European Blackjack is a table-comparing game, played in numerous casinos across Europe, as the name suggests, but also in the United States. European Blackjack is actually closer to historical the historical game Vingt-un than the version played in the U.S.A.
The rules of European Blackjack are slightly different from the game most people are familiar with, but much of the actual procedure and mechanical elements of the game are identical.
How to Play European Blackjack?
European Blackjack is played using 6-8 copies of the standard Anglo-American 52-card, combined and shuffled into a single large deck known as the Shoe. The Dealer will use this large deck, without being shuffled, for as many games as possible before the Shoe is depleted.
In Europe, the French-suited cards, which are numbered and suited the same but have different artwork than the Anglo-American pattern, are sometimes more common than the Anglo-American pattern, depending on where in Europe one finds the game.
The aim of the game is to achieve a hand total of 21, with each card valued at 2-9, 10, or 1/11.
Players all place a preliminary wager, called the Ante, as per the usual rules of Blackjack. The size of their Ante is determined by the casino’s posted minimums and maximums.
Once each Player has made an appropriate Ante, the Dealer will begin the Deal.
The dealing procedure is actually quite different from the more familiar version of Blackjack.
In European Blackjack, the Dealer deals the first card for the round to themselves. This is different from the traditional game where, normally, the Dealer will deal cards to themselves last. Furthermore:
- The Dealer deals out their top card and only the top card.
- They will deal out a second card when the Showdown begins.
- After their top card is dealt face-up, they will deal two cards face-down to every player who paid an Ante.
Once each Player has been dealt their two cards, they will take turns starting from the Player to the immediate left of the Dealer, taking their positions.
Like in the traditional game, players can Hit, Stand, Double Down, or Split.
Players do not need to reveal their cards in order to Hit, Stand, or Double Down, but Splitting Players will have to flip over their initial hand in order to prove they have matching cards. The new cards dealt to the Split hands will be face-down, however.
Players also need to place down a wager equal to their Ante in order to participate in a Double Down, or Split.
Players may Surrender their wager on their turn. In order to Surrender, it must be that Player’s turn, and they may not have received any Hits, Splits, or Double-Downs. Players may only surrender their original two-card hand.
Surrendering is essentially quitting the hand, but it does return half of the Ante back to the Surrendering player. Surrendering also disqualifies a Player from receiving any money from the Dealer, even if the Dealer were to bust.
Once each Player has made their positions, and either Surrendered their hand, Busted, or Stood, the Showdown can begin.
Players will turn over their cards immediately, showing all of the cards in all of their hands. The Dealer will then deal to themselves a single face-up card to complete their initial two-card hand.
From there, the Dealer will take the appropriate positions as laid out by his casino’s Blackjack handbook, and if the Dealer does not Bust, the Showdown begins.
- If the Dealer Busts, all non-Busting and non-Surrendered Players receive even money for their wagers.
- If the Dealer has Blackjack, all Players without it automatically lose their total wagers.
- If a Player has Blackjack, and the Dealer has not, that player immediately wins their hand and is paid the usual 3:2 odds.
- If both the Dealer and a particular Player have Blackjack, the bets will push.
In all other circumstances, the Players and the Dealer will compare (hence, “comparing game”) their hands against the Dealer.
The Player or Dealer with the higher hand total, closer to 21, without Busting, wins the Showdown and is paid. All wagers but Blackjack are paid even money to the Player.
Once the Showdown has ended for each Player, cards are collected and discarded, while new cards are drawn from the Shoe, and Players place new Antes on the board to begin a new game.
Payouts and Odds
There are no special payouts for European Blackjack, outside of the Insurance payout.
Insurance pays out 2:1, but will only ever payout 0.16% of the time. In all other outcomes where the Insurance manages to payout, which is still only about 4.3% of the time, it will only break even.
Blackjacks pays out 3:2. All other Showdown interactions pay on an even, 1:1 basis.
The overall House Edge of 0.62% for the rules laid out on this page, although there can be variations that actually can alter this edge.
However, so long as you do not participate in the Insurance, this House Edge should remain under 1%.
European Blackjack Rules
The essential rules of the game are given below:
- 21 wins automatically unless both the Dealer and Player have it.
- The Dealer deals out their top card first and does not deal a bottom face-down card. The Dealer will deal themselves a second card at the beginning of the Showdown.
- Players may surrender their Ante if they wish. They can save half of their Ante, and forfeit the other half to the House. Players can only surrender on their initial two-card hand.
- Players can also participate in an Insurance bet, to insure against the Dealer’s Blackjack. If The Dealer draws Blackjack while a Player has an active Insurance bet, the Player is paid 2:1.
Since you cannot see the Dealer’s second card, you need to play under the assumption that the 2nd card the Dealer will receive will more likely than not be a 10.
There are 16 cards in a 52-card deck that are worth 10 in a game of European Blackjack, and 12 that can form a Blackjack, making it more likely than any other individual card.
So, if the Dealer’s top card is Ace, for example, and you happen to have Blackjack:
Then this is the one circumstance in which it might be appropriate to pay for the Insurance. The Dealer already has the Ace, which means any face card will yield Blackjack.
If the Dealer draws Blackjack, your hand will Push and you will receive no money. However, if you buy the insurance, and the Dealer draws Blackjack, you will still push, but receive a 2:1 payout on your Insurance wager.
This is still risky and ill-advised, however, because if the Dealer does not draw Blackjack, you paid for Insurance but only won a 3:2 wager, more than likely making you lose money, even though you won the Showdown.
Players should avoid the Insurance wagers in all circumstances except for the one listed specifically above in the example scenario. Even then, the Insurance has a very slim chance of paying out anything other than a break-even, which is in essence a push.
Why wager more money just to have it returned to you? In the very slim odds that you manage to actually successfully achieve the maximum Insurance payout, you wagered extra money and risk on a 2x payout, the same you’d receive from Splitting or Doubling Down.
Just like in normal Blackjack, it’s best to Split Aces and Double-Down on 9s, 10s, and 11s, as these cards maximize the odds of achieving a win worth more money than a simple game. Players should always press their advantages when possible.
European Vs. American Blackjack
European Blackjack follows much of the same procedure and function as American Blackjack, but there are some key differences.
Each Player’s cards are hidden from each other, which eliminates card counting on the fly. Players will have to wait for the Showdown to completely finish in order to appropriately count the cards of each Player.
As this is only going to occur at the end of the Showdown, when cards are being returned to the Dealer, this might interfere with any counting play.
Further, neither the Player nor the Dealer will know if the Dealer has a Blackjack until the Showdown begins. In some versions of American Blackjack, the Dealer can peek, but that is not possible here.