European Blackjack is quite possibly the most popular online blackjack variation, and certainly not just among European players. While many of us assume that European and classic blackjack are one in the same, there are actually significant differences to the experienced eye.
What players love most about European Blackjack is its potential weakness to card counting: the house edge is already low, but counters can push it much further in this variation.
How to Play
While some adventurous blackjack variations turn the entire game on its head, European Blackjack is full of subtle differences and minor tweaks. Beginner players might not notice the differences, but they’re night and day to veterans.
First of all, many online casinos offer European Blackjack with just 2 decks, whereas traditional blackjack is played with 6-8 decks. Even though European Blackjack has a slightly higher house edge, the 2-deck game is a magnet for card counters. Why? Because counting cards is significantly easier with a lower number of decks.
Card counting and basic strategy
This difference allows quality counters to slash the house edge further, making the game predictably profitable. For beginners, European Blackjack is brilliant for introducing features you won’t see at a classic table: new splitting and doubling rules, no ‘blackjack peek’, alternative basic strategy, and more.
Of course it’s also perfect for beginners to learn the art of counting and implementing basic strategy. In terms of choosing a strategy, we recommend downloading a ‘basic strategy card’ – this is a colored infographic which tells you what move to make (hit, stand, double, etc) for every scenario. Use a demo RNG game to practice for free.
To learn counting, you just need to pick a strategy (Hi-Lo is easiest) and get practicing, even at home with a deck of cards.
The benefits of European Blackjack
In addition to the low house edge and its weakness to card counting, European Blackjack is also available at virtually every online casino. There’s a huge range of betting limits, subtle rules changes, and even live dealer European Blackjack tables. In terms of availability, the game is second to none.
Since the game has very similar mechanics to classic blackjack, it’s also an easy gateway game: players can experiment with a new rule set without the shock of jumping straight into a game like 21st Century Blackjack.
European Blackjack Rules
The first major difference with European Blackjack is that the cards are dealt in a different order: the result is that the dealer never peeks for blackjack. Insurance bets must therefore be made prior to dealing: in classic ‘American’ blackjack, if the dealer’s face-up card is an ace, the player can take insurance in response. Insurance in this variation pays out 2:1.
European Blackjack can also use as few as 2 decks, while classic online blackjack usually uses 6-8 decks. The more cards in the shoe, the harder it is to effectively leverage card counting, and therefore it’s easier to count with European blackjack.
In terms of gameplay, players can only double down for dealt ranges of 9-11. Worse, instead of being able to split any pair, it’s only possible to split 4s, 5s or 10-valued cards. And only one split is permitted per hand, unlike the 3 splits in classic blackjack. Surrender is never an option in European Blackjack.
But some small good news: the dealer does always stand on soft 17. With all these rule changes, players might expect the house edge to have doubled. In fact, the house edge in European Blackjack is only a fraction over 0.1% higher than the traditional blackjack.
Play European blackjack for real money at our top casinos:
There’s no getting away from it: European Blackjack is an awesome variation on many levels. For the advanced player, its susceptibility to card counting is huge. If you can find a 2-deck game (as opposed to the more common 6 or 8 decks) then counting is massively simplified and it’s easier for players to reach a negative house edge.
But another benefit of European Blackjack is its simplicity. The game is fundamentally similar to classic blackjack, but its nuances and tweaks give it a totally fresh look. This is perfect for helping players improve their general understanding of blackjack (dealing with new insurance rules, for example) without being overwhelming.
The standard European Blackjack setup includes:
- 2 decks
- Dealer stands on soft 17
- Insurance available and pays 2/1
- 3:2 blackjack payout
- Split pairs 3 times
And as we said, it’s also available in almost every online casino. But the game isn’t perfect. Classic blackjack using perfect strategy does offer a lower house edge, and while counting with 6-8 decks is hard, it’s far from impossible. There’s no hole card (so the dealer can’t peek for blackjack) and some European Blackjack tables are now using CSMs to prevent counting.
However, despite these minor limitations, European Blackjack is incredibly popular, potentially lucrative, and a variation any blackjack player will enjoy.
- Published date: 2020-04-13 12:08
- Modified date: 2020-05-03 09:21