One of the easiest versions of Blackjack to learn and play is the one known as “Three Card Blackjack.” It is widely played in bricks and mortar casinos in the State of Washington and along the Las Vegas Strip, as well as at numerous gaming sites online.
Unlike so many of the modern variations of the game, Three Card Blackjack is most frequently played with a single 52-card deck rather than a shoe full of multiple decks. Shuffles occur after every hand. There are no drawing rounds and players do not have the option to hit, double down or split. There is just one decision to make: play or fold. With a House Edge of 3.42%, Three Card Blackjack is comparable to other table games like Roulette and Sic Bo.
How to Play
Each hand of Three Card Blackjack begins with players making their Ante wagers in the assigned Ante betting circles on the table surface. As soon as all bets have been made, the dealer will deal three cards to each player and three cards for his or her own hand. All three of the players’ cards are dealt face down. The dealer’s cards are dealt two down and one up for all to see.
Next, the players may look at their cards and decide how to form their hands. They may select either two or three cards to form the best Blackjack hand possible—i.e., closest to 21 points without going over. In fact, because the player decides which cards to include in the hand, it is impossible to exceed 21 and “bust.”
As in most Blackjack games, Aces can be counted as 1 point or 11 points. Each of the “picture cards” (King, Queen and Jack) is worth 10 points. The rest of the cards, 2 through 10, are worth their face values.
Once the players have evaluated their three cards, the action proceeds clockwise around the table from the player position to the dealer’s immediate left. Each player is given the opportunity to “raise” by making an additional bet equal to the original Ante in the “Play” betting area. Otherwise, players may choose to “fold.” In this case, they lose their Antes. Note that only players who choose to make the raise are allowed to compete against the dealer’s hand.
Once the players have made their raises or folded, the dealer will reveal his or her two unexposed “hole” cards and form the best blackjack hand possible. There is, however, one special rule for the dealer. His or her hand is required to “qualify” with a total value of 18 or more, else the remaining active players win, regardless of what cards they hold.
How to Win
The showdown with the dealer can end in only three possible ways. First, when the player has two cards forming a “blackjack” or “natural 21,” the hand is always paid even money on both the Ante bet and the Play bet. It makes no difference what the dealer holds or whether he or she qualifies; the player wins even money even if the dealer shows a blackjack, too.
Second, if the dealer’s hand fails to qualify, all of the players’ Ante bets win even money, and the Play bets are treated as a push, with the wagers returned. Third, when the dealer’s hand qualifies, the best hand wins. Wins by the player pay even money on both the Ante and Play bets. If the dealer wins, the player forfeits all wagers. Ties other than a blackjack result in a push, with no winner or loser and all bets returned.
Most casinos offering Three Card Blackjack also make an optional side bet available. It is known as the “Ace Plus Bonus,” and it pays a bonus of at least 1-to-1 whenever the player’s hand contains an Ace. To take advantage of this, the player must wager at least one unit in the assigned Ace Plus betting circle before the next hand is dealt.
Bigger bonuses are paid out for higher ranking hands as follows: 3-to-1 for an Ace plus any card 10 through King; 5-to-1 for an Ace plus any pair of 10s through Kings; 15-to-1 for an Ace pair; 25-to-1 for an Ace pair plus any card 10 through King; and 100-to-1 for three Aces.