The game known as Blackjack Challenge is a property of The Star Casino, which is located in Sydney, Australia. As such, this interesting new twist on blackjack can only be found at this particular location. Reports on Blackjack Challenge generated by local players first began appearing online around 2012.
This Blackjack Challenge guide will take you through all of the different rules that players encounter when playing. There are many important changes to the rules that distinguish Blackjack Challenge from the traditional version of twenty-one. We go over the best locations to play Blackjack Challenge, although it may be limited to the Star Casino. With blackjack being a great game that players can take advantage of, read the comprehensive strategy section to learn how to get better odds of winning.
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Rules and How to Play
Blackjack Challenge is an offshoot of traditional blackjack, so unless otherwise stated, the rules remain the same across both games.
Betting & Objective Remain the Same
This means players must place a mandatory ante bet to begin each hand, the objective of the game is to reach a total of 21 or closest to it without going over, and making a “blackjack” (any 10 value card plus an ace) results in an automatic winner.
Six Deck Blackjack
The standard 52-card deck of playing cards is used in Blackjack Challenge, with each card valued according to its numerical rank (2 through 10), face cards valued at 10 (J, Q, K), and aces valued at either 1 or 11 depending on the situation. The Star Casino utilizes a six-deck shoe at the Blackjack Challenge table.
Blackjack Challenge Rule Variations
Blackjack Challenge includes several critical adjustments to the rules, so we’ll run through each individually, explaining the rule itself along with how it affects the overall game:
The Dealer Receives Only One Card Face-Up
This element of “European” blackjack has the dealer wait until all player actions are completed before distributing a second card to complete their own hand.
The Dealer Must Stand on Soft 17’s
Whenever the dealer’s hand totals a 17 using an ace, otherwise known as a “soft 17” because the value is variable at the moment, the dealer will be forced to stand. This is an element common to “American” blackjack, and over the long run, the dealer standing on soft 17s benefits players.
The Player Can Double Down Holding Any Two or Three Cards
In most online blackjack for real money, players may only double down (or match their original wager before taking a single additional card) when they hold their first two cards only. In Blackjack Challenge, however, the option to double down has been extended to either two or three cards, giving players additional opportunities to take advantage of favorable totals like 10 or 11.
Players Can Double Down After Splitting
Should you elect to split your first two cards (only allowed when these are identical values), Blackjack Challenge allows you to double down on either of the new hands you’ve created. So, should you split two 5s to form two new hands, and both receive a 6 as their second card, you can opt to double down on one or both of the favorable 11 totals.
Players Can Re-Split Any Paired Hand, Including Aces, Up To Three Times
In Blackjack Challenge, every possible pair (from 2s through As) can be split. Furthermore, should you receive the same card to complete the new two-card hand, you can also split this second paired total, and the process can be repeated a third time should the same card appear once more. So, when you hold 7-7 and split them, with an A-7 and 7-7 resulting as the new hands, you can also re-split the new 7-7. If you get another 7-7 after this re-split, you can re-split the pair for a third and final time.
Players Can Hit and Double Down After Splitting Aces
If you’ve been dealt A-A as your two-card hand, and you’d like to split them, the new two-card hands that are produced can be acted upon in normal fashion. This means you can hit and take additional cards, double down on favorable totals, or stand and await the dealer’s decision.
Holding Any 10 Value Card with an Ace After Splitting Results in a Blackjack
You probably won’t be splitting 10s very often, so this rule applies mostly to situations in which you’ve split A-A. In this case, the two new hands created can both create blackjacks whenever a 10-value card is dealt to complete them. In many blackjack variants, splitting aces and receiving a 10-value card simply results in a high total of 21, which will likely win, but won’t pay out at the more generous rate usually associated with making blackjack.
Any Five-Card Hand that Hasn’t Busted is an Automatic Winner
Known as the “five-card Charlie” or “five-card trick,” any combination of five cards in your hand that doesn’t total 22 or higher will be deemed an automatic winner in Blackjack Challenge. This means you can start with something like 3-5, normally a subpar blackjack holding, and hit three times without busting to score a win. When you land a five-card Charlie, the dealer will pay out your wager before they even take their second card, and should they make blackjack, your win still counts.
Any Hand Totaling 21 is an Automatic Winner
Whenever your hand totals exactly 21, your bet will automatically be paid out as a winner. This means you can hit your way to a 21, and even if the dealer does the same, your bet will be paid off rather than returned as a push. This rule also applies to any blackjacks, so whenever you make blackjack and the dealer does the same, you’ll never face the ignominy of a chopped bet.
Making Blackjack Against a Non-Blackjack Pays Out at 2 to 1
Simply put, when you hold a blackjack and the dealer holds any other hand, your payout will stand at 2 to 1 on your wager(s).
Making Blackjack Against a Blackjack Pays Out on a Variable Scale
On occasions when you have made a blackjack but the dealer has done the same, a simple tie-breaking procedure will be implemented based on the value of the non-ace cards in each hand. In other words, the higher your ten-value card is during a blackjack tie, the better. So, a blackjack consisting of A K is better than A Q, which outranks A J, which pips A 10. When the player holds a higher blackjack than the dealer, the payout jumps to 5 to 1. When the player’s blackjack ties with the dealer’s, the payout will be 4 to 1. And when the dealer’s blackjack outranks the player’s, the payout will be 3 to 1.
