Vegas Strip Blackjack Rules
Vegas Strip Blackjack is what playing real blackjack is all about. You can find literally hundreds of blackjack tables down the Las Vegas Strip, including in some of the world’s most famed casinos like the Bellagio, Circus Circus, and Caesar’s Palace. In fact, the set of rules implemented by Vegas Strip casinos is so popular that it has given rise to what many treat as an individual variation of the game.
If you do not feel like going through the trouble of flying all the way to the gambling capital of the world, there are several great online variants of the game, and particularly those developed by software suppliers Microgaming and Oryx Gaming. This variation of the game offers no unexpected twists like Spanish 21, for example. Its biggest appeal lies in its favourable odds and straightforward rules, with no special restrictions in sight.
Of course, this is not to say that one does not need some preparation if they are to play Vegas Strip Blackjack, even more so if they insist on doing it optimally. What follows next is an overview of the rules governing Vegas Strip Blackjack and several strategy suggestions that could help improve your game.
Vegas Strip blackjack variations are dealt out of a shoe with 4 full decks, each containing 52 cards. At the start of each round, the dealer would make two passes around the semicircular table, starting at the leftmost betting spot (their left and the players’ right), known as the first base.
Each player and the dealer will receive two cards that make up their initial hands. The players’ starting cards are dealt face-up whereas the dealer will turn one of their cards over. The exposed card is known as the dealer’s upcard. The dealer’s second card, their hole card, is dealt face-down and its value is not exposed until all players have made their moves.
Since Vegas Strip Blackjack is a shoe game, players in landbased casinos are disallowed from touching their cards. Then again, there is really no need to because the cards’ values are clearly visible. Of course, online players will not have to worry about this when playing the RNG-generated variants of the game.
Ranking of the Cards
The suits are not important in Vegas Strip Blackjack. Only the cards’ denomination and numeral rank are taken into account here. Their value is ranked in the following order – A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A. The ace yields more fluidity to the game since it can be counted either as 1 or 11, depending on the situation.
The number cards 2s through 10s are counted based on their pip number, i.e. a 2 is assigned a value of 2, a 3 is counted as 3 and so on, all the way up to the 10s. Kings, Queens, and Jacks each have a value of 10. You determine the strength of your hand by adding up the values of the cards it consists of. The end result is called a hand total and it is this total that decides the outcome of a round in Vegas Strip Blackjack.
Winning Conditions for the Player and How They Pay
Once everyone has finished making playing decisions, the dealer would flip over their hole card, exposing its value. Depending on the cards’ total, the dealer might have to draw additional cards from the shoe to complete their hand. The players will then compare their totals to that of the dealer and will win the round on the following conditions:
- The player has blackjack against any other hand of the dealer. A blackjack is the strongest hand in the game and pays the most, or 3 to 2. It contains an ace and a ten-value card like 10, Jack, Queen, or King.
- The player has a higher total than the dealer. The closer to 21 the hand gets, the higher the winning chances of the player. The payout is 1 to 1.
- The dealer hits and goes over 21, in which case they bust and the player wins the round unless they also exceed 21. The player earns a 1-to-1 payout in this case as well.
- When the total of the player coincides with that of the dealer, there is a tie (push) between the two hands. The player has their original wager restored to them.
Unlike the players, who can choose how to act on their hands, the dealer in Vegas Strip Blackjack has no say in how to play theirs. Dealers always comply with the fixed rules laid down by the casino they work for.
At classic Vegas Strip blackjack tables, the dealers are generally expected to stand on soft 17, which is beneficial to the player since it leads to a reduction in the casino’s advantage, albeit a small one.
As is typical for blackjack, though, there may be discrepancies in the dealer’s standing rules even within the same variation. Some online variations branded as Vegas Strip Blackjack require the virtual dealer to hit soft 17 but more on this later.
