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Blackjack Rules: Intermediate to Advanced Players

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In today’s blog we take a deeper look into the inner workings of blackjack tables by looking at how the different rules applied to blackjack tables can affect table dynamics, RTP, and how you choose which table to play at.

Blackjack table owners i.e. the land-based casino establishment or online casino developer can change the rules on their tables at any time. These rule changes dictate the totals you can use the double down, when you can split, how many times you can split, whether you can surrender, and how much a natural Blackjack 21 hand pays.

Why is understanding the different rules of blackjack important?

When the dynamics of a blackjack table change because of a slight rule adjustment so do the ‘basic strategy charts’ and the ‘house edge’. Some of these rule changes work in favor of the house and others work in favor of the player.

If you are a seasoned blackjack player, understanding which mix of rules offers you the best overall advantage over the house, then you can find tables that will offer you the best RTP. Here is an example of the perfect blackjack table:

If this table makes little sense to you now, once you have read this entire chapter, come back and revisit this table. In the sections below, you will learn more about each of the rules mentioned here. Our aim is to help you identify each rule, spot variations of each rule, and eventually have the ability to read any blackjack table’s rules and understand which table offers you the most fun and/or best house edge!

TIP: Finding a blackjack table that offers the combination of the above rules all at once is a futile mission. In most casinos, single deck tables often have less than liberal rules, while you will find more liberal rules only on tables that offer 6-deck and 8-deck shoes.

Single Deck to 8 Deck Blackjack and the House Edge

An interesting point worth knowing is how additional decks added to the shoe on a blackjack table can affect the house edge. The rule of thumb is simple. The more decks in the shoe, the higher the house edge or the lower the RTP.

Now after reading this table, you would probably assume that the least number of decks there are in the shoe, the better the house edge. However, this is not always the case and for good reason. Quite often where the house offers a lower number of decks, it will adjust other rules on the table to pull back some of that house edge.

Tip: Always check the rules of single deck and double deck blackjack tables. You may find that the lower number of decks means the table has less than liberal rules. The rules could be so illiberal that a 6-deck or 8-deck game offers a better house edge and sometimes more fun thanks to the table’s more liberal/flexible rules.

Take, for example, the next section on ‘Double Down’ rules. If you play a ‘single deck’ blackjack table, the house gains no edge. Therefore, it may apply the ‘Double Down only on 10 or 11 Totals’ rule, which will give the house an additional 0.09% house edge.

Double Down Rules

A fun rule added to pretty much all blackjack tables is the infamous ‘double down’, and in this section you are about to become a ‘double down’ expert because we cover every situation you will come across and how each variation of the ‘double down’ rule affects the house edge and your player RTP.

How to play a double down hand: A double down hand play takes your original 2 cards and adds an additional card after which your hand will automatically ‘stand’ if it does not ‘bust’. You will also place an amount equal to your original bet on top whether the ‘double down’ results in a ‘bust’ or ‘stand’.

Every Double Down Rule Could Come Across

Below is a table containing every possible double down rule you could come across paying at live dealer blackjack tables, land based casinos, or virtual casino tables. We also give you the percentages each rule adds or subtracts from the house edge and RTP.

  • means additional percentage added to the house edge which work in favor of the house
  • mean percentage is subtracted from the house which works in favor of you, the player
  • percentage on to your RTP work in your favor
  • percentage from your RTP works in favor of the house

Split Rules

Double down rules are fun and add plenty of spice to the blackjack tables. Split rules are also interesting because casinos also use a mix of ‘split’ options to increase or decrease the house edge. Obviously the more liberal the rules, the more fun the game is and the better the house edge.

Below we have put all the split rules into a table to help you identify which of them give you an advantage over the house versus those that work in favor of the house.

Surrender Rule

One of the most useful rules a blackjack table can offer you is the surrender option. This rule is especially useful with the dreaded 16 hand because you can offload a hand that loses 70%+ of the time for 50% of your original bet in return, making the surrender an optimal play.

Therefore, the surrender rule is there to protect you against those dreaded situations where no matter whether you ‘hit’ or ‘stand’, mathematical probability states that you are more likely to lose.

The table below shows the various surrender rules available and how they affect the house edge and your RTP.

Dealer Rules

An important part of the game to understand is how the dealer acts when the house hand total is either below 17 or above 17. Luckily we already covered this in detail in the section above, and we will cover it again below when we talk about choosing the correct basic strategy charts. We mention it again here to replant seed so you keep this aspect of the game in mind.

Dealer actions are another changing rule in blackjack that affects the house edge and the way you play basic strategy.

  • H17 – the dealer stands on all 17 totals and about but hits all soft 17s
  • S17 – the dealer stands on all hard 17 totals including soft 17

Side Bet Rules

When you choose to use side bets, the important thing to remember is that they have no effect on your basic strategy or the rules of the main game. Side bets are an independent game ‘on the side’ as the name suggests. Casinos add side bets to make the game more interesting, and they are fun, but also as an ulterior motive for the casino, these side bets also make the house more money!

Peek or No Peek Rules

There are 2 rules that apply to the ‘Peek’ in blackjack and generally they differ between US/American versions of the game and European versions.

Peek: The dealer checks for blackjack when the house hand has a face card that is an ‘Ace’ or ‘10’ value. If the dealer has blackjack, then you automatically lose. This means there is no ‘insurance bet’ option on these tables.

No Peek: Believe it or not the ‘No Peek’ rule gives the house a 0.11% advantage. This is because the player could double down or even split adding more money to the table only to find out at the end of the hand the dealer has blackjack.

This was our article for rules of Blackjack for intermediate to advanced players. Incorporate these into your next Blackjack Session and win big at mBitcasino.

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