The game known as Blackjack Plus is a variation on traditional blackjack which appears to be confined to a pair of casinos: Skycity Queenstown in Queenstown, New Zealand and the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia.
Both versions of the game operate under slightly different rules and gameplay structures, so this page will describe each game separately. As the Queenstown version of Blackjack Plus appears to be the first offering of the game, with the Crown version appearing some time afterward, we’ll begin with the Queenstown game before explaining how Crown’s game differs.
Of course, these rule changes directly affect the house edge attached to any casino game, and as you’ll soon learn, changing the basic form of blackjack usually results in an increased edge for the house at the expense of the player’s overall odds. We’ll begin by covering the important changes to the rules which separate Blackjack Plus from the traditional version of twenty-one. From there, you’ll find a guide to finding the game, along with an introduction to the game’s proper strategy.
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Rules and How to Play
Blackjack Plus is a derivative of traditional blackjack, so unless otherwise stated, the rules remain the same across both games.
Betting Remains the Same
Thus, players begin by placing a mandatory ante bet before each hand, the objective of the game is to reach a total of 21 or closest to it without going over or “busting,” 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 Plus, and each card between 2 and 10 is valued according to its numerical rank. All face cards (J, Q, K) are valued at 10, and aces hold a variable value of either 1 or 11 depending on the situation. Both the Skycity Queenstown and Crown Casino venues utilize a six-deck shoe at the Blackjack Plus table.
Blackjack Plus Rule Variations
Blackjack Plus includes a number of important adjustments to the rules*, so we’ll run through each one individually, explaining the rule itself before covering exactly how it affects the overall game:
*Rules below pertain to Blackjack Plus played at Skycity Queenstown. The rules used at Crown Casino will be explained after that.
New Zealand Blackjack Plus Rules
The Dealer Receives One Card at Start
An element of “European” blackjack, the single-card rule means that the dealer must wait until all player actions have been completed before they take a second card complete their starting hand.
The Dealer Must Hit on Soft 17’s
In cases where the dealer’s hand totals a 17 while using an ace, typically known as a “soft 17” because the value is variable at this time, the dealer will be forced to hit and take another card. This is another element common to “European” blackjack, and over the long run, the dealer hitting on soft 17s benefits the house.
The Player Can Double Down Holding Any Hard Two-Card Total
Blackjack Plus hews more closely to traditional blackjack in this regard, as players can only double down when holding a two-card total. Other variations like Blackjack Challenge allow doubling down to occur when holding either two or three cards, which gives players a bit more flexibility in their decision making. In Blackjack Plus, however, you must hold a two-card “hard” hand (one which does not contain an ace) in order to double down.
Players Can Double Down After Splitting
If you’ve decided to split your first two cards (which is only allowed when you hold two identical values), the rules of Blackjack Plus allow you to double down on either of the new hands you’ve created. In other words, should you split two 4s to form two new hands, and both receive a 7 as their second card, you can opt to double down on one or both of the favorable 11 totals.
Players Can’t Split Again After a Split
Once you’ve decided to split a pair of identical values into two separate hands, you won’t be permitted to re-split when you happen to catch another paired hand. So, if you start out with 4-4 and split the hand to create two new hands, if one of these happens to catch another 4 to leave you in the same position from which you started, you won’t be able to split this second paired hand.
Splitting Aces Entitles Players to a Single Card
In normal blackjack, when you double down on a favorable total, you do so knowing that the dealer will only deliver a single card to complete your hand. That’s part of the risk, and the thrill, associated with doubling down. In Blackjack Plus, this rule has been shifted to splitting aces, so whenever you decide to split the A-A combination into two new hands, you’ll only receive one card each to complete them. This makes splitting aces a somewhat risky play, as you can easily be dealt a low card to form the new hand, leaving you with no options through which to improve.
Any Five-Card Hand That Hasn’t Busted is an Automatic Winner
Popularly known as the “five-card Charlie” or “five-card trick,” whenever you happen to hold exactly five cards in your hand without busting, you’ll be an automatic winner in Blackjack Plus. This means you can start with something like 2-6, normally a substandard blackjack combination, and hit three times without busting to score a win. When you do happen to make a five-card Charlie, the dealer will pay out your wager before even looking at their second card, and should they make blackjack, your win still counts.
Any Hand Totaling 21 is an Automatic Winner
Should you happen to reach a total of 21, your hand is automatically declared a winner – even when the dealer manages to produce a 21 of their own. This rule change removes the dreaded scenario of drawing perfectly to a 21, only to see your bet returned as a push when the dealer does the same.
