Power Blackjack is an interesting blackjack variation where players can use the “Power Double” on specific hands. It allows players to discard an unwanted third card when they have double down. This only applies to specific hands dictated by the casino rules for this game.
Our Power Blackjack guide was written to provide detailed information about this variation. You’ll find a detailed rundown of the rules and how to play Power Blackjack. Look at our guide to locating the game and play at the best casinos. Read our strategy section and get the most accurate basic strategy charts for this particular blackjack variant.
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Before diving into the specific rule changes which define Power Blackjack, readers who haven’t doubled down in a long while are encouraged to take a few moments to refresh their memory on regular online blackjack. Brush up on the basics and return to this page fully prepared for the Power Blackjack primer.
Power Blackjack is played using the standard 52 card deck of playing cards, and all cards hold their normal values – 2s through 9s are valued at their numerical rank, 10s and face cards (Js, Qs, Ks) are valued at 10, and aces (As) hold a variable value of 1 or 11 depending on the player’s need.
Under most house rules, a six deck shoe will be in play.
Basic Blackjack Rules Used
Standard rules took straight from ordinary blackjack which remains unchanged in Power Blackjack are as follows:
Winning Blackjacks Pays Out at 3 to 2
Whenever you’re lucky enough to land the game’s best hand, an ace combined with any 10 value card, you’ll immediately earn a payout of 3 to 2 on your money. Unlike other blackjack variants which remove the premium payout for making blackjack, the Power variety keeps this reward in place.
The Dealer Must Hit on Soft 17
On occasions when the dealer reaches a total of 17, which also contains an ace, the hand is known as a “soft 17” because the value could be changed to 7. The dealer must hit until they reach 17 or better, at which point they must stand, but in Power Blackjack, they must also take a hit on soft 17s. Some games and house rule setups require the dealer to stand on soft 17, which actually benefits the player ever so slightly, but in Power Blackjack, the dealer will be hitting on soft 17s.
Players Can Make Regular Double Down Holding Any Two Card Total
In some forms of blackjack the double down option is limited to certain totals (usually 9, 10, and 11), but in Power Blackjack, you can perform a normal double down holding any two-card starting hand (except blackjack of course).
Players Can Double Down After Splitting
Anytime you split two paired cards to form two new hands, and one or both of the new hands shows a favorable total, you may then choose to double down.
Players Can Split Up To Four Times
Whenever you hold a paired two-card starting hand (4 4, 8 8, etc), you can put up an additional Ante bet equal to your original in order to split. This turns the hand into two new hands, and the dealer will then distribute one more card to each to form two-card starting hands. From there, the hands are played out as per usual, and in Power Blackjack, if you receive another paired total after splitting, you can simply re-split (up to four times) by following the same procedure.
Players May Not Surrender
In many forms of blackjack, players can use the surrender option when holding an inferior starting hand against a strong dealer up card. Players forfeit the hand straight away, but in return, they receive half of their original Ante bet back. In Power Blackjack, however, no player surrender is allowed.
Now that we’ve covered the common rules shared by Power Blackjack and its age-old predecessor, let’s move on to the unique gameplay features that give this exciting game its name.
Steps to Play Power Blackjack
Place a Mandatory Ante Bet
To begin a hand of Power Blackjack, players must put up a mandatory Ante bet which must equal or exceed the posted table minimum.
Going forward, we’ll use a running example hand to help hammer home central gameplay concepts. For the betting round, let’s assume that we’ve wagered the standard $5 on the Ante bet, but because Power Blackjack includes two special plays, we’ll actually take two hands (also known as playing two “spots” on the table). This will help us illustrate both the Power Double and the Power Split separately to avoid complicating matters.
Thus, we’ll wager $5 on the first hand, and $5 more on the second hand.
The Dealer Distributes the Cards
When all players have anted up, the dealer will deliver two cards face up 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).
In Power Blackjack, like in other blackjack variants, whenever the dealer shows an ace or a 10 value as their up card, they’ll proceed to check their hole card to see whether or not they hold a blackjack. This can be accomplished the old fashioned way, by taking a peek, or by scanning the cards through a special device which detects aces and face cards. When the dealer does find a blackjack in the hole, all player hands are deemed immediate losers – except for player blackjacks.
In the running example hands, we’ve been dealt the 10 5 for the first hand and the 5 6 for the second hand. The dealer, meanwhile, shows a modest 4 as their up card.
Using the Power Moves
What makes Power Blackjack special is the inclusion of two additional player actions, which supplement the usual stand/hit/double/split dynamic. In this game, whenever you hold specific two card hard starting hands, you can exercise the Power Split or Power Double moves.
The Power Split
In order to use the Power Split, you must hold any hard total of 15 or 16. Normally, you can only split – or divide a two-card starting hand into two separate hands at the cost of an additional Ante bet – when holding a pair. Experienced blackjack players are accustomed to splitting the 8 8, for example, taking a tough 16 total and turning it into an 8 and 8, which are both turned into new starting hands with the addition of another card.
