Although American blackjack is perhaps the most popular choice among players, European blackjack is the original version of the game. When it crossed the pond some key aspects of the game’s mechanics were changed, giving way to the American version, but if we are being strict the original game is the European one. A priori, the European version is a little more favourable to the banker, but it still guarantees vibrant gaming sessions. It is commonly found in European and Asian casinos.
How to play European blackjack
The mechanics of European blackjack are quite simple: the dealer deals the cards and the player decides whether to hit or draw. However, the gameplay is altered when the dealer’s card is an Ace. There is a risk that the dealer will make a blackjack, so in that case players can place insurance bets. To do so, they place an amount equal to half of the initial bet in the insurance zone. The bet is put on standby until the dealer gets his second card and completes the play.
In the event that the dealer gets a blackjack, only players with 21 may tie the dealer’s hand. Players who do not get a blackjack will have lost both their insurance bets and their initial bet and, if they did, any double bets and even bets. Playing without knowing whether the dealer will get a blackjack or not has its risks – a risk that does not exist in American blackjack – hence American blackjack is a priori more favourable to the player.
The player’s turn begins after the cards have been dealt or, if the dealer has an Ace, after the insurance bets. Before drawing or checking, the player has the option of doubling down or splitting his pairs, i.e. if he has two cards of the same value, split them, make a new bet and play with two hands. Theoretically, we can only split once and only if we are playing with 10-point cards (10, J, Q, K) but online casinos usually allow splitting every time, regardless of the value of the equal cards.
Once the possibility of doubling down or splitting has been resolved, it is time to start the game. There is no limit to the number of cards that can be drawn, and they are dealt one at a time. The exception, of course, is when the game is over 21 points: the game is over. The player can stand whenever he wants, he doesn’t need a minimum value like the dealer. So, you can stand with a hand of 20, 15 or 12 points. Remember that, no matter how low the hand value is, there is always a chance of winning if the banker’s hand is higher than 22.
The dealer’s turn
Once the players have completed their bets, it is the dealer’s turn to reveal his second card, giving him the option to complete the natural blackjack as long as the initial card is an Ace or a 10. If he does not complete the natural blackjack, the dealer plays according to the rules of blackjack: he draws if he has 16 or less, stands between 17 and 21, or loses with 22 or more points. Once the dealer’s turn is over, it is time to settle the various bets on the table.
How European blackjack bets are paid
Blackjack pays 3 to 2, unless the dealer has called. In that case, we are talking about a tie. For bets to be paid out, the dealer and the player’s points are compared, and if the player beats the dealer, the player collects the bet at odds of 1:1. The same applies to all bets on the table if the dealer’s hand is a losing hand because the dealer’s hand is over 21 points. In the event of a tie, the player gets back the amount wagered. This payout ratio applies to all bets: initial bets, insurance bets, doubles or splits.
So, if we have bet 1 unit, we can find ourselves in different situations depending on how it is resolved:
- You have blackjack and the dealer has not called: you collect 3 to 2 and you get 2.5 units.
- You beat the dealer but do not have blackjack: cash out 1 to 1 and take 2 units.
- Tie, whether you have blackjack or not: you get back the unit bet.
- Insurance bet: insurance bets are settled at 1 to 1 – you get two units – or you get back the unit bet if there is a tie.
Where to play European blackjack
To play European blackjack, just head to the card or blackjack section of your favourite online casino, and you’re sure to find a European blackjack table there. However, it should be noted that sometimes it is not referred to as European blackjack, but may be called by other names such as classic blackjack, Monte Carlo blackjack, and so on. As always, the key is to check the room description and game rules to make sure it is European blackjack.