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Blackjack/21 Variations and Rules

Updated on May 26, 2013

A Winning Blackjack Hand

The Foundations of Blackjack

While there are multiple variations of the popular card game Blackjack, or 21, they all start with a similar foundation and goal. They main purpose of the game is to try to beat the dealer's hand without exceeding a total of 21. In this game, the numbered cards are worth their face value. Jacks, queens, and kings, along with the ten of course, all carry a value of ten. Aces can be played as either one or eleven, whichever suits to your benefit the best. Before we go on, I will teach you some of the basic terminology you will need to know.

Blackjack is when your two initial cards equal 21, in which you are usually paid a bonus
Bust is when your card value has gone over 21, meaning you have automatically lost the hand.
Double Down is when you double your bet to receive only one card, hoping that it will give you the winning hand
Hit is the option given in which you want another card from the 'shoe'.
Insurance is an optional bet. When the dealer's first card is an Ace, he will ask if you want insurance; if you take it and he has a blackjack, you will win your insurance bet, however if he doesn't have the blackjack, you will lose your insurance bet.
Shoe is the remaining stack of cards left in the current game, which ranges from one deck up to eight decks.
Split is when your two initial cards are a pair, and you can place another bet equivalent of current bet to split them up into two separate hands.
Stand is when you are satisfied with your hand, and do not want to take another card from the shoe.
Surrender is available before you make any other choices, and gives you the option to not play your hand at the cost of half of your bet. Surrender as a rule is not always available.

Now that we know the basic terminology and goal of the game of Blackjack, I will explain the rules of some of the different Blackjack variations that exist throughout different locations. While there are probably hundreds of different variations that differ by one small rule, we will look into the most popular ones. They will include: Pontoon Blackjack, Spanish 21, Blackjack Switch, and Vegas Strip Blackjack. I will also talk about some of the different sidebets I have encountered, which can give you many other chances and ways to win.

Pontoon Blackjack

If you already know how to play a standard game of Blackjack, chances are you already know how to play Pontoon Blackjack. Pontoon Blackjack is basically just the name of Blackjack in Great Britain and the United Kingdom. Pontoon Blackjack is identical to the Blackjack you already know, with the exception that the rules are set in stone, and they can vary in different locations. Sometimes the title of this card game is just called Pontoon for short.

There are some terminology changes you should learn if you are going to be playing Pontoon Blackjack to avoid the cause of any confusion.

Pontoon is what we normally would call a blackjack, two cards equaling 21.
Banker is the terminology used referring to the dealer.
Buy is equivalent to a double down.
Twist would be the same thing as a hit.
Stick is what we know as stay, except you must usually have a minimum of 15.

One other change in Pontoon Blackjack that we see is that if you have not reached 21 yet, but have five cards in your hand, you can win double what your initial bet was!

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Spanish 21

The most important thing about Spanish 21 we should know, is that it has a fairly recent origin of 1995 in Nevada, not Spain. The reason it is called Spanish 21 is because it incorporates the use of a 'Spanish deck' of cards, which contains the regular face cards but has no tens in it.

The basic rules of Spanish 21 are the same as regular Blackjack, but there are some pretty neat bonuses incentives for certain hands.
One of the coolest rule change is that if both you and the dealer have 21, your hand wins!
In other types of Blackjack, you can usually split up to three hands, where in Spanish 21, you can split up to four hands.
You will also get bonus incentives for achieving a score of 21 points with five or more cards. With a five card 21, you win 3-to-2; with a six card 21, you will win 2-to-1; and if you happen to pull a seven card 21, your winnings will be 3-to-1!
In other variations of Blackjack, when you double down you only get a single card. However, in Spanish 21 you have the option to either hit or double after a double down, which means there can be more risk for rewards.
The last main bonus you can achieve in Spanish 21 is when you score a 21 with either a 6-7-8 or 7-7-7. If they are unsuited, you get 3-to-2, if they are suited you get 2-to-1, and if they are spades, you will win 3-to-1.

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