Popular Blackjack Variants

By: Stephen Charlesworth / Last Update: 25 Nov 2015

Popular Blackjack Game VariationsAs it is an undisputed royalty among casino games, blackjack is a must for every respected casino. And while at land-based casinos you can find mainly the classic version of the game, online you can enjoy tens upon tens of different blackjack variations. Read on to find out more about the most interesting ones.

We all know that blackjack is to a great extent a game of strategy and usually the strategy begins with the player picking a blackjack variant to play. Whether you’re searching for fun new variations or for tips on how to pick the game with the lowest house edge, you’ll find the following paragraphs pretty useful.

Innovative Online Blackjack Game Variations

It’s a known fact that players enjoy new and different variations of their favourite games. This is why we decided to pay special attention to the most innovative and unique blackjack games you can find online. In the table below you can find a short presentation of the top 4 standouts.

-Blackjack Switch
  • Basic Rules
  • Return to Player: 99.84% Blackjack pays: 1 to 1
  • Decks: 6
  • Insurance: yes
  • Surrender: no
  • Multihand: yes
  • Side bets: yes
  • Split and Double Options
  • Split: any pair
  • Resplit: Up to 3 hands
  • Double: any two cards
  • Double after split: yes
  • Hit split aces: no
  • Dealer Rules
  • Hits: soft 17
  • Peeks for Blackjack: yes
  • Special Game Rules: The Super Match side bets wins if you have 2 or more matching cards.
Where to play Blackjack Switch?
  • Bonus:£30 free + £6000 bonus
  • Bonus code:ALLWIN
  • Wagering contribution:5%
  • Software:Playtech

This variant was invented in 2001 and patented in 2009 by the card counter named Geoff Hall and is characterised by the fact that each of the players receive two separate hands. The main thing in Blackjack Switch is that each of the players can switch their top cards between their two hands if they feel they have a better chance at beating the dealer’s hand. Here a natural blackjack pays 1 to 1, and not 3 to 2 as in classic blackjack.

Geoff Hall invented this variant because he was frustrated many times at being dealt two weak hands, so he invented a blackjack game where the top two cards could be switched between the two hands, hence Blackjack Switch. Since then the game became widely accepted in Las Vegas and has become a standard offering at casinos powered by Playtech.

-Duel Blackjack
  • Basic Rules
  • Return to Player: 98.38% Blackjack pays: 1 to 1
  • Decks: 6
  • Insurance: no
  • Surrender: yes
  • Multihand: yes
  • Side bets: yes
  • Split and Double Options
  • Split: no
  • Resplit: no
  • Double: any
  • Double after split: no
  • Hit split aces: no
  • Dealer Rules
  • Hits: soft 17
  • Peeks for Blackjack: no
  • Special Game Rules: The 2 up sidebet wins when the first three cards contain two of a kind.
Where to Play 21 Duel Blackjack?
  • Bonus:£1000
  • Bonus code:not required
  • Wagering contribution:5%
  • Software:Playtech

This is a fast paced blackjack variant, a mixture between classic blackjack and poker. Upon placing your initial bet (which acts as an ante bet) you are dealt one face down and one face up card, while both of the dealer’s cards are faced down. Another two cards are placed on the table faced up, which will act as community cards, just like in poker.

The next step is to decide whether you want to fold or to continue playing by placing your second bet. If you fold you will lose your ante bet and another round will start. Your second bet must be of the same value as your ante bet. So, the thing is you are not dealt a third card like in most blackjack games, and instead you have to pick one from the community cards. After that you just have to decide whether to stand or to hit.

-Pick’em Blackjack
  • Basic Rules
  • Return to Player: 99.53% Blackjack pays: 3 to 2
  • Decks: 1
  • Insurance: yes
  • Surrender: no
  • Multihand: no
  • Side bets: no
  • Split and Double Options
  • Split: any pair
  • Resplit: no
  • Double: on 10 and 11 only
  • Double after split: yes
  • Hit split aces: no
  • Dealer Rules
  • Hits: soft 17
  • Peeks for Blackjack: no
  • Special Game Rules: A 7-card Charlie (7-card hand that totals less than 21) is paid 1 to 1.
Where to play Blackjack Pick’em?
  • Bonus:200% up to £300
  • Bonus code:not required
  • Wagering contribution:10%
  • Software:Playtech

Pick’em Blackjack is a variant that lets you have bigger control over the game. As the name suggests, in Pick’em Blackjack you can choose your own cards or you can let the computer do that for you. This variant is played with a single standard 52-card deck, and the entire deck is spread across the blackjack table. Naturally, the goal is the same as in classic blackjack: you have to get as closest to 21 without busting, and you need to have a better hand than the dealer.