But in Power Blackjack, the Power Split move allows you to take any hard total of 15 or 16 and split the cards (at the cost of an additional Ante bet) into two separate hands.
We can use the first hand from our running example hand to show how the Power Split plays out. For this hand, we put up $5 for the Ante and were dealt the 10 5. With a hard 15 total, we can Power Split, so we’ll put up $5 more to divide the 10 5 into a 10 and a 5. The dealer then delivers a single card to each new hand, giving us a 10 J for 21, and a 5 4 for 9. We’d then hit the 9, receiving another 9 to bring our total to 18, before standing.
The Power Split doesn’t cost anything more than a normal split, and the hand plays out the exact same way when making either a split or a Power Split. The only difference between the two is that normal splits are confined to paired starting hands, while the Power Split can be performed on any hard 15 or 16 total.
The Power Double
The other special play in Power Blackjack is the Power Double. This move can be performed whenever you hold a hard 9, 10, or 11 two-card starting hand. When making a Power Double, the process will play out just like a normal double down, so you’ll put up an additional wager exactly equal to your Ante bet, and the dealer will deliver a single additional card to complete your hand.
But in a Power Double, if you don’t like the result of that third card, you can discard it and draw one more card from the deck in hopes of improving your total.
Every blackjack player knows the pain of finding a perfect 5 6 or 4 7 for the 11 total, doubling down, and receiving a lowly 2 for your trouble. It’s tough to win with a low total after doubling down, so the Power Double option lets players ditch a bad card and try one more time to catch the face card they’re looking for.
Returning to the running example hand, let’s use the remaining hand in play to see how the Power Double really works. In this hand, we’ve wagered $5 and received the 5 6 for an 11 total. We’ll go ahead and double down, of course, putting up $5 more and taking one more card. In this case, the dealer slides us a 4, so our total now stands at 15. With so many 10s and face cards in the deck, we know it’s likely that we’ll draw to a 21 if given another shot, so we’ll Power Double and discard that 4 in favor of a second draw. This time, the dealer obliges with a Q, and our total now stands at 21.
The Purpose of Power Plays
By now you may have observed that these Power plays decisively favor the player, giving you extra chances to improve bad starting hands and catch superior double down draws.
As a signature of Hall’s innovative approach to blackjack game design, he always includes players friendly rules like these, while offsetting them with a single rule change that benefits the house: the “Push 22” rule.
The Dealer’s Turn
In games like Power Blackjack, any hand which results in the dealer going bust on a total of exactly 22 is actually bad for the player. Under the Push 22 rule, dealer busts on 22 totals don’t result in player wins, and instead, all non-busted player hands will have their bets returned as a push.
We can use the running example hands to see how the Push 22 rule shakes out. We have played our way to 18 and 21 totals on our Power Split hand, and a 21 total on our Power Double hand, while the dealer shows a 4 as their up card.
The dealer then turns over a J as their hole card, giving them a 14 total. They must hit, and doing so adds an 8 to their hand – which would normally be a cause for celebration, as the dealer has gone bust with a 22.
Declare a Winner and Payout
The only time a dealer total of 22 doesn’t result in a push for the player is when you hold a blackjack. In this case, blackjacks versus a dealer 22 are paid out at even money – which is a reduction from the normal 3 to 2 payout on player blackjacks.
With the Push 22 rule in play, however, this draw out for the dealer actually causes all non-busted player hands to have their bets pushed. So even though we made 21 on two hands, and a strong 18 on the other, we’d have all of our bets pushed back for an unsatisfying chop.
According to Hall’s analysis of the game, you can expect the dealer to land on 22 totals on 7.36 percent of hands, but even so, this rule offsets the player friendly Power plays and restores the house’s precious edge.
Best Places to Play Power Blackjack
Despite a proven track record and a world class pedigree, even legendary casino game inventors like Hall have a dud on their hands from time to time.
It appears that Power Blackjack is that dud for Hall, as the game just never did catch on and spread like his previous contributions to the industry.
The Unfortunate State of the Game
Searches which limit the results to the last year show no current news on installations and placements. Additionally, the Table Games pages on the web sites for the casinos where Power Blackjack was previously played don’t list the game as being currently available.
Power Blackjack is approved for play in Nevada and Washington state, so checking around the small regional casinos in both areas offers your best bet for locating active tables in the brick and mortar setting.
When it comes to online casinos, Power Blackjack’s day came and went along with WagerWorks, as the software provider’s sale to IGT forced the game’s removal. Today, the major online casinos which once carried Power Blackjack no longer do, so online gambling fans interested in this twenty-one variant seem to be out of luck.
Power Blackjack Strategy
Along with the general strategic guidelines used in blackjack, also known as basic strategy, Power Blackjack offers players the chance to think critically about the game’s two Power plays.
As a result, Power Blackjack contains a twofold strategic approach, one for the base game’s stand/hit/double/split decisions, and another for the Power moves.
