Vegas Strip Blackjack borrows its name from North America’s biggest gambling hub, Las Vegas. This is one of the most common variations of the card game and one that dominates the landbased casinos across Sin City’s neon-lit Strip. It should not be confused with another similar variant which goes under the name of Vegas Downtown Blackjack but involves different rules.
If you are fond of this variation, there is no need for you to go visit the Strip, however. The popularity of Vegas Strip Blackjack has caused the game to appear in the catalogs of multiple online casinos as well, particularly those that run on the platform of software provider Microgaming.
Both the online and offline versions of Vegas Strip Blackjack play pretty much the same way and are preferred by blackjack mavens who are looking for a dynamic game with a low house edge and beneficial rules. Here you have the opportunity to learn the game’s rules in detail and read a few handy tips on improving your odds of winning in Vegas Strip Blackjack.
How to Play Vegas Strip Blackjack
Like in most basic variations of this card game, the purpose of the player in Vegas Strip Blackjack is to beat the house with a better hand total without surpassing the highest score of 21. The best possible hand in the game is made with a ten-value card plus an ace. The court cards and the tens are given a value of 10 whereas the aces are assigned a value of 1 or 11. The value of all other cards coincides with the number of pips they contain.
The game utilizes hole cards and is played with multiple decks, but the exact number differs between casinos on the Strip. Typically, four decks are shuffled together and the cards are dealt out of a shoe, allowing the dealer to pull out a single card at a time without having to hold the entire pack in their hand.
Each round starts with players receiving two exposed cards while the dealer’s hand consist of one face-up and one hole card. After the deal, the players are provided with a choice to hit (get dealt more cards), stand (decline more cards), split pairs, or double down by posting a side bet, in which case the dealer gives them only one more card.
Both the player and the dealer are allowed to draw up to 9 extra cards in addition to the two cards they initially receive. Whoever exceeds the total of 21 loses the coup. In cases when the dealer and the player both have drawn to the same total, the coup is considered a tie and the player’s original bet is returned to them.
Naturals, like blackjacks are also called, are the highest-scoring hands and as such, stand by default. Blackjacks secure you a payout of 3 to 2. All other winning hands offer even-money payouts unless a winning insurance bet was posted at the table. There is no decision-making on behalf of the dealer, who must stand on totals of 17.
Thanks to its favourable rules Vegas Strip Blackjack gives the house a very small advantage but the exact percentage varies between 0.18% and 0.78%, depending on the Las Vegas casino you frequent. In online variations of the game, like the one created by Microgaming, the house advantage amounts to the meager 0.35%.
Insurance in Vegas Strip Blackjack
Late insurance is available in most varieties of the game, bar Pontoon, and Vegas Strip Blackjack is no exception. Each time the dealer’s exposed card is an ace, they would give players the option to insure their hand against a blackjack by posting a side bet that is half the size of their original stake.
After all players have declined or accepted insurance, the dealer would take a peep at their hole card. If they really have a blackjack, the insurance bet will pay 2 to 1 and the player’s other hand will lose. In other words, no money changes hands in such cases because the insurance bet practically covers the losses incurred on your initial hand. However, if you have accepted insurance but the dealer does not have a natural, your insurance bet loses and you play your other hand as you wish.
In Vegas Strip Blackjack, the dealer would peek for possible naturals when they are showing court cards and tens as well, which prevents players from continuing to pour money into hands that would automatically lose. However, insurance is not offered whenever dealers show a ten-value card.
Rules on Splitting Pairs
Splitting pairs of like cards is widespread among advanced blackjack players since it enables them to extract more value from their hands and respectively, more money from the house’s coffers. Remember here you are practically playing two separate hands so the second one would require you to post another bet that is equal in size to your regular wager.
In Vegas Strip Blackjack, the player is permitted to split all kinds of pairs as long as the two cards are of the same value. Furthermore, you can resplit to form up to four separate hands as long as the pair does not contain two aces, in which case you can split only once. Also, when aces are split, you can draw only one card per ace and after that are required to stand.
Whenever pairs of ten-value cards are split and the player gets dealt an ace, this does not count as a natural despite the fact the hand’s value adds up to 21. In such instances, the winning hands would return an even-money payout instead of paying 3 to 2. The same rule is applicable whenever you split pairs of aces and receive ten-value cards on one or both split hands.
Rules on Doubling Down
Doubling down is another way to increase your profits in favourable situations as this action also calls for a second bet that equals the sum you have initially staked on your hand. When you double down, you practically pay extra in order to receive only one additional card on your two-card total. However, if you win, you win twice the amount you originally would have collected with this hand.
The rules on doubling down in Vegas Strip Blackjack are some of the most liberal ones you can hope to come across at blackjack tables. Remember doubling down is possible only on hands consisting of those cards. If you have already hit your starting hand, you no longer are permitted to make this move. What’s beautiful about this variation is that you can double down even after you have split a pair and do so on any total you like as long as it consists of two cards only.
Basic Strategy in Vegas Strip Blackjack
One of the surest ways to decrease the house’s advantage is by making only optimal decisions when playing your hands. Some players may argue this is not possible when it comes to gambling but the truth of the matter is it is, at least as long as you stick to basic strategy. This usually comes in the form of a chart which tells you what the optimal moves in each situation are.
Basic strategy charts are based on computations that have established the correct play for every combination of cards that can possibly appear at a blackjack table. These computations involve an incredibly large sample drawn from hundreds of thousands of hands and are guaranteed to work over the long run.
Since the correct moves may differ when rule discrepancies are at hand, we recommend you to find a strategy chart that corresponds specifically to the rules applicable in Vegas Strip Blackjack. In order to play your hand optimally, you simply need to check which move is listed as correct, depending on your starting hand’s total and the dealer’s exposed card. You will not win every single time but you can count on reducing your long-term losses.
Improving Your Odds in Vegas Strip Blackjack
Here, we shall outline several tips that can help you increase your odds against the casino when betting on Vegas Strip Blackjack. The first piece of advice has to do with insurance, which is nothing but a side bet on whether or not the dealer is having a natural when their exposed card is an ace.
Basic-strategy players are advised to stay away from this side bet and never insure their hands against dealers’ naturals because this wager carries an eye-watering house edge of around 7% in four-deck games like Vegas Strip Blackjack, i.e. when the cards in the pack are distributed normally. Insurance is blackjack’s sucker bet and only card counters can make use of it as they would know when the chances of getting a blackjack have skyrocketed. The only exception to this rule is when the basic-strategy player himself has been dealt a blackjack – naturals are always worth insuring.
The second piece of advice is to never split pairs consisting of ten-value cards. You are already in the safe zone with one such hand so there is no need to ruin your odds and risk losing twice the amount you first staked on the pair.
Also, the dealer is in trouble when their exposed card’s value is either 5 or 6. The dealer is more likely to draw over 21 with such cards and a smart player would always exploit this weakness. Players are recommended to stand on hard totals of 13 through 16, when the dealer exposes a 5 or a 6.
Blackjack rookies would usually assume that 17 is a solid total but this could not be further from the truth, at least from a mathematical perspective. It is mathematically established that the safe zone for blackjack players is a total of 18 or over. Because of this, you always need to draw more cards until you reach at least 17 when the dealer exposes a ten-value card.
Our last piece of advice is to always split pairs of aces and 8s. When you are dealt two 8s, you are in fact sitting on a 16, which is one of the worst totals you can possibly get dealt in blackjack. The prescribed method of play here is to separate those 8 into two hands since this gives you more room for improvement.
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