Player’s Choice 21
Player’s Choice 21 offers players a unique and different gambling experience. Players receive three cards, instead of two, at the beginning of the round. They pick one of those cards to become their “community card”, where they will then use that card to create separate hands with the remaining two cards. Being a blackjack variation, it uses many of the same rules and procedures after the three card deal.
This page will focus on Player’s Choice 21 only, offering a detailed rundown of the rules and gameplay procedures. Use our guide to locate the game in a casino near you, or if it is available, at an online casino. Read our section devoted to basic Player’s Choice 21 strategy, odds, and the game’s house edge.
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As an offshoot of traditional blackjack, Player’s Choice 21 simply gives players a new way to play their hand, using three cards to start out instead of two. After that, you pick one of those three to serve as your “common card,” and that card will then be used along with the other two cards to form a pair of distinct blackjack hands.
After that, you play the game using basic blackjack rules, so before moving on to the Player’s Choice 21 gameplay walkthrough, readers who haven’t doubled down in a while should head over to our main blackjack page first. Take a moment to refresh your memory on the basic rules of blackjack, the return to this page to dive into the Player’s Choice variety of the game.
In this game, you’ll be playing with the standard 52 card deck of playing cards, and all cards will hold their normal 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 player’s need.
As in most modern blackjack games, Player’s Choice 21 will use a multiple deck shoe, containing either six or eight decks.
Guide to Playing Player’s Choice 21
To begin the game, players must put up three mandatory wagers: two basic Ante bets (one for each blackjack hand you’ll be playing), along with a 3 Card Bonus side bet. The Ante bets must be of equal value, and the 3 Card Bonus bet must be at least equal to the Ante bet, but can be higher if you so choose.
Unlike most table games, which make the side bet optional, you’ll have to place a bet on the 3 Card Bonus every time you play a hand.
For the rest of this section, we’ll fall back on a running example hand to help show you exactly how certain gameplay elements work from the player’s perspective. So for the betting round, imagine that we’ve used the standard $5 increment on all bets, so $5 each on the two blackjack Ante bets, and $5 on the 3 Card Bonus side bet.
Cards Are Dealt
With all wagers in place, the dealer will then deliver three cards face up to each player, along with three cards to themselves. The dealer’s hand, however, will show one card face up (the “up” card), and two cards face down (the “hole” cards).
For the running example hand, we’ve been dealt the 3d 5d 8d combination, while the dealer shows a 7s as their up card.
Paying the 3 Card Bonus Side Bet
At this point, with players now having a three card starting hand on the felt in front of them, the 3 Card Bonus side bet will be immediately settled. In order to score this side bet, the following Player’s Choice 21 3 Card Bonus pay table will be used:
|Mini Royal (suited A K Q)||75 to 1|
|Suited Three of a Kind||60 to 1|
|Straight Flush||20 to 1|
|Three of a Kind||10 to 1|
|Straight||2 to 1|
|Flush + Pair||1.5 to 1|
|Flush||1.5 to 1|
|Pair||1 to 1|
As you can imagine, it’s quite difficult to land one of these three card poker hands using just three cards and no drawing to improve.
You’ll see in the strategy section, the 3 Card Bonus side bet is a severely negative expectation play, but it’s made to be mandatory for a good reason.
For the running example hand, we got pretty lucky to land a three card flush with our 3d 5d 8d starting hand, so our $5 bet on the 3 Card Bonus is paid out at 1.5 to 1. Thus, we earn a profit of $7.50 on the side bet.
Choose Your Common Card
Once the dealer settles all pending 3 Card Bonus side bets, the Player’s Choice 21 base game truly begins.
Using your three cards starting hand, the objective is to choose one card to serve as a common card, which will be shared by two blackjack hands. In other words, your common card will act as one-half of a blackjack hand using one of the remaining cards and one-half of another blackjack hand using the other.
The skill element of this game comes from knowing how to create the best possible pair of two-card starting hands, which is done by choosing the correct common card.
The running example hand can show us exactly how this process plays out. With a 3, 5, and 8 to work with, let’s run through the possible scenarios.
We might use the 5 as the common card, which would create blackjack hands of 5 8 and 5 3. In this case, the starting totals would be 13 and 8, respectively – which aren’t all that appealing to experienced blackjack players.
We could also use the 8 as the common card, creating the following hands: 8 3 and 8 5, for 11 and 13 totals. The 11 total is obviously nice to have, but a 13 is one of the worst starting hands in blackjack.
Finally, we could use the 3 as a common card, creating the following hands: 3 8 and 3 5, for 11 and 8 totals. With an 11, we’ll have the opportunity to double down, and an 8 can be hit safely without fear of busting. Thus, using the 3 as our common card appears to be the right play (and as you’ll learn in the strategy section, this is the optimal decision given this three card starting hand).
Just Like Playing Normal Blackjack
Once you’ve set you two blackjack hands according to the process above, the game then proceeds normally as per traditional blackjack rules. The dealer will check their hand for possible blackjacks before you run through your own decision-making processes to play each blackjack hand.
You may double down and split using the same rules you’d find on any regular blackjack table. Additionally, doubling down after a split and re-splitting are both allowed. In this game, however, players don’t have the option to surrender.
Player blackjacks are paid out at 3 to 2.
We now have hands of 3 8 (11) and 3 5 (8) versus the dealer’s 7 up-card.
On the 11, we’ll obviously take the double down option in a nice spot, paying an extra $5 on that hand for a single additional card. The dealer obliges by dropping in a 10 to complete our hand with a 21 total.
On the 8, we’ll take a hit knowing we can’t go bust, and the dealer slides us a K for an 18 total. We’ll stand on that and see how the dealer’s hand shakes out.
