No one knows where blackjack variations started or came from. Some are cultural based, such as Spanish 21. Others are bonus based. In culture based variations the changes to the game usually effect how the game is played: certain cards could be removed or have different rules of play and how to win. When it comes to bonus based variations, the blackjack portion is still the same but there are ways to win bonus money, usually in the form of payouts for pairs or being dealt certain cards. Here we focus on variations, cultural and bonus based, that are commonly found in online casinos’ blackjack lineup.
This is a bonus based blackjack game played with six decks. Players make the usual bet for play a hand of blackjack, but also have the option of placing a bonus bet that is separate from the blackjack round bet. The bonus bet is a wager on the first two cards dealt to the player and whether they are a pair or not. These first two cards are dealt face down after both bets have been placed. The cards are then dealt. If the player does have a pair he receives the bonus payout; if the player is dealt two cards that do not match, he loses his bonus bet. After bonuses have been settled, blackjack is played out as it normally would. It is possible for a player to win the bonus bet, but lose the hand of blackjack, and it’s possible to win the round of blackjack but lose the bonus.
This is a culture based variation. For the most part it is played just like standard blackjack. The biggest difference is that the dealer does not receive his hole card until all other cards are dealt, and after players have made their playing decisions. This keeps the dealer from peeking before hand to see whether he has blackjack or not. Otherwise this game is played the same as standard blackjack.
Another culture based variation, Pontoon is thought to have originated in Great Britain. For the most part Pontoon is played like blackjack, although the terminology is a bit different:
-Buy: Double Down
The objective of Pontoon is still the same: beat the dealer without going over 21, but there are some rule variations that are worth knowing before playing. Should a player decide to split a pair of Aces, he may only be dealt one more card and then stick. Now should a hand become a Pontoon after splitting a pair of Aces, the payout changes from 1:1 to 2:1. Also, there is no push in Pontoon. If a player ties with the dealer, the dealer wins. If a player twists to the point of having five cards with a total less than 21, he beats every hand other than Pontoon. Twisting can be done after buying, but buying can only be done once during each round on hands of two to four cards. The dealer will also twist on soft 17.
Match Play 21
This variation is also known as Spanish 21, making it a culture based variation thought to have originated in Spain. However, despite originating in Spain, this could be thought of a bonus based blackjack game. The objective is still the same: beat the dealer without obtaining a card total of more than 21, but the 10 cards have been removed from the deck, leaving the face cards as the only cards that can count as 10 in a hand total. There are a few rule variations that a player should know before entering a game of Match Play 21. A player blackjack will beat a dealer’s blackjack—there is not push here; and a player 21 will beat everything except for a dealer’s blackjack. A player is allowed to double down on any number of cards, but can only do so one time; just like in a standard game of blackjack, the player will receive one more card when doubling down. Match Play 21 allows for player surrender. This can be done after doubling down, but the player will lose the double down wager. There are special hands in Match Play 21 that can earn a player a different payout:
3:2 = five card 21, 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 mixed suit hands
2:1 = six card 21, 6-7-8- or 7-7-7 same suit hands
3:1 = 7 or more card 21, 6-7-8 or 7-7-7 all spades
40:1 = 7-7-7 same suit when the dealer has a 7 up card
This is a bonus based variation with a few rule variations thrown in for fun, but then the other name for this game is Super Fun 21. There is still the standard blackjack variation of beating the dealer while not getting a card total of more than 21. Players are allowed to double down after splitting Aces. This game allows for late surrender and surrender after doubling. This variation also has certain hands that automatically win: any hand of six or more cards excluding after doubling and any blackjack wins that didn’t come from a split hand. Like in Match Play 21, there are special non-doubled hands that are designated for a special payout:
2:1 = 5 or more card 21 or a 2 card 21 of all diamonds
Face Up 21
This is a rather interesting variation of the game of blackjack. In standard blackjack and its other variations, the dealer receives two cards, one face up and one face up. The player’s cards are also dealt face down so that only the player may pick them up and see what he has. In this variation, all of the cards are dealt face up and then played out. Wagers are of course placed before any cards are dealt. The player can make a much better decision on how to play out his hand.