No Bust Blackjack

Written by: Joe Falchetti , Expert in Online Casinos, Sports Betting, and Poker

California No Bust Blackjack is a variant of classic real money blackjack that is very popular throughout California. The game’s “No Bust Over 21” element has additional rules which allow players to win on busted totals, provided they are lower than the dealer’s busted hand.

This guide will give you a detailed rundown of the rules, strategies, and how to play. You can also find a guide to locate casinos and card clubs in California, including a county-by-county breakdown to help locals find the closest venues.

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No Bust Blackjack Rules

no bust blackjack rules

Before we move on to the nuts and bolts of this regional variant, readers who may not be familiar with the classic form of the game should head over to our main blackjack page first.

Once you know about the foundation of blackjack gameplay, you’ll be much better prepared to learn about the California No Bust variety.

No Bust Blackjack Deck & Card Values

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This game utilizes a standard 52 card deck of playing cards supplemented with a single joker card to create a 53 card deck. Most houses will use a six-deck shoe to make the game more efficient.

The joker serves as a wild card that can hold any value – even one higher than 11. Whenever you have a joker combined with a 2 through K (holding two or more cards), the total automatically becomes 21, and you will be forced to stand. Imagine you’ve been dealt a lowly 2 along with a joker. In this game, that joker would act like a 19 value card, immediately creating 21.

Aside from the joker, the rest of the cards in No Bust Blackjack hold their usual values, so 2s through 9s are valued at their numerical rank, 10s and face cards (Js, Qs, Ks) are valued at 10, and aces hold a variable value of either 1 or 11 depending on the current total.

No Bust Blackjack Best Hand

no bust blackjack joker card

No Bust Blackjack mixes things up because several hands outrank the traditional blackjack in this game. The best possible hands are known as “naturals” and can be made using the following two-card combinations:

  • Two Jokers
  • Two Aces
  • One Ace and One Joker

“Pat” Hands

In this game, an ace combined with a 10 value card is still valued at 21, but unlike in regular blackjack, these “pat” hands don’t outrank other 21 totals. So, if you land an ace and a king for 21, but the dealer hits their 14 up to a 21 too, you won’t win automatically. Your bet will simply be returned as a push.

How to Play No Bust Blackjack

Learn how to play No Bust Blackjack with the following step-by-step guide:


Player Hand vs. Dealer Hand

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The game operates like standard blackjack, with players placing a mandatory ante wager and the dealer distributing two cards to each player.

The dealer will distribute a single card face down to themselves (the hole card) and one card face up for players to examine (the upcard). The dealer cannot check their hole-card.


Dealer Receives a Joker

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Whenever the dealer shows a joker as their up card, they will immediately turn over their down card and reveal it to the table. In this case, the joker serves as a wild card, giving the dealer an automatic 21 total.

Players are not permitted to hit and draw additional cards when this occurs, and any non-21 totals will be automatic losers.


Surrender or Continue

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Players can surrender their hand, receiving one-half of their ante wager back in exchange for forfeiting the other half. The surrender play is unavailable when the dealer shows a joker as their up card.

Conversely, if the dealer turns over a joker as their down card, players holding non-21 totals will only lose their ante bet, with any subsequent wagers made by doubling down or splitting returned as a push. Regarding basic dealer actions, in California No Bust Blackjack, the dealer must hit on soft 17s.


Player Options

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For player actions, you may split and double down as per usual. Players may also double down on favorable totals following a split. You can re-split up to three times when you receive a paired two-card holding following a split.

The general blackjack rules regarding splitting and doubling down still apply, so each action will require an additional wager equal to your ante bet.


The “No Bust” Aspect of the Game

no bust blackjack Cards Bet Icon Big

The “No Bust” aspect of the game is derived from the fact that when you happen to exceed 21 and go bust, you won’t automatically lose the hand. When the dealer also goes bust, players with busted totals lower than the dealer’s busted total will have their bets returned as a push.

Conversely, if you go bust while the dealer does as well, and your busted total is higher than the dealer’s busted total, your bets will be lost to the house.