Making Blackjack Produces an Automatic Winner with 1 to 1 Payout
Anytime you form a blackjack, or any ace combined with a 10-value card, your hand will be declared an automatic winner. Unlike traditional blackjack, however, players do not receive a premium on their payout for making blackjack, so rather than the usual 3 to 2 or 6 to 5 payout scheme, blackjacks in Blackjack Plus pay out at even money.
Dealer Blackjack Collects All Bets If Player’s Hold Less Than Blackjack
In a hand where you’ve failed to make a blackjack, but the dealer does, you will lose your ante bet, along with any additional bets made by splitting or doubling down.
Australia Blackjack Plus Rules
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the rules of Blackjack Plus used in New Zealand, we’ll run through the different rules attached to Blackjack Plus in Australia. Unless otherwise stated, you can assume that the rules for both games have remained the same, and BOLDED terms are meant to highlight changes from the rules described above:
Blackjacks, 21s, and five-card Charlies having already been paid.
Other than the rules explained above, Blackjack Plus plays in identical fashion to normal blackjack in either New Zealand or Australia. 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 Plus
As is usually the case with regionally created proprietary casino games, Blackjack Plus is only available in specific locations. So unless you happen to find yourself playing at either the Skycity Queenstown casino in New Zealand or the Crown Casino in Melbourne, Australia, your options for finding a Blackjack Plus game are few and far between.
Currently, the game has yet to be adapted for play by any major online casino. Nonetheless, as online casinos continue to flourish in the Asia-Pacific region, alternative games like Blackjack Plus may very well be added to online casino table games menus sometime soon.
The Crown Perth website has a detailed page about Blackjack Plus.
Blackjack Plus Strategy
Blackjack Plus is no different than any other form of blackjack, in that the game’s basic structure of two exposed cards versus the dealer’s lone up card creates a limited number of available options.
Blackjack theorists have long since discovered that the game can be broken down on a mathematical level to determine the most profitable play given any possible scenario. Known as “basic strategy,” this ordered system of assessing the cards on the board and arriving at the best possible decision (hit, stand, split, or double down) can turn ordinary blackjack into a simple procedure of memorization and recall.
The best blackjack players are capable of scanning the table in an instant and determining the best play by comparing their two cards to the dealer’s up card. Fortunately, the same concept applies to Blackjack Plus, because despite the slew of adjustments to the rules, the cards, and their values remain the same.
By taking advantage of the work conducted by one of the world’s foremost authorities on casino game theory and statistical probability, you can gain a leg up on your next Blackjack Plus session by studying the game’s basic strategy. Check out Michael Shackleford’s Wizard of Odds page on Blackjack Plus to study his detailed basic strategy charts. Shackleford’s analysis has arrived at the “perfect” play for any possible combination of cards, and all you need to know in order to use the information is what you hold and the dealer’s up card.
Minimize House Edge
The most important aspect of casino game strategy is based on the concept of house edge. At its core, the term house edge simply describes the theoretical rate of return that the casino expects to gain on any available wager. Under the rules of traditional blackjack, a player who has never even heard the term “basic strategy” will face a house edge of approximately 1.5 percent. In other words, for every $100 they decide to wager over the infinite long run, the casino will expect to keep $1.50 of that sum.
When optimal blackjack strategy is applied, savvy players can instantly shave their house edge down to under 0.50 percent – which makes ordinary blackjack one of the best bets on any casino floor. When held up to other popular 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), it’s quite clear why blackjack remains the world’s most popular casino offering to this day.
Different Rules Mean Different Odds
Blackjack Plus is a different animal altogether, though, and due to the inclusion of a few choice changes to the rules, the house edge on this blackjack variant is much higher at 6.36 percent. In effect, this makes Blackjack Plus one of the worst blackjack variants ever invented, at least from the player’s perspective. If you’re a casino operator, however, you’d be happy to see every Blackjack Plus table under your roof ringed with happy players, as each one would be willingly sacrificing an enormous 5 percent in expected return.
With these numbers revealed in such stark terms, it turns out that a preferable strategy for playing Blackjack Plus is to never play the game at all. By simply strolling by the Blackjack Plus table and taking your chips to a traditional blackjack game, you can immediately shave 5 percent off of the house edge you’ll be up against – and that’s without playing according to basic strategy.
Recommendation: Stay Away
Games like Blackjack Plus were designed by casino operators with the express intent of increasing profits for the house. Uninformed casual gamblers who don’t know any better will always find their way to these money traps, but as unfortunate as that may be, what would be worse is reading through this entire page and still managing to spend money on a game of Blackjack Plus. You know better than that by now, so save your bankroll for a “boring” game of blackjack instead – and if you truly need the thrill of a gamble, splashing around at the roulette wheel will still offer a better bet than Blackjack Plus.