California Blackjack
Available In:
USA Regional

Note: This blackjack variation isn’t available online.

California Blackjack is unconventional in that California blackjack games are banked by the players, as opposed to the house. This is due to state laws prohibiting casinos from banking their own games.

So, players fund the games. You’re not forced to, though. You will have the option. The banking role will move around the table every two hands. So everyone will have the opportunity to become the banker, if they so choose.

If you choose to participate in that aspect of the game, you’ll want to make sure you have the bankroll for it. Not only will you have to pay the players, the banker will also have a flat $3 fee to pay, which may vary from one casino to the next.

Not only that, but the (player) banker can only win as much as they have to bank with, even if the players lose more. If the player-banker cannot cover the difference, there is a player contracted by the casino known as the ‘corporation’ that will cover the difference. So the more money that you have, the more money that you can win.

Players that want to be the bank can also partner with other players in the banker role. This is known as a ‘kum-kum.’ For example, I can put up $50 to bank with and you can partner with me for $50. Then we split all wins and losses. The (second) player can also opt to become the ‘second bank,’ in which his role would be to cover bets that the primary banker cannot cover.

The players will have to pay a house fee, too, of $1 per $100 wagered. This puts the player’s edge at .44 percent, whereas it would be .56 otherwise.

How to Play California Blackjack

Despite the state laws and crazy banking stuff, the objective of California blackjack is the same as traditional blackjack. You want to beat the dealer’s hand, but without exceeding 21 points. All cards’ value are indicated by the number of the front. Aces are worth 1 or 11 points, and face cards are worth 10 points.

The game will start with each person placing their bets. Then they will receive their cards. The action will begin with the players seated in the position closest to the dealer’s left.

Here are the rules that the dealers and players need to follow.

  • 6 decks are used. Each deck contains a joker, for a total of 6 jokers.
  • Jokers are wild, and can be used with any combination to make 21 points. Standing at this point is mandatory.
  • These cards are considered ‘naturals:’ two jokers, aces or an ace and joker. Players must mention that they have a natural right away.
  • An ace and 10 does not outrank other 21 point hands.
  • Dealers don’t peek at their hole cards.
  • Players can surrender with any two cards, except for when the dealer has a joker card showing.
  • If the dealer’s down card is the joker, then the player can only lose their original wager. Additional bets (double downs or splits) are considered pushes.
  • If both the dealer and player busts, the player will win their initial bet back if it was lower than the dealer’s. Otherwise they (still) lose their bet.
  • The dealer hits soft 17.

Keep in mind that the rules may vary from one casino to the next. For example, some casinos treat the joker cards as 2 or 12 points.

If you want to know the casino’s rules before you play, you can visit this site and read about them. They list all the licensed rooms’ rules in California. This list is also a good indicator of where not to play.

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