Although we’ve been talking extensively about side bets in both blackjack and baccarat today we’ll look at an entire game that is a derivation on classic gameplay. Blackjack Switch has achieved some degree of popularity at land based casinos over the years. I remember seeing it for the first time at the Imperial Palace (now the LINQ) a number of years ago and was mistakenly informed that it was a ‘sucker bet’. That might have been hyperbole as while it might not be the *best* payback percentage in the casino it’s definitely far from the worst. The game has also achieved a fair measure of popularity in Europe and Australia where it is often called ‘Blackjack Exchange’. In this preview, we’ll talk about the basic concept and rules of the game along with the house edge. In a future post, we’ll look into strategy along with–you guessed it–side bets along with rule variations and their impact on the house edge.
Blackjack Switch was invented by Geoff Hall and patented in 2009. Hall has gone on to invent a number of other blackjack variations. Blackjack Switch was first installed at Harvey’s in Iowa in 2001. After some modification (more about that in a moment), it made it to the floor of the Four Queens in downtown Las Vegas in 2003 and has since been adapted by numerous land based and online casinos.
The basic premise of the game is familiar to all blackjack players but with a twist. Instead of one hand, two hands (and two bets) are dealt to each player. The dealer deals one of the players two cards face up and after the initial card the player is allowed to ‘switch’ their two face cards. The idea is to switch the cards off of two weak hands to make two stronger hands. For example, if a player is dealt a 10-5 and a 6-10 he can switch the hands to make 10-10 and 5-6. After this, the hands are played out individually under blackjack rules. In the previous example, the player would most likely stand on the 20 and double on the 11.
The ‘modification’ we mentioned above is why this game has a perception of being a ‘sucker bet’. After play testing in Iowa, the rule was added that any dealer 22 isn’t a ‘bust’ but a ‘push’ against any non-blackjack hand. Another modification has been made to the game that all player blackjacks are paid at even money as opposed to the traditional 3 to 2. Even with these modifications, the game pays reasonably well–as always, ‘assuming perfect play’. The standard Las Vegas game is played with six decks, the dealer hitting soft 17 and a switched blackjack counting 21 points. Under these rules, perfect play has a tiny 0.58% house edge.