European vs. American Blackjack

When a game is as popular as Blackjack is, and has been around for hundreds of years the way Blackjack has, it’s only natural that several different variations develop over time. If you’ve spent time in land-based or online casinos, you’re probably used to seeing at least a few versions at a single establishment including Atlantic City, Vegas Strip, Vegas Downtown and Classic Blackjack.

Each iteration of Blackjack follows its own specific rules, but they are all derived from either the European or the American format. The European type is older, since the game was first brought to the New World of America by French colonists in the early 1900s.

If you’re serious about playing and winning Blackjack, you need to understand the basic differences between the American and European versions. Luckily for you, we’ve got all you need to know right here. Keep reading to find out more.

Peeking for Blackjack

The big difference between American and European Blackjack is the way the dealer cards are dealt. In the former, both dealer cards are put down at the same time before players have made any moves. In the latter, players see their cards, make their first move, and only then is the dealer’s second, face-up card placed on the table.

The way the cards are dealt means that in American Blackjack the dealer can “peek for Blackjack” if their hole (face-up) card is an ace or a 10-value card. In other words, they check what their facedown card is, and if they are holding Blackjack the round is over before any more wagers (which would inevitably lose) are placed.

Doubling Down, Splitting and Late Surrender.

European Blackjack only permits doubling down on hand totals of 9, 10 or 11, and only allows 1 split per round. Conversely, in American games any total can be doubled down on and hands can be split up to 3 times.

American Blackjack also allows for late surrender, while the European version does not. You can choose late surrender, ending the round and getting 50% of your stake back; if your initial 2 cards seem abysmal and you think you’ll lose to the dealer.

Number of Decks Used

European Blackjack uses just 2 decks of cards, while its American counterpart uses between 6 and 8. The more decks in play, the less likely you are to get Blackjack. More decks also means it’s harder to estimate probability, and creates a greater house edge.

Which Blackjack Format to Choose

In terms of shoe size, then, European Blackjack is the better option for players. However, the Peek for Blackjack rule, the late surrender option and the more favourable double down and split rules in American Blackjack were developed to tip the odds in gamblers’ favour, and for many individuals it is the first choice. On the other hand, some players prefer the challenge and unpredictability of the European game. Ultimately, we suggest you try both versions and decide which you feel like playing whenever you visit your favourite casino.