Double Exposure

Double Exposure is a popular blackjack variation, also called Zweikartenspiel which translates as “two card game” from German. This variant was created by game theorist and mathematician Richard Epstein who wrote about it in his 1967 book Theory of Gambling and Statistical Logic.

The game first appeared in Sin City’s Vegas World in the fall of 1979. A month later, Double Exposure made its way to the floors of four other Vegas casinos and quickly garnered the attention of casual and professional players alike.

Today, the game can be found in a number of landbased casinos where you might encounter it under the name Face Up Blackjack. It is also available for free and real-money play on the internet across various online casinos powered by software suppliers like Microgaming, Play’n GO, RealTime Gaming, and NetEnt.

The main peculiarity of this blackjack variation is that both cards of the dealer are exposed, which gives the player a significant edge. Because of this, most casino operators offering Double Exposure have tweaked some of the other rules to regain their advantage.

Despite having a higher house edge than most standard blackjack variations, Double Exposure remains one of the most profitable games you can find on the casino floor when played optimally. Continue reading for more in-depth information on Double Exposure’s rules, house edge, and optimal strategy.

The Rules of Double Exposure Blackjack

Rules of Double Exposure BlackjackDouble Exposure is played with six or eight full decks and all cards are dealt face-up, including those that comprise the dealer’s starting hand. To offset the advantage this gives you, casinos have introduced several important changes to the other rules, starting with the even-money payout on blackjacks. Note that when Mr. Epstein first developed the game, blackjacks were paid at the standard rate of 3 to 2. Sadly, the reduced blackjack payout is not the only “tweak” casinos have given to Double Exposure.

In this game, the dealer takes all ties except when they push with the player’s blackjack (although it is possible to find variations where you pay your dealer’s blackjack push as well). These are two of the biggest differences in Double Exposure. The dealer standing rules and the other playing conditions tend to vary depending on where you play the game but we shall attempt to outline them in brief here.

In the majority of cases, Double Exposure dealers must take a hit on soft 17 which increases the casino’s advantage. On rare occasions, players might be able to find a Double Exposure table where the dealer stands on soft 17. The online variant of Double Exposure created by supplier Play’n GO requires the dealer to stand on soft 17. However, the H17 dealer rule still prevails in most landbased and online casinos.

Rules for Popular Double Exposure Blackjack Variations
Decks 8
Dealer Stands Dealer stands on hard 17
Exposure 2 cards facing upwards
Double Down Allowed only on totals of 9, 10, or 11
Split Allowed on any pair
Re-split up to 4 hands; re-split on Aces is not allowed
Hit on Split Aces No
Push All ties are won by dealer
Blackjack Payout 1 to 1
Insurance No
Surrender No

Blackjack Double Exposure Gameplay


The House Edge in Double Exposure

House EdgeDouble Exposure yields a slightly higher house edge when compared to most standard blackjack variations, which is understandable considering you lose ties and are paid even-money on your naturals. The rule related to how ties are settled is one of the biggest killers of the players’ edge here. This rule completely negates the advantage seeing both cards of the dealer gives you.

The trouble is the most frequent tie in the game is between dealer and player hands that total 20. This tie occurs most frequently because the ten-value cards outnumber any other card denomination. This peculiarity of the rules causes the players to hit totals they would never draw to under normal circumstances. In other words, you will bust very often in this game.

Each rule in blackjack has a direct impact on the casino’s advantage. Like we previously said, the dealer hitting soft 17 is detrimental for the players because it adds 0.40% to the casino’s edge. If doubling after a split is prohibited, this gives the house edge an additional boost of 0.32%. The restrictions on splitting and doubling also have a dramatic negative effect on your advantage.

Strategy for Double Exposure

Strategy for Double ExposureThis variant of 21 calls for a basic strategy that is different from what players of standard blackjack are accustomed to. You cannot help but notice this the very instant you take a peek at a Double Exposure basic strategy chart.

The chart is more complex because it accounts for a higher number of dealer hands than the standard basic strategy which takes into consideration only the dealer upcard. There are only ten upcards the dealer can possibly show in hole-card games. When both dealer cards are exposed, you have dealer hard totals 4 through 20 and soft totals 12 through 20.

Another thing you are bound to notice is that the plays for certain dealer totals are different depending on whether the dealer’s hand is soft or hard. The strategy also makes a distinction between hard totals (like hard 15, for example) and weak dealer totals (like 5) which are not yet hard. To proceed with this example, the strategy for Double Exposure (with S17) against a dealer with hard 15 is to double down on soft totals 13 through 20 and hard totals 5 through 11.

Another major discrepancy between the strategies for Double Exposure and standard blackjack concerns your decisions when the dealer has reached their standing position of 17 or above. You should draw to all hands, soft and hard, as long as their total is lower than the dealer’s standing hand.