Similar to versions of “21” played elsewhere in the world, Australian Blackjack is quite easy to understand and pick up. Most of the rules parallel those used in games in Europe and Asia.
For example, Australian dealers do not take a hole card. Also, surrender is not allowed, nor is doubling down on two-card counts other than 9, 10 or 11, although it is possible to double down after splitting cards. Typically, the dealer must hit on totals of 16 or less and stand on all totals of 17 or more.
House Rules may differ somewhat from one casino to another, so players should always check the specifics before playing. In fact, there is one rule in particular that can vary greatly—a down-under innovation that involves the way the dealer’s natural blackjack is treated.
If the dealer gets a blackjack after a player doubles and/or splits, one of four special hole-card rules comes into effect. Under the rule known as OBO, the dealer collects “original bets only.” No matter what subsequent actions the player has taken, such as splitting or doubling down, losses are limited to the initial wager. That means players may play aggressively into the dealer’s Ace or 10-point card.
Other casinos take a more conservative approach, adopting so-called “European no hole card” rules or ENHC. That means the dealer showing a blackjack will take the total amount of the player’s bet, including any wagers made in the course of splitting or doubling.
An even more insidious rule, at least from the player’s point of view, is referred to as “busted bets plus one” or BB+1. Not only does the dealer collect the full amount of all busted bets but he or she also takes one extra unit from players holding non-busted hands on the table, including splits and doubles. In effect, this penalty levied each time the dealer gets a blackjack.
The fourth rule version is known as “original and busted bets only” or OBBO. It is virtually identical to BB+1, with busted bets collected in their entirety and a one unit penalty taken from active non-busted hands. However, it does not apply to hands that have been doubled, only to splits.
Playing the Game
Just like European or Asian Blackjack, the game begins with players placing wagers in the designated betting areas on the surface of the table. The dealer then deals two cards face up to each player and one face-up card for himself or herself. Tens, Jacks, Queens and Kings are valued at 10 points apiece. Aces are worth either 1 or 11 points, and all other cards 2 through 9 are taken at face value.
When the first two cards dealt to a player are an Ace and a 10-value card, it is a natural total of 21 called a “blackjack.” As long as the dealer does not also have a blackjack, this winning combination pays out at odds of 3-to-2. If the dealer also gets a blackjack, the result is a tie or “push,” in which case the player neither wins nor loses and the original wager is returned.
If the dealer shows an Ace as his or her initial card, players have the option to take out “insurance.” They may do so by making a wager equal to half the original amount bet. Thereafter, if the dealer gets a blackjack, the insurance bet pays 2-to-1. If the dealer does not get a blackjack, the insurance bet is lost.
Players who are dealt a blackjack facing the dealer’s Ace may choose to claim “even money” for their original wagers. Although they are giving up the chance to win at odds of 3-to-2, they are also avoiding the possibility of winning nothing if the dealer gets a blackjack.
Just like all other versions of the game, Australian Blackjack pays 1-to-1 or “even money” for winning hands other than blackjacks. Actions allowed include hitting, standing, splitting and doubling down. The object is to beat the dealer with a hand total as close as possible to 21 without going over (busting). Busted hands automatically lose and all associated wagers are forfeited.