European blackjack is the most popular form of the game in the UK, with its own unique set of rules and features. Although you can play the game well with a general knowledge of blackjack, you’ll only if you learn the appropriate strategy that’s tailored to the European version of the world’s favourite casino game.

In this guide, you’ll learn the rules, how a hand of European blackjack works, the right moves to make in any situation and some handy tips to keep you ahead of the game.

Let’s begin!

European Blackjack rules

Wherever you are in the world, blackjack is a card game where each player’s hand is played against the dealer’s hand, rather than against each other.

The game is now usually played with 8 decks or a continuous rotation of cards. Players are dealt 2 cards and continue until they stand, make 21 or bust (exceed 21).

Face cards are worth 10, Aces are worth 1 or 11 and all other cards are worth their face value. If you beat the dealer, your bet will be paid out at 1 to 1 odds, so you double your money. If you make Blackjack, you’ll be paid 3 to 2.

Those are the basic rules of blackjack, but at every table there are many more minor rules which determine if a game is considered European or American.

Here is a typical set of European blackjack rules, although even between blackjack tables, it’s possible to find variations in doubling and splitting:

  • S17: Dealer stands on 17 or more
  • Double: You can usually double on any 2 starting cards, although some tables permit only hands worth 9, 10 or 11
  • Split: You can split any 2 cards of the same value, and split up to 3 times. Only 1 additional card on split Aces. A split Ace + 10 counts as 21, not Blackjack
  • NDAS: No doubling allowed after splitting
  • Insurance: Pays 2 to 1, offered on dealer’s Ace
  • Even Money: Offered if you have Blackjack and the dealer has an Ace
  • No surrender: This rule is never available in Euro blackjack

House edge

European Blackjack has a typical house edge of between 0.41% and 0.72%, although due to small differences in rules, the RTP differs from one provider to the next. That equates to a Return To Player of over 99.5%!

But be aware that to achieve this RTP, you’ll need to play perfect blackjack, which means you’ll need to learn European blackjack strategy, master the blackjack charts and follow their advice to the letter.

European Blackjack v American Blackjack

In roulette, the European version of the game has more favourable rules and a lower house edge. The reverse is true in blackjack, where a couple of minor rule variations make American blackjack the more advantageous for the player.

To peek or not to peek?

The most important difference is that the European version is a “no peek” game, whereas American blackjack is a “peek” game. This means the dealer gets their second ‘hole card’ card face down, and it allows them to check for Blackjack when their face up card is an Ace. In European blackjack, you won’t find out if the dealer makes Blackjack until your turn is over, which translates to roughly 20-30% swing away from the player in situations where the dealer has an Ace.

Double down

The other key difference relates to doubling down. In European blackjack, you can usually only double on starting hands worth 9, 10 or 11, where the US game lets you double on any 2 cards. Although there aren’t many situations where you would double on 8 or less, it’s still worth a 0.1% cut in house edge. Learn more on how to double down in Blackjack.

Other differences

Tables with H17 (dealer hits on Soft 17) are more common played in American casinos, as is the surrender rule which benefits the player. You will also only find “Blackjack Pays 6 to 5” rule in US casinos too.

Purely because of the tighter rule on doubling down and peeking, European blackjack has a lower RTP of 99.39% versus the 99.57% across the pond, although these numbers are general examples and you can find European games with looser rules and higher RTPs.

Despite the less beneficial rule sets, European blackjack is still one of the best value casino games in the world, as long as you play it right.

How to play European Blackjack

Let’s assume you don’t know your blackjack from your baccarat, and start with the basic rules of the game. These apply to every variant of blackjack, so they’ll come in useful wherever you have played in the world.

The aim of the game

Blackjack’s all about beating the dealer’s hand. Sometimes you’ll need a higher score, sometimes you’ll just need to stick around and hope the dealer busts.

But when you learn how to play blackjack, it’s not just having a better hand that matters. You need to maximise your bet size when you’ve got an edge too. That means doubling and splitting at every favourable opportunity.

Choosing a table

So you want to play blackjack, but what table should you choose? At PlayOJO, we offer both Live Dealer and classic internet blackjack. In Live Dealer, you get a live stream from a casino studio where a real dealer uses decks of cards, and you communicate your decisions using the latest software.

In classic internet blackjack, the game is run by computer software, not a live dealer. The decks are shuffled and dealt using a random number generator.

We offer hundreds of games from Pragmatic Play, Authentic Gaming and Evolution Gaming with an incredible range of dealer, languages, stakes and rules.

If you’re looking for something new and innovative, check out funky formats such as Blackjack Blitz, Power Blackjack, Infinite Blackjack and Blackjack Exchange.

Order of play

Blackjack is a simple game where each player takes on the dealer. In Live Blackjack, you will probably play with up to 6 other real players at the table, which means you need to wait for all of them to play their hand.

