But for many players, the simplistic premise of blackjack—trying to get closer to 21 than the dealer without busting—belies the inherent difficulty of the game. As a result, they are often unprepared for its rigors and wind-up turning a relatively favorable game into a windfall for the house. Complicating this further is the fact that casinos—both online and terrestrial—often have subtle variations in the rules that affect the overall potential return. Factors such as the number of decks used or whether the dealer can hit a soft 17 vary with the casino, and shift the game’s edge. In other words, some versions of blackjack are just plain better than others. Consider the following:
|Game I||One||Dealer hits||Any two cards||Up to 2 hands||Late surrender||0.18%|
|Game II||Two||Dealer hits||Any two cards||Up to 4 hands||Late surrender||0.48%|
|Game III||Four||Dealer stands||Any two cards||Up to 4 hands||Late surrender||0.43%|
|Game IV||Four||Dealer hits||10 or 11||Up to 2 hands; no double||No surrender||0.93%|
|Game V||Four||Dealer stands||Any two cards; after split||Up to 4 hands||Late surrender||0.29%|
|Game VI||Six||Dealer hits||Any two cards||Up to 4 hands||Late surrender||0.53%|
|Game VII||Six||Dealestands||Any two cards; after split||Up to 2 hands||No surrender||0.46%|
Notice how these subtle changes in rules alter the house’s edge. In Game IV, the casino uses four decks, has the dealer hit soft 17s, restricts doubling and fails to offer a surrender option, resulting in an edge that is substantially higher than casinos with more “player friendly” rules, such as in Game I.
Unfortunately, there is often little recourse for patrons of traditional casinos—it’s not always possible to simply leave in search of a better game. That’s one of the major benefits of Internet blackjack. Online players suffer no such geographical constraints, and may come and go as they please. As such, it behooves all online blackjack players to take advantage of this feature, and spend a little extra time previewing a site before taking the time to download the software.
Variations on a theme
Of course, not every blackjack-style game on the Internet is going to fall under the category of “conventional.” New versions of this highly popular game are always popping up online, some taken almost directly from traditional casinos while others have been specifically designed for the online gambling community. Below are descriptions and the basic rules of a few of the more popular online variations.
Although similar to conventional blackjack in most regards, Blackjack Switch allows players to do what is generally considered cheating: trade cards between two hands.
In Blackjack Switch, play begins when a player makes two bets of equal size. The cards are then dealt face up, after which the player may opt to “switch” the second card dealt to each hand. For example, if a player has 8,2 for the first hand and a 9,3 for the second hand, they could switch the 2 and 3 to create two new hands of 11 and 11. The following additional rules apply:
A British version of blackjack, Pontoon has been steadily gaining popularity in online gambling circles for the past few years, and is now offered by a variety of software providers including Real Time Gaming and WagerLogic.
Pontoon is played with eight standard 52-card decks, and all card values are the same as in traditional blackjack. Each player is dealt two cards face up, while both of the dealer’s cards are dealt face down. As with blackjack, players are trying to get a total card value of 21, or closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. Hands are ranked as follows:
Pontoon—An ace and any 10-point card, including after splitting.
Players may stand on any five-card hand, or on a total value that is greater or equal to 15.
Although similar to blackjack, be sure to firmly understand the rules and variations of Pontoon before playing, as some of the key options can become confusing. Also, be sure to review the “Rules” section of your selected casino for additional rules, as online casinos sometimes alter them in ways that can adversely affect the player.
Another blackjack variant found in online casinos, Caribbean 21 is an eight-deck game that offers its fair share of deviations from conventional blackjack—some good, some bad. The game is played according to the following rules:
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