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European Blackjack Rules & Tips
European Blackjack is one of the most popular and widely played variants of the classic casino card game. At most casinos in Europe, many consider this to be the standard of the game - and while it shares many common rules and objectives with other types of blackjack games, there are some elements and features that set it apart. In this guide, we will look at the different rules, strategies and unique features of European Blackjack.
Rules for Playing European Blackjack
First, let’s start by taking a look at the rules of the game.
The main objective in European Blackjack, as is the case with all blackjack games, is to beat the dealer's hand by trying to get as close to 21 as possible without going over.
In terms of card values, they are the same as in traditional blackjack. The numbered cards, between 2 and 10 are worth their face value, while the face cards - Kings, Queens and Jacks are all worth 10 points. Meanwhile, Aces can be worth either 1 or 11 points, depending on how it best fits your hand.
In most European Blackjack games, the dealer will usually use between 2 and 8 standard decks of 52 cards, which are all shuffled together. The dealer will then initially deal two cards to each player and one card to themselves. All player cards are usually dealt face-up, while only the dealer's first card will face-up - the second card will only be dealt after the players have played their hand.
After each player has received their first two cards, they will be able to choose from a variety of actions, including:
- Hit: asking for extra cards
- Stand: Keeping the hand as it is
- Double Down: doubling their initial bet and getting one extra card only
- Split: If they are dealt a pair, they can split them into two separate hands, each with its own bet
In European Blackjack, the dealer will have to play according to strict rules. They have to Hit until they reach a total of 17 or more. However, if the dealer goes over 21, they will bust - and every player that still has an active hand will win, no matter what their hand value.
Players will win if they manage to get a hand value closer to 21 than the dealer without going over. If they are dealt with a total of 21 - an Ace and a 10-point card, then this would be considered a Blackjack and would normally pay out at 3:2.
However, if the player and the dealer end up with the same total, it will result in a ‘push' - and the player's initial stake will be returned, neither winning nor losing.
House Edge and Odds
In general, European Blackjack has a very good house edge - of around 0.39%. Essentially, this makes it one of the most generous variants for players. Obviously, the lower house edge means that the game pays out more to players than most other casino games in the long term, which can only be a good thing. What’s more, if you employ the basic strategy, which involves making the best decision for each hand, the house edge can be lowered even more.
In terms of the odds in European Blackjack, they will vary based on the bet and the outcome. Usually, beating the dealer would come with 1:1 odds and being dealt a blackjack would come with 3:2 odds.
How European Blackjack Differs From Other Blackjack Games
Unlike other blackjack variants, European Blackjack does not have a "hole card" that is dealt face-down to the dealer at the start of the game. As such, this means that the dealer can’t check for a blackjack if their first card is an Ace or a 10-point card.
Then there are double-down options. European Blackjack will only allow players to double down if they have hard totals of 9, 10, or 11. Moreover, some European Blackjack variations restrict the options even more. With regards to splitting, European Blackjack is generally a lot stricter.
Players will only be able to split once - and not three times as is the case with American Blackjack. Moreover, splitting is only an option if the cards are the same face and value - for example, a pair of 10s or a pair of Qs. In American Blackjack, many variations allow players to split cards of the same value, even if not of the same rank - e.g. a 10 and a K.
Finally, although some other blackjack versions allow players to surrender - European Blackjack generally doesn’t allow it.
For many, the real appeal of European Blackjack is its relatively low house edge. However, to give yourself the best chance when playing, it’s a good idea to learn and apply the basic blackjack strategy - and always make sure you are familiar with the rules of the game you are playing.
Tips for Playing European Blackjack
Playing European Blackjack, like any form of blackjack, means players can take a more strategic approach - although this does not guarantee an outcome. Here are some of our top tips to help you make the most of your European Blackjack experience.
As is the case when playing any casino game, bankroll management and budgeting are essential.
Set a Budget: First, set your budget. Before you start playing, you need to decide on a budget or bankroll that you are willing to risk. You need to ensure this is an amount you can afford to lose.
Play Wisely: You need to decide on the size of your bets based on your bankroll. Ideally, you’ll want a reasonably long gaming session, so putting half your money on the first hand isn’t a great idea. Generally, a common rule of thumb is to bet no more than 1-2% of your bankroll on a single hand.
Avoid Chasing Losses: Low house edge or not, this is a casino game where random chance ultimately decides whether you win or lose. If you are on a losing streak, make sure you resist the urge to increase your bets to try and recover your losses. No matter what happens, stick to your budget and bet sizes.
Understand the Rules
Once you have your budget set - make sure you understand the rules of the game.
