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Best of Henry Tamburin
Free bet blackjack18 July 2015
“What are the playing rules?”
HALL: The main feature of free bet blackjack is that the casino will pay the player to split and double in certain situations. A player can receive a “free split” on all pairs, except 10-value cards, and a “free double” is awarded on all two-card totals of hard 9, 10 and 11 (i.e., totals that do not include an ace).The dealer will use a gold “free bet” token that will match the same amount that the player has originally wagered. (For example, if a player makes an original wager of, say, $10, and doubles down on hard 11, with the “free double,” he will win $20 if his hand beats the dealer hand.) Players may also split and double other hands if they wish but they would pay for those as in the regular game. All other rules are incorporated into the game so that it mirrors the traditional blackjack game, including paying player blackjacks at 3-2 payoff odds.
“What is the ‘catch’ in the game that neutralizes the player edge on the free doubles and splits?”
HALL: The compensating rule used to pay for the free doubles and splits is called “Push 22.” (I designed this rule on another game I invented called “blackjack switch.”) With the Push 22 rule, a dealer’s “bust” hand of 22 will push any remaining player bets rather than pay them. However, player blackjacks are still paid even money when the dealer has a 22. Statistically, a dealer will get a bust 22 hand 7.36 percent of the time in a “Hit Soft 17” game. The Push 22 rule is worth 6.91 percent to the casino.
“With the free double and split rules, it’s obvious that players should be more aggressive in their double down and pair splitting strategy. Is there a published basic strategy for the game, and if so, where can a player get it?”
HALL: Players should take all free doubles and splits; even if they seem counter-intuitive (i.e., doubling 9 versus a dealer ace). There are some other basic strategy changes due to the Push 22 rule and you can find a published basic strategy on discountgambling.net and on wizardofodds.com. (Although the published strategy was devised for the six-deck game, you can use it in the single-, double- and eight-deck games as well.)
“What is the house edge against a player who plays free bet blackjack using the optimum basic playing strategy?”
HALL: The house edge will vary depending on the mix of rules that the casino chooses, including the number of decks. If we take a base six-deck game with dealer hitting soft 17, and resplitting Aces and surrender allowed, then the house edge against a basic strategy player is 0.81 percent. A double-deck game with identical rules will have a house edge of 0.85 percent due to the slight reduction in free bets.
One final tip: the most costly player mistake is not to take a free bet, so make sure you take all the available free splits and doubles when you play.
Henry Tamburin is the editor of Blackjack Insider Newsletter.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of Henry Tamburin