Dealer’s Turn and Paying the Winners
Depending on the house rules, the dealer will either hit or stand on soft 17s, so be careful to check for this provision before putting up your first bet.
The dealer turns over a lowly 5 with their 7, giving them a 12 total, and their forced hit gives them a Q for a 22 total and a bust.
We’d win even money on all wagers, so $10 profit on the doubled down hand, and $5 profit on the other.
The dealer will run through the multiple deck shoe until a certain point is reached, before reshuffling the entire shoe, offering a player at the table the chance to cut the cards, and beginning a new hand.
Best Places to Play Player’s Choice 21
Under the marketing guidance of DEQ Systems, which bills itself as a “leading global provider of gaming technology,” the new version of Player’s Choice 21 is gradually developing a foothold within the crowded casino game landscape.
As of today, the game has been approved by the gaming commissions in three states: Minnesota, Missouri, and Nevada.
Reports of Player’s Choice 21 being played at the Venetian – sister casino to the Palazzo – can be found as recently as 2014, but the game doesn’t appear on the Table Games section of either venue’s website.
Currently, two casinos are verified as having Player’s Choice 21 tables in operation:
- Shooting Star Casino – Mahnomen, Minnesota
- River City Casino – St. Louis, Missouri
Another way to find out exactly where to find this interesting new take on blackjack is to email DEQ Systems directly [email protected] or to contact Renegade Table Games. In either case, representatives for the companies responsible for marketing the game will be glad to point interested players in the right direction.
Player’s Choice 21 Strategy
To borrow a quote from the classic sitcom Seinfeld, when it comes to accurate strategic analysis of new table games like Player’s Choice 21, nobody beats the wiz.
In this case, the wiz happens to be Michael Shackleford, the mathematician and casino game theorist who runs the Wizard of Odds website. Known far and wide within the gambling community, Wizard of Odds provides objective analysis on every aspect of a casino game, from the probabilities associated with each wager to tried and true strategy tips designed to help improve your play.
Thankfully, Shackleford was able to work his usual magic on Player’s Choice 21, developing a detailed chart to determine the optimal common card placement, given every possible three cards starting hand combination and the dealer’s current up card.
Use the Strategy Chart as a Guide
Used just like a basic strategy chart in traditional blackjack, all you need to do in order to put Shackleford’s expertise into action is scan your three cards, then the dealer’s up card, and find the corresponding point on the table. For example, when you hold a tricky starting hand of 2 2 6, the chart advises using a 2 as your common card when the dealer’s up card shows a 4, 5, or 6. For all other dealer up cards, you’ll use the 6 as your common card.
Courtesy of Shackleford and his wizard-like analytical abilities, players can always be sure that they’re making the correct choice in Player’s Choice 21.
The House Edge
As for the house edge, this game is a bit of a curious case in that regard.
Player’s Choice 21 offers players one of the rarest sights on the casino floor: a positive expectation proposition on the base game blackjack bets. On just the blackjack hand bets alone, players actually have an edge right around 22.5 percent in their favor (depending on a number of decks used and the soft 17 hit/stand rule).
However, to counter this apparent generosity, the game makes the 3 Card Bonus side bet – and its egregious house edge rate of 25.0 percent.
As a result, the total combined wagers (two base game blackjack bets and the 3 Card Bonus bet) provide players with a small average house edge of 0.60 percent (again, depending on decks in play and soft 17 house rules).
This overall house edge is commensurate with regular blackjack and most popular twenty-one offshoots, so you won’t be sacrificing anything in the way of expected return by choosing Player’s Choice 21 over the alternative.
Improve Your Overall Odds
Finally, game selection can be used to help improve your overall odds, as the amount of decks being used and the house rules on dealers standing or hitting soft 17s cause the house edge against you to fluctuate. Take a look at the table below to see exactly how that impact plays out on your bottom line:
|DECKS||SOFT 17||HOUSE EDGE|
As you can see, the best game conditions you can find, by far, are created when the house uses an eight deck shoe and requires dealers to stand on soft 17s. When you can find this particular combination of house rules, the house edge against you stands at just 0.427 percent – slightly better than you’ll get in traditional blackjack even when playing perfectly according to basic strategy.
Player’s Choice 21 History
The history of the hybrid table game known as Player’s Choice 21 is long and complicated, beginning with the original trademark application filed for the concept in 1998.
That application was filed on behalf of PGB Partnership, a small company operating out of Hackensack, New Jersey. Both the trademark and patent claims filed to protect Player’s Choice 21 – an offshoot of blackjack in which players use three cards to form two distinct hands – were rejected in 2000, due to the game’s close resemblance to a previously protected table game called Player’s Choice Poker.
That game was owned by New Vision Games and Marketing at the time, and according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, PGB Partnership could not legally market and distribute Players Choice 21 as designed.
It Took a While but the Game is Here
It would take 13 years before the game resurfaced again, this time through a second trademark application filed by Renegade Table Games, LLC – another small casino game design company located in Wayne, New Jersey. Due to the close proximity between Hackensack, where PGB Partnership was located, and Wayne, where Renegade Table Games does business, it’s quite likely that these companies are owned and operated by the same game inventor.
In any event, Player’s Choice 21 was officially revived, and through a collaboration between Renegade Table Games and DEQ Systems, a much larger casino equipment service provider, the game made its debut placement at the Palazzo casino in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2013.
Since then, the game has spread slowly, but surely, to a few other casinos around the country, and the game appears to be developing a decent fan base as player’s catch on to the concept.
You’ll also find an online casino game called Player’s Choice Blackjack, but this title describes a completely different game involving five different hands to choose from and has no connection whatsoever to Player’s Choice 21.