No Bust 21

No Bust 21 logoBy playing No Bust 21, blackjack players can have that perfect session, where no matter how you play the cards, your hand just never busts. The way this works is that when the players and dealers hand’s bust, if the player’s hand is closer to 21 than the dealers, the round is considered a Push. The player will get their initial wager back.

There is a growing trend of these “No Bust Blackjack” variants, including some other popular games like California No Bust Blackjack and Never Bust Blackjack.

In this guide, you’ll find a detailed breakdown of the game’s rules and how to play, including comparisons between No Bust 21 and regular blackjack. Follow our example hand to help illustrate crucial gameplay concepts. We’ll then guide you through the best casinos you can find this blackjack variant at. Learn the optimal No Bust blackjack strategy to get an advantage over the house.

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Basic Game Rules

California No Bust Blackjack gameNo Bust 21 is a blackjack variation that has just a few tweaks to the rules. Readers who aren’t already proficient in regular twenty-one should take a moment to read up on the game at our main blackjack page.

The basic structure of the gameplay remains the same for both, so you’ll be better prepared to understand what makes No Bust 21 tick once you have at least a rudimentary understanding of regular blackjack.

No Bust 21 uses the standard 52 card deck of playing cards, along with two joker cards added in to create a 54 card deck. The non-joker cards 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 are valued at either 1 or 11 depending on the situation.

Differences with Regular Blackjack

  • The jokers will act as wild cards, so any hand containing a single joker will automatically create a 21 total. Additionally, the best possible hand in No Bust 21 is formed by holding two jokers, which is known as a “natural.”
  • Players holding a natural with two jokers will win 2 to 1 on their money – except when the dealer also shows a natural, in which case the hand will be deemed a push.
  • Another crucial difference concerns the usual “blackjack” hand of an Ace combined with a 10 value card. In the usual form of the game, making blackjack represents the game’s best hand, and players receive a premium payout of either 3 to 2 or 6 to 5 on their bet.In No Bust 21 an Ace combined with any 10 value card is simply a 21 total, nothing more. This hand ranks the same as a 3-4-6-7 combination or any other run of cards totaling 21. Furthermore, players don’t receive any premium payout for making an ace and a 10 value card.

Aside from “both bust” scenarios, the game plays out just like normal blackjack. You may hit or stand as you desire, attempting to reach 21 or a total close to it, or allowing the dealer to go bust.

Additional Rules

As for the other common blackjack elements, players should be aware of the following stipulations, which usually vary across all forms of blackjack, traditional or otherwise:

#1
The dealer cannot examine their own hole card, and it will only be revealed after all players have completed their actions.
#2
The dealer must hit on a soft 17 total (any 17 total which uses an ace).
#3
Players may split any paired two-card starting hand to form two new starting hands (splitting costs an additional wager equal to your ante bet).
#4
Players may not re-split when splitting produces another paired two-card starting hand.
#5
Players may double down holding any two-card starting hand (doubling down costs an additional wager equal to your ante).
#6
Players may double down after splitting.
#7
Players may surrender when holding any two cards starting hand, except when the dealer shows a joker as their up card.

Other notes to keep in mind:

  • When the dealer shows a joker card as their up card, all players must stand for the rest of that hand
  • Any joker card in a hand creates an automatic 21 total
  • Two jokers together form a natural, and naturals beat all other hands except for another natural

How to Play No Bust 21

#1

Place a Bet

The game begins when players put up a mandatory ante bet, which must equal or exceed the table minimum.

Example Step #1

Going forward throughout this section, we’ll rely on a running example hand to help illustrate important concepts from the player’s point of view. So, imagine that we’ve placed a $5 chip for the ante wager.

#2

Dealer Distributes the Cards

After players have anted up, the dealer will then distribute two cards face down to each player, along with two cards to themselves. The dealer’s hand will show one card face up (the “up” card), and one card face down (the “hole” card).

Example Step #2

For the running example hand, we’ve been dealt the 10c and the 3d for a 13 total, while the dealer shows the Kc as their up card.