For further clarification, a soft hand is one that contains an ace whose value is flexible, either 1 or 11. Therefore, a dealer who hits soft 17 does so because they treat their total as 7 rather than 17. It makes sense the next hit cannot cause the dealer to go over 21 but might improve their total, which is why the H17 rule is regarded as detrimental from the player’s perspective.
Vegas Strip Blackjack is an American hole card game since the dealer draws their second card face-down. The peek rule is in place whenever the dealer’s exposed card is either an ace or has a value of ten. When so, the dealer will take a quick look at their hole card to check for a blackjack.
This again works to the benefit of the players because it literally saves them money from doubling or splitting. If the dealer indeed has a blackjack, they would immediately turn over their hole card and beat every other hand at the table unless it, too, is a blackjack. In the latter scenario, the round will result in a push.
The Player’s Moves
After you have received your two cards, you can choose whether to hit, stand, double down, split or surrender. These decisions are possible unless you are dealt a blackjack right off the bat. This hand is considered an automatic win for the player unless the dealer also has a blackjack in their hand, in which case it is a push and no one wins or loses. Let’s have a more in-depth look at the possible player moves in Vegas Strip Blackjack.
- Hit – You basically draw one or more additional cards by hitting your hand. Each hit gives you one more card that you add to your hand total. You can draw as many cards as you like as long as you do not bust.
- Stand – A hit is not always your best option. Certain hands stand good chances of busting even after a single hit. Knowing when to stand is of great importance in this variation (and in blackjack in general).
- Double Down – If a player wants to increase their wager mid-round, doubling down is the easiest way to do so. You must request a double down before you make any other playing decisions because this move is allowed only on your initial two cards. Your original bet will be doubled in this case.
The dealer will give you only one more card, which is why doubling is strategically recommended only on strong two-card totals against dealers with weak upcards. If you win, you win twice as much. Hence doubling helps increase the value of strong starting totals. In Vegas Strip blackjack games, players can double down on any two cards they are dealt. Doubling down is also permitted after the player splits a pair.
- Split – If your first two cards are of equal value (either they are a pair or two ten-value cards), you can split them, making two separate hands. The dealer will then draw one additional card to each split. Now you have 4 cards and 2 hands. The two are treated separately from one another. In Vegas Split Blackjack, you can split up to 3 times to make 4 hands in total, including after doubling down. If your first two cards are Aces, you can split them only once and can no longer hit.
- Surrender – Surrendering is also possible in Vegas Strip Blackjack. Players can make this move immediately after the initial deal. This variation of the game uses the late surrender rule whereby the player can fold a bad hand after the dealer peeks for blackjack when their upcard is an ace. After surrendering, the player receives half of their wager back. The house gets to keep the other half.
- Insurance – Similarly to most other variants of 21, Vegas Strip Blackjack offers the insurance option, which becomes available whenever the dealer has an ace as their face-up card. If the player decides to use insurance, they have to post an optional wager to the amount of half of their original bet.The dealer would then check their hole card and will pay for the insurance bet at odds of 2 to 1 provided that it turns out they really have a blackjack. The original hand of the player loses in this instance unless it is also a blackjack, in which scenario it pushes with the dealer’s blackjack. The insurance bet loses on occasion the dealer does not have a blackjack. Play proceeds as it normally would in this case.
Recommended Strategy and House Edge
Vegas Strip Blackjack plays under decent enough rules, which is why it gives the house a very minuscule advantage. The house edge corresponding to the playing conditions we described above is only 0.35% whereas the game’s overall theoretical return to player (RTP) is rather high at 99.65%.
The RTP reflects the percentage of the money players are paid out over time in relation to the overall amount they have wagered. In this instance, every $1 you invest in playing Vegas Strip Blackjack will earn you $0.9965. You will inevitably be at a loss in the long term. With that said, it is important to specify that said RTP and house edge are valid only if you play optimally but more on strategy a bit later.
And another thing – an increasing number of landbased casinos on the Vegas Strip are starting to offer single-deck tables which pay 6 to 5 for players’ blackjacks. This is an attempt to lure you into playing under unfavorable conditions. Do not fall for it.
