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A Beginner’s Guide to Free Bet Blackjack

An Introduction to Free Bet Blackjack  

If you have ever been to Las Vegas then you will almost certainly have come across tables offering the game known as Free Bet Blackjack. This is a hugely exciting Blackjack variant that you can also enjoy online, including in the mr.play Live Casino.  The game takes its name from the fact that players are offered free bets in some situations.  

Essentially, Free Bet Blackjack allows players to Double Down for free on hands that are hard 9, 10 or 11. A hand is said to be hard if it does not contain an Ace. Furthermore, the game also allows hands to be split for free, as long as the cards being split don’t have a value of 10. This could actually result in up to seven free bets per hand, if a player is able to split three times and can Double Down on all of them. There is of course a trade-off for this. If the dealer has 22 then player bets are returned as a push (unless they have Blackjack).  

How to Play Free Bet Blackjack 

Free Bet Blackjack is played like any other standard Blackjack variant and it takes no time at all to get used to. The aim of the game is to build a hand that has a value closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand, but without exceeding 21, which is known as going bust. While there are some exceptions to this in Free Bet Blackjack, essentially, as long as the player’s hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand is at the end of a round, then the player has won.  

Hand values are very straightforward. The number cards 2 through 10 are worth their face values, the picture cards (Jack, Queen and King) are worth 10, and Aces are worth 1 or 11. Therefore, it is possible to form 21 with just two cards, an Ace and a 10 card. This hand is called Blackjack and it beats all other hands.  

At the beginning of each round, players place their main bets and any of the optional side bets. When playing online, all players will be betting on the same hand, but each player is able to make his/her own decisions. When playing in a casino, each player will be dealt a hand of his or her own. After betting is complete, the dealer deals two face-up cards to the player and the dealer receives one face-up card and one facedown.  

If the dealer has been dealt a face-up Ace then players have the chance to take out insurance against the dealer having Blackjack. Insurance costs half of the main bet and the dealer will then check for Blackjack. If the dealer has Blackjack then Insurance pays at 2:1.  

The game then offers the standard Blackjack hand decisions, with a few differences that make this variant unique: 

  • Stand – The hand remains as it is and play moves on. 
  • Hit – An additional card is dealt to the hand. Providing it does not cause the hand to bust, then it is possible to Hit again.  
  • Double Down – As with regular Blackjack, this doubles the initial bet, one more card is dealt to the hand, and then play moves on. However, in Free Bet Blackjack, the doubling of the bet will be free if the hand has a hard total of 9, 10 or 11 (this means that it does not contain an Ace).  
  • Split – This option allows you to split a pair of cards with the same value into two separate hands. In regular Blackjack, splitting requires the bet to be doubled. However, in Free Bet Blackjack, you can split a hand for free as long as the cards do not have a value of 10.  

After the players have finished, it is the dealer’s turn. The dealer will always stand if the hand is 18 or higher and they will hit if it is 16 or lower. Depending on where you are playing, the rules governing hands worth 17 may vary. In a land casino, the dealer will hit if the hand is a soft 17 (a hand with an Ace), and stand on hard 17. However, online, the dealer will stand on all 17s.  

Winning hands are then paid out. All hands pay at 1:1, except for Blackjack, which is usually paid at 3:2 (sometimes 6:5). If the hands are tied then the bet is returned as a push. Furthermore, as noted, if the dealer has 22 then bets are returned as a push.  

Free Bet Blackjack Side Bets 

Very often, you will find Free Bet Blackjack games that offer a range of side bets. The version here at mr.play Casino has four side bets, each of which gives you the chance to win extra payouts.  

The Any Pair side bet wins if the player’s first two cards are a pair. A suited pair pays at 25:1 and a mixed pair pays at 8:1. 

The 21+3 side wins if the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s face-up card form a 3-card poker hand. It pays 100:1 for Suited Trips, 40:1 for a Straight Flush, 30:1 for Trips, 10:1 for a Straight and 5:1 for a Flush. 

The Hot3 side wins if the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s face-up card combine to form a total of 19, 20 or 21 or are three 7s. It pays even money for 19, 2:1 for 20, 4:1 for unsuited 21, 20:1 for suited 21 and 100:1 for three 7s. 

The Bust It side bet wins if the dealer goes bust and the payout depends on how many cards are in the dealer’s hand. It pays 1:1 for three cards, 2:1 for four cards, 9:1 for five cards, 50:1 for six cards, 100:1 for seven cards and 250:1 for eight or more cards.  

Basic Free Bet Blackjack Strategy 

If you are a regular Blackjack player then you are no doubt familiar with Blackjack strategy charts. These show you the best decisions to make in every situation. You simply look up your hand on the chart and the dealer’s up-card, and it tells you whether to hit, stand, double, etc. The downside to these charts is that it takes a while to become familiar with them and this can slow down your play. However, there are a few rules that you can quickly learn to help you get started. 

Here are three simple principles: 

  • If you are dealt a pair (other than a 10), take the free Split bet unless you have a pair of 5s. If you are dealt a pair of 5s then the best move is to Double Down. 
  • If you are dealt a pair of 10s, then always Stand.  
  • If you are dealt a hand of 9, 10 or 11 then always take the free Double Down bet. 
  • Stick to the above rules regardless of what card the dealer is showing.  

If you are dealt a hand that does not give you the chance of taking a free Double Down or Split bet, then there are some more basic rules to be learnt. The rules are split into hard hands (those that do not contain an Ace) and soft hands (hands that contain an Ace than can behave as either a 1 or 11).  

Here are the basic rules for Hard Hands: 

  • If the hand is 8 or lower then always Hit 
  • If you are dealt a 12, then Hit unless the dealer is showing a 5 or 6, in which case Stand 
  • If you are dealt a 13, then Hit unless the dealer is showing a 3, 4, 5 or 6, in which case Stand. 
  • If you are dealt a 14, 15 or 16 then Hit if the dealer’s card is 7 or higher, otherwise, Stand. 
  • If you have a hard 17 or above then always Stand, no matter what the dealer has.  

Here are the basic rules for Soft Hands: 

  • If your hand is worth 13 to 15 (inclusive) then always Hit 
  • Hit on Soft 16s unless the dealer has a 6, in which case Double Down 
  • Hit on Soft 17s, unless the dealer has a 5 or a 6, in which case Double Down 
  • If you are dealt a soft 18 and the dealer has 2, 3, 4, 7 or 8 then Stand 
  • If you are dealt soft 17 or 18, then Double Down if the dealer has a 5 or 6. 
  • If you are dealt soft 18 and the dealer has a 9, 10 or A, then Hit 
  • Stand if you have a soft 19 or above 

Free Bet Blackjack Betting Systems 

The Free Bet Blackjack strategy explained above will go a long way towards improving your returns. However, an equally important aspect of play is properly managing your bankroll to ensure that you have enough funds to play for as long as you wish. A good way of doing this is by using a betting system. One of the most popular Blackjack betting systems is called Oscars system. It may take a little while to get used to, but it is a very valuable tool. 

The system will not result in big wins. In fact, it is designed to help you win just one betting unit from a series of bets. A betting unit is the size of your basic bet per hand, e.g. €5. The idea behind the system is to never place a bet that would result in a profit bigger than one unit.  

Imagine you place a €5 bet on your first hand of the session and win the hand. This means you have made one unit profit, and you then start the system again. However, if you lost the hand, then you would be down €5 and need to win €10 in order to make one unit profit. If you then win the second hand, you have made back your losses, but still no profit. This means that for the third hand you would increase your bet by one unit, to €10. If you win, then you will have made one unit of profit (€5), and can then start the system again.  

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