Blackjack Switch

There are over one hundred variations of 21 but Blackjack Switch is undoubtedly among the most enticing ones. This variant of blackjack was created by gambling expert Geoff Hall, who came up with the idea while playing a game of regular blackjack.

During one of his betting sessions, Hall observed that when he spread his action to two spots, he often ended up with two very weak hands that bore a significant improvement if only he had the opportunity to switch their top cards (something which is not allowed in traditional blackjack).

Hall introduced an earlier version of his Blackjack Switch at the annual Global Gaming Expo show in Las Vegas in the fall of 2000. The variation made its official debut in February 2001 when it was installed in Iowa’s Harvey’s Casino (presently Harrah’s).

But it was not until 2003 when the game really took off. Hall tweaked his blackjack variation and included an additional rule which stipulated that the dealer and the player push when the dealer’s hand total is 22.

This modified version of Blackjack Switch first appeared in Las Vegas’ Four Queens Casino in 2003 and became an instant success among gamblers. Today, Blackjack Switch is widely available across landbased casinos worldwide but you can also enjoy it online on gambling sites powered by the software supplier Playtech. Read on for further clarifications on its rules, house edge, and strategy.

The Rules of Blackjack Switch

Rules of Blackjack SwitchBlackjack Switch borrows most of its main rules from the traditional game of blackjack but there are quite a few differences. The game is usually played with six or eight full decks dealt out of a shoe. The table layout is different because there are two betting boxes per player instead of one. Respectively, each participant in the game is required to play two hands simultaneously. The two bets are equal in size despite the fact the outcomes of the hands are resolved separately.

During the initial deal, each player receives two hands with the cards dealt face up. The dealer receives one upcard and one hole card. After side bets are resolved, the dealer asks each participant in the game whether or not they want to switch the top cards of their two hands.

Suppose, for example, you are dealt stiff hands like Q-4 and 6-J against a dealer’s 6. You can significantly improve your chances of winning if you switch the top cards, i.e. the 4 and the J. This way, you improve your first hand to a solid total of 20 and have the opportunity to make a potentially successful double down on the second hand whose total is now 10.

Rules for Blackjack Switch
Decks 6 or 8
Hands Player must play two hands simultaniously
Dealer Hits Dealer hits on soft 17
Switching Player can switch the top cards of the two hands dealt in the beginning
Double Down Allowed on any two cards; only single card is drawn after doubling down
Double Down After Split Yes
Insurance Yes
Insurance Payout 2 to 1
Side Bet Super Match Side Bet on initial two hands

Blackjack Switch Gameplay


Side Bets in Blackjack Switch

Side Bets in Blackjack SwitchAnother peculiarity of Blackjack Switch is that the game supports a range of side bets which, if won, can earn you higher payouts. These are separate bets and have no impact on the outcome of your two starting hands. The interesting thing here is that these side bets mimic certain poker hands like pairs, sets, and quads. In Playtech’s online variation of the game, these propositional wagers are called Super Match bets.

The player is required to post the side bet at the start of the round before any cards have been dealt on the table. The side bet is resolved immediately after the initial deal before players make any further decisions regarding their two hands.

Keep in mind these are propositional bets that have absolutely no impact on the odds of winning your original two hands. The chips for the side bets are posted in the small betting circle between your two main betting boxes. It is easy to spot since it blatantly reads Super Match.

House Edge and Variance in Blackjack Switch

House Edge and VarianceThe biggest appeal of this game results from the fact it yields a fairly low house edge, particularly when the player utilizes optimal basic and switching strategies. Of course, the precise house advantage the game yields depends on the fixed set of rules laid out by the casino.

A variation of Blackjack Switch where the dealer is required to stand on soft 17 (S17) would yield a slightly smaller house edge than a game that plays under the H17 rule. Another variable that needs to be factored in is deck number. When more decks are in play the house edge increases slightly.

The house edge players are fighting depends on whether they are playing online or at a landbased casino. In most landbased venues in the US where the game is available, the advantage of the house amounts to around 0.25%. Playtech’s online version of Blackjack Switch yields around 0.15% house advantage due to differences in some of the rules.

The Strategy for Blackjack Switch

Strategy for Blackjack SwitchPlayers can further reduce the house edge for this blackjack variation by applying the optimal strategy. The trouble here is said strategy is vastly different from what blackjack players have grown accustomed to. Most players struggle with their switch decisions.

Switching the top cards is pretty much an intuitive decision with some hands. For example, if you start a round with 10-3 and 7-K, it is quite obvious you need to switch the top cards so that the King goes next to the 10 for a solid hard 20 and the 7 goes next to the 3 for a two-card total of 10 which makes for a great doubling opportunity. This switch decision is a no-brainer but what about two initial hands like A-5 and K-6? You need a strategy for this.

The first decision you make in this game is whether or not to switch your top cards. This decision should be based on which set of two hands is stronger against a particular dealer upcard. First, you evaluate the strength of the card the dealer exposes.

Upcards 7 through Ace put the dealer in a strong position whereas upcards 3 through 6 are considered weak for the dealer. The deuce is treated separately because the likelihood of the dealer busting with this upcard is lower in this variation of the game. This is to be attributed to the rule which stipulates that the dealer pushes with 22 against all player hands except blackjacks. Once you evaluate the strength of the dealer’s upcard, you need to analyze how strong your initial two hands are.

One simpler approach you can start with is the switching strategy outlined by gaming mathematician Cindy Liu where the strength of the players’ initial hands is ranked in descending order as follows – 21, 20, 19, A-A, 11, 10, 9, 18/8, and 8-8.