Free Bet Blackjack
Free Bet Blackjack is a popular Blackjack variation where players are given the chance of getting a Free Double or Free Split Bet as they play, enhancing the gambling experience and allowing them to play without risking their own money when doubling or splitting (thus its name).
If Free Bet Blackjack online recently appeared on your casino gambling radar, you’ve come to the right place. In our exclusive guide you’ll find a detailed walkthrough explaining the rules and gameplay setup, including how Free Bet Blackjack differs from traditional twenty-one and what strategy should you use to play.
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Understanding Free Bet Blackjack
Free Bet is an interesting new take on classic blackjack, as such, it shares a foundation with the classic version of twenty-one, so unless otherwise noted, the basic rules remain the same across both games. Online Free Bet Blackjack utilizes the standard 52 card deck of playing cards, and normal game ranks are applied.
Free Bet Gameplay
Each hand begins when players put up a mandatory Ante bet, the objective of the game is to push your hand total towards 21, or closest to it, without “busting” by going over, and when you make a blackjack (any 10 value card plus an ace), the hand is deemed an automatic winner.
Each card between 2 and 10 holds a value equal to its numerical rank, the face cards (J, Q, K) each hold a value of 10, and the aces can be valued at either 1 or 11 depending on the situation.
In Free Bet Blackjack, a shoe holding six decks will be cycled through by the dealer.
Free Bet Blackjack Rules
The Free Bet variation was formed by making just a few critical adjustments to the rules, so we’ll run through each one individually:
The Dealer Receives One Up Card and One Hole Card to Begin
Taking a cue from the “American” style of the card game, the two card rule simply has the dealer taking a two-card starting hand along with the players. One of these cards will be face up on the table to examine, while the other card will be kept face down until all player actions have been completed.
The Dealer Must Hit on Soft 17’s
Whenever the dealer’s hand reaches a total of 17 while using an ace (commonly referred to as a “soft 17”) the value will be variable at the moment, therefore, the dealer will be forced to hit and draw another card. This element is popular at the “European” tables, and over the long run, the dealer hitting on soft 17s offers a slight benefit to the house.
Winning with Blackjack Pays Out at 3 to 2
When you happen to make the game’s best hand, an ace combined with any 10 value card, the dealer will award an automatic payout of 3 to 2 on your Ante bet. Some variants compensate for player-friendly rules by reducing the payouts to even money, but in Free Bet Blackjack, you’ll still earn a premium on the made hand.
Players can Split Hands and Re-Split up to Four Times
If your two-card starting hand contains a pair of identical ranks, you may decide to split the hand and form two new hands. In order to split, you’ll need to place an additional wager equal to the Ante bet except in the key situations which give Free Bet Blackjack its name (more on these rules in a minute).
When splitting, the dealer will then distribute a single card to each of your cards, which forms two new two-card starting hands. And when these newly created hands happen to show identical ranks once again, you can then decide to re-split by following the same process. Re-splitting can be performed up to four times.
Players can Double Down after Splitting
Once you’ve split a hand, you may then decide to double down on one or both of the newly created two-card starting hands. In order to double down, you’ll need to post an additional wager equal to your original Ante bet – except in the key situations which give Free Bet Blackjack its name.
Players can Double Down Only When Holding Two Cards
The double down option can only be exercised when you have two cards in your hand. Some casinos allow players to double down on three card totals, or any amount of cards, which obviously benefits you over the long run.
Players May Not Surrender
In many forms of blackjack, you can opt to surrender the hand immediately in exchange for half of your Ante bet being returned. This move is typically used when you see a bad starting hand, a strong dealer up card, or both – but in Free Bet Blackjack you’ll have to see each hand through to its end.
Push 22 Rule
Finally, Free Bet Blackjack incorporates Hall’s “Push 22” rule, so whenever the dealer happens to go bust holding exactly 22, would be winners are turned into ties.
Even when you run out perfectly to a 21 total, and the dealer busts after hitting a bunch of baby cards, if they land squarely on a 22 total, all of your pending bets will be returned as a push.
