What is Pure Blackjack?

Posted on: May 3, 2020

Pure Blackjack is a variation of the classic 21, with just a few extra rules:

  • Players race to 21.5 (instead of 22 as in California Blackjack)
  • One player is designated the player-banker
  • There are no jokers in decks used in Pure Blackjack (California Blackjack uses jokers)
  • Face cards have a value of 10 unless an ace has been initially dealt. In which case the value of the face card goes up to 10.5 points; an ace-and-face card combo, therefore, has a value of 21.5.
  • Dealers must hit on soft 17s.
  • If the player-banker has three 8s, everyone pushes or ties – even those players with 21.5

Take note that Pure Blackjack (along with variations like California Blackjack) is not technically blackjack. State Penal Code 330 outlaws house-banked games everywhere but at Indian casinos, which are governed under the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

What Other Rules Do I Have To Remember When It Comes To Pure Blackjack?

The Player-Banker
One player must be designated as the banker. As many players opt to volunteer for this role, players can serve in this role for a maximum of two consecutive hands. They must then relinquish this designation to someone else.

Advantage of the player-banker: The player-banker can lose only as much as he places in the betting circle; the money is used to pay off opponents in a clockwise fashion until it is gone.

Allowable Player Actions
Players may:double down on any two cards, split pairs, double after splits (though they get only one card when they split aces) and surrender a hand for one-half of their original bets.

What is Basic Blackjack Strategy?

“Blackjack basic strategy is a strategy that tells you the mathematically correct way to play any player hand and any dealer up card,” says the “The Wizard of Odds”, Michael Shackleford.


Blackjack guide from wizard of odds

Shackleford has several diagrams of these available on his website and says that any good blackjack player should memorize this basic strategy.

A quick look at the chart will suggest you the course of action recommended given the odds against you. All you have to do is look up your hand going down (the column on the left-most side), and the dealer’s hand across. In this case, if you’re playing a game with 4 to 8 decks, and the dealer hits on a soft 17, you get a soft 14 while the dealer has an 8, you should then hit.

“Once you memorize this you can cut the house advantage down– under good rules– to about 0.25 percent,” Shackleford says. “Considering the comps you’re gonna get from the casino it’s like free entertainment.”

Can a Player be a Long-Term Winner at Blackjack?

Shackleford answers yes. “Probably the most common way is through card counting which absolutely does work,” he says. “There are a lot of movies about it and books about it.”

The basic principle, he explains, is that when the remaining cards in the shoe are rich in tens and aces the odds favor that player. Conversely, when the remaining cards are rich in small cards the odds favor the dealer

“So the player is going to bet more when the deck is rich in good cards and he’s going to make adjustments to his strategy to hit less and double more in the situations when the deck is rich in the good cards.”

Can a Player be a Long-Term winner using Basic Strategy?

While knowledge or mastery of the basic strategy can cut down the house advantage to 0.26 percent (under liberal strip rules), Shackleford points out that you can’t overcome the house advantage with basic strategy alone.

“The casino is always going to have a slight advantage,” he says, “so the player should not count on winning long-term with the basic strategy. However, if the player factors in comps and tournament invitations and other niceties that the casino gives you (much like in video poker) you can come out ahead with the basic strategy.”