Variety is the spice of life, and it's no different in Blackjack, so in this article we will focus on the 5 most popular varieties, which are in actuality 'variants' of Blackjack.
This game might not even be worthy to call a variant since the change in rules is so subtle, but it has its own game in every casino, so here we go. Blackjack Surrender adds a special Surrender option to the pool of choices you have when your hand is dealt. You can get half of your original bet back, but have no chance of winning the game.
Some of you might say this rule is stupid and you should never surrender. While this is almost always the case, just link int James Bond movie 'Never Say Never', there are a couple of exceptions. Since for surrender to be the best option you need to lose your hand 75% of the time (for more info about this calculation take a look at our article on Expected Value), you really need to build a good case for surrendering.
casino-strategy tip: only surrender hard 16 vs a 9, 10 or A, and hard 15 vs a 10 in a 6-deck game.
Even though surrender occurs very rarely, it gives the player an edge of +0.08 compared to Classic Blackjack.
This variant is as difficult as it is rewarding if you play it properly. In Blackjack Switch you have to bet on two hands. The dealer deals both hands to you, and before any standing or hitting or doubling occurs, you have the chance to switch out the top cards between the two hands. So let's say you get a 9K and an A9. While it's nice to have 19 and 20, if you switch the top cards you'll get a pair of 9s and a Blackjack. Doesn't that sound sweet?
Generally if the rules giveth, the rules taketh away (in terms of edge of course). This is not the case here. Though there may be a Super Match Sidebet, which lowers your edge if you bet on it, it's not compulsory. Played correctly Blackjack Switch has no less than 99.8% return, that is by all means the highest you get in a Blackjack game.
Progressive Blackjack is another borderline variant, since there is only one additional betting option, and that is not strictly connected to the rules. However, people seem to love it and if you're willing to gamble a bit, you can win more than in any other format. This variant offers a sidebet for the progressive jackpot or smaller parts of it. The rules differ from casino to casino, but most often Aces are special cards, and if you get more than one card of the same suit and rank you can expect something special. Often even a single Ace can grant you a small refund. Since there are no changes in the rules, house edge and your chances solely depend on the jackpot amount and house rules.
Double Exposure Blackjack
Double Exposure is an interesting variant of Blackjack and very popular amongst people whose willingness to risk money is a bit lower. In Double Exposure you can see both the holecards of the dealer but in return all ties are losses for the player (except for a natural Blackjack, which is a push). This grants ~0.3% edge to the casino.
Pontoon is the British and Australian variant of Blackjack, still you can find it in all of the American casinos. Pontoon may sound a bit more complicated or less fair at first, but in all honesty, it's really close to Blackjack in terms of both complexity and fairness.
In Pontoon the dealer's cards are face-down, so you have no information about their hand. You can only stand on 15+ and always lose a tie. A 2-card hand worth of 21 is a Pontoon and it pays 2:1, but you definitely win with a 5-card hand that is not bust as well (regardless of its value) and on top of all that you can hit after doubling. In most casinos the dealer has to hit soft 17.
We don't have separate strategy articles for the variants yet (but all is not lost that is delayed), but if you want to get a feel of how to play them, read our Basic Strategy Chart for Blackjack or check out Advanced Blackjack Strategies. We even made an interactive blackjack trainer program, the Blackjack Guru, which will teach you in an entertaining way.