Few months ago, delivered a flyer touting new blackjack variation, Super Fun 21, that is played in Las Vegas at New York-New York and other casinos in the Stations chain. The game have some great rule:
- Double down on any number of cards, including after splitting pairs.
- After the dealer has checked for blackjack, player may surrender half the bet instead of finishing the hand, even after hitting, splitting or doubling down.
- Any hand totaling 20 or less with six cards pays even money instantly, unless the player has doubled down.
- Any hand totaling 21 with five or more cards pays 2-1 instantly, unless the player has doubled down.
- Player blackjacks always win, even if the dealer also has a blackjack.
- Player blackjacks in diamonds pay 2-1.
Up to that point, the rules are so good that I started looking for the hammer. Without some powerful negative rules, this is a single-deck game that would break the casino.
The hammer fell with the last rule:
- All other player blackjacks pay even money.
An average of only 1 of 16 blackjacks will have both cards in diamonds, so in Super Fun 21 we settle for even-money payoffs on 15 of every 16 blackjacks. That leaves a big shortfall from the 3-2 payoffs we expect in regular blackjack.
There’s one more negative rule that wasn’t on the flyer. The dealer hits soft 17.
Take that all together, and we’re left with a game that has a house edge of 0.77 percent against basic strategy players. That’s a house edge higher than we see even on most six-deck games. In the Chicago area, six-deck games at Empress and Harrah’s in Joliet have house edges of only 0.33 percent, less than half that in single-deck Super Fun 21.
Nevertheless, some players will find all the bonuses and options fun. If you’re among those who are willing to give up an extra few tenths on the house edge in exchange for being allowed to double down on a four-card 11, you need to make some strategy adjustments.
Let’s take a look at basic strategy for hard hands in Super Fun 21, then move on next week to strategy for doubling down and splitting pairs.
Player’s total is 5, 6, 7 or 8: Hit.
Player’s total is 9: Hit if the dealer’s up card is 7 or higher. Double down against 2 through 6, except just hit against a 2 if your 9 consists of three or more cards, and hit against 3 or 4 if you have four or more cards.
Player’s total is 10: Double against all dealer up cards, except just hit against 10 if you have three or more cards and hit against all other up cards if you have four or more cards.
Player’s total is 11: Double against all up cards, except just hit if you have four or more cards.
Player’s total is 12: Hit if the dealer shows 2, 3, 7 or higher. If the dealer shows 4, 5 or 6, stand unless you have four or more cards. With four or more cards, hit–you’re looking for the bonus payoff on a five-card 21 or possibly the automatic payoff on six cards totaling 20 or less.
Player’s total is 13: Hit if the dealer shows a 7 or higher. Stand if the dealer shows 2 through 6, except hit against 2 or 3 if you have four or more cards, and against 4 through 6 if you have five cards.
Player’s total is 14: Hit if the dealer shows a 7 or higher. Stand against 2 through 6, unless you have five cards. Then hit.
Player’s total is 15: Hit if the dealer shows 7 through 10. If the dealer shows an Ace, surrender, except hit if you have four or more cards. Stand against 4 through 6. Stand against 2 or 3, except hit if you have five cards.
Player’s total is 16: Hit if the dealer shows 7 through 9. Surrender against an Ace, except hit if you have four or more cards. Stand on 2 through 6.
Player’s total is 17: Stand against 2 through 10. If the dealer has an Ace, surrender.
Note that we rarely surrender in Super Fun. The only hand we always surrender is hard 17 against an Ace. The only other times surrender comes into play is when we have four or more cards, with 15 against an Ace or 16 against a 10 or Ace.
We can also boil down strategy for doubling down nicely. Double on 10 or 11 against all up cards or 9 against 2 through 6. Exceptions: just hit three-card 9 against 2; 4-card 9 against 3 or 4; 3-card 10 against 10; 4-card 10 against all up cards, and 4-card 11 against all up cards.