Free Bet Blackjack – Game Rules and Strategy Guide
Free Bet Blackjack is one of the most popular blackjack variants in Las Vegas.
In most ways, it is identical to the traditional game. However, there are several significant differences.
The main difference is that the house pays the bet for a player to split and double down. This can result in up to seven free bets in a hand if a player splits three times and has double-down opportunities on all of them.
These free bets mean players have the chance to land massive wins with little risk.
Like all great blackjack rules, there is a trade-off for that. We go over that in this review of Free Bet Blackjack.
How Free Bet Blackjack Differs from Traditional Blackjack
The major difference between Free Bet Blackjack and the traditional version of the game is that a player gets free splits and double downs. There are some limitations to these advantages.
Free double downs are only available on 9, 10, and 11 hands that do not include an ace. The rule applies to before and after splitting. It must be on the first two cards dealt.
Players may double down on hands other than 9, 10, and 11. It just requires a normal match of the original bet.
Pairs may be split, except if the card has a value of 10. Multiple free splits and draws can occur on the same hand.
For example, if a player is dealt a pair of 8s, the first split is free. If another 8 is dealt, the player gets a free split again. If the player gets a 3 to make 11 in any or all the splits, the double down is also on the house.
Players do not get the free bet perks without having to give something up in return.
A big downside to this variant is that the dealer pushes any player left in the hand if the house makes a 22. This rule originated in Blackjack Switch and has spread to other games like Free Bet Blackjack to offset favorable rule variants.
Players dealt a blackjack get paid as normal if the dealer makes a 22. Any hand that busted before the dealer draws loses.
How to Play Free Bet Blackjack
A hand of Free Bet Blackjack starts with making a wager. Place the bet in the circle in front of you on the table.
The minimum bet is usually $5 or $10. Once all bets are made, all players and the dealer receive two cards. One of the dealer’s cards is placed face up.
Any player that receives an ace and a 10-value card has a blackjack. This is paid immediately, unless the dealer also has a blackjack. In that case, it is a push.
Most casinos pay 6 to 5 for a natural in Free Bet Blackjack. This means that for every $5 wagered, the player wins $6. Some casinos pay the standard 3:2 on a blackjack. This pays $3 for every $2 wagered.
The action starts with the first player clockwise from the dealer. This bettor decides which action to take.
The primary options are hit, stand, or double down
If the two cards are a pair, split is available
Surrender is not available in Free Bet Blackjack
If a player hits, a card is added to the existing hand. The player can hit until the hand busts, meaning it goes over 21. A hand that busts automatically loses. Stand is when the player is satisfied with the point total and does not want any more cards.
Double down is permitted on any first two cards. The house will cover the bet if the count is a 9, 10, or 11. A double down is where the bet is doubled, and the player receives only one card. The player must keep this card and cannot draw any more.
A player with a qualifying pair may split. This is where the hand is turned into two, and each stack receives a new card to complete it.
From here, the options start all over again with hit, stand, double down, and split all offered. The exception is when the player splits aces. This hand cannot be hit but may be split again.
Once all players have acted, the dealer exposes the house’s down card.
If the dealer has 18 or higher, the house stands
If it has 16 or lower, the dealer hits
The dealer also hits soft 17. This is an ace and any number of cards that equal six
If the dealer has hard 17, meaning it can bust, the house stands
The dealer busts on any hand of 23 or higher. If the dealer makes 22, all players still in the hand push.
Once the dealer acts, all players with cards have their hands compared with the dealer’s hand.
If the player has more points than the dealer, the player wins even money. If the dealer and the player have the same number, the hand pushes. This means that the player receives the bet back as if the hand never happened.
If the dealer has a higher total than the player, the house wins.
Resolving Free Splits and Doubles
The unique feature in Free Bet Blackjack is that the house pays for most splits and double downs. Many casinos have a special chip that is placed next to the hand receiving the free bet.
If the hand wins, the house matches all the free bets it laid out plus the original bet of the player. If the hand pushes, nothing happens. If the hand loses, the player only loses the original bet.
Free Bet Blackjack Strategy
The best Free Bet Blackjack strategy has some similarities to traditional blackjack.
The exceptions are when the player is dealt a pair or a 9, 10, or 11.
Take the free split on all pairs except 5s because that should be doubled, and 10-value cards because they are not free
Take the free double down any time you are dealt a 9, 10, or 11
These rules apply regardless of what the dealer’s door card is
If a hand does not have a free split or double in it, follow this Free Bet Blackjack strategy.
The first section involves hard hands, meaning they do not have an ace or can bust. The second section involves soft hands, meaning an ace is contained in them that may be used as a 1 or 11 at the time.
Hit any hand eight or lower
Hit 12 against all dealer door cards, except a 5 or 6, when you should stand
Hit 13, except against a dealer’s 3, 4, 5, or 6
Stand on 14, 15, and 16 against a dealer’s 2 through 6. Otherwise, stand with those hands
Stand on all hard hands of 17 and above, regardless of what card the dealer shows
Always hit a soft hand of 13 through 15
Hit soft 16, except against a dealer’s 6, where the hand should be doubled
Hit soft 17, except against a 5 or 6, where it should be doubled
Stand on soft 18 against a 2, 3, 4, 7, or 8
Double down against a 5 or 6
Hit soft 18 versus a 9, 10, or ace
Stand on soft 19 or higher
The strategy chart below is a useful tool for following these Free Bet Blackjack strategy rules.
Where to Play Free Bet Blackjack
Most Free Bet Blackjack tables are in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, many casinos decided to pay 6:5 on a blackjack. There are some exceptions, though. The following venues all spread the game with a 3:2 payout.
Free Bet Blackjack is not available at online casinos.
Our favorite casino for Free Bet Blackjack is at Plaza. It is on Main Street in Downtown Las Vegas, across from the Fremont Street Experience.
One reason this is our top pick is that Plaza is generous with comps. It does not take much action for players to receive free hotel rooms and meals at Oscar’s, the steakhouse founded by former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman.
The Free Bet Blackjack table at Plaza typically has a $5 minimum bet. This is the lowest for Free Bet Blackjack games with a 3:2 payout.
Free Bet Blackjack is a fun game when looking for something new to play. The free splits and double downs can create significant hot streaks when receiving hands that qualify. The game returns 98.96% when playing a table with a 3:2 payout. That goes down to 97.6% when blackjack pays 6:5. We recommend sticking with the 3:2 tables. If the casino pays 6:5, there are much better blackjack tables in the casino in terms of payback. Even a traditional 6:5 blackjack table has a better return.