Blackjack is a casino staple with a legacy that goes back hundreds of years! While the exact origins are debatable, many believe it started in France. The game we know today reportedly started life as Chemin de Fer in the 1700s. However, it continued to evolve and shape the world of gambling!
The classic card game has seen its fair share of evolutions. These days, you can find a slew of different variations to meet your fancy. While the core gameplay remains the same, slight rule changes create a brand-new experience. Unique variations are a great way to spice up a traditional title, breathing new life into an old favorite.
One great example of a successful blackjack evolution is European blackjack. European blackjack is a popular variant you can find at both physical and online casinos. Whether played live or against an intelligent RNG, it offers a similar riveting gambling experience.
Interestingly enough, European blackjack is much older than the “standard” you see in modern casinos. It’s the game that inspired American and Classic blackjack you see in Vegas, Macau, and other gaming capitals.
So, how do you play European Blackjack, and what makes it different?
How to Play
European blackjack is very similar to other versions you might come across. The aim of the game is unchanged. The objective is to get a hand of 21 or as close to the number as possible. Your only opponent is the dealer. But make no mistake: The game’s simplicity doesn’t make it any easier to win!
The exact parameters of European blackjack may vary a bit from one casino operator to the next. However, most games utilize between two and eight decks. Each deck has no jokers.
All of the number cards have their face value. However, the “court” cards have a value of ten points each. That means that the Jack, Queen, and King all have the same ten-point value. Finally, there’s the Ace. The Ace is the most flexible card in the deck. Depending on your needs to win the game, it holds a value of either one or 11. If you have a low hand, you can treat it as an 11. But if you’re close to getting 21, you can use it as one card. Either way, the Ace is a high-value card you can use strategically.
Playing European Blackjack
This version of blackjack starts with the dealer handing out cards. As the player, you get two face-down cards. The dealer card gets a single face-up card. It’s the open card marking the start of the game.
Now, the action begins!
You, the player, can look at the dealt cards to determine how to proceed. If you have a blackjack hand, you automatically win! A blackjack hand is a ten-point card and an Ace. In this case, the Ace would have a value of 11 and complete the 21-point win.
You have a few different choices if you don’t have a hand of 21.
Hit: You can Hit if you feel like you can still get 21 without going over. With this move, you’re asking for another card to improve your hand.
Stand: When you Stand, you keep your existing hand. You won’t get another card, and your current bet stands.
Double Down: A Double Down is when you double your initial bet. You also get another card in hopes of improving your hand. Once you get the other card, you must stand.
Split: A split is only possible if you have two cards of the same value. Splitting separates the hand into two. Each hand acts independently and has an individual bet.
Surrender: Surrendering is giving up. You quit the game after your initial hand because you feel you can’t win. When you surrender, you retain half of the original bet.
After you make your bet, the dealer can get a second card. This only happens after the player makes their bet.
If the dealer busts, you win. But if they opt to Stand, you must compare hands. In that instance, the person with the highest hand value wins!
In rare cases, the hands might be of equal value. When this occurs, the game goes into “push” mode. In push mode, no one wins! You get your money back, and the game is over.
European Blackjack Rules
The rules of blackjack are pretty straightforward. However, there are a few unique rules to this European variant.
The first thing to remember is that the dealer always wins if they have 21. It doesn’t matter how close you are or how good your hand is. If the dealer gets 21 points, they automatically win! The same applies if you get 21. But what if both the player and the dealer get 21?
In that rare event, the game goes into push mode. That means no one wins, and you get your bet back.
Dealers have some specific rules they must follow in this version of blackjack, too. If they have a hand of 16, the dealer must hit. Alternatively, a soft hand of 17 forces them to stand.
While the betting structure for players is pretty flexible, there are limitations. The first involves splitting. You cannot split more than once per hand. Furthermore, you can’t split fours, fives, or any 10-value cards that aren’t similar. The game forbids re-splitting as well.
Other important rules involve potentially lucrative Double Down bets. Players can only Double Down on a nine, 10, or 11. You can, however, Double Down on split cards.
Differences from Other BlackJack Games
If you’re well-versed in blackjack, you might have already noticed the main difference. However, it can quickly fly by those relatively new to this card game.
The primary difference between European blackjack and other variants is how the dealer gets their cards. In European blackjack, the dealer receives a single face-up card. For most other variations, they get two cards. But that’s not all. The unique deal structure eliminates some safety in betting.
Let’s take a look at American blackjack as an example.
In American blackjack, dealers get two cards like the player. One is face-up while the other is face-down. If the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, they get a unique advantage. Dealers can peek at their second card to get the upper hand. The second card could be a court card, effectively ending the game.
Even if it’s not, you get the opportunity to make an insurance bet.
None of that exists in European blackjack. In this variant, dealers cannot view their second card at all until everyone plays their hand. So, how does that affect you?
Well, it forces you to make bets blindly with no insurance of what the dealer has. If you had the opportunity to see the dealer’s hand, you could bet strategically and avoid losing money. But you can’t, so there’s a higher risk.
You could end up making a Double Down bet or splitting your hand. If the dealer’s next card helps them win, you are bound to lose a lot of money! You could avoid that unnecessary risk in standard blackjack, but not in the European version.
Ultimately, European blackjack is a riskier game with a lot more volatility.
European Blackjack Strategy
There’s no concrete strategy to win any blackjack game. Ultimately, the game is up to Lady Luck.
That said, most seasoned blackjack players will approach this version more conservatively. Because you don’t know what the dealer’s second card will be, you can’t throw caution to the wind. You won’t see what you’re up against until you play your hand. Be conservative and play strategically.
Generally, the rule of thumb is to Hit on hands of 10 or 12-16. With anything 17 or above, you should Stay. Only Double Down when you are very confident in your hand. Otherwise, you stand to lose a lot!