Blackjack Variations

If you’re headed to the casino or online to play a game of blackjack, it’s important that you know exactly which game you’re playing. There are a large number of variations of blackjack – all of which require knowing different rules and strategies. Here are a few of the most common:


The classic version of the game, which uses only one 52-card deck, is the most commonly played. Players are dealt two face-up cards, while the dealer has only one of his or her two cards showing. The object of the game is to get as close to 21 as possible, beating out the dealer. Players can choose to hit, stand, double down, split or collect insurance on their hand, depending on the cards they were dealt. Whoever is closest to blackjack and beats out the dealer’s hand wins the round.

A table where all players have been dealt three cards.

A table where all players have been dealt three cards.

Three Card

This easy-to-play variant has become especially popular in casinos across the state of Washington. It’s played with a single 52-card deck, not multiple decks. Play begins with each person at the table making an ante in the designated betting circle. Once all bets have been made, the dealer gives three cards to each player and three to himself or herself. All of the players’ cards are face-down, while the dealer has two cards face-down and one face-up. Next, all the players and the dealer select any two or all three of their cards to form the best blackjack hand possible.

Just like in other forms of blackjack, aces can be counted as either 1 or 11. Cards 2 through 10 are counted at face value and the jack, queen and king are valued at 10 points. The overall object of the game is the same: Beat the dealer.


Elimination blackjack is a type of tournament game where participants can play against one another and the dealer. It gets its name because players are eliminated as the tournament progresses. Each tournament round consists of 30 hands. The winner is the player who has the most chips at the end of the 30 hands. There are a number of reasons a player can be eliminated:

Running Out of Chips

Not having the required number of chips to meet the minimum bet
Being the player with the least chips at specific cutoff points throughout the game

The same rules apply for doubling down, splitting, surrendering and insurance in elimination blackjack as they do in classic blackjack.


In bonus blackjack, a player is allowed to bet on the outcome of his or her two cards, and the bet only applies to the two original cards. This variant of blackjack is played with only two decks, so the likelihood of players anticipating their chances of winning are significantly higher. Only a combination of the ace of spades and the jack of spades wins the highest payout on a blackjack. For example, the player who bets $5 on his or her hand and ends up getting a blackjack will win $250.

Some of the same general rules of blackjack apply to bonus blackjack. Players can still double down and split and the dealer will always be obligated to stand on a 17.

The dealer must stand on a 17.

The dealer must stand on a 17.

Double Exposure

The name of this game, double exposure, says a lot about the way in which this variant is played. The main difference between this version and others is that both of the dealer’s cards are exposed. Therefore, there are a few specific rules designed to favor the dealer in order to compensate for the fact that both of his or her cards can be seen by all players:

  • Blackjack pays even money
  • Players may split only once – there is no re-splitting
  • The dealer wins on all ties, except when the player has blackjack

Other than those few rules, the game is played in the same way as all other standard blackjack variations. Bets are still placed, and all players and the dealer are dealt two cards.

Atlantic City

Atlantic City

Atlantic City blackjack uses 8 decks of cards.

Atlantic City blackjack uses eight full decks of cards. In this version of the game, the late surrender rule is what sets it apart from others. Late surrender is when the dealer checks for blackjack first, and if he or she doesn’t have blackjack, players have the option to surrender their hands. By surrendering, you will lose half your wager and be removed from that hand. Using late surrender should be a way to lower the house edge.


European blackjack uses six decks.

European blackjack uses six decks.

This version of blackjack uses six decks, and the dealer doesn’t get a second card until the players have made all of their decisions regarding their hand, including doubling and splitting. The objective remains the same as classic blackjack. The rules for doubling and splitting are fairly specific. You can double on hard totals of 9 to 11 and you can split up to three hands. You may not, however, surrender any cards.


Played with five decks of cards, multi-hand blackjack allows players to play up to five hands at once. The objective remains the same – obtain a hand that is higher in value than the dealer’s hand without breaking 21. For the most part, many of the classic blackjack rules apply. However, there are a few differences:

  • Players may double down on 9, 10 or 11 only
  • There is no doubling or re-splitting after a player has split his or her hand
  • There is no surrendering
  • The dealer does not check his or her hole card for blackjack until the end of the game

Spanish 21

Spanish 21 uses a typical 52-card deck, but without the four 10s. This creates a 48-card deck, in which only 12 of the 48 cards are worth 10, giving the house an increased edge. However, Spanish 21 rules and bonuses compensate for this fact, and give players an advantage as well. When a player’s cards total 21, he or she may qualify for a bonus 12. Different bonuses can be received for reaching 21.

Blackjack Switch

In Blackjack Switch, players are dealt face-up cards from six decks. They must play two hands, and both hands must have equal bets. Only the second card dealt to each player can be switched. The object of the game is the same, but you can switch cards between your two hands in an attempt to get a better hand and improve your chances of winning.

Irish Switch

Irish Switch is also known as Two Four Jacks and is popular in the United Kingdom. The object is to discard all of the cards in your hand and the first player to play his or her final card wins the game. It’s played with a regular 52-card deck.