As blackjack variants go – Double Blackjack is exotic. This game will remind many people of Pai Gow Poker in the game-play, though the scoring of wins and losses is based on the 21 concept. This game was invented by Dan Lubin and Al Lwin. It can be found in live casinos, though has yet to cross over into real money online blackjack casinos. This is a relatively recent game – debuting at the Green Valley Ranch Casino in 2015.

A Blackjack Variant with 5 Cards and 2 Hands

This page gives you are overview of how Double Blackjack works, before going through a hand and discussing the strategy and decision making. Pros and cons of choosing this variation compared with other blackjack games (and Pai Gow Poker) are then covered.

Overview of How Double Blackjack Works

The game play sounds complex, though once you break it down the individual elements are simple enough. Each player and the dealer get dealt 5 cards. Players need to arrange these cards into two separate hands, one with 2 cards and one with 3 cards. Both hands need to have totals between 17 and 21. It will not always be possible to arrange things so that this works, in which case one or both hands will be ‘foul’ – which is the equivalent of a bust.

Bet sizes are equal for both hands, and creating a foul hand loses that bet right away. Once all the players have completed their hands, the dealer will create theirs based on pre-set rules. Hands are then compared. It is possible to win one hand and lose the other (effectively a push). If a player gets 21 with both hands, they will receive half of their stake unit as a bonus – this is separate from the hands vs the dealer.

Strategy for Double Blackjack

5 cards often mean that you can configure hands in several ways. This raises the question of what is optimal? For example, do you make the 3 card or 2 card hand the best by default – or try to make both even if this means a lower total?

To figure this out, you should work backwards from the rules for the dealer.

The dealer will optimize the 3-card hand. The first rule is that they should create the best 3 card hand (between 17 and 21) which also has a 2-card hand between those scores. If this is not possible, which is common, then the next step is to make the best 3 card hand – and then the best 2 card hand. Only after those possibilities have been exhausted will the dealer simply set 2 foul hands.

Since the 2-card hand will be the weak point for the dealer, the player should optimize for this one when only one valid hand can be made. This is a defensive move, which will give a lot of break-even hands (the 3-card hand loses, and the 2 card hand wins, resulting in a push). There are some exceptions to this. If you can make a 3 card 21, then do this rather than a 17 to 19 for the 2-card hand. A 3-card 20 also takes priority over a 2-card 17.

If you can make 2 valid hands, then the strategy is different. Here you should maximize the 3-card hand. Again, there are some rarer exceptions. If you can make a 2-card 21 which would cause the 3-card hand to bust, then you should go ahead if the alternative is to make two hands 19 or less.

Pros and Cons of Double Blackjack

The main benefit of this game is that it is slow! Like Pai-Gow poker, there are many hands which result in losing one half and winning the other. Over time the house has an edge (just over 2%), though the pace is steady. Players that enjoy a gamble without the big swings (perhaps for the cocktail service!) will find this attractive.

The main drawback is that the optimal hand setups are confusing – at least when you first play. There is a clear strategy, though compared to regular blackjack games this is not simple. Some players might find the pace of the game slow – especially where several other players take time to figure out their options.

Summing Up – How Does Double Blackjack Compare?

There have been attempts at making the game play more complex before – especially with blackjack / poker combinations. These can get too complex for new players to learn, which creates a barrier to them becoming popular. Double Blackjack will be familiar to fans of Pai Gow Poker. Compared to that game, setting hands is easy.

This game certainly has the potential, and I look forward to some online casinos developing a version of it in the not too distant future.