Know European Blackjack Rules: Make sure you are familiar with the specific rules of European Blackjack - such as the number of decks used, the dealer's play rules, and the options available to you - e.g. double-down and splitting.
Dealer's Hole Card: Remember that the dealer in European Blackjack can’t check for blackjack with their face-down card. As such, you won’t be able to surrender after doubling down or splitting if the dealer reveals a potential blackjack.
Double Down: Remember that you can only double down on hard totals of 9, 10, or 11.
Splitting Rules: Make sure you understand the specific rules for splitting pairs. In European Blackjack, you can usually split any pairs as long as they are the same rank.
Before starting, you also need to remember the different choices you have to make. Generally, you’ll be able to Hit, Stand, Double Down and Split. What’s more, European Blackjack games also offer the insurance side bet if the dealer's face-up card is an Ace. This will allow you to place an additional bet (usually half of your original bet) to protect you against the dealer having a blackjack. However, usually, this bet is not recommended - as it often has a pretty high house edge.
A basic blackjack strategy is used frequently to offer a structured approach to playing European blackjack. You’ll find basic strategy charts widely available - and these will help you to make the best decision based on any hand combination.
Through playing European blackjack, you can become more familiar with the unique rules and betting options that are available.
Stay Calm and Learn When to Walk Away
In any gaming session, you need to keep emotional control - and never let frustration or overexcitement cloud your judgement. This European version is a game of chance, which means it is important to avoid chasing losses.
Strategy for European Blackjack
While there is no strategy that can guarantee wins in European Blackjack, by understanding and applying the basic blackjack strategy you can approach certain situations with a more informed decision of how to use the hand you are dealt. So, that being said, here are some of the main strategies to consider.
1. Learn Basic Strategy
The Basic strategy is a set of rules that will help you make the best decision based on your hand and the dealer's up card. By following the basic strategy, you will be able to make the best choice mathematically for every hand. You’ll find widely available basic strategy charts that are specific to the rules of European Blackjack.
2. Hit or Stand
Here are some of the basic rules for hitting and standing:
Players tend to hit when the hand is 8 or less.
Most will stand on hard totals of 17 or higher, regardless of the dealer's upcard.
On hard totals of 12 to 16, it is recommended to stand if the dealer's up card is 2 to 6, and hit when the dealer's up card is 7 or higher.
On hard totals of 12 to 16, you might consider hitting if the dealer has a 10 or an Ace showing.
Players generally hit on soft totals of 17 or less.
Most will stand on soft totals of 18 or higher unless they have a soft 18 against a dealer's 9, 10, or Ace, in which case they would hit.
3. Doubling Down
The basic recommendations for doubling down in European Blackjack are: To double down on hard totals of 9, 10, or 11 if the dealer's upcard is 3 to 6. To avoid doubling down if the hand value is more than 11 or if the dealer has an upcard of 2, 7, 8, 9, 10 or Ace.
4. Splitting Pairs
These are the basic recommendations for splitting pairs in European Blackjack:
- Consider splitting Aces and 8s.
- Avoid splitting 10s, 4s, or 5s.
- Consider splitting 2s and 3s if the dealer's up card is 2 to 7.
- Avoid splitting 6s or 7s if the dealer's up card is 7 or higher.
The general consensus is that players should avoid taking insurance bets as they have a high house edge.
As well as gaming strategies, some people use banking strategies such as Fibonacci, Martingale, Reverse Martingale etc. However, although these can be a good way to structure your bankroll, they can come with risks attached, so make sure you understand how they work and the risks involved.
Remember - although there are optimal decisions, no strategy is foolproof. European Blackjack is a game of chance, and there are no ways to guarantee a win.
European Blackjack FAQs
How is European Blackjack Different?
European Blackjack differs from other blackjack variations mainly because of some of its rules. In this version, the dealer will receive only one face-up card initially, making it impossible for the dealer to have a natural blackjack before players play their hand. Moreover, players can't surrender their hands in European Blackjack, and doubling down is allowed only on hard totals of 9, 10, or 11.
Is European Blackjack Better Than American?
If you’re after a more straightforward blackjack experience, then you may prefer European Blackjack. With fewer game variations and simpler, standard rules, European Blackjack is usually easier to grasp and master. However, if you're a more strategic player who prefers more aggressive tactics, American Blackjack is a good choice. So basically, it depends on the type of player you are and what you want to get from your gaming experience.
Does European Blackjack Have Better Odds?
In European blackjack, the odds are quite similar to those of classic blackjack. However, European blackjack can be more lucrative due to its lower house edge of 0.39%.
Can you play European blackjack online?
Yes, many online blackjack games use the European approach, which you can play online.