All Non-Blackjack Ties Result in a House Win
Aside from situations involving tied blackjacks, 21-totals, or five-card Charlies, whenever your hand total is identical to the dealer, the house will win rather than the bets being pushed. In other words, holding an 18 when the dealer rolls over a 10 and an 8 will mean you’ve lost your bet, rather than having it returned as a push. This crucial caveat is how players “pay” for the more generous additions to the rules described above. By taking away the push on tied non-blackjack totals, Blackjack Challenge can include all of these other player-friendly rules while still enjoying a higher house edge than traditional blackjack.
Dealer Blackjack Collects All Bets when a Player Holds Less than Blackjack
When you fail to make a blackjack, but the dealer happens to do so, you will lose your ante bet, along with any bets made by splitting or doubling down.
Other than the rules explained above, Blackjack Challenge plays in identical fashion to normal blackjack. Play begins on the right-hand side of the table and moves leftward, and one player acts at a time.
Best Places to Play Blackjack Challenge
The best place to play Blackjack Challenge happens to be the only place on the planet where you’re sure to find the game: The Star Casino in Sydney, Australia.
As a proprietary offering of that particular property, Blackjack Challenge is essentially a house hybrid or a game found solely in a single location. To that end, locating alternative versions of Blackjack Challenge is next to impossible, and your options for playing the game appear to be limited to a few tables found in one particular venue.
Currently, the game has yet to be adapted for online play, but considering the popularity of online gambling in Australia, it wouldn’t be surprising to see The Star Casino license their game concept out for play over the internet at some point in the future.
Blackjack Challenge Strategy
Just like any other version of blackjack, the fundamental nature of Blackjack Challenge can be broken down via mathematical analysis to arrive at the most profitable play given any possible scenario.
Known as “basic strategy” to blackjack players around the world, the essential chart used to govern optimal blackjack play provides a concrete set of rules which govern each decision point you can ever expect to encounter at the table. No matter what cards you happen to hold, the relative strength of those cards against the dealer’s exposed up card will always leave you with a choice between hitting, standing, splitting, or doubling down.
By committing the basic strategy chart to memory, or at least developing a firm grasp on how it works, even rookie blackjack players can give themselves a puncher’s chance at reducing the house edge and increasing their own odds.
Specific Blackjack Challenge Strategy
Fortunately for fans of Blackjack Challenge, one of the world’s foremost authorities on casino game theory and statistical probability has tackled the task of analyzing this variant’s basic strategy. You can head here to Michael Shackleford’s Wizard of Odds page on Blackjack Challenge to read the detailed charts for yourself, but sufficed to say, this breakdown represents the “perfect” play under any possible combination of cards.
One strategic aspect to keep in mind, though, concerns the concept of house edge. Essentially, this percentage defines the theoretical rate of return that the casino can expect on any given wager. When playing traditional blackjack, even as a beginner who has no clue about basic strategy, the house edge against you stands right around 1.5 percent. This means that for every $100 dollars you wager over the infinite long run; the casino can expect to collect $1.50 in perpetuity.
By employing basic strategy, sharp players can reduce this house edge on blackjack to under 0.50 percent, making it one of the best bets in the house from the player’s perspective. When compared to games like roulette (5.26 percent house edge on double-zero wheels), and most hybrid table games like Three Card Poker (between 3 and 7 percent), blackjack under any circumstances is usually a much more advantageous game for players to take part in.
Blackjack Challenge, however, differs from ordinary blackjack in a number of crucial ways. As such, the house edge on this game is different too, jumping all the way to 2.53 percent. Of course, this percentage assumes you will be playing strictly according to optimal strategy, and for all but the most skilled players, this is usually a lot to ask. So, for all intents and purposes, Blackjack Challenge offers a house edge of approximately 3.5 percent to the average player.
Play for Fun, Avoid for Profit
With these numbers laid bare, it becomes quite clear that the best strategy for Blackjack Challenge is to simply walk right by the table and seat yourself in a traditional blackjack game. Sure, you won’t be playing with all of the bells and whistles which make Blackjack Challenge appealing to casual gamblers, but you’ll instantly reduce the house edge against you by 2 to 3 percent, which can make the difference between a profitable year and an extended downswing.
Star Casino Creation
As part of The Star Casino’s comprehensive package of blackjack offerings, Blackjack Challenge joins games like Pinkjack and Pontoon in providing a fresh way to play one of casino gambling’s most venerable formats. By tinkering with a few of basic blackjack’s fundamental rules – including adjustments to both player and dealer actions – Blackjack Challenge creates a gameplay experience which can serve as a breath of fresh air for players who have grown tired of optimal strategy and simple decisions.
Of course, these rule changes have a direct influence on the game’s bottom line, and as you’ll soon discover, blackjack by any other name never holds the same value when it comes to the house edge you’ll be up against.
If you’re planning to take a trip Down Under sometime soon, or you simply enjoy learning about new variations on your favorite casino game, this page on Blackjack Challenge was built especially for you. You can find the game on the the Star Casino website.