American blackjack is a popular variant of the classic casino table game. And, although you can find several rulesets of the "American" game online, there are similar key features that allow players to be more aggressive with their gameplay compared to other variants. In other words, playing American blackjack allows you to employ a wider range of tactics and it gives you a chance to improve your skills, as well as integrating a useful hole card feature that can help you to limit your losses. This is something that you simply can't do in the European version of the game. We’ll explain all of these key features, as well as outlining the main rules, payouts, and our top tips and strategies. So, read on as we show you how to play American blackjack…
What is American Blackjack and how is it different?
The term American blackjack actually covers a group of games including the likes of Atlantic City Blackjack, Vegas Strip Blackjack, and Vegas Downtown Blackjack. There are some slight variations from game to game but they are all based around a standard set of American blackjack rules. In a strategic game like blackjack, even the smallest changes in the rules can be a huge advantage or disadvantage to the player. So, what makes the American variants so different from the European variant? Let’s look at some of the key points of the American game:
- 6-8 decks are used instead of 2 decks – this means that the counting card tactic is a lot more difficult to carry out
- It's a Hole card game – this means the dealer can check for blackjack on Ace and 10s, plus you can save on potential side bet losses later on in the betting round
- Double Down is allowed on any hand and also on Splits
- You can play the Late Surrender option – this allows you to save some of your stake
- Blackjack can payout at 3:2 or 6:5 depending on the game you are playing
These are the main differences in the American blackjack variant. As you can see, you have more options than the streamlined European blackjack variant. If we had to pick out one major talking point, then it would be the Hole card and the fact that it can save players from putting more money down on a bet that would have otherwise been a potential loser. More on this feature later. Next up, we’ll show you how to play a typical round of an American blackjack online game.
How to play – American Blackjack rules
The basis of any American blackjack game starts with two cards being dealt out to the player and the dealer. Both of the player cards are face down and the dealer receives one card up and one card down – this face-down card is known as the hole card. This is one of the key differences to the European game where there is no hole card and the dealer instead receives the second card after the player’s hand has been completed. The hole card effectively allows the dealer to check their total for blackjack (i.e., a total of 21 from the two cards). If the dealer has blackjack, then the game round is over, the dealer wins, and you lose your bet.
The next stage of the game is when players get a lot more freedom in the choices they can make. One of these choices is based on whether you want to “double down”. This is when you double your wager because you think you have a strong chance of beating the dealer. American blackjack allows you to double down on any card total and it is also possible after splitting cards. This leads us nicely to your next betting option. Splitting is when you separate your initial hand into two hands. As you might imagine, this is often used when the dealer holds a weak hand of their own. The benefit here is that you can split any hand (unlike European blackjack) and you can do so up to three times, which can give you a total of four hands to play with per round.
An insurance bet is sometimes offered and this basically allows you to place a side bet when the dealer shows an ace card. You win the insurance bet if the second card is a 10 and they make 21 as their total. Otherwise, you lose the side bet. Hence, why it’s so useful.
Lastly, the final option to consider is the Late Surrender, which lets you take back 50% of your stake. It is especially useful when you have a weak hand against a possible strong dealer hand and so getting some of your money back is better than potentially losing all of it. American blackjack games allow you to surrender at any stage whereas European blackjack offers no such feature. So, you can see the clear advantage of the US version in this respect. Remember, American blackjack casino rules can vary so be sure to know which set of rules you are playing each time you go to the table.
One of the benefits of playing a game like this is the simple payout structure. However, as we now know, American blackjack is a loose description referring to a group of different games. So, there are one or two different payout systems out there that you will come across. The most traditional payout for those who win with a perfect blackjack hand is 3:2, but there are games out there that pay 6:5 on winning blackjack hands.
Little do some players know that this 6:5 payout actually increases the house edge slightly. This means that you will be better off playing at the standard 3:2 game tables whenever possible. Additionally, if you beat the dealer any other way, then you will receive a 1:1 payout. Finally, if your game comes with the insurance bet, then this usually pays out at 2:1.
American Blackjack strategies and other helpful tips
Blackjack is a hugely tactical game and there are many books and websites that will offer you suggestions on how to play. There is a lot of information out there so let us break down the details and pick out the key talking points that you can take to form your own American Blackjack strategy.
GoodLuckMate’s best tips for playing American Blackjack:
- Try to play the 3:2 payout games whenever possible
- Take advantage of the surrender option when you have weak hands
- Follow the blackjack charts to keep the house edge in place
- Always double-check the rules of the game you intend to play
- Stick to your budget and remain calm throughout a blackjack session
House edge – what are your chances of winning?
The house edge for American Blackjack games will vary and this is because of the individual rules and side bets that each game provides. The payout of 6:5 increases the house edge and plays into the hands of the dealer. However, rules such as the surrender that is found in many of the American blackjack games can give players a significant advantage in the long run. To give you a rule of thumb in terms of the house edge, then, you can expect a typical blackjack game to be around the 0.50% mark. Strategy plays a big part in maintaining that low house edge as well. Therefore, it is imperative that you stick to the blackjack playing charts. These are always going to help you in trying to make a profit from the game.
Play American Blackjack at online casinos
If there is one game that you will pretty much always find at an online casino then it is blackjack. The game makes up the core of any casino lobby – along with roulette and slots. However, blackjack has a certain attraction that has even inspired directors to make feature-length movies about the game. All the top casinos provide multiple variants of blackjack with varying American Blackjack rules being used. Of course, the European variant is still hugely popular with its simplified rules. But if you're someone that loves to work out strategies and tactics, then you will find a lot of joy from games like Vegas Strip and Atlantic City Blackjack.
All the side bets in American Blackjack make for an entertaining experience and, even if you play the RNG version or one of the live dealer games, then you will not be disappointed. Many players talk about counting cards but this is not something commonly associated with the American variant and its 6-8 decks due to the sheer number of cards in play. However, other benefits, such as the hole card feature and all those double down and split opportunities, bring a heightened level of strategy that is perfect for those players who are looking to play more forcefully. One thing that you should remember is to check the rules on a game-by-game basis. There are many different variants available to play online nowadays and you don't want to get caught out by small changes in the rules.
Live dealer games vs RNG games
The ongoing debate about whether live dealer games are better than random number generator (RNG) games goes on. In all honesty, it will probably always continue because everything comes down to personal preference. There are pros and cons when you look at both styles of games. Live dealer games showcase the very latest in online casino technology. RNG games give you a traditional solo experience that you can play through in your own time. The removal of time limits makes the RNG blackjack game a perfect choice for the casual player who does not want the rush of dealers counting down each betting round. Lower limits are usually found in the RNG games as well. This, again, helps out those players on smaller budgets.
If you stick to the recommended casinos found here at GoodLuckMate, then you can be sure that the games are trustworthy and fair. A licensed casino will give you the confidence to play RNG American blackjack games and there are many free American Blackjack online titles out there to practice on as well, but if you prefer to see the cards being dealt out in front of you via live streams, then the live dealer option would be the best choice for you. As we said, it all comes down to your preference and how you like to play your online games. It is always worth trying out both if you are still yet to try the live or RNG experience. Doing this will give you the chance to make a fair judgment and pick out the most suitable game for you and your budget.