Atlantic City Blackjack
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Atlantic City Blackjack
Outside of Las Vegas, few towns in the United States have the type of gambling cache that Atlantic City enjoys. Sure, what was once the second city of casinos in the USA has now been surpassed by other markets, but it is still home to some of the most famous resorts in the country, and the name is almost a brand that signifies a slightly lower-stakes, no frills approach to gaming resorts.
With all of that said, you’d expect a game called Atlantic City Blackjack to be a pretty standard, classic version of this casino table game – and you’d be right. In this version of 21, there are no real surprises: all of the rules are ones that you will have encountered before in your travels at both brick-and-mortar venues and at online gambling sites. That makes it a safe, familiar place to go when you’re looking for a very solid blackjack game.
Atlantic City Blackjack is a version of Internet blackjack offered by Microgaming – one of several varieties the company spreads on websites that use its software. While the basics of play we mention here will apply to all standard forms of this game, we’ll also be sure to go over the exact specifications in the strategy section below so that you can know exactly what you’re getting into, and how this game may differ from others you’ve played.
This game is dealt out of a shoe made up of eight decks of standard playing cards. Each player makes a bet, and then receives a two-card hand, face up. The dealer also receives a hand with one face-up card, and one face-down card (also known as the hole card).
Each card is worth a certain number of points. All numbered cards are worth their printed value, while face cards are worth 10 points each. Aces can be worth 11 points or one, depending on which is more beneficial for the hand.
For players, the object of the game is to beat the dealer by having a more valuable hand, one that is as close to 21 as possible without going over. The best possible starting hand is, appropriately, called a blackjack – and it is made up of an ace and any ten-point card. This “natural 21” will pay out at 3-2 odds, unless the dealer has also made one; in that case, the two hands push.
At the start of the hand, should the dealer have either an ace or a ten-point card showing, they will secretly check to see if they have a blackjack. In the case of them having an ace (where it is more likely that they will complete their hand), they will first ask if the players wish to buy insurance. This bet costs half as much as your initial bet, and pays out at 2-1 if the dealer reveals a ten-point card. If that happens, the player will lose their hand bet but win the insurance, which causes them to break even for the hand. When this offer is made to players with a blackjack, it is referred to as an “even money” offer; this is because mathematically, taking the insurance bet means that the player will make the same amount of money whether the dealer shows a blackjack or not, and as such can immediately be paid even money on their initial bet.
After players decide whether or not to take insurance, the dealer will do their check. If they have a natural 21, all players lose (except those who also started with blackjacks; those hands push). In all other cases, the players will now have the opportunity to play their hands. Players have a wide variety of options available to them, some of which are only available in certain situations. Players can take any of these actions on their turn:
- Hit: The player receives one more card from the shoe, and then must make a new decision.
- Stand: The player passes, locking their hand in place for this round.
- Double Down: The player doubles their bet in exchange for one card from the shoe, after which they must stand. This option is only available on your initial two-card hand.
- Split: If the player has two cards of the same rank (or any two ten-point cards), they may split them into two unique hands, each of which will receive a second card. Each hand will be played for one full bet. Players may resplit if they once again receive a pair, up to a maximum of four total hands. If the player splits aces, they only receive one card each and must stand at that point.
- Surrender: The player may forfeit half of their bet to give up and stop playing the hand immediately.
The player’s turn can also end if their hand is ever worth 22 or more points. In this case, their hand is said to have busted, and they lose immediately, forfeiting all bets associated with that hand.
Once all players have taken their turns, the dealer will resolve their own hand. First, they will reveal their down card. Next, they will play according to a set of predetermined instructions. In the case of this Atlantic City version, the rules are simple: the dealer always hits with 16 or less, and always stands with 17 or more.
Should the dealer bust, then all player remaining player bets are immediately paid out at even money. If the dealer stands, then their hand is compared to the players’. If the player hand is higher, that hand wins at even money; if the dealer beats a player, then that player loses their bets on that hand. Finally, if the two tie, then all bets on that particular hand are pushes.
Excellent Returns on the Boardwalk
If you’re looking for a game that features some pretty solid odds, then you’re in luck, as Atlantic City Blackjack is one in which good strategy can put you almost on even footing with the casino. While the house retains a slight edge, perfect play brings this down to just 0.35%, better than most versions of the game you’ll find either online or in a live resort.
How do we get such an impressive figure? If you’re familiar with the game, you may recognize that this version uses a lot of relatively player friendly rules. While the shoe is large, must other aspects are good for players. The following rules are in play:
- Eight-Deck Shoe
- Dealer Stands on Soft 17
- Double on Any Total
- Split Up to Four Hands
- Split Aces Receive One Card, Cannot be Resplit
- Player May Double After Splitting
- Late Surrender Available
These are all fairly standard rules, but they are also (for the most part) the ones players want to see. That means that not only can you use a pretty run-of-the-mill strategy to play this game, but those tactics will also get you excellent odds; an optimal player will only lose about one bet every 300 hands.
If you’re looking for a perfect strategy for this game, there are calculators available that can complete an entire basic strategy based on this or any rule set, providing you with the mathematically correct plays for every possible situation. However, we’re happy to provide you with a more general, simplified strategy that works will for this game and many others that use similar rules. This strategy is based on one created by Michael Shackleford, but modified slightly for the unique rules of this game.
In order to use the strategy, just find your current situation from the following list. You’ll need to know these definitions in order to read the chart:
- Soft Hand: One with an ace that can still count as 11 points.
- Hard Hand: All other hands (including those with aces that must count as one point).
- Low Cards: Twos through Sixes.
- High Cards: Sevens through Aces.
With that in mind, here is our simplified strategy chart for Atlantic City Blackjack:
- 8 Or Less: Hit.
- 9: Double down against a dealer 3-6; hit against all other cards.
- 10: Double Down against a dealer 2-9; hit against a ten or an ace.
- 11: Double Down against all cards except an ace; hit against an ace.
- 12-16: Stand against a low card; hit against a high card.
- 17 Or More: Stand.
- 13-15: Double down against a dealer five or six; otherwise, hit.
- 16-18: Double down against a low card; hit against a high card.
- 19-21: Stand.
- Always split Aces and Eights.
- Never split Fours, Fives, or Tens.
- Split other pairs against low cards, but not against high cards.
- Surrender with 16 vs. a dealer ten or ace.
- Do not take insurance.
- If you are supposed to double down but cannot, hit – except with a soft 18, which should stand.
While this isn’t a perfect strategy, it does eliminate virtually all of the major errors you might make as a player, leaving only minor mistakes on some borderline hands. If you want to increase your odds even further, some of the most worthwhile (and easiest to remember) changes to make include hitting with a hard 12 against a dealer 2 or 3, and standing with a soft 18 against a dealer 7.
A Game Worthy of Its Name
If you’re looking for a fairly standard variant with excellent return to player, then Atlantic City Blackjack should be high on your list of choices. It’s one of the better options at Microgaming casinos, and even where you can find slightly more favorable odds, slightly is the key word – you’re hardly giving anything up here over playing a “superior” version of blackjack. Given how much this aligns with the games we’re used to playing in land-based casinos, this is one of our go-to options when it comes to a classic, standard implementation of blackjack on the Internet.