Are All Blackjack Games Legal?
Strictly speaking, no, but it’s not very hard to find a legal one. You can use one of the many online casinos to play blackjack, whether you use a live dealer or not. There are usually a decent amount of blackjack variations at any given online or brick and mortar casino, so there’s a lot to know when it comes to blackjack variations.
Most Popular Forms of Blackjack
The most popular form of blackjack, by far, is classic blackjack - that’s why it has that name. It is the most traditional form of Blackjack, the most well known and widely played variation. European Blackjack is another well known blackjack variant, and many of the online casinos will have proprietary blackjack variants that you can only play when using a casino in their network, so to speak.
Classic blackjack is the traditional game of blackjack. You play to get as close to 21 as you can, without going over, and your goal is to beat the dealer in doing this. Your cards are face up, the dealer only has one card face up. Aces can be either 1 point or 11 points, creating situations where hands are “hard” or “soft” depending on whether you can audible out of a bust by using this ability of the ace. These are the basic rules of classic blackjack, a game you should probably be familiar with at this point.
Pitch blackjack is a variant of blackjack that is mostly used to refer to the way in which the cards are dealt to you - by hand, instead of using a tool known as a “shoe”. This is generally an in-person thing. It tends to involve only one or two decks, which makes it much easier to count cards, and the casinos know it. For this reason, minimums tend to be much higher when it comes to this variant.
The biggest difference between American and European blackjack is that the dealer doesn’t get to see the card they will end up with (their face down card) before the player is done betting and playing. This means that the dealer is unable to check for blackjack, and has to make their decisions afterwards. European blackjack also has restrictions on splitting cards - you can only split once, and only cards that are worth 10 points or more.
The big difference between Spanish 21 and other blackjack variants is that this game uses the Spanish 48 card deck, which has four less cards that are worth 10 points in blackjack. This changes the math of the game a fair amount - there are less chances to hit a blackjack when the dealer is showing ace, for example, compared to a normal deck of playing cards. There are also some interesting surrender rules in this variant of blackjack.
Switch blackjack is a variant of the game that allows the player to make two bets, and be dealt two hands, and then switch the second card dealt to them if they so choose. This is a way of compensating the player for spending more money by buying multiple hands at a time. In order to entice players to do that, the casinos give the players an edge - the ability to switch. This is where the name comes from.
Super Fun 21
This variant of blackjack adds a small bit of odds shifting in the players favor, but it is a miniscule amount. Basically, if you have six or more cards adding up to 20, you automatically win. The chances of this are extremely low. In addition, a player’s blackjack always beats a dealer’s blackjack. One downside of this variant is that it uses a 6:5 blackjack payout ratio instead of a 3:2.
Pontoon is a variant of blackjack that falls into the group of variants wherein the dealer has no hole card until after the player is done betting. There are a couple other ancillary rules that distinguish pontoon, such as the inability to draw on split aces, meaning that you only get one card if you split aces - a big downside. There are also some limitations on player surrender that are not great for players.
This one is pretty easy to explain. Multi-hand blackjack is simply just playing multiple simultaneous hands of blackjack. The basic idea is that you can get more games going at one time and thereby have a better shot at winning in some of them. Usually it is played by playing five hands at the same time, but you could probably do more if you were really interested in and/or capable of such a thing.
Progressive blackjack involves a side bet about a progressive jackpot. You win the jackpot, and other prizes, by collecting suited aces. One ace pays out 5-1, two suited aces gets you 100 dollars, three suited aces gets you 5000 dollars, and four suited aces wins the jackpot. Obviously, the odds of this ever happening are astoundingly low. Depending on the amount of decks in the game the odds go from “basically impossible” to “statistically incredibly unlikely”, so it’s never fairly likely that you hit the jackpot in this variant, but it is a fun free source of value - a freeroll, basically.
Suit ‘em Up is a similar game to progressive blackjack, in that it has a side bet that is rewarded when suited cards are found. Basically, the side bet in this variant of blackjack starts paying out when players get suited cards. The payout ratios increase the more rare the suited occurrence is - so suited cards is 2:1, while suited pairs is 5:1, and suited aces is 60:1, for example. These ratios won't always be exact, but the relationship between them will be the same.
Perfect Pairs involves another side bet, an extra wager made in addition to the normal blackjack wagering. The side bet in this case is based on whether or not you get a pair - a simple enough bet. Better pairs will have better payout ratios. In this case, a better pair refers to color and suiting - pairs of colors are better than normal pairs, and suited pairs are the best of all.
Match play blackjack isn’t so much a variant of blackjack as it is a casino promotion scheme. Basically, many casinos will offer coupons that say that they will match the bets you make in a game of blackjack in order to get you to start betting. That is what match play is - the casino matching your bets to get you involved in the game.
Face Up 21 / Double Exposure
This is a very simple variant that adds a lot of depth to the game. The basic difference is that the dealer, instead of having one card face down and once card face up, will be dealt both cards face up. This allows the player to make much more accurate calculations about what will be happening, and what they need to do in order to beat the dealer.
Blackjack tournaments are a way to play blackjack heads up against other people. Generally people are split into tables, and the winner of each table moves onto the next round. This process repeats until only one table is left, and then that table is played out to determine the winner of the tournament.
