Guide to 21st Century Blackjack – Rules, Strategy and How to play


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.

Playable 21st Century Blackjack game:

Basic Differences between 21st Century Blackjack and Regular Blackjack

There are a number of differences between the regular game of blackjack and 21st century blackjack, especially in terms of the rules.

  • 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.

21st Century Blackjack Rules

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.

How to play 21st Century Blackjack

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.

21st Century Blackjack Strategy