Remember, if we were dealt any card along with a joker, our total would automatically become 21, and if we received two jokers to begin with, the natural would be paid out at 2 to 1 (provided the dealer does not also have a natural).

#3

Player and Dealer Turns

The objective of No Bust 21 is to reach a hand total of 21 or closest to it, while also outranking the dealer’s total.

As the game’s title implies, in No Bust 21 hand totals can never “go bust,” or be declared dead by exceeding a 21 total. In normal blackjack, any total over 21 is an automatic loser, but No Bust 21 gives players a proverbial “out” to avoid this fate.

In this game, if you happen to go bust, but the dealer busts as well, you’ll be hoping that your total is closer to 21 than the dealer’s total. When this happens, your wager will be returned as a push instead of lost. However, on occasions when both the player and dealer go bust, but the dealer’s total is closer to 21, your bet will still be lost.

In essence, this aspect of the game is based on who goes bust in worse fashion. When you and the dealer both exceed 21, the hand with the lowest value is considered to be best.

Example Step #3

With a 13 total and facing a 10 value for the dealer’s up card, we know we have work to do, so we’d take a hit. The next card off the deck is the Jd, giving us a 23 total and a bust.

The dealer then reveals their hole card to be the 6h, giving them a 16 total, so they’d be forced to hit. The dealer slides out the Qs to give themselves a 26 total, and they bust along with us.

#4

Declare a Winner and Get Paid

Under the rules of No Bust 21, the closest busted total to 21 survives. We compare the player and dealer hands, we can see which busted hand is closer to 21. When the player hand is closer, the is a push and the player gets their initial wager back; otherwise they lose their bet to the casino.

Hands that have not busted will play just like regular blackjack. Once all wagers have been settled, the dealer will collect all discards from the previous hand before beginning a new deal.

Example Step #4

Our 23 total is better than the dealer’s 26 total. Instead of losing our $5 ante bet like we would in regular blackjack, we’d receive the chip back as a push.

Best Places to Play No Bust 21

Hustler Casino CaliforniaDespite securing initial placements at the Hard Rock and the now defunct Sahara in Las Vegas, No Bust 21 appears to be confined to the casinos and card clubs of California at this point.

Unfortunately, the presence of No Bust 21st Century Blackjack complicates matters immensely in terms of identifying venues to find the game.

The 21st Century Blackjack concept plays almost the same, but with the two jokers in the deck absent, the games cannot be considered identical.

Finding the Original Version of the Game

Searches for No Bust 21 invariably return results from casinos like the Bicycle Club and Hustler Casino in California, but these properties actually spread No Bust 21st Century Blackjack.

Even worse is the fact that all forms of blackjack played in California must be of the “no bust” variety in one form of another, due to the state’s complicated laws regarding card-based gambling games.

Presence in California

With all of that said, California casinos are your best bet for finding Mostashari’s original version of No Bust 21 using a pair of jokers. The key to locating the game is held by those jokers, as only Mostashari’s variant includes them, so if you’re local to California or are planning a trip there in the future, a little legwork can go a long way.

Place a few phone calls to the casinos in your area and ask for the table games manager. When you inquire about No Bust 21, be sure to mention that you’d prefer the version of the game which adds two jokers to the deck. If you can’t find No Bust 21 there, an experienced table games manager will at least know what game you’re talking about, and they’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

No Bust 21 Strategy

Just like any other form of blackjack, No Bust 21 strategy can be broken down on the mathematical level to arrive upon an optimal strategy – or the best way to play your hand given any possible situation.

The best in the business when it comes to modern casino game theory is Michael Shackleford, who you probably know better as the Wizard of Odds. Through his eponymous website, Shackleford cracks the code behind hundreds of casino games and variants, devising optimal strategies for each while explaining important concepts like house edge, expected return, and the probabilities associated with each wager.

Know your Hand

By visiting Shackleford’s game page for No Bust 21, you’ll find a comprehensive, color-coded basic strategy chart for the game. To use this chart, simply scan the left-hand side of the grid to find your current hand total, before running through the top row to find the dealer’s up card. The point on the grid where these two totals line up will show a certain color, and by reading the chart’s key, you’ll know whether to hit, stand, split, or double down given those specific variables.

