Splitting and doubling down are a large part of what makes Blackjack so much fun. They are also the aspects of the game that give the player the greatest probability of winning. So imagine a version of Blackjack that gives players almost unlimited opportunities to split cards and double down—that’s the game known as “Power Blackjack.”
Played both online and off, Power Blackjack permits splitting on two of the worst possible starting hands—any “hard” two-card total of 15 or 16. For example, if dealt a 9 and a 6 or a Jack and a 5, the two cards may be split to create two new hands. The cost is just an additional wager equal to the original bet. This is called a “Power Split.”
Also, whenever players double down on totals of 9, 10 or 11, they are allowed to draw a replacement card if the one card they receive is not to their liking. For instance, if a 4 is drawn to a total of 11, the player can choose to discard the 4 and take a replacement card. This is called a “Power Double.”
The Rules of Power
The two rule changes noted above offer players a huge advantage. In fact, they would completely eliminate the House Edge if not for one rule regarding what happens when the dealer busts that was instituted to offset them. If the dealer busts with a total of exactly 22, all active players’ hands result in a “push,” with no winner or loser, regardless of the total held. All non-busted wagers are returned.
All of the other rules of Power Blackjack follow the traditional rules of the game, although there may be some differences in specific House Rules between casinos and between online games versus land-based ones. Las Vegas rules, for example, call for the dealer to hit on soft 17, while the rules adopted for software online typically have the dealer stand on all totals of 17. Also, Power Doubles may be limited to hard counts of 10 and 11.
Typically, Power Blackjack is played with six standard decks of 52 cards each. A winning natural “21” on two cards is a “blackjack” and it pays 3-to-2. All other wins are rewarded with even money. There is no surrender allowed.
Play of the hand follows traditional Blackjack rules, too, starting off with a betting round before two cards are dealt to each player and the dealer. The dealer’s cards are dealt one face down and one face up for all to see. Actions that the players may take include hitting, standing, doubling down and splitting. Play follows a clockwise rotation, beginning from the dealer’s left.
Playing the Hand
Almost all versions of Power Blackjack permit doubling down after a split. Some may allow re-splitting up to four hands, too, but very few will allow re-splitting of Aces and some allow no re-splitting at all.
As noted above, the dealer typically must draw on totals of 16 or lower and stand on totals of 17 or higher. Some online casinos feature a version of Power Blackjack that follows the “European no hole card” rule (ENHC); upon getting a blackjack, the dealer takes the entire amount bet by the player, including any bets made when splitting or doubling.
When playing online, it is easy to know when the games special “Power” options are available. The button display will change the wording of “Split” to “Power Split” and “Double Down” to “Power Double.” There is no mistaking success, either. When the player’s hand wins, lightening-like bolts of electricity shoot out from the cards, too.
Playing to Win
Extensive research into the optimum strategy for Power Blackjack indicates that proper play can drop the House Edge to as low as 0.23%. Strategically, this means using the Power options in almost all situations allowed, and absolutely when holding a total of 17 or less. The three exceptions, when the player should not take the Power Double, are as follows:
• Stand on any total of 20 or 21.
• Stand on a total of 19, except a 2-card 11 facing a 10.
• Stand on a total of 18 facing a 7.
Wagerworks, the maker of the software most commonly used online when playing Power Blackjack, has developed strategy tables to help players make the best choices for their hands. Of special note are its recommendations to use the Power Double on totals of soft 19 or soft 20 when facing the dealer’s 2 through 8. This may seem contrary to standard logic, turning an almost certain winner into a potential loser, but expert calculations have proven the strategy to hold true.
That said, basic strategy must be modified a bit when playing in bricks and mortar casinos against Las Vegas rules. The recommended action is to stand on all totals of 19 and above, no matter what the dealer holds. Splitting options, however, are a bit more liberal, such as splitting a pair of 6s facing the dealer’s 4 and splitting any total of16 facing the dealer’s Ace.