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American vs. European Blackjack: Rule differences, tips & tricks

Profile Picture: Simon Young

June 5th, 2020

The casual casino player might not even know there are American and European versions of blackjack. On the surface, the two games are the same and are the variations considered to be the go-to standard in online and live casinos.

However, once you grasp how the two vary, you can see why American blackjack is perhaps preferable than its European cousin, being logically more profitable. But don’t get too excited - individual casinos can have variations on other rules that can swing that win rate back in their favor.

American Blackjack rules

The critical European vs. American blackjack difference is in how the dealer’s cards are dealt. In the American version, the dealer receives two cards, one face-up. If the face-up card is an ace, then the dealer peaks at his down card. If it is a ten or a picture card, making blackjack, then the hand is over, and all players lose.

The advantage for the player is that they have not had to play out their hand first, perhaps losing more chips because they split or doubled down on their cards.

In European blackjack, the dealer receives his face-up card but does not look at a second card. The face-down card is not revealed until all players have played out their hand. In this version, you might split your hand or double down on a hopeful starting hand to get more chips on the table, only to look on sorrowfully when the dealer goes on to turn over a blackjack hand.

With American rules, when the dealer shows an ace, you will be offered insurance before he peaks at his second card. If there is no blackjack, you lose your insurance bet, but if the dealer does make blackjack, you lose your initial wager but get 2:1 payout on insurance. While that sounds all well and good, backing insurance is not a good prospect in the longer term as the move will be loss-making.

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American Blackjack strategy

Your basic blackjack strategy for American Blackjack will be the same as European blackjack strategy. You use your knowledge that there is a high chance the next card will be valued at ten (since all picture cards count as ten) to act accordingly.

If the dealer shows a weak up-card, open up your double-down and splitting betting range to get more chips on the table. Equally, if your hand shows promise, perhaps eight and nine, but certainly ten and 11, then you should also double down.

But if the dealer has a promising card, like an eight, nine, or ten, then you should not double down unless you have ten or 11 – and you should be more adventurous in taking another card for free.

However, there are some subtle differences between European blackjack and American blackjack, because the American version has many subtypes.

Just to add confusion, you might find yourself playing Atlantic City Blackjack, Double Attack Blackjack, Spanish 21, Super Fun 21, or Vegas Strip Blackjack. We won’t bog you down with explanations for each, but subtle variations include:

  • The number of decks used (usually six to eight)
  • Whether the dealer must stand on soft 17
  • Blackjack payouts at 3:2 or 6:5
  • You can or cannot make blackjack after splitting aces
  • Doubling down is allowed after a split
  • You can split more than once, up to a total of six hands
  • Aces can only be split once, and you get just one card
  • You can opt for late surrender

While some of these tweaks reduce the house edge, others increase them. Blackjack remains the casino game with one of the lowest house edges, meaning you have the best chance to make a profit in the short run.

If you are serious about your game, make sure you understand which version of blackjack you are playing.

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