Free Bet Blackjack is a proprietary casino table game based on traditional Blackjack, patented by acclaimed game creator Geoff Hall.
Hall, famous particularly for his Blackjack Switch, first sold this game to the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, Nevada. Since then, it is confirmed to be found in at least Washington State, though the game may have spread to other casinos.
How to Play Free Bet Blackjack?
Free Bet Blackjack is played using Six-to-Eight Standard Anglo-American 52-card decks, combined into a single large stock known as a “Shoe.” This Shoe is the total pool of possible cards. Hands are continuously drawn from the Shoe game-to-game until the Shoe is completely emptied.
Free Bet Blackjack follows many of the same rules as the traditional game, such that they do not be need to explained here. The CoolOldGames Blackjack guide can answer any generic mechanical questions.
Like all Blackjack games, Free Bet begins with an Ante wagered against the House.
There are three major rule changes that exist in Free Bet, the Free Double, the Free Split, and the Push 22. Aside from these three major rule changes, the game follows many of the proper Blackjack rules.
- Players can Double Down after Splitting, but they must only Double on Two-Card hands. Players may not hit and then Double or Split.
- Players can Re-Split up to three times for four total hands to play at once. Players are even allowed to Split Aces.
- However, Free Bet Blackjack offers no surrender clause. All money wagered is lost if a Player does not win the Showdown, or is otherwise pushed.
As previously stated, there are three major rule changes. Further, there is a side bet called the Pot of Gold, which will be explained further below in the “Payouts and Side Bets” section.
Firstly, there are Free Doubles. If a Player’s two-card hand totals 9, 10, or 11, they are automatically given a “Free Bet” chip that matches their initial Ante.
They are then dealt a single card, as though a normal Double Down has taken place.
Players are still allowed to Double Down normally on all other totals, but this Free Double Down only occurs on totals of 9, 10, and 11.
Next, the Free Splits. All Splits a Player takes are Free Splits, except for Splits on 10s.
When a Player takes a Free Split, they are given another Free Bet chip for their Split hand, while the other hand maintains the original Ante.
If Players are able to continue their Splits, those further Splits are also given Free Bet chips.
Ultimately, with such a heavy advantage in the favor of the Player, that being entirely free wagers in situations where Players are likely to win lots of money on a single game, there must be some kind of advantage for the casino in order to tip Edge back into their favor. This is the Push 22.
The Push 22 is the House’s way to push the Edge back in their favor.
- If the Dealer busts on 22, which is a fairly common hand to bust on, all bets are pushed.
- If Players have Free Bets on a Push 22, those bets are returned back to the Dealer, while their Ante is pushed back to them.
Push 22 yields a massive edge advantage to the House, as a trade-off for potential Free Bets to the Player.
After each Player has made their wagers, the Showdown begins as normal.
- The Dealer reveals their Bottom Card and each Player compares their hands against the Dealer.
- If the Dealer busts on 23 or higher, there is no push.
- Money is won or lost and traded immediately with the Dealer.
At the end of the game, cards are collected and put away, while new cards are drawn from the Shoe. Players reset their Antes and a new game begins.
A summary of the game rules can be found below:
- Free Bet Blackjack pays 3:2. Dealer Blackjack wins automatically, Player Blackjack wins automatically, even against the Dealer’s.
- Players can Split up to 3 times, and all Splits but Splits on 10s are Free Splits.
- Players can Double Down on any Two-Card hand, and are given Free Doubles on totals of 9, 10, and 11.
- The dealer Pushes all wagers, even Free Bets, on a Bust of 22.
Pot of Gold Side Bet Payouts
Some casinos offer the Pot of Gold side wager at their Free Bet Blackjack tables. This side wager is confirmed to be found in the State of Nevada, and the State of Washington.
Both State’s Gaming Commissions offer recommended rulesets for casinos interested in offering Free Bet Blackjack. These recommended rulesets come with suggested payout tables for the Pot of Gold Side bet.
- Players are awarded per Free Bet chip that they control before the Showdown.
- Players make a wager on the Pot of Gold along with their Ante, before cards have been dealt.
- Players can have up to a total of 7 Free Bets in a single game.
The payout table for the Pot of Gold is shown below:
|# of Free Bet Chips||Payout (On a 1x Basis)|
The House Edge on the Pot of Gold is about 5.8% with this above Pay Table.
There is another payout table with slightly less edge. However, that table yields far more meager results making it more consistent. It also lacks the “Jackpot” that side bets need in order to even be worth playing in the first place.
Like most blackjack side bets, this one should be skipped overall. Occasional play can’t hurt, but 4-6% Edge is quite a stiff loss.
Imagine that you have the following hand:
Taking advantage of a Free Split, you are given two hands with the following cards.
- 6♠ 5♦
- 6♣ 4♥
These hands total 11 and 10 respectively, qualifying them for Free Doubles as well. This results in two three-card hands:
- 6♠ 5♦ 10♣
- 6♣ 4♥ J♣
21 and a 20! With a Split and two Double Downs, these hands are together worth 4x the initial wager.
- The 21 is a guaranteed win if the Dealer does not also have 21.
- The 20 is still a very strong hand, only losing to Dealer Blackjack and 21.
The worst case scenario here is actually a Push, as 22 is more likely than a Blackjack, and will return all of your Free Bets to the Dealer.
Strategy and Tips
Don’t Play the Side Bet Too Often
Like almost every Blackjack table game, it is not advised to participate in the Side Wager too frequently.
The occasional bet on a side wager is fine, especially if there is a potential 1000x or 300x payout. However, consistently betting on the Side Bet will cost you money in the long run.
Basic Strategy Works
Aside from the Push 22, Free Bet Blackjack follows all the same statistical rules of regular Blackjack. If you already are playing optimally, or have an otherwise preferred betting strategy for the regular game, that strategy will work here as well.
What are the odds of winning Free Bet Blackjack?
The standard House Edge, without participating in the Pot of Gold, is about an even 1%. If a Player starts to wager on the Pot of Gold, that House Edge increases to about 5.5-7%, taking a game with only slight House Edge all the way to terrible odds for the Player.
How many decks are used?
While up to eight decks can be used, Free Bet Blackjack is most commonly played with Six decks.
What is the Minimum Bet in Free Bet Blackjack?
Different casinos offer different table minimums and maximums. There will be signage at the table properly displaying the required minimums and maximums for a particular game of Free Bet Blackjack at that particular place.