What are the Different Variations On Blackjack?

Example of a Spanish 21 blackjack table

Example of a Spanish 21 blackjack table

A very large group of traditional card games use the name Blackjack.  These games are played all around the world, both for pure recreation and for money. But only a few of the games we call “blackjack” are adapted for use in casino-style play. Even so the casino game development industry actively produces and promotes many blackjack variations, of which most could be described as regional favorites.

There are some interesting historical reasons for why blackjack became so differentiated.  Think of card games as if they were like languages.  Each game has its own regional dialects.  Local players make small changes in the game rules or cards to suit their own needs and tastes.  Over time some of these local variants spread to other regions and become recognized as new games in their own rights.

The games listed below are probably the most well-known and popular of these blackjack-style games.

  • 21st-Century Blackjack is played in California card rooms and online casinos. In this form of the game, a player bust does not always result in an automatic loss; depending on the casino, the player can still push if the dealer busts as well, although the dealer typically has to bust with a higher total.  This game is also commonly known as “Vegas Style Blackjack”.
  • Blackjack Switch is played over two hands. The player is permitted to exchange cards between his hands. For example, if the player is dealt 10–6 and 5–10, then the player can switch two cards to make hands of 10–10 and 6–5. Natural blackjacks are paid 1:1 instead of the standard 3:2, and the dealer pushes on 22.
  • Double Attack Blackjack allows the player to increase his wager after the dealer reveals his face up card. This game is dealt from a Spanish shoe (using only 48-card decks, see “Spanish 21” below) and blackjacks only pay even money.
  • Double Deck Blackjack is a 2-deck game where the dealer does not have a hole card and you are allowed to double down on any hand, but must stand after your third card.  See the full rules for Double Deck Blackjack here.
  • Double Exposure Blackjack requires that the dealer show his first two cards face up. Blackjacks pay even money and players lose on all ties.
  • Multiple Action Blackjack allows the player to place 2 or 3 bets on a single hand. The dealer then plays a hand for each bet the player puts on his own hand. This style of play doubles the number of hands a single dealer can play per hour. Although allows, splitting and doubling are often limited by the available space on the felt for additional chips. The same strategies as used in normal blackjack work well in this variation of the game.
  • Spanish 21 is owned by Masque Publishing Inc., a game publishing company based in Colorado. Unlicensed versions of the game may be called Spanish blackjack. Pontoon (probably borrowing the name from a British game that resembles blackjack), another unlicensed variation of the game, is played in Australia and Malaysia with no dealer hole card and significant rule differences. Spanish 21 was first introduced into Nevada casinos around 1995.  The game provides players with many liberal blackjack rules, such as doubling down any number of cards (with the option to rescue, or surrender only one wager to the house), payout bonuses for five or more card 21s, 6–7–8 21s, 7–7–7 21s, late surrender, player blackjacks always winning and player 21s always winning.  Spanish 21 uses a Spanish deck in which all the “10” cards have been removed.  See this article about the differences between Spanish 21 and blackjack for more details.
  • Super Fun 21 allows a player to split a hand up to four times. The player automatically wins if he is dealt six cards totaling 20. All wins are paid 1:1.

One example of the many local traditional and recreational blackjack-like games is French/German Blackjack, a game also known as Vingt-et-un (“Twenty-one” in French) and Siebzehn und Vier (“Seventeen and Four” in Deutsch). French/German Blackjack disallows splitting of hands and an Ace only counts as eleven but two Aces are counted as a blackjack. This variation on the game is usually only played in private circles and military barracks. The British variation Pontoon may take its name from a corruption of “Vingt-et-un”.

It helps to learn the basic rules of blackjack before you start playing any of these variations.  All reviews of blackjack variations inevitably make reference to the original game and you may become confused if you sit down to play blackjack after having only learned to play one of the variants.  Most if not all casinos offer blackjack games but they are less likely to offer any of the given variations.