Blackjack Switch, Pontoon, Multi-hand

Blackjack has existed for centuries. It's hard to pinpoint any other casino card game that has been around for such a long time. And despite its age, blackjack has managed to maintain its popularity. As you'd expect from a game that's as popular and old as blackjack, there are several variations. Many of these follow the basic blackjack rules but with some slight variations here and there. A few decades ago, you had to plan a trip to Las Vegas to enjoy the game. But today, you simply go online and log in to your favorite online casino (assuming you have one). Of the many different blackjack variations, there are three that stand out; Pontoon, Multi-hand, and Switch. If these confuse the hell out of you, you're in luck. In this piece, we'll break them down for you. By the time you're done, you'll be a blackjack guru (somewhat).

By Amelia Smith - Updated 13/02/2024 - Estimated reading time: 11 minutes.

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Blackjack Switch, Pontoon, Multi-hand

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How these blackjack variants work

Now, before we dive into how the blackjack variations work, let's have a look at the rules of Classic Blackjack games.

Classic Blackjack

This version is simple; provided you know the basic rules. But even if you don't, the rules are easy to pick up. The basic rules are;

The goal of the blackjack game is to form a hand with a value equal to 21 or closer to it than your dealer's hand.

The numbered cards are valued the same as their face value. The aces are either 11 or 1. Jacks, Kings, and Queens are 10.

Both the player and the dealer get two cards each. The player is dealt cards facing up. Only a single dealer's card is dealt face-up.

A player can then ‘stand' or ‘hit' with a former card, availing an extra card. The latter holds the cards at the current value.

Understanding these American Blackjack rules in California card rooms will get you started with the game and help you better understand the little differences with other Blackjack variations.

Blackjack Pontoon

There are two variations of Blackjack Pontoon you can play in online and land-based casinos. These are Malaysian Pontoon and British Pontoon. Needless to say, these two can be confusing. As such, we advise that you familiarise yourself with both to avoid any inconveniences. Players in Singapore, Australia, and Malaysia play a blackjack variant similar to Spanish 21, while those in the UK play a version similar to American Blackjack.

British Pontoon Rules

The goal is similar to that of Classic Blackjack games – creating a hand equal to or close to 21 without exceeding it. Also, it's worth pointing out that the value of the cards is similar to that of American Blackjack. So you don't need to pay special attention to that. One deck of cards is enough. However, if there are more players involved, more decks can be included.

With that said, there are some differences between Classic and British Pontoon Blackjack games. British Pontoon is played with two players. But the best number is between 5 and 8. In this variation, one player is randomly chosen to be the banker. They do this by randomly drawing cards. The player with the highest-valued card gets to be the game's banker. Being a banker is favourable. It has a statistical advantage. As a result, the banker is picked randomly. If a player and a banker tie, the rules state that the banker automatically wins.

Each time a player has a hand that adds up to 21, they call it a Pontoon instead of Blackjack. This hand usually consists of only two cards. One of these cards has to be an Ace. The hand that comes in second is called the Five Card Trick. As the name suggests, the hand is made up of 5 cards totaling 21 or less. Instead of a 3/2 payout like in the American Blackjack game, these hands have a 2/1 payout.

Unlike in the American Blackjack table, the dealer's cards are dealt facing down on British Pontoon. This changes the entire course and strategy of the game.

Malaysian Pontoon

In this blackjack variation, the rules are similar to Spanish 21 (another blackjack variation). The Malaysian Pontoon excludes all cards valued at 10 from the game. Players use between 6 and 8 decks of cards. This number varies depending on the casino.

In this dealer blackjack variation, the dealer doesn't sneak a peek for a blackjack. Usually, this rule works in favour of the casino since players end up losing more their own money when they double down or split against the power position of the dealer.

Note: though the re-splitting move is allowed in Spanish 21, it's not allowed in Malaysian Pontoon. In Malaysian Pontoon, there are some restrictions tied to surrendering. You can only surrender when a dealer's up card is an ace or a face card. In the event your dealer gets a blackjack, even when you surrender, you lose it all. Things got serious quick right? Well, in a game setting, not knowing would have cost you a fortune. It's important that you familiarise yourself with the rules before you hit the road running.

Blackjack variants

Blackjack variants as found inFun casino.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Playing Online Pontoon

British and Malaysian Pontoon have unique gameplay. Likewise, higher payouts. But despite the similarities, each has its rules since they come from different regions. Regardless, the variety is a welcome change from the Standard Blackjack. As a result, it is excellent for individuals who want to explore new adventures. Most importantly, a natural pontoon (an Ace or 10-value card) grants a higher payout compared to regular blackjack. Hence, players looking for higher winnings can try it.

On the downside, the versions are less common in most casinos. Unlike other popular blackjack variations, they are not always available. Apart from this, the game rules are intricate and vary from one region to another. As a result, the complexity puts newcomers at a disadvantage. Bear in mind that the house edge may also be higher than traditional blackjack, and there are fewer established strategies you can explore.

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Multi-hand blackjack

This is yet another famous Blackjack variation. It has become popular because players can play several hands, which spices up the game. This variation is perfect for adventurous persons who despite loving Classic game, are in search of something new and exciting.

Now, the Multi-hand Blackjack goal and rules are similar to the Classic Blackjack. However, some twists make it different. For one, as a player, you'll be competing against your dealer and will make decisions based on the up card and the total value of that specific hand.

Additionally, players get to make several different moves and place several bets since the game allows playing many hands. At the beginning of the game, you'll have the chance to decide how many hands you want. The maximum hands a player blackjack can have is 21. During the game, each hand is played individually, and the wagers need not be equal.