Consider the House Edge

Blackjack tournaments strategyAside from knowing how to play your cards correctly, another way to approach No Bust 21 strategy is to consider the role of house edge. This all important figure in gambling defines the casino’s expected return over the infinite long run, so the higher the house edge on a game or wager, the worse off you’ll be as a player.

When you play traditional blackjack, even without the benefit of basic strategy guidelines and using your gut instinct alone, the game offers an overall house edge of 1.50 percent. In other words, for every $100 you wager over the infinite long run, the house can expect to keep $1.50 for themselves.

Within the world of casino gambling, this house edge rate is actually quite reasonable, ranking among the lowest you’ll find on the casino floor. But when you employ basic strategy in regular twenty-one, the house edge rate drops all the way down to 0.50 percent. This ranks as perhaps the best bet in any casino, which is why blackjack in its original form has become one of the most widely played games in all of the world.

So, how do the numbers stack up for No Bust 21? Take a look at the table below to find out:

No Bust 21 House Edge Variations

# OF DECKS HOUSE EDGE
1 1.71 percent
2 1.82 percent
4 1.88 percent
6 1.89 percent
8 1.89 percent
Continuous Shuffler 1.91 percent

As you can see, the lowest house edge available on No Bust 21 comes when you play the game using only a single deck. This format is quite rare, however, as casinos aren’t typically in the business of running lower house edge propositions when higher alternatives can be found.

Based on this overall range of house edges, though, sharp players will soon realize that No Bust 21 doesn’t offer much in the way of improvement on normal blackjack.

In fact, when using optimal strategy, you’ll be facing an average house edge almost four times higher in this game than you’ll find on the regular blackjack tables.

Find Games with Low Number of Decks

Judged from this perspective, the best strategy for No Bust blakjack is to find games which use the lowest number of decks. As the deck density increases, so will the house edge working against you.

OUSC Recommendation

For players in California who have no other option than to play No Bust blackjack variants of their favorite game, seek out games called California No Bust Blackjack over No Bust 21. By doing so, you can lower the house edge rate down all the way to 0.56 percent, which is about three times better than you’ll face when playing No Bust 21.

No Bust Blackjack History

Commerce Casino CaliforniaThe original patent application for a hybrid table game known as No Bust 21 was filed by former casino manager Moe Mostashari in January of 2000.

And for good reason. Mostashari came up through the ranks at Los Angeles’ famed Commerce Casino during the 1980s and 1990s – during which time he witnessed an employee make one of the gambling industry’s most infamous blunders.

The Missed Opportunity of Pai Gow Poker

Sam Torosian was inspired to combine elements of an ancient Chinese gambling game known as pai gow with traditional table game style poker. The result was Pai Gow Poker, one of the most popular table games ever invented.

Unfortunately for Torosian, an acquaintance who worked as an attorney advised him that card games couldn’t be patented, so Pai Gow Poker was never properly protected. Torosian missed out on millions of dollars in potential revenue as his game spread like wildfire throughout the world’s casinos.

Securing a Patent for No Bust 21

After using his own insight into the world of casino gambling to create No Bust 21, Mostashari was keen to avoid the mistakes made by Torosian – a former employee at the Commerce at one point in the men’s careers. Mostashari explained the situation during a 2002 profile of Torosian published by the Los Angeles Times:

“Sam got the wrong advice. Talk about a lost opportunity… Nobody has ever lost more money by not patenting a game than Sam.”

With the rights to No Bust 21 secured under his name, Mostashari eventually launched his own casino game design firm Casino Gaming Concepts.

The company secured installations for No Bust 21 in a few Las Vegas casino properties around 2006, but by 2010 Mostashari was pursuing a different marketing strategy for his game.

Marketing No Bust 21

That year a trademark application for a hybrid table game known 21st Century Blackjack was filed on behalf of Mostashari and Casino Gaming Concepts.

Today, you can find that game marketed by several major California casinos as No Bust 21st Century Blackjack, a similarity which can cause quite a bit of confusion. The 21st Century variety of the game plays slightly differently, however, so this page will be dedicated to explaining No Bust 21 proper.