Blackjack Game Variations
Blackjack has long been one of the most popular gambling games, both in land-based casinos and online. What many people don’t realise is that there are actually a number of variations on the classic game of blackjack. Games like Spanish Blackjack, Hi-Lo-13, and Pontoon open up a whole new world of possibilities for people looking for a twist on traditional blackjack play. Here we’ll cover some of these blackjack variations and look at their particular advantages and disadvantages.
Spanish Blackjack is an unusual variation on normal blackjack in that all the tens are removed, leaving only 48 cards in each deck, with the game itself using six or eight decks. Whilst removing the tens favours the dealer slightly more than traditional blackjack, Spanish Blackjack makes up for this disadvantage with a number of rules that favour the player.
For example, unlike traditional blackjack the player can:
- Double after splitting
- Double on any number of cards
- Surrender late, including after doubling down
- Re-split aces
- Split any picture cards
In addition, unlike traditional blackjack the player wins when both the player and the dealer have blackjack, and the player always wins with 21.
As well as these rules that favour the player, Spanish Blackjack offers a variety of bonus payouts for players, which you should verify before you start playing. If your online casino of choice doesn’t offer these rules or bonuses, you’re better off sticking to traditional blackjack or another variation.
Hi-Lo 13 Blackjack
This variation of blackjack originated in online casinos. It’s also referred to as Hi-Lo-13 European Blackjack Gold, as it’s similar to traditional European blackjack, with a couple of subtle twists.
Hi-Lo-13 Blackjack uses only two decks, and the player has the option to place a side bet on what the value of their first two cards will be. The player must first place a normal blackjack bet, and then they can place the side bet that the first two cards will be:
- Greater than 13 (pays even money)
- Equal to 13 (pays 10-1)
- Less than 13 (pays even money)
The player can bet on more than one of these outcomes if desired. An ace counts as 1 in side bets.
The side bet has no impact on the overall game, so it’s best to stick to sound European Blackjack strategy, and treat the side bet as a bit of extra fun.
This version of Pontoon originates in Australia and is known as “Australian Pontoon” elsewhere in the world.
Like Spanish Blackjack, Pontoon does not use the four tens in its deck and, again like Spanish Blackjack, makes up for this slight disadvantage by offering several generous bonuses that reward the player.
Pontoon is also similar to Spanish Blackjack in that it pays a higher than normal dividend to the player for 5 and under (which is where the name Pontoon comes from). Another major difference to both Spanish and traditional blackjack is that in Pontoon the dealer plays with both cards face down.
The house edge is generally somewhere between .3% and .7%, making Australian Pontoon one of the better blackjack variations, depending on the casino’s specific rules.
Double Exposure is a variation on blackjack where both the dealer’s cards are exposed. To compensate for this disadvantage, there are a number of rules that favour the dealer. For example, the dealer wins on any ties with the exception of natural blackjack, which results in a split, and blackjack only pays even money, unlike other variations which pay between 3-2 and 2-1 on blackjack. Also, the player is only allowed to split once. There may be additional house rules depending on where you play.
The overall house edge in Double Exposure is greater than in traditional blackjack, however the rule variations mean that the player can use skill to make good decisions with the information gained from seeing the dealer’s hand.
Other blackjack variations
Blackjack Surrender: Allows the player to surrender their hand if it’s particularly bad, sacrificing half their original bet in the process.
Blackjack Switch: The player is dealt two hands and is allowed to switch the top two cards of each hand.
Blackjack Progressive: Players place a side bet that accumulates as the progressive jackpot, until it is won, which occurs with various combinations of cards. Four consecutive aces of the same suit dealt to the player in one hand will usually win the whole jackpot.
One of the great things about playing blackjack online is the huge number of variations available at the click of the button. That means you can switch games as often as you like, or try something new, whenever the feeling strikes.
To start playing any of these blackjack games, see our top blackjack casino choices all of which offer variations of the main game.