We’ve previously introduced the game of ‘blackjack switch’ and have looked it how it is played, the rules and the house edge under the standard Las Vegas ruleset. We’ll now look at variations to the rules that you’ll find in both land based and online casinos.
First, a quick refresher on the basic concept of blackjack switch. Instead of one hand, two hands are dealt to each player in return for two individual bets. 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 ‘twist’ on this game is a few modifications of standard blackjack play. Any dealer 22 isn’t a ‘bust’ but a ‘push’ against any non-blackjack hand. Additionally, all player blackjacks are paid at even money as opposed to the traditional 3 to 2. 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. The rule modifications that can alter this house edge is the number of decks (8 rather than 6) which creates a marginal increase in the casino’s mathematical advantage
Other rules are found occasionally that benefit the player. One is that a switched hand blackjack is an automatic winner and paid immediately. Another is that any blackjack is paid immediately and is not required to wait until the dealer plays out his hand (at which point it could become a ‘push’). There are also games in which the dealer will stand on soft 17 instead of hitting. Individually, these three rule modifications reduce the house edge by between 0.25 and 0.50 percent.
Additional rules that usually apply to games in Las Vegas are similar to any other blackjack game. A player may double on any two cards and double after a split. A player may resplit up to four hands.
There are also blackjack switch games played under so called ‘Russian Rules’. These rules are similar to the Las Vegas rules outlined above except early surrender is allowed (sometimes the rule variant doesn’t allow early surrender against an Ace), the dealer does not take a hole card and the dealer stands on soft 17. Assuming that early surrender against an ace is not prohibited, house edge under these rules is 0.20%.