Once all the dealer has settled all winning bets and claimed all losers for the house, they’ll drag the remaining cards into the muck and deal another hand from the shoe.
Free Double & Free Split Features
All of the rules above are simply common variations on the traditional blackjack structure, but what makes Free Bet Blackjack special is the inclusion of two very special peculiarities. In this game, you can take advantage of the Free Double and Free Split features.
Using the Free Double
You can use the Free Double whenever you hold a “hard” two card total of 9, 10, or 11. When you hold any other two card hand, the regular doubling down rules apply, but on hard 9, 10, and 11 totals, you can ask the dealer for a Free Double. When you do, the dealer will place a “Free Bet” button near your original Ante chip, and in essence, the house is now matching your bet.
Completing Your Hand:
The dealer will then distribute a single card from the shoe to complete your hand.
- When the dealer’s hand winds up the winner following a Free Double, you’ll only lose the Ante bet, effectively enjoying a “free roll” on the double down.
- When the dealer’s hand ties yours, your Ante bet will be returned as a push.
What if your hand beats the dealer’s hand after a Free Double? In this case, you’ll win even money on your Ante bet, plus even money on the “Free Bet” chip put up by the house.
Free Double Example
Let’s say you wager $10 on the Ante, find a hard 11 in the hole, and take the Free Double down to spike a king for 21. The dealer then runs through the motions and makes an inferior 19.
Here, you’ll win $10 on your Ante bet along with an additional $10 for the Free Double. All of that without having to place an additional Double bet yourself.
Usind the Use Free Split
The other major rule is known as the Free Split, and it follows the same underlying premise. When holding any paired hand except for 10s, you can take a Free Split and the dealer will match your Ante bet with the “Free Bet” chip.
Once your paired hand has been split, the dealer will slide one more card to each, giving you two new two-card starting hands. At this point, you play each hand individually, hitting, standing, doubling down, or splitting depending on the cards.
Crucially, you can also take a Free Double after a Free Split, and you can also re-split by using a Free Split.
Free Split Example
Imagine you’ve been dealt two 6s to start out – a lowly 12 total that is perfect for splitting. You’d receive the Free Split and the dealer matches your $10 ante bet with a “Free Bet” chip of equal value. Now, the dealer distributes a 5 to one of the hands, making an 11 total, and third 6 to the other hand for a 12 total.
Under the generous rules of Free Bet Blackjack, you would now be entitled to another Free Split on your 6s, and a Free Double on the 11 total. The dealer tosses out two more “Free Bet” chips, each worth $10, and you spike a queen on your 11 for 21, and 10s for both of your 6s to make 16 totals.
The dealer is showing a paltry 3 and you stand, letting them go bust in the process, and now it’s time to collect your winnings.
With only $10 of your own money at stake, the dealer must now pay out that ante bet at even money, along with three more $10 payouts for each of the Free Bets you took during the hand. All told, you score four $10 wins for a $40 profit, all while putting up only your baseline wager.
Strategy to Play Free Bet Blackjack
A regular blackjack strategy chart cannot be used for the Free Bet strategy due to a particular rule where players only receive their own bet back when pushing after a Free Double or a Free Split. Essentially, you’ll be playing two different games at once, following basic strategy guidelines when it’s your own bet on the line, and loosening up a bit with a Free Double or Free Split on the line.
For a closer look at the exact basic strategy rules for Free Bet Blackjack, head over to the Wizard of Odds, where casino game theorist and mathematician Michael Shackleford worked his usual wonders in breaking down the game, including information on house edge, odds and possibilities when playing Free Bet.
Of course, blackjack is a game of calculated precision, so you should take the time study Shackleford’s basic strategy charts before diving headlong into a Free Bet Blackjack session. With that said, the experts advise one hard and fast rule above all else: always take the Free Double or Free Split options when the opportunity arises.
Other Blackjack Variants
Whenever you begin branching out to play new blackjack variants, one of the fundamental tenets of strategic thinking is based on the game’s house edge rate. Simply put, players benefit from playing games with a low house edge, while the casino takes advantage from higher house edge gambles.
