Free Bet Blackjack follows the same basic rules as any other blackjack game. The player will have to try to get as close to 21 as possible without exceeding it and going bust. The standard options of Stand, Hit, Double Down and Split remain. If the player has a higher hand value than the dealer does and has not bust, then the player wins.
At the start of each round, players will make their bets. Once the bets have been placed, players receive two face-up cards and the dealer receives a face-up and a facedown card. At this point, if the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, players may place an insurance bet which costs half their stake. This ensures that if the dealer has blackjack, the player does not lose any money on the hand as the pay-out is 2:1. The dealer then proceeds to check for blackjack. If they do not have blackjack, the round carries on as usual.
As mentioned, players have the usual options:
- Stand: The hand remains as it is.
- Hit: The player receives another card.
- Double Down: Doubling Down is only available after the player has received their two initial cards. They may double down on any value. However, if they have a hard total of 9, 10 or 11, the player will be able to double down for free.
- Split: The player may only split if they have two cards with the same value. A player is not allowed to split a Jack with a Queen, even though both of them are worth 10. They may only split a Jack with another Jack and a Queen with another Queen. Unlike other blackjack variants, Free Bet Blackjack allows you to split for free, provided that cards with a value of 10.
The dealer will always stand if the hand is worth 18 or more. They will always hit if the hand is 16 or less. As for 17, it depends on the specific game you are playing. In some versions, the dealer will hit on a soft 17 (a hand that has an Ace in it) and stand on a hard 17. However, in other games the dealer stand on all 17s.
As mentioned, the dealer does not bust with a 22. If the dealer hand is worth 22 the player bet is returned as a push, unless the player has blackjack.
A winning hand of blackjack pays at 3:2 while all other winning hands pay 1:1. As is usual, if the hands are tied, the bet is returned as a push.
Very often, Free Bet Blackjack offers four side bets: Any Pair, 21+3, Hot3 and Bust It.
- Any Pair is a side bet that allows the player to instantly win if their first two cards are a pair. A mixed pair pays 8:1 whilst having an identical suited pair pays 25:1.
- 21+3 wins if the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card form certain poker hands. It pays 5:1 for a Flush, 10:1 for a Straight, 30:1 for Three of a Kind, 40:1 for a Straight Flush and 100:1 for a Suited Three of a Kind.
- Hot3 wins if the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card have a combined total of 19, 20 or 21. It pays 1:1 for 19, 2:1 for 20 and 4:1 for unsuited 21. Suited 21 pays 20:1 and if all three cards are 7, it pays 100:1.
- Bust It wins if the dealer goes bust. If the dealer busts with three cards it pays 1:1, if the dealer busts with four, five or six cards it pays 2:1, 9:1 or 50:1, respectively. If the dealer busts with seven cards or eight or more, then it pays 100:1 or 250:1, respectively.
Free Bet Blackjack Strategy
For the best results when playing Free Bet Blackjack you should use a strategy chart that shows you the best decision to make in every situation. However, some people feel that using a strategy chart is a bit cumbersome. Luckily, there are a few basic rules that you can learn that will greatly reduce the house edge:
- Always split a pair for free if you can (you cannot split 10 value cards). The only hand which you should not split is a pair of 5s. When you have a pair of 5s, it is advised to Double Down instead.
- Whenever you are dealt two 10 value cards, you should always Stand.
- Always use the free Double Down bet if you are dealt a hard 9, 10 or 11.
There are also some basic rules that you can memorise for hard and soft hands. If you have a Hard Hand, you should:
- Always hit if the hand is 8 or lower.
- Hit if you are dealt a 12, unless the dealer’s face-up card is a 5 or 6. In that case Stand.
- Hit if you are dealt a 13 unless the dealer’s face-up card is either 3, 4, 5 or 6. In that case, Stand.
- Hit if you are dealt a 14, 15 or 16, provided that the dealer’s face-up card is 7 or higher. If it is lower, Stand.
- Regardless of the dealer’s face-up card, always Stand on a hard 17 or above.
If you have a Soft Hand, you should:
- Always Hit if your hand is worth between 13-15.
- Hit on Soft 16s unless the dealer’s face-up card is a 6. In that case, Double Down.
- Hit on Soft 17s unless the dealer’s face-up card is a 5 or 6. In that case Double Down.
- Stand on a Soft 18 if the dealer’s card is 2, 3, 4, 7 or 8.
- Double Down on a soft 17 or 18 if the dealer’s face-up card is 5 or 6.
- Hit on a soft 18 if the dealer has a 9, 10 or A.
- Always Stand on a soft 19 or more.
This may sound like a lot to take in, but after playing for a while you will find that the rules become second nature. It is also worth keeping a strategy chart to hand at all times as there is no rule against using one, whether playing online or in a land casino.