Super 7 is a multi hand variant of legal blackjack that has some additional payouts for getting 7’s. If a player gets dealt a 7 as their first card, the player wins. The payouts for this victory increase depending on whether or not more 7’s are dealt to the player after the first one. Basically, it’s normal blackjack, but you get some rare bonuses when you play.
Zappit is a variant that allows you to “zap” away the hard hands like 15’s and 16’s and get re-dealt entirely new hands. In exchange for this, however, the dealer does not bust on 22’s, and those are treated as a push. This sounds like a fair trade, but it’s worth noting that the payout ratios on Zappit are a bit lower than on normal blackjack - giving the dealer that kind of advantage is costly.
21 Burn - Video Poker
The basic idea behind 21 burn is that the player can make what is known as a burn bet. This means that the player can wager half again what they have already wagered, and in exchange, they can burn their second card, and get dealt a new one. This variant tends to exist on a lot of video poker software, generally those made by Betsoft.
Blackjack Burnout - Table Game
Blackjack burnout is very similar to 21 Burn. The basic idea is the same - for a fee, a player can burn the last card they’ve received in exchange for another random card in the deck. In blackjack burnout, that fee tends to be 20%. You can even burn the card that busted you, if you want a second chance - but it will always cost you 20% of your original bet added to the pot.
Buster blackjack comes with an interesting side bet. The basic idea behind the side bet in this game is that it pays out a bit extra if the dealer busts. This is already a major part of the strategy of blackjack to begin with, so this is an interesting variant to consider if you are already familiar with how the game tends to play out.
Bonus blackjack is another side bet variation of the game of blackjack. In this case, the side bet is similar to many of the suited variants of side bets. There is a bonus for suited cards, but the highest bonus is for getting dealt specifically the jack and ace of spades at the same time. This pays out a large amount, and is the source of the name of the game.
This is a pretty fascinating variant of blackjack. Some state laws in California prohibit the casinos bankrolling games of blackjack, so the idea here is that the game is banked by the players involved instead of the casino. Basically everything else about the experience of playing the game is the same as normal blackjack, it’s just a method of making the game fit the laws of the state.
Double Attack Blackjack
There are a lot of different rules when it comes to Double Attack blackjack, but the biggest one, and the source of the name it has, is that the player may double his or her bet when they see the dealer’s up card, before any player cards are dealt. This is a risky, high level game of blackjack, and it comes with all the rewards that implies.
Chinese blackjack is built to be played amongst groups of friends. The big difference here is that the dealer can choose to reveal the hands of certain players, make sure they’re done, and then hit again if they want to. The basic thought behind the variant is that it is meant to be played amongst groups of friends, and was built to incentivize normal people to choose to be the dealer.
Atlantic City Blackjack
Atlantic City’s blackjack rules are actually regulated by the state of New Jersey. This means that they are generally uniform. You will play with multiple decks, dealers will stand on hard 17’s or higher, and payout ratios are 3:2, not 6:5. Generally speaking, these are very player friendly rules, and Atlantic City is one of the better places to play blackjack as far as these types of things go.
Vegas Strip Blackjack
On the Vegas strip, 6:5 blackjack payouts are the rule of the day. This is a little unfortunate for players, who benefit more from 3:2 blackjack payouts. However, most Las Vegas casinos have switched over to 6:5 payout ratios, on the theory that most players will not notice or care. They aren’t exactly wrong - players are still playing the game, even at a poorer payout ratio.
Triple 7s Blackjack
Triple 7’s blackjack is almost purely identical to Bonus Blackjack. The basic idea is that there is a progressive jackpot, that starts being triggered when the player is dealt a 7. The player then continues to receive cards, and if the next card is also a 7, they get a further bonus. If they manage to get three 7’s in a row, and thus hit 21 with three 7’s, they get the ultimate jackpot bonus. This is why it has the name “triple sevens”.
5 Card Charlie - 6 Card Charlie - 7 Card Charlie
Generally these variants of blackjack refer to a special rule. Let’s use five card Charlie as an example. In five card Charlie blackjack variants, if a player has a hand of 5 cards without busting, he wins on the spot. The rule works the same way for six card Charlie and seven card Charlie. It is worth noting that this is an extremely unlikely scenario to occur, but it does happen, and sometimes it is a freeroll.
War blackjack adds a side bet based on the game War to the normal blackjack experience. Other than the side bet, the game is identical to normal blackjack. The War side bet allows you to bet whether your first card is higher than the dealer’s up card. If you win the side bet, you can then parlay it into the overall blackjack bet, which is an interesting addition to the traditional blackjack ruleset.
Down Under Blackjack
This is a game that trades a strict advantage for the dealer for a soft advantage for the player. The basic rules state that the dealer must inform the player about the quality of their hole card - whether it is small, medium, or big. In exchange for this information, the dealer no longer busts on 22’s , and those hands are counted as a push. This is a big change in the rulebook, and it is likely in favor of the dealer, but if you’re good at using the information you’re given, this can be a profitable endeavor.
Zombie blackjack is another variant in which the player receives a nebulous advantage while the dealer receives a strict advantage. The player receives the ability to, if they bust, return to life like a zombie if the dealer busts as well, and not lose all their money. In exchange, the dealer receives the ability to not bust on 22’s, and those 22’s are treated like a push instead of a player victory. Falls in the category of push 22 variants of blackjack, several of which are discussed above.