If it’s speed you’re after, a classic internet blackjack game will give you many more hands per hour. Here’s how a typical round of blackjack goes down:

  1. Player gets 1 card, dealer gets 1 card, player gets 2nd card
  2. Each player acts in turn, from the seat on the dealer’s left
  3. Once all players have completed their turns, the dealer plays their hand
  4. The dealer settles all hands as a win, loss or push

Actions explained

Every knows how to stick or twist, but those are just 2 of the options on offer. Depending on the scenario you face, you may also be able to double, split and take insurance.

Stand: You take no more cards and your total is locked in

Hit: You take another card

Double: Double your stake for 1 more card, only available after your first 2 cards

Split: Pay double to split a pair into 2 new hands. You can then play them each independently.

Insurance: A side bet which costs half your main bet, on whether the dealer’s Ace turns into Blackjack

That’s how each action works, but when should you use them? Here comes the secret to playing perfect blackjack, to ensure you get the highest possible rate of return. If you want to go deeper into the blackjack strategy and common mistakes to avoid, our complete blackjack guide has got everything you need to play like a pro.

European Blackjack strategy (with charts)

Most new blackjack players make the mistake of trying to make 21, the best possible hand in blackjack.

In fact, blackjack is all about the dealer’s up card. If they’ve got a strong card, you’ll need to match or better it. If they’ve got a weak card, you should avoid busting and if possible, get more money onto the hand.

Simplified strategy: 3 rules

Advanced European blackjack strategy can take a while to learn and memorise, and there’s no shame in starting out with some very simple rules. Use these and you will still be playing better blackjack than most of your tablemates!

  • Stand on 17 or more: You’ve got a solid hand. Make the dealer beat it.
  • Hit 16 or less v 7+: The dealer is likely to make a hand, so you need to make one too.
  • Stand on 12+ v 6 or less: The dealer will bust often, don’t risk busting yourself.

Most of the player’s advantage in blackjack comes down to hitting and standing correctly, or getting lucky by hitting Blackjack.

But if you really want to play well, you need to learn the finer points of doubling, splitting too. That’s where the basic blackjack strategy chart comes in.

European blackjack chart

At any point during a hand of blackjack there are a range of possible moves, some more profitable than others. The chart below tells us the best possible move in any situation – whatever hand you’ve got, and whatever up card the dealer is showing.

To find out the optimal European blackjack decision, simply locate your starting hand on the left side, the dealer’s up card along the top, and find the square where they meet.

Doubling is an essential tool in your armoury if you want to become a skilled European blackjack player, while splitting well is less important but still a fundamental factor in keeping the house edge low.

As you can see, European blackjack requires you to hit 11 v 10. In American blackjack, you find out if the dealer has a Blackjack before you act, and then be able to double if they did not.

European Blackjack tips

Wonderful, mathematical hours could be spent pouring over the blackjack’s basic strategy charts. But if it’s top tips to make you a instant blackjack master, get your Post It notes ready, coz here they come…

Don’t guess

If you don’t know the right play, check the chart (and then you’ll know next time too). Mo’ knowledge, mo’ fun!

Practice for free

You can play European blackjack online from just £1 per hand, but most sites also have demo versions. Use these freeplay tables to practice and hone your skills risk-free.

Go easy on the insurance

It’s not great math, and it ain’t guaranteed to save you money as you can lose the insurance bets and lose your main hand too. Keep it simple.

Bet smart

No need to follow crazy betting strategies like the infamous Martingale system. Sticking to the same sized bets is fine and dandy, but if you like to mix it up, bet smaller when you’re losing and bigger when you’re winning. Other strategies are available and you should make your own mind up! Just bet responsibly and OJO’ll be happy.

FAQs

What is European blackjack?

European blackjack is a category of blackjack games with a set of rules which includes S17, no peek, double on 9, 10 & 11, and no surrender. In this version, the dealer only gets an up card, rather than an up card and an additional hole card.

In American blackjack vs European blackjack, which is better?

Both forms of the game have plus and minus points, and between them, they cater to the large majority of the world’s blackjack fans. Because you can often surrender and double on any 2 cards, American blackjack generally has a slightly lower house edge.

What can I win on European blackjack online?

Blackjack is a low variance casino game which pays out even money or 1 to 1 odds for a winning hand, and 3 to 2 for hitting Blackjack itself. Most tables range in stakes from £1 to £5,000 per hand, while some tables allow players to play up to 7 hands simultaneously.

Daniel Grant

Dan Grant has been writing about gambling for 15 years, and been fascinated by beating the odds for even longer. Now he’s on a mission to help others bet smarter and avoid the mistakes he made. When he’s not obsessing over bankroll strategy or counting cards badly, he’s hosting The OJO Show podcast.

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