Anyone who has ever played two hands of Blackjack at a time against a dealer has certainly wished it were possible to trade cards between the two hands. In the past, that would have been cheating, but thanks to a new variation called Blackjack Switch, swapping cards is not only permissible, it is encouraged.
Blackjack Switch requires the player to put up two bets of equal amount, one for each of two hands. The first card dealt to each hand is fixed in place, but the second cards of the hand may be switched without paying any penalty or surcharge. This gives the player a considerable advantage, with the ability to turn two junk hands into a couple of strong ones, create natural blackjacks, and set up opportunities to split pairs or double down.
Of course, the house never gives something for nothing. Blackjacks only pay even money, not 3-to-2 or 6-to-5. And when the dealer’s hand totals 22, the result is not a bust but a push, with all bets returned and no winners paid except natural blackjacks.
In the casinos of Las Vegas, six or eight decks are used to deal Blackjack Switch. Cards are dealt face up and the dealer hits soft 17. Doubling is allowed on any two cards and after a split. Re-splitting up to four hands is permitted When an Ace or a ten is showing as the dealer’s up card, he/she will peek and win immediately on a blackjack, awarding a push to any player who also shows a natural blackjack.
Rules in other locations may differ slightly. In Russia, for instance, the dealer stands on soft 17, early surrender is allowed (except against the dealer’s Ace showing), and a hole card is not dealt, so there is no peeking and all hands play out.
The player’s approach to this game should be pretty much the same as Basic Strategy for classic Blackjack. The big difference, of course, is that a strategy is required for when to switch cards and when to leave them as dealt. In most case, the correct play will be fairly obvious.
For example, if dealt an Ace-5 on the first hand and a 6-King on the second, it is highly advantageous to switch the 5 and the King to form a blackjack in the first hand and a total of eleven in the second for a double down opportunity. Whether or not the player actually doubles will depend, of course, on the dealer’s up card and whether the deck is currently rich or lean in tens.
Similarly, it can be quite apparent when cards should not be switched, such as a Queen-8 and a 7-Jack facing the dealer’s 7. A more difficult decision is when the Queen-8 and 7-Jack are facing a 9, presenting an opportunity to hedge the bets by switching.
Various calculations have been made to determine how Blackjack Switch compares to other table games in terms of odds. One reputable source has put the house edge at 0.58% at a six-deck table. Another has said that optimum play can bring that down to 0.16%. In either event, the game is a better choice than Roulette or Craps, and it is on par with most other Blackjack variations.
One additional aspect of some Blackjack Switch games is the availability of a side bet called “Super Match.” This option allows a separate bet to be placed in a small circle between the standard bet areas. Payouts are based upon the player’s initial four cards. A pair pays 1:1, three of a kind pays 5:1, and two pairs pays 8:1. The rare four-of-a-kind is worth 40:1. The house edge on this Super Match side bet is about 2.6%.