Blackjack is one of the cornerstones of casino gambling, with a history going back centuries. Given the fact that blackjack is older than some countries, it is no surprise that there are many unique variations of the game available all around the world. Each of these follows the same basic rules, but with a slight twist. Not significant enough to change the game too much, but important enough for players to notice.
One of the most popular variations of the classic game is European Blackjack and it is available at the majority of online casinos. European Blackjack follows a certain set of rules which are iconic for this sub-genre and are easily recognisable. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about playing European Blackjack and give you some insight into how it works.
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How to Play European Blackjack
Blackjack is relatively simple to play across the board and getting started will require very little effort on your part. The rules are very easy to understand, although you will need some time to get used to them if you have never played this blackjack sub-genre. Below, we will list some of the hallmark features of European Blackjack and some give you some advice on what to do in particular situations. Keep in mind, however, that not all online casinos will follow this exact set of rules and some might change them ever so slightly. The next points will cover, basic rules, payouts, insurance, splitting, and doubling down.
Basic Rules and Payouts
The main goal of any blackjack game is to have a stronger hand than the dealer without going over 21 points. On each new game, the player is dealt two cards and there are several actions that they can take from that point on. Hitting is indicating to the dealer that you will like to add another card to your hand. When you do this, certain options like double down and split, will no longer available. Alternatively, the player may stand, which means that they would like to keep their hand as is. The dealer, on the other hand, is dealt only one face-up card and there is no hole card. This has an effect on the game since the dealer cannot check for a blackjack. This is ultimately bad for players since a dealer’s blackjack is only revealed after players have made all of their actions, which could include splitting or doubling down, all of which include placing more money on the table. Moreover, the dealer will draw to 16 and stand on 17.
European Blackjack is played with anywhere between 4 and 8 standard 52-card decks. The number of decks used will vary between games made by different software providers and it will have a profound effect on the probabilities of the game. The more cards there are in the shoe, the lower the chance of getting a card that you will like. For this reason, we advise you to play a game that has the least number of decks. Unlike, physical blackjack games, it is impossible to count cards in virtual blackjack. After every game, the shoe is reshuffled and the new game is played with the whole number of cards. Where the value of the cards is concerned, you will find that it is quite simple to understand. All cards between 2 and 10 feature their face value, while the Ace can be either 1 or 11 depending on the value of your current hand. Face cards, more specifically the Jack, Queen and King, all have a value of 10.
In terms of payouts, there is very little variation between the different European Blackjack games. For every game that you win with a standard hand, you will win the same amount of money that you wagered, at a ratio of 1:1, also referred to as even money among gambling circles. The blackjack hand is special as it consists of an Ace and a 10-value card. When you are dealt a blackjack, you win immediately and are awarded a payout of 3:2. Some games feature a lower payout for a blackjack at a ratio of 6:5. We advise that you avoid such games, regardless of the fact that there may be some other change in the rules that may seem beneficial at first glance. Certain games might feature side bets, but since these are far too varied, we cannot give you any precise information about them.
Insurance is a common side bet available at just about every blackjack game out there. This is a bet that you place whenever the dealer draws an Ace as their first card. The point of Insurance is to make sure that the player does not suffer an immediate loss whenever the dealer hits a blackjack. The Insurance bet is worth half of the value of the main wager and the condition to winning it is the dealer hitting a blackjack. If the dealer does indeed hit a blackjack, the game will pay at a ratio of 2:1, essentially allowing you to recoup the loss of your original bet and keeping your bankroll at the same level.
While this might good upon reading it a first, it is advised that you avoid the Insurance side bet. There are several reasons behind this argument, one is that the chances of the dealer hitting a blackjack are lower than those of actually getting one. There are more non-10-value cards than 10-value cards and you will rarely see the Insurance pay off. Moreover, since you do not actually make any profit from this side bet, there is very little incentive for you to take it.
There are three possible scenarios that can happen when you take the Insurance bet. One is that the dealer hit a blackjack and you regain the sum of your original bet. The other is that you place an Insurance bet and the dealer does not hit a blackjack, but still beats your hand, thus causing you to lose both the main wager and the Insurance. Finally, the final scenario is when you place an Insurance bet and the dealer does not hit a blackjack, and you go on to win the hand. As you can see, there is only one scenario in which the Insurance bet is useful.
Double down is a feature present in all blackjack titles and it allows you to double your bet, giving you the chance to double your winnings as a result. The double down option is usually available on your first two cards, although some games allow you to use it after hitting, but those are few and far between. When you double down, the dealer will provide you with one more card and you will no longer be able to take any actions. After you double down, the hand you have will be matched against that of the dealer.
Doubling down is an important feature that can give you a massive boost to your bankroll if you know how to use it correctly. Any experienced player can tell you about the excellent potential of this option and how it can affect your gameplay and bankroll. Ideally, you would like to double down on a hand with a value of 9,10 or 11. This will give you the opportunity to get the highest possible hand value and as a result, the highest potentially winnings.
Splitting is another important feature of blackjack and it is made available to you whenever you are dealt a hand of two identical cards. The game will allow you to split the hand into two and provide you with one more card with each hand. When you split a hand into two, you will place one more bet for the additional hand. Moreover, each hand will operate independently of the others and each can be won or lost, depending on the cards present.
In European Blackjack, players are allowed to hit after splitting a hand, unless it was a hand of two Aces. In the latter case, the player will only be dealt one card per hand and they will stand on both. Additionally, on non-Ace split hands, you will be allowed to double down, if the value of the hand is between 9 and 11.
There are certain hands which you should split and others which you should leave alone. For example, a hand of two 10s you should leave as is. That hand has a combined value of 20, which is just 1 point off from the maximum, thus you have a large chance of winning the hand. Other hands which you should never split include two 4s, 5s and 9s. However, there are several hands which you should almost always split since the value they have is not favorable for you. For example, you should always split two 2s, 3s, 7s, 8s, and Aces.
Surrender is much more common in American blackjack games, such as Atlantic City Blackjack or Vegas Strip Blackjack, but it is present in a small number of European Blackjack games, so it is worth talking about. Surrender is an action that you can take whenever you feel that you hand is not up to par and you would like to recoup a portion of your bet.
The Surrender action will allow you to forfeit your hand and half of your original wager, refunding you with the other half. Surrender is a valid option in many situations and it improves the odds of the game since it allows you to reclaim some money in scenarios where you would normally have lost it all.
Blackjack House Edge and Return-to-Player Percentages
An important aspect of any casino game is the house edge inherent to the gambling industry. The house edge is defined as the statistical advantage that the casino has over the players in terms of winning situations. Blackjack is one of the most favorable games where odds are concerned and you will find that the house edge will not have a great effect on your overall gameplay and bankroll. European Blackjack typically features a house edge ranging anywhere between 0.5% to 1.5%. When compared with other casino game genres, these numbers a minuscule and you will be hard-pressed to find another game type with odds as good as these.
The return-to-player (RTP) percentage is closely related to the house edge, in the sense that house the house edge represent the percentage of all money wagered that the casino keeps as a profit. The RTP, on the other hand, stands for the overall percentage of money that the casino pays out as rewards. Generally, the RTP percentage is calculated by subtracting the house edge percentage from 100%. In turn, we can say that most European Blackjack games feature an RPT between 98.5% and 99.5%, which is not bad by any definition.