The game known as Blackjack Challenge is a property of The Star Casino, located in Sydney, Australia. As such, they are the only place with this new twist on the classic. Reports on Blackjack Challenge generated by local players first began appearing online around 2012.
A few crucial changes to the rules distinguish this game from the traditional version of twenty-one.
Our Blackjack Challenge guide takes you through all of the different rules that you’ll encounter. We’ll cover the comprehensive strategy you need to get better odds of winning.
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Rules and How to Play
Blackjack Challenge is an offshoot of traditional blackjack, so the rules remain the same across both games aside from the changes we mention below.
Betting & Objective Remain the Same
Players must place a mandatory ante bet to begin each hand. The game’s objective is to reach a total of 21 or closest to it without going over. Making a “blackjack” (any ten-value card plus an ace) results in an automatic win.
Six Deck Blackjack
Blackjack Challenge uses the standard 52-card deck with the same value as the base blackjack game. 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. We’ll run through them individually, explaining each one and 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 get completed before distributing a second card to end their 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,” the dealer must stand. This element is 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 real money online blackjack games, players may only double down when they only hold their first two cards. 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 hands.
Players Can Double Down After Splitting
If you split your first two cards, Blackjack Challenge allows you to double down on either of the new hands you’ve created.
Players Can Re-Split Any Paired Hand, Including Aces, Up To Three Times
In Blackjack Challenge, you can split every pair from 2s through aces. You can also split pairs formed from the first split and repeat the process up to the third time.
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 two aces, and you’d like to split them, the new two-card hands can have regular interaction. That means you can hit and take additional cards, double down on good 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 mainly to situations in which you’ve split aces. In this case, the two new hands are blackjacks if a 10-value card completes them.
In many blackjack variants, splitting aces and receiving a 10-value card results in a high total of 21. While that will likely win, it won’t payout 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.
That means you can start with something like 3-5, usually 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 21, your bet will automatically get paid out. That means you can hit your way to a 21, and even if the dealer does the same, you win instead of push. This rule also applies to any blackjack hand, so whenever you make blackjack and the dealer does the same, you’ll never face 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
When you have made a blackjack, but the dealer has done the same, a simple tie-breaking procedure happens 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 players, the payout will be 3 to 1.
All Non-Blackjack Ties Result in a House Win
Aside from the situations mentioned above, the house will win whenever your hand total is identical to the dealer. In other words, holding an 18 when the dealer rolls over a ten and eight means 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 gains 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.
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, 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. Your options for playing the game appear limited to a few tables found in one particular venue.
Currently, this Australian blackjack variant has yet to find its way online. Still, considering the popularity of online gambling in Australia, it wouldn’t be surprising to see The Star Casino license their concept out at some point.
Blackjack Challenge Strategy
You can break down the fundamental nature of Blackjack Challenge with mathematical analysis to arrive at the most profitable decision for any possible scenario.
Use a “basic blackjack strategy” chart to govern optimal play. No matter what cards you 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, even rookie blackjack players can give themselves a puncher’s chance to reduce the house edge and increase their 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 also read about Blackjack Challenge on the Wizard of Odds page. 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 the 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. That means that for every $100 you wager over the infinite long run, the casino can expect to collect $1.50 in perpetuity.
By employing a 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. Compared to games like roulette and Three Card Poker, blackjack under any circumstances is usually a much more advantageous game for players.
Blackjack Challenge, however, differs from ordinary blackjack in several crucial ways. As such, the house edge varies as well, jumping to 2.53 percent. Of course, this percentage assumes you will be playing strictly according to optimal strategy. For all but the most skilled players, this is usually a lot to ask. In fact, Blackjack Challenge offers a house edge of approximately 3.5 percent to the average player.
Play for Fun, Avoid for Profit
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 that make Blackjack Challenge appealing to casual gamblers. Still, 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 basic blackjack’s fundamental rules – including adjustments to both player and dealer actions – Blackjack Challenge creates a gameplay experience that 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. As you’ll soon discover, blackjack by any other name never holds the same value when it comes to the house edge.
If you’re going Down Under sometime soon, and enjoy learning about new blackjack variations, then check out Blackjack Challenge. You can find the game on the Star Casino website.