Vegas Downtown Blackjack is slowly becoming one of the most popular variants of blackjack in online casinos and land casinos. This is because the two deck card game is easier for most to calculate odds on and also because of some additional rules that make playing more favourable to the player, with the house edge being reduced from around 2% to around 0.3-4%. The house edge is what determines, in the long run, who will win. This can never be 0 as casinos need to have some protection to cover their end, but Vegas Downtown Blackjack offers players the chance to take advantage of some incredibly good odds. If this is combined with basic strategy, it can reduce the house edge even more, to give the player an even better chance of success.
Rules of Vegas Downtown Blackjack
In the standard game of blackjack, the player plays against the dealer, with both trying to get as close to 21 as possible without going over 21, in which case the hand has gone bust, and the other hand wins.
Hands consist of cards from two decks of normal playing cards. The card royals such as Jack, Queen and King are valued at 10, whilst the numbered cards 2-10 are taken at face value. The Ace is a special card that can be taken as 11 or at 1, depending on which number is more favourable in the hand.
To explain how the Ace works, basically if the Ace is dealt to the player alongside a 4, then the value of the hand would be 15, but if the player decides to hit and is dealt a hand of 10, the Ace will be counted as 1, and the value of both cards would become 11. A hand that consists of an Ace is called a Soft hand, whilst a hand that does not have an Ace is called a Hard hand.
The dealer will set two cards, face up, for the player and deal themselves two cards with only one of them face up. If the first two cards that the player is dealt add up to 21, the player has made a blackjack, and wins the round, with a payout 3:2 their original bet.
If the dealer's hand is worth 10, then they must secretly check whether the second card is an ace. If it is, the dealer reveals the card and wins the round, but if not, then the round continues.
This is a variant on the original game, as you will directly know if the dealer has made a blackjack, and then you will not have to play out the round, which is good because then the game does not continue, and players will not lose more money on additional bets.
If the round goes into the second turn, the player gets to decide what they want to do with their hand. They have the option to Hit, Stand, Double Down or to Split.
Hitting is when the player wants to add another card to their hand to increase their value. If the value is still not high enough, they can call for an additional hit.
Standing is when the player decides that their overall hand is high enough, and they want to remain with that value.
Doubling down is when the player doubles their bet and receives only one additional hit.
Splitting is when the player receives a hand of two cards with the same number value. As opposed to most blackjack games, in Vegas Downtown Blackjack the player can split up to a total of three times, which means that they can have four different hands. In any of these hands they are also allowed to double down; however, pairings of 10 valued cards and Aces will not count as Blackjacks (in that you will not get a payout of 3:2 but a simple 1:1 if you win).
When the player has finished, the dealer must take their turn and try to beat the player's hand(s). In Vegas Downtown Blackjack, the dealer must stand on a hard 17 (a hand where the value is 17 without having an ace) and must hit on a soft 17 (where there is an ace). This contrasts from many blackjack games where the dealer stands on all 17s.
If a player wins from one position, they win 1:1 their original bet, in the case of a Blackjack (landing 21, but not after splitting) then they receive 3:2 their original bet. If the player should go bust (goes over 21), they automatically lose their hand.
This is important to know especially after splitting: if the player has multiple positions and goes bust, they instantly lose their bet, regardless of whether the dealer is forced to go bust in the dealer's turn, when they try to catch the players’ other hand.
Insurance is a bet that is common in blackjack, where the dealer's face up card is an Ace, you can make a side bet that costs half your original bet, on the dealer making Blackjack. If the card that is faced down has a value of 10, the insurance pays at 2:1, winning back the player's original bet. However, in Vegas Downtown Blackjack, this is not favourable, as the house edge on the insurance bet is almost 6.8%.
Basic strategy is a table where all the different possible dealt card combinations of the player and the dealer are listed vertically and horizontally, with instructions on what move to make next in every single scenario. The instructions will include whether the player should hit, stand, double down, surrender, split including several specific options for the player to split and then hit, split and then double or surrender. The table accounts for every single hand that can be dealt, and provides the best mathematical move that has the best odds for the player.
While it is not a sure-fire strategy, the house edge can be significantly reduced, which gives the player an even better chance, especially as the Vegas Downtown Blackjack variant already has such a low house edge.
Before looking for basic strategy tables, it is important to know that there are many different tables based on the different variants of blackjack. These versions of the table depend on a lot of factors, but primarily are categorised by how many decks there are in play and also what action the dealer takes on a soft 17 or a hard 17. For Vegas Downtown Blackjack, you will need to find a table that has “Double-Deck, Dealer Hits on a Soft 17”.
Without going into every single combination, here are some good tips to remember that will help you reduce the house edge.
Always split aces.
Avoid using Insurance bets, as the house has an advantage.
If you have a pair of 5s, always double, unless the dealer has 10 or 11, in which case just hit.
If you have a hand of 11, always double.
If you have a hand of 12, stand if the dealer has 4, 5 or 6, otherwise always hit.
If you have a hard hand of 18-21 or a soft hand of 20-21, always stand.
All blackjack is games of chance, with different versions that have alternative side bets, different deck numbers and different rules about what moves the dealer has to make. That being said, the Vegas Downtown Blackjack certainly has a lot of rules that favour the player in comparison with other variants and that is why it is definitely an interesting game to explore.