but when you split aces, you likewise only get one additional card, and if you get a 10-value card on one of the aces it does not count as a blackjack.
This is exactly the same game as Blackjack Surrender; with the only difference that surrendering is not allowed. Because of the slightly worse odds, knowledgeable players often choose the surrender variety.
Tip: Never take insurance. The house edge is too steep to justify an insurance bet in any situation.
Progressive jackpots have never been more popular, but they are somewhat more common in slot machines than in conventional blackjack. In this case you must post an optional side bet in order to be eligible for the jackpot. In almost every other aspect, PlayTech's Progressive Blackjack has the same rules as Classic Blackjack, with six decks. Surrender is not available.
The optional side bet of $1 gives you a chance to win the progressive jackpot. There are also a number of smaller but still substantial payouts, according to this table:
4 suited aces win the progressive jackpot
3 suited aces pay 5000:1
4 aces (any suit) pay 2500:1
3 aces (any suit) pay 250:1
2 suited aces pay 100:1
2 aces (any suit) pay 25:1
Tip: If the progressive jackpot exceeds $200,000, the game reaches break-even, and beyond that the player will actually have the "edge". If the jackpot is relatively small, however, the house edge will be very large.
PlayTech's Blackjack Switch is a very innovative game, which gives the player excellent odds. It allows you to play two hands simultaneously and switch cards between the hands (an old cheating maneuver). The player is required to place two bets of the same size and is dealt two different hands from a six-deck shoe. The top card in each hand may be switched freely between the hands.
This is obviously a huge advantage for the player, and to make up for it the dealer automatically ties on 22 when the player has 21 or lower, except if the player has a blackjack. A dealer blackjack also beats a player blackjack, and a blackjack pays only 1 to 1.
In spite of the above drawbacks, Blackjack Switch is still a very good game for the player because of the huge advantage of the switch rule. It's allowed to double down and split hands as usual, and you may double down on a split hand as well.
Tip: The decision to switch is fairly obvious in most cases. Always make a blackjack if you can, and switch if it gives you the option to split or double down when it's favorable (according to basic strategy).
Here's a list of the best PlayTech casinos.
MicroGaming offers "Gold" varieties of some of their games, but the main difference between the gold series and the regular games are some elements of the design - the gold versions have better graphics and sound in general.
Basically, Classic Blackjack Gold is the most basic blackjack variant at the casino. It uses only one 52-card deck, the dealer stands on all 17's, and you may only double down on 9, 10 or 11. There is no surrender option available.
Because of the single deck, the odds are slightly better than average, and if you prefer regular blackjack without any added gimmicks or side bets, this could be a good choice.
Tip: If you decide to split a pair of aces and draw a 10 card to your ace, it usually doesn't count as a blackjack - just 21, and you are not paid 3 to 2. It's still correct to split the aces, however.
Every blackjack enthusiast's dream is to be able to see both of the dealer's cards instead of just the one. In Double Exposure Blackjack, you can. It doesn't come without its drawbacks however; the rules are changed to make up for the disadvantage of receiving this much information.
This game uses eight standard decks, and the player is allowed to double down on 9, 10 and 11, and just as in regular blackjack, you may also split your pairs. Several other rules have been changed to reclaim the house edge (which is still relatively small):
- Dealer wins all ties except on a player blackjack
- Player blackjack pays 1:1 instead of 3:2
- There is no option for late surrender
- Dealer hits on soft 17
Tip: The rule that says "dealer wins all ties" is obviously the most disturbing. On the other hand, two dealer up-cards is a massive advantage, and the end result is a pretty good game with decent odds.
Spanish Blackjack is a bit of an odd variant - there are eight decks in the shoe, but all the 10's have been taken out, leaving them with 48 cards each. This is seemingly bad for the player, since a deck rich in 10-value cards is good for the player.
However, Spanish Blackjack differs from the Double Exposure and Switch variants in that in this game the rules have been changed in favor of the player. Although the player will get fewer blackjacks because of the missing tens, there are several special payouts that occur with specific hands.
7-7-7 of the same suit facing a dealer 7 pays 50 to 1. Any 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 receives a special bonus payout, as does a 21 with 5, 6 or 7 cards respectively. The player is allowed to double down on any two cards, and a player 21 always wins. You may also double down twice, and split and re-split hands.
Tip: You need to approach Spanish Blackjack a bit differently than regular blackjack. For instance, you should always hit if one of the special 6-7-8 bonuses is possible.
Instead of the aces in PlayTech's progressive blackjack variant, sevens are the miracle cards in this game. Triple Sevens Blackjack uses 5 normal 52-card decks, and to win the progressive jackpot you need three sevens of diamonds.
Besides the progressive jackpot, this is a standard blackjack variant in almost every other aspect. You may split pairs and double down on 9, 10 and 11, and the dealer stands on all 17's. Because all sevens are good in this game, you should always hit on two sevens - three sevens of any suit pays 250:1.
Tip: Just like most other side bets, the progressive jackpot side bet in Triple Sevens Blackjack is nowhere near profitable in most circumstances. In order for the side bet to approach break-even (no house edge), the jackpot meter must reach at least $100,000.
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