Payouts & Player Banking

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Under typical California rules, the table minimum will be $10 wagers, while the maximum will be $600. For every $100 you wager at the table, the house will charge a “commission” fee of 1 percent.

California No Bust Blackjack is traditionally played using the player banking structure. This means that one player at the table will serve as the “banker,” paying out wins and claiming losses.

No Bust Blackjack Strategy

Let’s take a look at the best No Bust Blackjack strategies you can use to win big.

No Bust Blackjack Strategy Chart

This is the most accurate basic strategy chart for California No Bust Blackjack. If you use the strategy advice contained on the chart, players can create game conditions that offer an overall house edge of 0.56 percent.

This is right on par with traditional blackjack played according to basic strategy, so players who prefer California No Bust variety aren’t sacrificing anything at all in terms of overall expectation.

Strategy Tips to Keep in Mind

Follow these tips to make the best out of your gameplay.

  • Among the more generalized strategy tips you should keep in mind, are those about the commission fee. According to experts, games like No Bust Blackjack aren’t built for the recreational gambler because unless you’re betting around $100 per hand, the rounding used on the commission fees will cause you to pay more than you “should” be paying.
  • When it comes to banking the game, experts advise taking that option whenever it presents itself – provided you have the bankroll necessary to do so.
  • California No Bust Blackjack seems to have been designed for the high roller crowd, so unless you have a substantial bankroll built to weather swings, you should avoid banking games like this altogether and try an easier casino game.
California No Bust Blackjack Strategy Chart

Best Places to Play California No Bust Blackjack

California is big, and even state natives may be far from LA or the Bay Area. Fortunately, this state is home to dozens of licensed card clubs, tribal casinos, and other smaller-scale gambling establishments.

Due to California’s complex and ever-fluctuating gaming laws requiring specific venues to run “pari-mutuel” table gaming only, you’re sure to find California No Bust Blackjack somewhere nearby.

Brick-and-Mortar Casinos

Check out the extensive list below, which features every card club and casino in California, to find the locations nearest you. We provide you the first fifteen casinos and card rooms that are located in California. For a more in-depth look at the casinos in California, look at our California state casinos page for all of the details you need.

The 101 CasinoPetalumaSonomaCard Room
The 500 ClubClovisFresnoCard Room
Agua Caliente CasinoRancho MirageRiversideNative American
Artichoke Joe’s CasinoSan BrunoSan MateoCard Room
Augustine CasinoRancho MirageRiversideNative American
The Aviator CasinoBakersfieldKernCard Room
Barona Valley RanchLakesideSan DiegoNative American
Bay 101San JoseSanta ClaraCard Room
Bear River CasinoLoletaHumboldtNative American
Black Bart CasinoWillitsMendocinoNative American
The Bicycle CasinoBell GardensLos AngelesCard Room
Black Oak CasinoTuolumneTuolumneNative American
Black Sheep CasinoCameron ParkEl DoradoCard Room
Blue Lake CasinoBlue LakeHumboldtNative American
Brooks Oceana CardroomOceanoS.L. ObispoCard Room

Play Blackjack Online for Free

Online casinos don’t offer No Bust Blackjack. However, you can practice playing traditional blackjack for free. Strengthen your knowledge and skills with this free play option! If you learn how to play traditional games like a pro, you can increase your chances of winning when you play No Bust Blackjack for real money.

Play California No Bust Blackjack and Win Big!

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The California No Bust Blackjack game is steeped in tradition throughout the Golden State. Many of the smaller card clubs sprinkled throughout the state don’t even bother with basic blackjack, knowing that their clientele prefers this version.

This guide provides you with all the information you need to play No Bust 21 before placing your first wagers.

But if you want to practice online first, we suggest you try one of these legit online casinos. You can play blackjack for free or for real money. Sign up and get started!

Joe Falchetti

Joe Falchetti Expert in Online Casinos, Sports Betting, and Poker

Joe Falchetti, aka Smokey Joe, is a former professional poker player who has been a part of the online gambling and sports betting world for almost two decades. He's a full-time sports bettor and specialized writer featured in CBS Sports and and linked to by the New York Times.

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