Zombie Blackjack is a Table-Comparing game invented by prolific card-game designer Geoff Hall. Hall, who currently is employed by Shuffle Master, has developed over 40 different Blackjack games for casinos all over the United States.
The game’s name refers to its unique mechanic, allowing players to “Revive” even after they have busted, if the Dealer also busts on 23 or higher.
How to Play Zombie Blackjack?
Zombie Blackjack is played using six-to-eight 52-card Anglo-American decks combined into a single stockpile called the “Shoe.”
The game of Zombie Blackjack borrows the majority of its rules from the traditional game.
Before cards are dealt, Players must make their Ante wager. The Ante’s parameters are determined by the casino’s minimum and maximum values.
Ante’s are independent Player-to-Player. Player 1 can bet 50, and Player 2 can bet 100, so long as they are both within the casino’s betting parameters.
Once each Player has paid their Ante, the deal begins.
Two face-up cards are dealt to each Player, while the Dealer deals themselves one face-down and one face-up.
Once each card has been dealt the procedure of Zombie Blackjack is largely the same as traditional Blackjack.
Players will take turns, starting the Player sitting immediately clockwise from the Dealer, making their positions.
The positions of Zombie Blackjack are the same as the traditional game. Players may Hit, Stand, Double, or Split their bet. There is no surrender option available in this game.
The Zombie Mechanic
It is after a Player makes their position that the Zombie mechanic comes into effect. If a Player’s hand busts, and the Dealer’s top card (the face-up) is a 7, 8, 9, 10, or Ace, then they may “Box” their bet. Think of this box as a coffin.
- Player 1 hits and busts with 24.
- The Dealer has a 10 as their top card.
- So, instead of losing their wager, their Ante is “boxed.”
Once the game reaches the Showdown after each Player has Stood, or Boxed their bets, the Dealer then takes their positions.
If the Dealer busts on 23, or higher, all Boxed bets will win. This is the “Revival” that makes the game Zombie. Even though the Player’s hands have “died” by busting, if the Dealer busts on 23 with those specific top cards, then the hand can come back to life and still win.
However, like most of Geoff Hall’s games, Zombie Blackjack features the Push-22 Mechanic. If the Dealer busts on 22, then all hands except Blackjacks, busted hands, and boxed bets, will push.
Blackjacks will still pay out in a Push-22, while busted and boxed bets will be lost.
Below you can find the most important Zombie Blackjack rules:
- Players may Double any two-card hand, even after Splitting, but they may not Double after Splitting Aces.
- Players may re-split, but may only re-split twice for a total of four hands.
- If the Dealer has a 7, 8, 9, 10, or Ace, you do not bust but instead Box your busted hand.
- If the Dealer busts on 22, all bets except Blackjacks, Boxed bets, and Busted hands are pushed.
Payouts and Side Bets
Zombie Blackjack does offer Insurance if the Dealer has a top-card Ace. However, the Insurance, like all of Geoff Hall’s games, pays out 2:1 rather than 3:1. This makes the Insurance only allow you to break even on hands that you win, and lose money on hands that you don’t. The insurance side bet should be avoided if possible.
The payouts for Zombie are what one would expect. Blackjack will either pay 3:2 or 6:5 depending on the casino’s preference. Games where the Player beats the Dealer pays their Ante 1:1. Boxed bets are also paid out 1:1.
Players must add an additional wager equal to the Ante when they Double Down or Split.
The House Edge of Zombie Blackjack is anywhere from 1-2.5%, based on the rules offered by the casino. Blackjack paying 6:5 offers the worst edge possible, at 2.5% overall.
Suppose that the Dealer has the following top card:
And your hand total is 12, with 5♦ and 7♠.
In most Blackjack games, one would simply hit, but in Zombie Blackjack, doubling down here is less risky than in most variations.
As such, suppose you double down and bust with 24.
Your bet is boxed, instead of busted, and so you continue into the Showdown. The dealer reveals a 4 as their bottom card for a total of 13. The Dealer must hit, and buts on 23 with a 10♥.
Even though you doubled down and would normally have lost, your hand is revived and you win your bet!
Strategy and Tips
Like in all of Geoff Hall’s games, avoid the insurance. The payout is not worth the risk assumed by the Player when participating in the Insurance.
The insurance only exists to trick you into thinking you need to wager even more money for the chance to push. Simply give up and let the hand lose.
You can double and split very aggressively when the Dealer has a 7, 8, 9, 10, or Ace. Although you shouldn’t do it blindly, such as doubling down when you have a 16, as shown in the example above, the occasional risky Double Down can be favorable thanks to the revival mechanic of the boxed bets.