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
Double 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|
|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|
Rules of Double Exposure Blackjack Additional TipsVarious restrictions are imposed on the players’ doubling and splitting decisions. Doubling can be extremely profitable when you get to see both cards of the dealer which is why most casinos limit Double Exposure players to doubling only on two-card totals of 9, 10, and 11. This restriction also gives the house edge a good boost.
Splitting in Double Exposure is possible on all pairs but resplitting is often not allowed (one exception is Microgaming’s version where you can resplit to up to four hands, including Aces). When Aces are split, each Ace receives only one additional card as is the case in standard blackjack. When a split Ace receives a ten-value card, this counts as a regular 21 total but this is not much of a problem considering you get even money both for your blackjacks and multiple-card 21s.
Many versions of Double Exposure abide by the NDAS rule, prohibiting players from doubling after splitting pairs. This is again detrimental for the player and advantageous for the house. Some casinos would go as far as restricting you from splitting unlike ten-value cards like K-Q which further increases their advantage.
Another thing that may be absent in Double Exposure is the insurance bet which makes sense considering you get to see the dealer’s hand after the initial deal. This is the case with the online variations of the game, although some landbased casinos give players the option to buy insurance against Aces before the dealer flips over their second card.
Surrender is not possible in this blackjack variant which, needless to say, does not work to your advantage. These are the most common rules for Double Exposure. Now, let’s take a look at how they affect the house edge of this blackjack variation.
Blackjack Double Exposure Gameplay
The House Edge in Double Exposure
Double 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.
House Edge in Double Exposure Additional TipsA Double Exposure variation that combines unfavorable playing conditions (like the player and dealer pushing with blackjacks, H17, doubling on 10 and 11 only, and NDAS) yields a house edge of nearly 1.75%. More than half of this edge results from the limitations imposed on doubling down. If you remove these restrictions and allow the player to double on any two-card total, you will be fighting an edge that is nearly identical to that in regular shoe games.
If all other rules remain the same but the player can double on all two-card totals, the house edge for Double Exposure would range between 0.20% and 0.70% with optimal strategy. So the bottom line is you need to look for S17 Double Exposure tables where you can double on all starting hands if you insist on standing a chance to beat this blackjack variation.
Strategy for Double Exposure
This 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.
Strategy for Double Exposure Additional TipsJust to give you an example, let’s assume you have a hard 18 and the dealer exposes a soft 18. You either hit or you lose irrevocably. It makes sense you should also refrain from doubling and splitting against dealers who have reached their standing total of 17 or higher. Double Exposure players should also stand on hard 12 through hard 15 when the dealer has 4 through 6 and 12 through 16.
Double Exposure players should approach the game more aggressively because of the disadvantageous rules. You double down and split pairs more frequently in this game because you need to pour money onto the table when the dealer is weak.
Conversely, when you are up against a dealer with a stronger hand total, you should be more conservative with your playing decisions. If you have a pair of Aces, for example, you should hit it instead of splitting when the dealer has 11 or pat hands 17 through 21. Player hard totals of 12 and 13 should be hit against dealers with hard totals 7 through 11. If allowed, you should also double on your 5, 6, and 7 when the dealer has hard 14 through hard 16.
As you can see, Double Exposure is a whole different beast than standard blackjack. Be sure to scour the landbased and online casinos you play at for the best Double Exposure conditions (S17 and DAS are a must) and do not settle for anything worse. This game is not beatable under severely unfavorable rules. Last but definitely not least, be sure to arm yourself with the basic strategy that applies to this variation before you attempt to take the house down on Double Exposure.