There are numerous variations of blackjack you find at casinos across the world, land-based, online, and mobile. One of the most interesting variants, and one that is quite unique in a number of different ways, is 21st Century Blackjack. This game is a variant of California Blackjack and was devised as a simple solution to a problem that had been there since the second half of the 19th century.
In 1860, California passed laws that made a number of gambling games where the player bet against the house illegal. Blackjack was one of these games and as a result, one would not find blackjack at any of the licensed land-based casinos and cardrooms in California. A company in Irvine, California – Casino Gaming Concepts – took up the task of overcoming this hurdle and the result was 21st Century Blackjack, a patented game that resembles the blackjack game enough for players to want to play it and is yet different enough to not be considered one of the illegal games.
- One of the most basic and impactful differences is the fact that this game is played with multiple decks of cards.
- A game of 21st Century Blackjack uses anywhere between 2 and 8 decks of cards and not just one deck.
There is an even bigger difference – the joker is part of the deck in 21st Century Blackjack.
- The game is played with a 53-card deck and not the usual 52-card deck you see in almost every other blackjack game.
- The joker acts as a ‘wild’ and has a huge role in helping a player get a hand of 22, the maximum hand that is also called a ‘natural 22’ or simply ‘natural’.
- A player is allowed to place a maximum of 3 bets through the course of his hand by placing the bets in any of the 3 wagering circles located just in front of his hand. Some casinos have wagering limits.
- Players are also allowed to bet on other hands. A player wins if the hand he is betting on wins, and loses if the hand he is betting on loses.
- A dealer with a hand value over 21 that is higher than the hand value of the player results in a push.
- With the joker being a part of play an interesting situation presents itself: what would be the value of a 2-card hand that has 2 jokers or a joker and an Ace?
- That hand would have a value of 22!
- That brings us to the biggest difference between 21st Century Blackjack and the regular blackjack game – the highest hand in this game is not 21, but 22.
Another important difference: in 21st Century Blackjack the house is not the dealer. Of course this varies from one casino to another.
- There is a dealer button that makes its way from one player to another as the game progresses.
- A player can, therefore, choose to be the dealer and be the bank or house for a specified number of hands.
- When the player becomes the dealer, he does not play as a ‘player’; his hand is the dealer’s hand and any money that the player wins as ‘dealer’ goes to his account.
- In case the player-dealer loses, he pays out to the other players in the game.
- If a player decides to be the bank but does not have the required money he can team up with another player – the one with the biggest bankroll usually – and split the wins.
- The player does not bust if he has a hand over 21; 22 is in fact the highest hand. If a player has a hand over 21 play just continues. Another option that some casinos have is an employee with a large enough bankroll to act as banker.
The following are the rules associated with playing 21st Century Blackjack.
- The biggest hand in the game is 22 or a ‘natural’.
- This hand beats all other hands.
- It is formed when the player lands a hand of:
- 2 Jokers
- A Joker and an Ace
- 2 Aces
- Player hits on any hand up to a maximum of 12.
- Player stands on a hand of a minimum of a hard 20.
- Player stands on a hard or soft 21 or 22.
- Doubling down is allowed on a player hand of 11 or 12. Players can then draw 2 more cards.
- Banker hits on any hand up to a soft 18.
- The banker stands on any hand from a minimum of a hard 18 upwards.
- A natural hand for both the player and the banker results in a push.
- A round where the player and dealer have hands higher than 22 results in a push if the player’s hand value is lower than the dealer’s.
- A lower dealer hand in such a situation results in the dealer winning.
- The player is not allowed to hit if one of the banker’s face up cards is a Joker.
- Splitting is allowed in 21st Century Blackjack.
- The player and the banker each pay a certain fee; that is how the casino makes money.
- The fee for the player is usually $1 for every $100 that is wagered.
- For the banker it is a flat fee, usually $2 or $3, depending on the casino.
21st Century Blackjack is usually available at licensed casinos and cardrooms in California.
- The game is played with between 2 and 8 decks of cards, including the joker.
- The number of players at a table ranges between 8 and 10.
- The card values are the same as a standard blackjack game, with one notable difference.
- Cards 2 to 9 are valued at face.
- Cards 10 to King are all valued at 10 points each.
- The Ace has 2 values – 1 and 11.
- The Joker has no value; however if it appears with any other card in a hand that hand gets the value of 22.
Players place the initial wager and one of them can opt to be the banker/dealer.
- Two cards are dealt to each player.
- Based on the cards a player has, he may:
- Hit: Draw an additional card to strengthen the hand.
- Stand: Remain with the original 2 cards and draw no more cards.
- Double down: The player doubles the initial wager and then takes an additional card – some casinos allow 2 cards to be dealt; he has to stand after that.
- Split: Split a hand with 2 cards of identical value into 2 separate hands and play each separately; the wagers are separate for the individual hands.
- Surrender: A player can surrender, some casinos even allow late surrender, if he feels the dealer has a better hand than his. He forfeits half his original wager.
- The dealer then plays his hand and the winner is finally declared and the payouts made.