There are many variations of blackjack, played in casinos or online blackjack sites, around the world. Nonetheless, most of them are based on one of two main variants of the game: European or American. While both European and American blackjack are played by the same basic rules, it is vital that players understand the slight differences which might affect the ensuing gameplay to decide which blackjack strategies that should be applied. We take a look at European blackjack vs American blackjack.
Understanding the slight differences of European and American blackjack can help players apply appropriate blackjack strategies when playing, thereby enhancing their chances of winning. While both variations of the game have their distinct advantages, overall the American blackjack rules are more flexible and user-friendly and present more opportunities to increase your winnings potential.
In American blackjack, the dealer is dealt 2 cards; one that is face down and the other, face up. The face-down card is known as the ‘hole card’. A dealer is allowed to peek at this card if a blackjack is a possibility. That is, if the face-up card is an Ace, the dealer instantly checks the hole card without anyone else seeing the card. If the hole card causes the dealer to have a blackjack, the hand will instantly end and all players’ bets are then collected by the dealer.
In European blackjack, there is no hole card. The dealer is dealt one card face up and only receives the second card after the player’s hands are complete. This makes it impossible for the dealer to check for blackjack before the player completes his hand.A potential benefit of American blackjack versus European blackjack, the hole card, is that with the American version since the round ends immediately if the dealer has blackjack, it prevents additional player losses which might occur from doubling up or splitting. Of course, it would be a serious gamble to double up against the dealers face up “Ace” card!
In European blackjack, 2 standard decks of cards are used whereas, in American blackjack, between 6 to 8 standard decks of cards are used. The more decks used in the shoe, the greater the house edge and the more difficult card counting becomes.
Doubling down is the chance to double your initial wager if you think your hand will beat the dealer’s. In European blackjack, players can only double down on hands with a value of 9, 10 or 11 whereas, in American blackjack, players can double down on any total. Furthermore, in American blackjack, players can also double down after splitting.
Splitting is the dividing of the pair of cards one was initially dealt with into 2 separate hands, thus, doubling your bet as well as your opportunity to win more. Essentially, it allows players to take advantage of a weaker dealer card. In European blackjack, players are permitted to split a hand only once and they can only split like-valued cards of 10 value: 10’s, Jacks, Queens, Kings. In American blackjack, players can split their hand 3 times to make up to 4 hands and they can split any pair of cards. Players can also only take one card to split Aces, which can only be split once.
In general, when playing American blackjack, players can be more aggressive in their split and double down efforts whereas, in European blackjack, players have to be more conservative in their double down and split attempts, especially, when the dealer’s face up card is an Ace or a 10-value card.
The late surrender is an option that allows players to concede defeat after their initial 2 cards are dealt. A player taking this option loses 50% of his stake instead of the whole amount originally wagered. This option is particularly worthwhile when a player judges that he is in a situation that is difficult to win. In American blackjack, players can surrender at any time whereas there is no surrender option in the European blackjack variation.