How to Play Free Bet Blackjack

Blackjack
Blackjack. Christian Thomas fst050020 Getty

Learning how to play "Free Bet Blackjack" won't take more than 10 minutes. It helps if you already know how to play blackjack, but even if you don't, this short course will give you the basics so you can enjoy the game.

Free Bet Blackjack is almost just what it sounds like because after your initial wager you get to make your double-downs and split pair wagers for free! The game has already gone through a field trial and is approved by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, but is currently only offered at the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas.

However, the game, invented by Geoff Hall, is distributed by ​Shuffle Entertainment, so you can expect to see it at clubs all over the country in the future (based on the excellent results at the Nugget). The game itself has already gone through a few changes, including the removal of early surrender, but don't worry, the house edge is under .7 percent for the game played with 3-2 on blackjack.

How to Play Free Bet

Free Bet Blackjack is played with a standard English deck of cards, no jokers or wild cards are used. Standard blackjack rules apply, table minimums and maximums apply, and blackjack pays 3-2 on the game offered out of a six-deck shoe. However, the Golden Nugget also offers the games on a single deck table where blackjack pays just 6-5, just like the games they offer at the H20 Pool area with the bikini-clad dealers.

Rules for Free Bet

  • Free double-down anytime on hard 9, 10, or 11.
  • Free splits on all pairs except Tens and 4′s
  • Up to Four free re-splits, including Aces
  • Free double-down after (free) split
  • Normal double on any two cards, including after (free) split

So what constitutes free? When you reach a hard total of 9, 10 or 11, even after drawing cards, you can double-down on the house's money!

That's right. You make your regular wager to get dealt a hand, then the house matches that wager any time you reach 9, 10 or 11 and double down. They match it with a special button and if your hand wins, it gets paid the same amount as your original wager. You don't risk any more money! You can also double down on other hands if you wish, on your own money, including after a split, even if it was a free split (such as doubling down on soft hands).

The standard rules of blackjack are not changed on Free Bet Blackjack, so you can still double-down on hands other than 9, 10, 11 and you can still split your 4's (maybe against a 5 or 6) and your tens (are you really sure about doing that?) if you want, but you won't get a free bet to do it with.

This same free bet is offered any time you split a pair (except 10's and 4's). You can also resplit again for free, making up to a total of four hands, even with aces. Then, after a free split, you can get a free double-down.

So, What's the Catch for the Freebies?

Yes, Virginia, there is a catch to pay for the freebies! Just like in blackjack switch, all dealer hands totaling 22 become a push, instead of a win for the player. The house edge is still small on the 6-deck shoe game, so don't let this rule freak you out, it's a fair trade-off.

Basic Strategy for Free Bet

The most obvious change in strategy is to double down (for free) on 9, 10 or l1 against any dealer up-card. Likewise, you'll want to split (for free) on any pair except 4's (against 5 and 6 up-card only), on 5's (free double), and on 10's (don't split).

For soft hands, only double down against a dealer 6 up-card with soft 16, 17 and 18. However, if you get a free split and then have a soft 16 through soft 20, double-down (not free) against a dealer 6-up. Also double down (after a free split) against a dealer 5 up-card with a soft 17 through 19. Don't double on any other soft hands.

The game with give you plenty of extra chances to win free money without risking very much of your own, which is a great advantage at any gambling game. At most sessions of blackjack the difference between winning and losing is hitting your double-downs and splits.

Free Bet won't be any different, but you'll risk less and when you do hit your splits and doubles, you'll have a nice win!