After you have placed your bet you have to pick a card for you and one for the dealer. Then a second card is dealt to you and the dealer, after which you have to decide on whether to stand or draw another one. It is a very simple and interesting blackjack variant.

-Pontoon
  • Basic Rules
  • Return to Player: 99.64% Blackjack pays: 2 to 1
  • Decks: 6
  • Insurance: no
  • Surrender: no
  • Multihand: yes
  • Side bets: no
  • Split and Double Options
  • Split: any pair
  • Resplit: up to 3 hands
  • Double: any cards
  • Double after split: yes
  • Hit split aces: yes
  • Dealer Rules
  • Hits: soft 17
  • Peeks for Blackjack: yes
  • Special Game Rules: A 5-card Charlie (5-card hand that totals less than 21) is paid 2 to 1.
Where to play Pontoon?
  • Bonus:up to £150
  • Bonus code:not required
  • Wagering contribution:5%
  • Software:Playtech

Pontoon is one of the earliest blackjack variants available at almost any software platform, be it Playtech, Microgaming, or NetEnt. Every participant is dealt a face-down card after which he needs to place his initial bet, without peeking at the card. He can look at it only after the second card has been dealt. The dealer’s two initial cards are both faced down.

A blackjack hand in Pontoon is called simply pontoon, while the second best hand after a pontoon hand is the Five-card hand. This hand can beat any other hand of the same total but with less cards. Sometimes Pontoon is played with only two standard decks, while some casinos use up to 8 decks. The rules are relatively the same with small variations regarding splitting aces, doubling, ties etc. This variation is mainly played in Australia, New Zealand and Asia.

How the Different Rules Affect the House Edge?

As you probably have noticed in the examples above, the different blackjack variations have different set of rules and different return-to-player percentages. The return-to-player values, in fact, are directly correlated to the house edge of the game – the total of the two values is always 100%. Therefore the lower the house edge is, the higher the return-to-player theoretical percentage will be and vice versa. This is why it’s good to know how the variations of the blackjack rules affect the house edge. Here are some examples:

-2.27%Blackjack Pays 2 to 1This is the single most advantageous blackjack rule for the player. A blackjack that pays 2:1 instead of 3:2 decreases the house edge by the impressive 2.27%. Unfortunately there are not many games online that feature this rule.
-1.46%Five-Card CharlieThe five-card Charlie is a blackjack rule where a player hand consisting of 5 cards that totals less than 21 is an automatic winner. There’s also a six-card and a seven-card Charlie, but they are less advantageous for the player.
-0.48%Single DeckDifferent blackjack variations are played with different number of decks. The more decks are in play, the higher the house edge will be. This is why playing a single-deck blackjack variant is always a preferred option for the player.
+0.22%Dealer Hits on Soft 17This is one of the rules that you will encounter most often while playing new and unique blackjack games online. Usually the software providers include this rule to balance out another rule, which is very advantageous for the player.
+2.27%Blackjack Pays 1 to 1This is one of the most damaging blackjack rules. Fortunately, when a game has this rule, it usually features many other that make up for it, like Blackjack Switch for example, where you can switch the top cards of two different hands.
+6.91%Dealer Bust on 22 Is a PushJust seeing the percentage by which this rule increases the house edge should be enough for you to know that it is extremely unfavourable for you. Still, there are some games that feature it which are quite interesting.

Advantages of Playing Different Blackjack Variations

People generally like to play other blackjack variants because they love to try the game of blackjack in another light, to get a little change in their daily classic blackjack. These new variants bring some new excitement and thrills, just like when you try a new game. Sometimes they offer much better odds because of the small changes in the rules and the game play in general and thus can be more profitable and fun for the player, while others provide that extra challenge against the house for an even more exciting blackjack game.