Free Bet Blackjack Basics
In many ways, Free Bet Blackjack follows the standard rules. However, there are a few differences you need to be aware of. To begin with, it allows players to Double Down for free if their hand is a hard 9, 10 or 11 (a hard hand is one that does not contain an Ace). It also allows players to split pairs for free as long as the cards do not have a value of 10. As a result, there are a theoretical seven free bets available per hand. This would require the player to split three times and double down on all of them.
As the saying goes, “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” and in Free Bet Blackjack, the trade-off is that if the dealer has 22, rather than busting, the bets are returned as a push. However, a player blackjack will still beat a dealer 22.
The game itself follows the usual structure. Players are aiming to build a hand of cards with a value closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand but without exceeding 21. The card values are also straightforward with number cards worth their face values, face cards worth 10 and Aces worth 1 or 11. As such, Blackjack can still be formed with two cards, an Ace and a 10 card.
The round starts with the player placing their bets after which they will receive two face-up cards and the dealer will receive one face-up and one facedown. If the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, then players have the chance to take out insurance at a cost of half of their bet. A winning insurance bet pays at 2:1, so that the player does not lose any money. However, here is the first expert tip. The house edge on the insurance bet is so large that it simply should never be made.
Assuming that the dealer does not have Blackjack, then players are presented with the choice of Stand, Hit, Double Down or Split. As mentioned above, Double Down will be available for free if the player is holding a hard 9, 10 or 11. Similarly, Split will be available for free if the player is holding a pair of cards that do not have a value of 10.
When the player is finished, the dealer plays. The dealer will stand on 18 and above and hit on 16 or lower. The rules regarding 17s vary from casino to casino. However, online it is usual for the dealer to stand on all 17s while in some land casinos, the dealer may hit on a soft 17.
At the end of a round, winning hands are paid at 1:1, except for Blackjack, which is paid at 3:2 (occasionally 6:5, depending on the game). Tied hands are returned as a push and as mentioned above, if the dealer has 22, then bets are returned as a push.
Free Bet Blackjack Expert Strategy
As with all versions of Blackjack, there are strategy charts for Free Bet Blackjack and they will show you the optimum decision to make in every situation. The charts are very easy to use, you simply look up your two-card hand on the left side and the dealer’s up card along the top. Where they intersect it will tell you whether you should double down, split, hit, stand, etc.
While it is allowed to bring these charts with you into a casino, many people do not like doing so. If that is the case, then there are three simple rules you should memorise to improve your strategy:
- With all pairs other than 5s, take the free split bet. If you have a pair of 5s, then Double Down.
- Always stand with a pair of 10s (the free split bet is not available anyway).
- If you have a hard 9, 10 or 11, then always take the free Double Down bet.
- Follow these rules no matter what card the dealer is showing.
There are also some rules you can follow in the case of hands where a free bet is not available. The rules are divided into those that apply to hard hands (without an Ace) and soft hands (with an Ace that can act as a 1 or 11).
If you are dealt a hard hand:
- Hit if the hand is worth 8 or less
- Hit on a 12 unless the dealer’s up card is 5 or 6, in which case Stand.
- Hit on a 14, unless the dealer is showing a 3, 4, 5 or 6, in which case Stand.
- Hit on a 14, 15 or 16 if the dealer’s card is 7 or above, otherwise Stand.
- Always stand on a hard 17.
If you are dealt a soft hand:
- Hit if you hand is worth 13 to 15 inclusive
- Hit on a soft 16 unless the dealer is showing a 6, in which case Double Down.
- Hit on a soft 17 unless the dealer is showing a 5 or 6, in which case Double Down.
- Stand on a soft 18 if the dealer is showing a 2, 3, 4, 7 or 8
- Double Down on soft 17 or 18 if the dealer is showing a 5 or 6.
- Hit if you have a soft 18 and the dealer is showing a 9, 10 or A
- Stand on soft 19 and above.
Betting Systems for Free Bet Blackjack
The above strategy will go a long way to reducing the house edge and maximising your returns. However, just as important is ensuring that you are managing your bankroll correctly. You want to be sure that you have enough funds to play with for as long as you wish.
There is some debate over whether it is better to use a flat betting system (i.e. where you bet the same on each hand) or a progression system (where you change your bet depending on whether you win or lose).
If you are to use a flat betting system it is very simple. Just divide your bankroll by the number of hands you wish to play and bet that amount per hand. If you hit a winning streak, you could either increase your bet or put aside your winnings for another time.
If you wish to use a progression system, then one option is the Oscars system. It is not designed to produce big profits. In fact, when used correctly, it should result in a profit of just one betting unit (i.e. the amount you bet on one hand). The underlying principle is that you should never place a bet that would produce more than one unit of profit.
For instance, if you were to bet $5 and win, then you have made one unit of profit and can start the system again. However, if you lose, then it means you would be down $5 and need to win $10 to secure one unit of profit. If you then win the next hand, you would be breaking even, but still no profit. This means that on the third hand you would need to increase your bet to $10, if you win then you will have made exactly one unit of profit and then start again. (If you were to bet $5 on the third hand in this scenario, your balance would be -$5 after placing the bet and $0 after winning, which is why the bet needs to be increased).
Free Bet Blackjack Side Bets
The final thing to mention is side bets. These can be very tempting as they offer the chance of huge winnings. Free Bet Blackjack often offers a number of different side bets, such as Any Pair, 21+3, hot3 and Bust It, and some of these payout as much as 250:1.
The problem with side bets is that they have a very large house edge, which means that you are most likely to lose your money. However, they can be fun, and playing blackjack should always be about having fun. Therefore, if you want to place these side bets the best thing to do is budget or them in advance. When you are calculating how much to bet per hand, include the side bet and work on the assumption that it is money that will always be lost.