No Bust 21
No Bust 21 is a fun and dynamic blackjack variant, where no matter how you play the cards, your hand just never busts. When the players and dealer’s hands bust, the round is considered a Push if the player’s hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s.
There is a growing trend of “No Bust Blackjack” variants, including some other popular games like California No Bust Blackjack and Never Bust Blackjack. Find a detailed breakdown of the game’s rules and how to play. Follow our example hand to help illustrate gameplay concepts, as well as the best casinos to play.
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Basic Game Rules
No 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 online 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 and two joker cards added to create a 54 card deck. The non-joker cards hold their expected values. The 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 one or 11.
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 ten value card. In the standard 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 ten-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 ten-value card.
Aside from “both bust” scenarios, the game plays out just like normal real money 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.
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:
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
Place a Bet
The game begins when players put up a mandatory ante bet, equal to or exceed the table minimum.
Example Step #1
At this point, we’ll rely on a running example hand to help illustrate essential concepts from the player’s point of view. So, imagine that we’ve placed a $5 chip for the ante wager.
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 this example, 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. If we received two jokers initially, the natural would be paid out at 2 to 1 (provided the dealer does not also have a natural).
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 total of 21. Anything over 21 is an automatic loser in standard blackjack, 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 a worse fashion. When you and the dealer both exceed 21, the hand with the lowest value is considered to be best.
Example Step #3
We know we have work to do with a 13 total and facing a 10 value for the dealer’s up card, so we’d take a hit.
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 provide themselves with a 26 total, and they bust along with us.
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’s 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
Despite securing initial placements at the Hard Rock and the now-defunct Sahara in Las Vegas, No Bust 21 appears to be confined to California’s casinos and card clubs 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 spread No Bust 21st Century Blackjack.
Even worse is that all forms of blackjack played in California must be of the “no bust” variety in one form or 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 game version that 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, the 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.
Know your Hand
Use a basic chart to know when to hit, stand, split, or double down.
Consider the House Edge
Aside from knowing how to play your cards correctly, another way to approach the No Bust 21 strategy is to consider the role of the 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%. In other words, for every $100 you wager over the infinite long run, the house can expect to keep $1.50 for themselves.
This house edge rate is quite reasonable within the world of casino gambling, 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 to 0.50%. 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|
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 are available.
Based on this broad range of house edges, though, sharp players will soon realize that No Bust 21 doesn’t offer much in the way of improvement on standard blackjack.
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 a Low Number of Decks
The best strategy for No Bust blackjack is to find games that use the lowest number of decks. As the deck density increases, so will the house edge working against you.
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 to 0.56%, which is about three times better than you’ll face when playing No Bust 21.
No Bust Blackjack History
The 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.
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 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 that can cause quite a bit of confusion. The 21st Century variety of the game plays slightly differently, however, so this page is dedicated to explaining No Bust 21 properly.