California No Bust Blackjack

California No Bust Blackjack logoAs the name suggests, California No Bust Blackjack is a variant on classic blackjack that has been popularized throughout California. The game’s “No Bust” element is created by the addition of rules which still allow players to win on busted totals, provided they are lower than the dealer’s busted hand.

Through this guide, you will find a detailed rundown of the rules and regulations. These include particular gameplay procedures which define California No Bust Blackjack. Also find detailed descriptions whenever the game diverges from the regular version. Next up is a comprehensive guide to locating casinos and card clubs in California, including a county by county breakdown to help locals find the closest venues. Finally, we’ll point you in the right direction when it comes to strategy tips, with a basic strategy chart devised by casino gaming experts specifically to tackle California No Bust Blackjack.

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Game Rules

Before we move on to the nuts and bolts of this regional blackjack 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.

Deck & Card Values

California No Bust Blackjack gameThis game utilizes a standard 52 card deck of playing cards, which is supplemented with the addition of 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 which can hold any value – even one higher than 11. Whenever you hold 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 as a 19 value card, immediately creating 21.

Aside from the joker, the rest of the cards in California 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.

In normal blackjack, the best possible hand is an ace combined with any 10 value card, which is known as “blackjack” and results in an automatic winner.

Best Hand are Naturals

California No Bust Blackjack mixes things up, however, and several hands actually outrank the traditional blackjack in this game.

The best possible hands in California No Bust Blackjack are known as “naturals,” and a natural can be made using the following two card combinations:

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

The natural hands shown above have no rankings in and of themselves, which is to say, any natural is just as strong as any other.

When you land a natural as your first two cards, you must declare that fact to the dealer immediately. When the dealer doesn’t produce a natural of their own, you’ll win 2 to 1 on your ante wager for making a natural.

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 as well, you won’t win automatically, and your bet will simply be returned as a push.

Playing California No Bust Blackjack

#1

Player Hand versus Dealer Hand

The game operates like normal 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), along with one card face up for players to examine (the up card). The dealer cannot examine their own hole card.

Whenever the dealer shows a joker as their up card, however, 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. When this occurs, players are not permitted to hit and draw additional cards, and any non 21 totals will be automatic losers.

This is similar to regular blackjack, wherein the dealer automatically wins the hand by making a blackjack, and all player hands that aren’t blackjacks lose without the chance to draw and improve.

#2

Surrender or Continue

Players have the option to surrender their hand, receiving one-half of their ante wager back in exchange for forfeiting the other half. The surrender play is not available 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.

When it comes to basic dealer actions, in California No Bust Blackjack the dealer must hit on soft 17s.

#3

Player Options

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

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 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 which are 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.

#4

Payouts & Player Banking

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.

The option to bank the game rotates around the table and players can decline to bank if they choose.

Best Places to Play California No Bust Blackjack

Commerce Casino CaliforniaCalifornia is home to several premier gambling destinations, including the Commerce Casino and the Bicycle Casino in Los Angeles County, Bay 101 in Santa Clara, and Pechanga Resort & Casino in Riverside.

Players would be well served by visiting any of these modern, resort-style casino settings for their next session of California No Bust Blackjack.

The Golden State is also quite large, however, so even California natives may not be all that close to L.A. or the Bay Area. Fortunately, California is also home to dozens of licensed card clubs, tribal casinos, and other smaller scale gambling establishments.

Due to the complex and ever fluctuating gaming laws in California, which require certain venues to run “pari-mutuel” table gaming only, you’re sure to find California No Bust Blackjack being played 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 take a look at our California state casinos page for all of the details you need.

CASINO CITY COUNTY VENUE TYPE
The 101 Casino Petaluma Sonoma Card Room
The 500 Club Clovis Fresno Card Room
Agua Caliente Casino Rancho Mirage Riverside Native American
Artichoke Joe’s Casino San Bruno San Mateo Card Room
Augustine Casino Rancho Mirage Riverside Native American
The Aviator Casino Bakersfield Kern Card Room
Barona Valley Ranch Lakeside San Diego Native American
Bay 101 San Jose Santa Clara Card Room
Bear River Casino Loleta Humboldt Native American
Black Bart Casino Willits Mendocino Native American
The Bicycle Casino Bell Gardens Los Angeles Card Room
Black Oak Casino Tuolumne Tuolumne Native American
Black Sheep Casino Cameron Park El Dorado Card Room
Blue Lake Casino Blue Lake Humboldt Native American
Brooks Oceana Cardroom Oceano S.L. Obispo Card Room

California No Bust Blackjack Strategy

California No Bust Blackjack strategy tableThis is the most accurate basic strategy chart for California No Bust Blackjack. Click on the image to view the full chart.

Michael Shackleford, the legendary casino game theorist better known online as the Wizard of Odds, has devoted his professional career to analyzing casino games on a mathematical level. Through his Wizard of Odds page, he has analyzed hundreds of unique casino games, including nearly all known variants on casino classics like blackjack.

By using the strategy advice contained on the chart, players can create game conditions which 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 the California No Bust variety aren’t sacrificing anything at all in terms of overall expectation.

Other Tips to Keep in Mind

#1
Among the more generalized strategy tips players should keep in mind are those pertaining to the commission fee. According to blackjack experts, games like California No Bust Blackjack simply 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.
#2
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. Again, 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 simply avoid banking games like this altogether.

California Created Blackjack Variant

No Bust Blackjack casino tableAt one point, due to the strict gaming regulations in place throughout California, most casinos and card clubs were not permitted to run “house-banked” games in the traditional sense. This meant that casino operators were forced to get creative if they hoped to run standard games like blackjack, so the concept of “player banking” was introduced to satisfy the law.

Today, many gambling venues have been around long enough to secure the necessary licensing and regulatory approval to run house-banked games. The game of California No Bust Blackjack is steeped in tradition throughout the Golden State, so even in venues which also carry regular blackjack, you’ll still find this creative offshoot. Many of the smaller card clubs which are sprinkled throughout the state don’t even bother with basic blackjack, knowing that their clientele prefers the cultural curiosity known as California No Bust Blackjack.

Along with this interesting wrinkle, California No Bust Blackjack also includes several other major points of departure from traditional blackjack. The deck contains a joker, for example, and players alternate between “banking” the game or serving as both the house and the dealer.

If you’re planning a trip to the West Coast at some point, or you already live in California but have yet to experience this exciting take on an old classic, this page will provide all of the information you need to know before placing your first wagers.