If you’re looking for a basic strategy chart to guide your base game decisions, one constructed exactly like the tables you’re accustomed to using in traditional blackjack, look no further than the Wizard of Odds. Courtesy of Michael Shackleford, an extremely talented mathematician and casino game analyst, the Wizard website contains the most accurate, thoroughly researched, and informative calculations to help players crack the code behind casino games.
Basic Strategy Charts
Shackleford has worked his usual magic on Power Blackjack, so take a visit to his main page for the game, where you’ll find detailed, color-coded basic strategy charts to help you make difficult base game decisions. Reading the charts is simple enough, as all you need to do is scan the left-hand column for your starting hand total, before running across the table to find the dealer’s up card. At the nexus point of the grid, you’ll find a square reading either “S” (stand), “H” (hit), “D” (double down), “P” (split), or “PD” (Power Double).
How to Play the Power Moves
As for the game’s two Power plays, strategy for the Power Split is simple enough: whenever the option is available to you (holding a hard 15 or 16 total), you should always take it. The rule was created because hard 15 and 16 totals are notoriously tricky hands in blackjack, so whenever you can ditch those difficult to play totals and start with two fresh hands, it’s in your best interests to do so.
Assessing the relative merits of the Power Double is a little more complicated, but once again Shackleford has gamblers covered, as he advises the following course of action:
Power Blackjack Power Double Strategy
Players should hold onto their first double down draw card whenever one of these scenarios occurs:
- Whenever the double down produces a 20 or 21 total, keep that card.
- Whenever the double down produces a 19 total, keep that card, except when it’s an 8 against a dealer 10.
- Whenever the double down produces an 18 total against a dealer’s 7 up card, keep that card.
Players should take the Power Double option in all other double down scenarios. Effectively, if your double down produces a 17 total or lower, you should always take the Power Double.
By sticking to these strict Power Double guidelines, as well as Shackleford’s basic strategy chart, Power Blackjack players can enjoy a house edge of 0.55 percent. This falls perfectly in line with the house edge afforded to basic strategy using fans of traditional blackjack, so for all intents and purposes, you won’t be sacrificing a bit of equity by choosing Power Blackjack over the alternative.
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Power Blackjack History
The blackjack variant known as Power Blackjack was designed by acclaimed casino game inventor Geoff Hall, who cemented his reputation as one of the industry’s great minds by coming up with Black Blackjack Switch back in the late 1990s.
Before taking his chances as a casino game inventor, Hall pursued a much more risk averse profession: advantage play blackjack. As a successful card counter, Hall plied his trade in casinos and ground out a living, but during a long session, inspiration struck – changing the game of blackjack forever after.
Creation of Power Blackjack
While playing two spots on the table, Hall began to notice that in most cases, his two hands would be improved if he were able to switch one card for another between the two. This idea led Hall to devise a new take on traditional twenty-one, and in 2001 the game of Blackjack Switch was born.
Now recognized as one of the casino gambling industry’s all-time hits, Blackjack Switch is played all over the world. The game’s success led Hall to a full-time career as a casino game design consultant, and he’s since worked with Shuffle Master and Playtech to create several blackjack variants, including Free Bet Blackjack, Never Bust Blackjack, and Power Blackjack.
The premise of Power Blackjack, like many of Hall’s creations, stems directly from his experience as a player. In a 2013 interview with ThePOGG.com, Hall recounted how Power Blackjack came to be:
“Power Blackjack was my second blackjack variant that I designed. Again I looked at what players either dislike in the current game or would like to do in a new game. The worst two hands in blackjack for a player are 15 and 16, so I thought ‘Why not let the player eliminate these hands by giving them a chance to split them like you would a pair?’
The other option called the ‘Power Double’ allows players to discard the doubling card if they don’t like it and take the next one out of the shoe.”
Game Debut in Casinos
Hall filed a patent claim to protect his Power Blackjack concept in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2012 that the game made its debut in brick and mortar casinos.
Originally tied to Hall’s preferred client Shuffle Master (which later became SHFL Entertainment), the rights to Power Blackjack were transferred to Bally Technologies in 2013 after the latter company acquired its rival in a $1.3 billion merger.
The Expansion of the Game
During its debut phase, Power Blackjack appeared at the Paris on the Las Vegas Strip, and the Downtown Vegas casino Fitzgerald’s. Additionally, the game was approved for play in Washington state, where it eventually secured installations in a few local casinos.
Before he began pursuing placements in brick and mortar venues, Hall spent the intervening years between the game’s invention and 2012 adapting the concept for online play.
Online Gaming Compatibility
Partnering with WagerWorks, a leading online casino software company which later became a subsidiary of International Game Technology (IGT), Hall developed a version of Power Blackjack compatible for online gambling platforms. The game appeared on WagerWorks powered online casino platforms for a short time, but when the company was sold off to IGT, which in turn was acquired by GTECH, Power Blackjack was lost in the proverbial shuffle.