Different casinos have different casinos rules and variations in Blackjack. For the most part, players who have played around at different casinos know at least some of the variations. For example, I live in Reno, and casinos here adhere to the “Reno Rule”. For serious players, these variations in casino rules are important to know because they definitely affect chances of winning, either positively or negatively. There are too many in total to discuss here, but I will go over some of the more common rule variations.
Dealer hits soft 17 (S17): This means that the dealer no longer stands and must hit with an ace and a 6 (or equivalent non-ace value). This rule is good for players and benefits them by about .2%1 because the dealer now has a greater chance to bust.
Number of Decks: This is a popular thing for casinos to change. Increasing the number of decks increases the house’s edge. This is bad for card counters and almost as bad for regular players. The reason this is bad for blackjack players is that once a ace or ten is drawn the chance of a subsequent card being an ace is much higher with fewer decks. Houses may use up to 8 decks, giving them a .65%1 edge.
Surrender (late and early): Surrender is not usually allowed in casinos, but is not unheard of. Early surrender allows the player to surrender when a ten or face card is drawn without checking the hole-card for blackjack. Late surrender, which is rarer, allows the player to surrender after the hole-card is checked for blackjack. Each have differing consequences, but typically, a player that surrenders loses half the bet and pushes the other half. The early surrender is more favorable to the player because most decent hands should surrender to the dealer if he/she has an ace for an up-card.
Re-split: If the dealer deals you two card with the same number value, you may “split” them into two hands, placing another bet and continuing to play both hands. Most casinos will allow what is called a “re-split”, which allows a player who has already split to split again upon receiving another card with the same number value. Some casinos have a cap for how many times they allow players to do this. For example, the rule may say, “re-split to 4”, meaning you may split into four hands. Splitting doubles your chances of receiving blackjack, and doing so multiple times is to your advantage. Another rule variation relevant to splitting is a rule that some houses have where they disallow doubling down after re-splitting.
Dealer wins ties: This rule is self-explanatory but is bad news bears for the serious blackjack player. Not often seen except in charity blackjack events, “dealer wins ties” is enough to scare away even the most avid gamblers. Normally, a tie results in a “push” meaning a player neither wins nor loses the hand and the dealer moves on to the next hand. Without this in place, a player at the blackjack player will be out of money in half the time.
Altered Blackjack Payout: Typically, a 3:2 pay out rewards a player blackjack, but sometimes casinos will change the payout to increase house winnings significantly. This is done for certain tournaments or for events, but is frowned upon to have something other than a 3:2 payout for regular house rules. When they do change it is most commonly to 6:5 or to 1:1.
Reno Rule: Doubling down is only allowed on hard 9,10, and 11, which is similar to the European variation of only being able to double down on hard 10 and 11. This rule is not favorable to the player because doubling down with soft 12-18 is favorable in a lot of situations in Blackjack.
Other Countries: Certain countries (and states) have certain rules that are universal for the area. For example, most countries outside the U.S. and a few U.S. states play no-hole-card Blackjack, which is what it sounds like. These rules will be easy to identify and any serious players should take a note of them before visiting.
Casinos are in the business of separating the masses, and you, from your money and rule variations are just one tool in their toolbox. For serious gamblers, I recommend that you check the blackjack rules online before visiting a casino: too many times have a visited the table only to realize that the rules are jacked up in the house’s favor in order to prey on unsuspecting tourists who have never played blackjack in America or at all. I hope this guide was helpful and good luck at the tables!