In addition to the above, players don't have a surrender option. But instead, they can insure themselves against the ace from the dealer. Two decks are used to play Multi-hand Blackjack, and the payout is 3/2.

In addition to the above rules, doubling down is allowed on any hand, while splitting is done a maximum of three times.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Playing Multi-Hand Blackjack

Multi-hand Blackjack allows gamblers to play multiple hands at once, up to five hands or more. The game is fast-paced. As a result, it is most suitable for players who desire more action. Gamblers manage their hands quickly and make decisions within seconds. Besides, they place different bets on each hand, exploring several betting options for wager diversification.

Players who want to refine their skills can try various approaches and experiment with different strategies. Over one hand to play means more opportunities to win in a round, even money. If you’re on a winning streak, you can pile up winnings quickly. At the same time, it means you can win or lose more money in a short period.

Multi-hand Blackjack carries a higher risk. Online casinos impose a slightly higher house edge, which can impact long-term profitability. Likewise, players need to understand basic strategies to manage multiple hands. The higher bet it requires takes a toll on bankroll management. Hence, players must manage their funds to avoid heavy losses.

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Blackjack Switch

While most Blackjack variations only offer minor twists from the Classic Blackjack game, Blackjack Switch revamps everything (well, almost everything). This Blackjack version was patented back in 2009. Like other Blackjack variations, the rules that apply are similar to those of the Classic game (unless the casino says otherwise).

The main difference is that players have two hands instead of one. The second hand helps them to make the switch. Only the top card is switched to improve the hands. To play the hands, players place different but equal bets. The decks used can range from 4 to 8. The payout in Switch dealer blackjack is 1/1 instead of the normal 3/2.

You can choose to double down on any card. You can also re-split, but only 4 times in a game.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Playing Blackjack Switch

This online blackjack table variant allows people to switch the top two cards between their hands. Hence, players who want to improve their starting hands can leverage it to get more control. Similarly, strategic gamblers fancy it, as it encourages decision-making.

Nonetheless, switching hands is a complex procedure. As a result, some people consider it a hassle. Players need to stay on their toes and decide when they switch and play two cards efficiently. This causes overthinking, and beginners make complicated moves that don’t guarantee a better outcome.

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Other Blackjack Variations to Consider

There are over 10 versions of online blackjack games, an indicator that it is one of the most popular games in the world. As expected, blackjack variations are not created equal. The versions have unique designs, other rules, and fascinating gameplay. As a result, some variants are excellent for professionals, newbies, and all-round players.

European Blackjack

The European Blackjack is one of the most popular blackjack variations. It is played with two standard decks of 52 cards each. The dealer is dealt one face-up card, while the dealer's hole card game is dealt after the player makes a decision. European Blackjack allows hitting, standing, doubling down, and splitting perfect pairs. Likewise, players can take insurance. However, there is no option to surrender in European Blackjack.

Vegas Strip Blackjack

Vegas Strip Blackjack, as the name implies, is popular in Las Vegas online casinos. It is played with a standard number of four decks of 52 cards each, although some variations allow for six or eight decks. Players enjoy all standard Blackjack options and can double down on any two cards. The dealer hits or stands on soft 17 and hard 17, and players have the option to surrender.

Atlantic City Blackjack

Atlantic City Blackjack is a popular game in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It is played with eight decks of 52 cards each. Some versions allow the dealer to check for blackjack with a hole card peek when showing an Ace or 10-value card. Options include taking insurance, standing on soft 17 and hard 17, doubling down on a hand after splitting, and surrendering.

Single Deck Blackjack

Single Deck Blackjack is played with only one standard deck of 52 cards. The fewer decks give it one of the lowest house edges. Card counters favor Single Deck Blackjack for quick counts. Some casinos offer lower payouts from 3:2 to 6:5 with Single Deck Blackjack, and players stand on hard/soft 17.

Double Exposure Blackjack

In Double Exposure Blackjack, the dealer starts with two face-up cards. This gives players a card advantage, although the house edge is usually higher. The game is also known as Face Up 21, and the number of decks ranges from four to eight. Players can make informed decisions based on the dealer's exposed cards.

Progressive Blackjack

Progressive Blackjack works like a slot game, where a portion of bets goes towards a jackpot pool across multiple casinos. Players compete with an optional side bet for a chance to win the Progressive Blackjack Jackpot, often requiring a specific hand like a suited Ace and Jack of Spades.

And there you go. Everything you need to know to beat the dealer and win at the most popular blackjack variants. Remember, the rules might change slightly depending on the casino, so be sure to read them before you start playing. The online blackjack variants differ in difficulty levels but pay well if you know what you are doing. Therefore, it is recommended to approach your preferred blackjack variant with a strategy in mind.

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Frequently asked questions about Blackjack Variants

What is the best hand in blackjack?

A “blackjack” or “natural” is the best hand. It consists of an Ace or any other 10-value card like 10, Jack, Queen, or King.

Can you count cards in blackjack?

Yes, card counting is a blackjack strategy. Skilled players use it to track cards that have been dealt to gain an advantage. However, its legality varies between casinos. In places where it is illegal, punishment includes expulsion or a fine.

Can you split any blackjack pair?

No, but it ultimately depends on the casino rule. Only perfect pairs of the same rank, like two 7s and two 8s, are typically split and played as a separate hand.

What is blackjack house edge?

The house edge varies and depends on specific rules and variants. However, the house edge often ranges between 0.5% to 2%.

Author: Amelia Smith

Amelia Smith

Amelia Smith knows a lot about different areas of gambling. She's been our main writer for most things since 2019. She spoke at a big conference in London in 2022 and has been recognized at several industry events.

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Article published 16/05/2018

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