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Vegas Blackjack

Perhaps no table game is more associated with Las Vegas than that of blackjack. In countless casinos up and down the Strip, the whole family of “21” games are played on more tables than any other game, and countless gamblers have gone on legendary runs – or made fortunes through card counting – on what many believe to be the best game in the house for players to learn.

Unfortunately, blackjack isn’t the game it once was in Vegas, where many casinos are now implementing less player-friendly rules (particularly at their lower limit tables). Online, though, Vegas Blackjack is still a name synonymous with a classic, fair version of the game that players around the world know and love. One such game is offered by NextGen Gaming, using rules that should be familiar to anyone who has played this classic at some point in their lives.

The Basics

As this is a fairly standard version of blackjack, we should first go over the general rules of the game before delving into the specific rules that are found in this variant. This game is dealt out of a shoe that contains one or more standard decks of playing cards shuffled together. After making a bet, each player will receive two cards face up, while the dealer will generally receive one card face up and another face down.

Cards are scored based on their rank. Numbered cards are worth their value; for instance, a seven is worth seven points. All face cards are worth ten, while aces can be worth one or 11, depending on what is better for the hand. The object for the player is to have a better hand than the dealer; the best possible score is 21, and players generally want to be as close to that total as possible without going over.

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Vegas Blackjack

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The best hand in this game is call, appropriately, a blackjack. This hand is formed when a player or the dealer starts with an ace and a ten-point card, getting an immediate “natural” 21. These hands pay out at special 3-2 odds, unless the dealer also has a blackjack, in which case they push.

At the start of the hand, the dealer will first check to see if they have a blackjack if their up card is a ten or an ace. If the card is an ace, they will also offer players an insurance bet. Typically, players may make this bet for one-half the cost of their initial wager. If the dealer checks and finds that they have a ten underneath, then all insurance bets pay out at 2-1 odds. In practical terms, this means that players will break even if their insurance pays off (since they lose their initial bet), while player blackjacks will pay out at even money rather than 3-2 (typically, dealers simplify this option by simply offering even money to those players before they look at their down card).

Assuming the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, play continues. Each player now has the opportunity to make decisions about their hand in order to improve their odds of winning. There are several options available, including the following:

  • Stand: If the player chooses to do this, they pass the option of taking more cards, ending their turn.
  • Hit: The player receives one more card from the dealer. They can then choose to continue hitting or stand at any time.
  • Double Down: This option is available when the player has two cards. They then receive exactly one more card, after which they must stand.
  • Split: This option is only available when the player starts with two cards of the same rank. They may then split them into two separate hands – played for one bet each – which then get played out as normal.

Each player plays out their hand or hands until they either choose to stand (or are forced to after doubling down), or their hand contains 22 or more points, in which case they have “busted.” A busted hand immediately loses, with all bets being forfeited.

Once all players have finished playing their hands, the dealer will take their turn. First, they will reveal their down card, after which they will have to follow specific rules on how to play their hand that should be written right on the table. In almost all games, dealers will hit on all hands of 16 or less, and stand on all hands of 18 or more. The one area of variation comes on 17; while all games have the dealer stand on a “hard” 17, they may or may not hit on a “soft” 17 – that is, one containing an ace that still counts as 11 points.

If the dealer goes bust, then all remaining player bets win at even money. If the dealer stands, then their hand is compared to that of each player. If a player has a higher hand than the dealer, they win even money on all bets. If the dealer hand is higher, then the player loses all bets. In the case of a tie, all bets push.

Understanding the Vegas Rules

The online Vegas Blackjack game is a pretty standard version of the game. In fact, these are pretty close to what most people would consider the “default” rules, so there are few surprises here that change the basic strategy you’ll want to use.

In this version, cards are dealt out of a four-deck shoe that is shuffled continuously after every hand. Players are allowed to double on any two-card hand, and they may split exactly once, to a maximum of two hands. Aces can be split, but each new hand will receive just one card, and then the new hands must stand. Finally, the dealer will stand on all 17s.

Put that all together, and you have a version of this game that offers some very good odds to players. The optimal strategy for this game offers a house edge of about 0.40%, which is right up there with some of the best variants you’ll find online.

Crafting Your Strategy

A good strategy is all about knowing the proper decisions to make in every possible situation you might find yourself in. For almost all variants, there are charts that can be printed out, purchased, or memorized that will teach you how to play a mathematically correct game. These are especially common for rulesets that are similar to the one being used in Vegas Blackjack.

If you don’t want to seek out a complete chart, there are some simplified strategies that can be used in order to get close to the optimal house edge without requiring any deep memorization or a reference guide. The following strategy is based on one created by The Wizard of Odds, with a few adjustments made to simplify the process even further. To use this strategy, simply look up the hand situation you are in, and take the action recommended. Remember that a “soft” hand is one with an ace that is still worth 11 points, while any other hand is a “hard” hand. For this strategy guide, anything between a two and a six is considered a “low” card for the dealer, while a seven through an ace is considered a “high” card.

Hard Hands

  • 4-8: Hit.
  • 9: Double down against a low card if possible, and hit against a high card.
  • 10-11: Double down against a card worth less than your hand value if possible, otherwise hit.
  • 12-16: Stand against a low card, and hit against a high card.
  • 17-21: Stand.

Soft Hands

  • 13-18: Double down against a low card if possible, otherwise hit (except stand with an 18). Hit against a high card.
  • 19-21: Stand.

Pairs

  • Always split aces and eights.
  • Never split fours, fives, or tens.
  • Split all other pairs against low cards, but not against high cards.
  • Other than splitting, play pairs as any other hand of their value.

One final tip: no matter what players might tell you, you should never take the insurance bet. Some card counters will occasionally take insurance when the remaining cards in the deck make it profitable; however, without this information (or in any game in which the cards are being continuously reshuffled) it is better to take your chances then to accept insurance/even money offers from the dealer.

The Original and Still a Favorite

There are few games that have the following among gamblers that blackjack enjoys. The game has been played for generations, and most people who know the game learned it using rules that are almost exactly like those described here for Vegas Blackjack. While there are dozens of common variants these days, nothing out there has ever quite matched the popularity of the original. If you’re looking for a classical, straightforward take on this table game, you can’t go wrong with this version.

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