Play with Strategy
Within the world of casino gambling, traditional blackjack is widely recognized as one of the best bets in the house, offering players who use their gut instinct alone a generous house edge of roughly 1.50 percent. When you employ basic strategy, on the other hand, the house edge on ordinary twenty-one falls to under 0.50 percent. And of course, card counters are actually capable of turning the tables on the house, nullifying the house edge entirely to create a positive expectation game.
Free Bet Blackjack House Edge
Under the rules described in this page’s second section, Free Bet Blackjack offers a house edge of 1.04 percent. Different rules instituted by casino operators can bring that number up or down by slight degrees, but for all intents and purposes, even when playing perfectly according to basic strategy, you’ll still face twice as steep of a climb when compared to the regular game.
Even the other famous spinoff created by Geoff Hall, Blackjack Switch, carries a house edge of 0.58 percent.
Winning at Free Bet Blackjack
From a purely strategic standpoint, winning at any form of casino games is all about preserving every hard-earned portion of your bankroll. This must be the only priority. Recognizing the value inherent to grinding out small profits, while avoiding large losses over the long run, is the key to success.
With that in mind, the best strategy for Free Bet Blackjack is to pass by the tables and bring your business to either regular blackjack or Blackjack Switch. By doing so, you’ll immediately decrease the house edge against you by a factor of half.
The History Of Free Bet
The hybrid table game known as Free Bet Blackjack was invented by casino game designer Geoff Hall, the brain behind one of the world’s most popular twenty-one variants: Blackjack Switch.
As a former advantage play specialist, Hall successfully transitioned from grinding the tables in Las Vegas to inventing new game concepts of his own. Due to the overwhelming success of his debut with Blackjack Switch in 2001, Hall went to work as a consultant for major casino game companies like Shuffle Master and Playtech, helping to come up with concepts like Power Blackjack and, eventually, Free Bet Blackjack.
Thinking About the Players
Just like with Blackjack Switch – a game based on his own experience playing two spots on the table while wanting to exchange cards between hands – Hall incorporated a novel concept most real money blackjack regulars are familiar with to create Free Bet Blackjack. Essentially, the game adds a friendly backer to the equation (in the form of the dealer), one who gladly pays for your double down and splitting opportunities. Thus, players can reap the benefits associated with these profitable plays, without actually putting up their own chips to do so.
Of course, in another holdover from Blackjack Switch, Hall has integrated his famous “Push 22” rule into the equation, as a way of counterbalancing the player-friendly rules and restoring the house’s precious edge. For those unfamiliar with the Push 22 construct, in this form of twenty-one, whenever the dealer happens to go bust holding a total of 22, players receive their bets back as a push instead of winning outright.
Snow eventually decided to sell the ownership rights for Free Bet Blackjack to casino game manufacturer Bally Technologies in 2013.
Marketed Throughout the United States
One year later, Bally Technologies – which had recently purchased rival Shuffle Master and its gaming assets – was in turn acquired by Scientific Games Corporation. Presently, this company owns the rights to Free Bet Blackjack, marketing the game worldwide and servicing many dozens of installations.
Fellow casino game inventor Roger M. Snow, who served as senior vice president of table and utility products for Bally Technologies at the time, immediately recognized Free Bet Blackjack’s potential. In a 2014 interview with Global Gaming Business Magazine, Snow expressed his conviction that the game would soon become an industry standard-bearer:
“This is one of the few times in my career where I consider a game’s success a fait accompli. This is going to be one of the biggest things of all time, and very few people know about it. We’ve got around 55 installs right now, but it’s just a matter of time before this thing explodes. A year from now, everyone’s going to know about this game. This is going to be a monster.”
Snow’s confidence was rewarded over the last two years, as Free Bet Blackjack has exploded in popularity while spreading at a steady rate. Today, you can find the game in mega resort casino properties and local tribal casinos alike, while new players discover its lasting appeal every day.