Strip casinos rely on the assumption of inexperienced players that single-deck games are more favorable. While this is partially true since the house edge gets lower the fewer decks are in play, there is one catch here – the 6-to-5 payout. This gives the house’s edge a good boost of 1.39%, which completely overturns the 0.48% advantage the single deck gives to players.
Strategy Hints for Vegas Strip Blackjack
Vegas Strip Blackjack yields the above-listed RTP but only on condition you play optimally. One great thing about blackjack is that there is a mathematically proven way to play every single hand against every possible dealer upcard.
This is known as blackjack basic strategy. You should keep in mind, though, that some of the correct moves are subject to change, depending on the exact rules of the respective blackjack variation. With that out of the way, here are some strategy hints for Atlantic City Blackjack that can help you bring the house edge to the coveted 0.35%.
Standing and Hitting Hints
- Hit hard 5 through hard 8 against all cards of the dealer
- Stand on hard 17 and above against any dealer upcard
- Stand on hard 12 against a dealer showing 4, 5, and 6 and hit against the rest
Doubling Down Hints
- Double down on hard 9 against a dealer with 3, 4, 5, and 6 and hit against the other upcards
- Double down on hard 10 and pairs of 5/5 against dealer upcards 2 through 9
- Double down on 11 against all cards of the dealer except for the ace. You hit against the ace.
- Double down on soft 17 and soft 18 against the dealer’s 3, 4, 5, and 6
Hints on Pair Splitting and Insurance
- Split pairs of 2/2, 7/7 and 3/3 when the dealer shows 2 through 7
- Split 4/4 against the dealer’s 5 or 6 and hit against the rest of the upcards
- Never split 5/5 or two ten-value cards
- Always split 8/8 and A/A
- Stand on 9/9 but only when the dealer shows 7, 10, or an ace
Hints on Surrendering
- Always surrender hard 15 against a dealer 10.
- Surrender hard 16 against the dealer’s 9, 10, and ace.
Microgaming’s Vegas Strip Blackjack
Microgaming’s version of Vegas Strip Blackjack is the most popular online variation inspired by the Vegas Strip set of rules. Many Microgaming-powered casinos offer it for instant-play although downloading the Microgaming platform for free is sometimes also an option.
All the game’s rules coincide with those we outlined earlier so there is no point covering them here. One thing we would like to bring to your attention is that the game’s Random Number Generator reshuffles the four packs of cards after every single round of play. The best you can do against one such neutral shoe is to play perfect basic strategy.
Other than that, the game is available in several variations, with Vegas Strip Blackjack Gold impressing with improved gameplay and crisper graphics. Microgaming has released both single-hand and multiple-hand versions of the game, with multi-hand players being able to post up to five bets within a single round of play.
Microgaming’s Vegas Strip Blackjack also boasts a very user-friendly interface, not to mention you will benefit from adjustable sound settings, history of previous results, multiple chip denominations, and expert mode for the more advanced fans of blackjack. Table limits range from $1 to $200.
Single-Deck Vegas Strip Blackjack by Oryx Gaming
Software studio Oryx Gaming has also released an online variant of Vegas Strip Blackjack. The interesting thing here is that the game uses one rather than four full decks of cards. Unlike many landbased Strip casinos that reduce the blackjack payout to 6 to 5 in single-deck games, the Oryx Gaming version pays for this hand at the standard odds of 3 to 2.
The game differs from Microgaming’s version because the virtual dealer must hit soft 17 rather than standing. Another difference results from the fact that resplitting is unavailable here. Doubling down is allowed only totals of 10 and 11. Players cannot double down after splitting pairs. Late surrender is available.
As you can see, these rules are less favorable than those in Microgaming’s version, which is why Oryx’s Vegas Strip Single-Deck Blackjack offers a lower theoretical return. Other than that, the game offers a result-history feature to real-money players only. As for the table limits, the minimum is usually $1 whereas the ceiling stands at $150 per hand. You can play no more than a single hand during a round here.