Blackjack variants take the game that we all know and love and tweak the rules ever so slightly to create something different. In the world of online blackjack, new variants are popping up all the time. You have to know how to tell them apart and decide which of these games are worth your while.
You might not think about real money online blackjack as a place for great gambling variety. If you haven’t explored it in a while, you might think that you’re basically stuck with the version of blackjack that you probably learned how to play when you were growing up.
But you might be surprised to know that the online blackjack realm is filled with real money blackjack variants that can provide you with exciting twists on the traditional version of the game. Some of these thrilling twists already exist in land-based casinos. Others are solely the creation of online casino game manufacturers.
In any case, we’re here to help you navigate the world of online blackjack variants. We’ll talk about some of the most popular riffs on the basic game that you can play online. Hopefully, after reading this, you’ll know if any of these blackjack variants are for you.
Blackjack Rule Differences
Just because a game is called blackjack, it doesn’t mean it’s exactly the same as a similar online version at another website. There are slight rules changes which can have a direct impact on the kind of payback you can expect. You should be aware of these rules and shouldn’t commit to any game before knowing if they’re working in your favor.
Here are some of the rules you should be aware of.
- Whether or not the dealer can hit on a “soft” 17 – A soft 17 is where there’s an ace in the hand being valued at 11 instead of 1. If the dealer has to stand on a soft 17, it is to the player’s advantage.
- How much money is paid to the player on a blackjack – The standard amount is 3:2 payback for a 21 on the first two cards. But more and more casinos are lowering that to 6:5 or even lower, which hurts the player.
- How many times a player is allowed to split – If that is limited to once, it works against the player. Being able to split aces and eights multiple times works in your favor.
- Doubling rules – Many online games limit the hands on which a player can double his bet. If you can double liberally, it will help your payback if you know when to make that extra bet.
- Surrender specifics – First of all, you want a game where surrendering is allowed. If you can find a game with “early” surrenders, which come before the dealer checks for blackjack, it’s even better.
- Whether a live dealer is involved or not – With live dealers, you can sometimes utilize card counting to help boost your payback. That’s something you won’t be able to do if the dealer is automatic, because, in those cases, reshuffling takes place after every hand and makes card counting irrelevant.
You might not be able to find an online blackjack format where all of these variations work in your favor. Try to check off as many boxes in your favor to maximize your winnings.
Different Online Blackjack Games
There are dozens of online blackjack variations where the rules changes are a bit more drastic and unique than the ones above. In fact, they’re so different that they even go by a different name than just blackjack. Here are a few of the most popular variations.
This is a game that has found a home in many casinos and is a regular part of online gambling sites as well. On the surface, it appears to be very advantageous to the player. Many of the rules listed above that can go either way favor the player, and you can even win on a 21 instead of push if the dealer also has 21.
But the key difference to Spanish 21 is that there are no 10s in the deck. As card counters know, the less cards with a value of 10 in the deck, the more the advantage goes to the dealer. In other words, you’re starting each hand with a lesser chance of winning the hand than if you were playing basic online blackjack.
This is a relatively recent and creative twist on blackjack. The basic gist of the game is that you play two hands instead of one. When you get your two deals, you can switch cards from one hand to the other to improve both hands if you can.
Obviously being able to do that is a huge advantage for you, the player. To atone for that, most of the other rules are heavily skewed toward the dealer. The one that really hurts the player is if the dealer gets a 22, it results not in a bust but in a push against any player hand that isn’t a bust or 21.
The main difference in this version of online blackjack comes with how the cards are dealt. In standard blackjack, the dealer gets two cards to start just as every player does, one face up and one face down. By contrast, in European Blackjack, the player only gets one card to start, face up, and doesn’t receive his second card until all players have completed their hands.
What this does is make it tougher on players to double and split, since they might be doing that against a dealer blackjack. In addition, there are other strict rules on doubling and splitting that hurts the player. While the difference isn’t much, overall payback in European 21 stands to be lower than in the normal game.
Online Blackjack Side Bets
A side bet in online blackjack is something that goes on during the hand but is separate from the actual blackjack action. You can conceivably win the side bet while losing the basic hand and vice versa. There are many different ways where the side bet can work.
In general, side bets bring an opportunity for a little bit higher ratio of payback than normal blackjack. When you’re playing blackjack, the best you can hope for in terms of payback is usually 3 to 2, which is what you get when you get a blackjack hand of 21 on the first two cards.
With side bets, you can expect payback to be higher than that. It could be as modest as 2 to 1 or 3 to 1. But there are some side bets where you might win hundreds of coins for every one that you bet.
Of course, the high payouts only come on side bets that you don’t have much chance of winning. Still, many gamblers like side bets as a way to spice up play and raise their potential winnings.
Popular Blackjack Side Bets
21 + 3
Consider this online blackjack side bet to be a combination of blackjack and poker. If your two cards and the dealer’s face-up card form some sort of winning poker hand, you win. Payment is based on the likelihood of forming winning combinations like three of a kind, flush and straight.
This is a simple enough one to understand, in that you’ll be hoping the two cards you are dealt turn out to be same in rank. The biggest payout is reserved for when a player receives two of the exact same card on the deal. That can happen because there are multiple decks in the shoe, meaning you could conceivably be dealt a pair of ace of spades, or any other card in the deck.
Here’s another simple one to understand, in that you win if the dealer busts. That would provide you with a double whammy in many cases, since you would win your basic hand if you don’t bust and the dealer does. In addition, you get paid at a higher rate on the side bet if the dealer goes through more cards in his hand before he busts.
FAQ About Online Blackjack Variants
Should I Avoid Online Blackjack Games That Don’t Have All the Rules That I Like?
Unless your expectations are unrealistic, you should. The world of online blackjack has grown to a point where there are hundreds of options out there for you at competing sites. There’s no reason for you to settle on a game that’s either hard for to understand or too disadvantageous to you.
What you shouldn’t do is deny yourself the enjoyment of online blackjack looking for the perfect game. You won’t find one that gives the edge over to the player. But, if you look hard enough, you can find ones that give you a realistic shot of making a profit if you play well and utilize rewards from the top online casino sites.
Can Blackjack Variants Compete With Basic Online Blackjack in Terms of Payback?
For the most part, no. Many of these variants have flash and novelty on their side. And that can trick unsuspecting players into thinking they’re really playing something special.
But the bottom line is that if any of those variants really did outdo the basic version of the game in payback, they would be more popular. Savvy gamblers go where the money is. And basic online blackjack is a better investment in the long term than any of the different variants available.
Are Blackjack Side Bets Worth It?
It depends on what you’re looking for from them. If you want a way to win more money in a short period of time while playing blackjack online, then yes, they are. Look for ones that can give you a sudden, significant boost in your bankroll with a lucky deal.
But if you’re looking to make money in the long term, side bets are a losing proposition. The house edge for every one of them is significantly higher than it is for simple online blackjack. You’ll most likely be hurting your overall payback if you play side bets with regularity.
Conclusion on Blackjack Variants Online
We hope that you understand the world of online blackjack variants a little better having read this article. Some of them can be a lot of fun and, with luck, lucrative for you. Just remember that, all things being equal, sticking with the simplest format of online blackjack is usually your best bet.