Each country and city seems to have its own blackjack variation. True enough, there’s a Blackjack UK type with rule twists just like the American, European, Vegas Strip, and more.
Basically, the UK variation is played with the standard Las Vegas Strip rules but with a few differences. If you happen to be in the UK or vacationing in the country, try your hand on the country’s own variation of the game.
Take note that although it shares some rules with known variations, it pays to study the game first. A lot of hasty players end up losing their bankroll because of their shallow understanding of the rules.
To serve as your guide, here’s our comprehensive take on the UK card game:
What is the UK blackjack variation?
Like the usual blackjack games, you need to aim a hand that’s closer to 21 or higher than the dealer’s cards. Six decks will be used on the game complete with the 10 value cards. The biggest difference is that the player can play up to 5 hands simultaneously through splits.
Splitting is allowed, but there’s a limitation. You can’t split pairs of 10s, 5s, and 4s. This adds thrill to the game and directly affects the house edge which we will discuss later on.
You can resplit but it’s only allowed once and you can only have as much as four additional hands for a total of five including your initial hand.
When it comes to doubling down, the rules can also get tricky. You can do so only if your hands are equal to 11, 10, or 9. With this, you’d have to use a dedicated strategy chart and not just the usual steps you’ll use on the Vegas Strip variation.
Here’s another unique rule in Blackjack UK: insurance bets are only available if the dealer has an Ace up-card and you have a blackjack. Otherwise, this side bet is locked.
This is somehow a blessing in disguise for someone who is very vulnerable when it comes to side bets.
There are many different rules that you have to understand here. To keep it straight, read on the listed rules below.
What’s the difference with European blackjack?
Since the UK is in Europe, we can’t help but wonder how this variation differs with the popular European blackjack.
Sure thing, there are major similarities, but the biggest difference is in the splitting department. Although some casinos will impose a no-split rule for pairs like 4s, 5s, and 10s, this isn’t a standard rule for the European blackjack. Some tables will let you split, unlike in the UK variation where it’s solidly imposed.
Take note that both the UK and European blackjack doesn’t have a hole card. This is the face-down card of the dealer.
If you want to know more about European blackjack and its rules, we have a separate post discussing this variation. Read it HERE.
Pros and cons
All blackjack variations come with their advantages and disadvantages. The same goes for the UK variation. If you’re planning to play this card game, take your time to weigh the following pros and cons:
Rules of the game
The blackjack UK variation can be very tricky for those who only experienced playing the standard American blackjack. If you’re a newbie and planning to test the waters, make sure that you master the following rules of the game:
These are the standard rules for the UK variation. Some casinos in the UK may have additional rules or changes in the listed metrics. Before you play, make sure that you asked the dealer or observed the game first. This will save you from losses.
Considering the above-mentioned rules, the house edge calculator from Wizard of Odds yielded around 0.499% of house edge. This is if you play the blackjack UK variation in six decks.
If you happen to play using a basic strategy with cut cards, the house edge increases at 0.522%
If the table has a continuous shuffler and you’re using the basic strategy, the house edge is slated at 0.50%. These numbers aren’t a far cry from the house edge of the American variation.
The rules may look tricky, but if you use optimal strategies, there’s a chance that you can make good money here.
I suggest that you ask about the rules of the certain casino where you’re planning to play. Some would impose their own rules which will affect the house edge. This is very important so you can calculate your expected value vis-à-vis the amount you’re bound to lose.
A natural blackjack pays 3:2 which is the standard for most of the variations. If in case you found a table that offers 6:5, don’t play. If the UK variation adopts the European rules for insurance, it will pay even-money on side bets.
Each casino will have its own rules with payouts. But given that a natural blackjack pays reasonably, it would be enough for most players. Besides, those who are playing for the money rarely bites side bets.
When it comes to side bets, the UK variation has one standard option: insurance. However, this will only be available to you if you have a blackjack and the dealer has an Ace. Nevertheless, this has a high house edge and it would be best to stir clear of it if possible. Even if you’re playing at the Blackjack Ballroom Casino, it’s not a good idea.
Based on our research, there are no known side bets associated with the UK variation. Still, some casinos will incorporate Perfect Pairs, 21 + 3, Bet the Bust, and so on. This will be in the full discretion of the house. One thing is for sure, a table will have at least one or two side bets. Remember, casinos want you to put as much money as you can on their tables. Side bets are a good way to do it.
Remember that the UK variation doesn’t allow surrender and there would be limitations on splitting and doubling down. This chart courtesy of Wizard of Odds specifically addresses these rules. And to help you increase your chances of winning, here’s the basic strategy that you can employ:
For hard hands:
For soft hands:
These strategies may differ depending on the rule variation of the casino. As you see, there’s a doubling down possibilities on some hands that aren’t equivalent to 9, 10, and 11. Always ask about the table rules first and tweak your strategy from there.
Additional tips to increase your chances of winning
If you want to increase your chances of beating the house, take time to understand the mathematics of the game. Rule variations will directly affect the house edge by 0.003% or more. You can always use the Wizard of Odds house edge calculator to have an exact value.
Also, card counting is the only way to gain the upper hand from the casino. As much as the basic strategy is ideal, it has its limits.
Where can I play the UK variation?
There are many online casinos that offer this variation in both real money and for fun versions. So even if you’re not in the UK, you can still try your skills on this card game.
If you’re headed to Europe, the Grosvenor Casinos offer this variation and one of the best destinations if you’re serious about playing for the money.
Here’s how to play blackjack in Grosvenor Casino:
You can try to look for this game in Vegas and Atlantic City casinos but there’s no guarantee that you’ll find one. The best bet is to play online. You can check if the Blackjack Ballroom Casino offers this.
How does card counting go for this variation?
Well, it’s the same as how you count cards in just about any variation. However, the challenge is that there’s no hole card plus there’s a chance that the casino may use an automatic shuffler. Also, there’s no way you can count cards if you’re playing online.
My only advice is to keep your card counting exploits low-key. You probably know this, but getting backed off is not a good experience, especially if you’re playing abroad. Some casinos tend to be harsh and some even land in jail after being caught card counting.
Also, most casinos will use six decks for this variation. Still, some will opt for four decks. It’s always advisable to practice your card counting in various decks for better play.
Is this worth your money?
Considering that the payout is decent and the house edge isn’t exorbitant, I think the UK variation is worth the try even for those who are playing for the money.
The key here is to master the rules before putting your money on it. Each variation comes with different rules and it’s imperative for every player to study it first.
The blackjack UK may have similarities with other variations, but it also has unique rules that can make or break your bankroll. For expert card counters, this can be both a lucrative and challenging game. However, since only a few casinos offer this card game, it might be difficult to explore the variation.