Anyone who has ever played Blackjack has at one time or other made the same wish: “If only there was a way to see the dealer’s hole card….” Understanding that desire, and knowing that wherever there’s desire there is a whole lot of money to be made, gambling entrepreneur Bob Stupak set out in 1979 to invent just such a game for his new Vegas World casino. The result was Double Exposure Blackjack.
This innovation actually allows viewing of both of the dealer’s cards by dealing all cards face up, including the hole card—a tremendous advantage for players. Of course, Stupak needed to maintain a house edge, so he adjusted some of the other rules to keep the odds of the game well in his favor. Among these changes are blackjacks paying only 1:1 instead of the customary 3:2 and the player losing on all pushes, except a natural blackjack, which results in the original wager being returned.
Although any analysis of the house edge will reveal that this a much worse game for the player than traditional “no peek” Blackjack, the new tables at Vegas World were always crowded. That caused other casinos to follow Stupak’s lead, and today Double Exposure Blackjack is offered all around the world, sometimes under the name “Face-up 21.”
So powerful among players is the desire to see both of the dealer’s cards that some casinos have taken their advantage even higher by restricting opportunities to double down and split. Some permit doubling only on hands totaling hard 9, 10, or 11. Most do not allow doubles after splits. Invariably, the dealer must hit soft 17.
Casinos with more liberal rules allow re-splitting up to three times and also the re-splitting of Aces. Cards are typically dealt from an eight-deck shoe, but a few tables offer six, and there are occasionally two-deck games with a new shuffle after each round of play. Some games where the dealer stands on soft 17 can be found. However, even with the most favorable combination of rules, the house edge is no lower than 0.66%. More often, it is 0.69%~1.47%, which is quite high among Blackjack variations.
Being able to see both of the dealer’s cards obviously has an affect on playing strategy. The most significant difference is that when the dealer shows 17 or higher, players have to keep drawing cards until they exceed the dealer’s total or bust. This can lead to “desperation” tactics like hitting a hard 19 or 20 when facing the dealer’s 20. Similarly, the “ties lose” aspect of the game can force some aggressive defensive plays, such as splitting 9’s when facing the dealer’s total of 8.
That said, some excellent opportunities also arise in the course of Double Exposure Blackjack play. For example, players are well advised to split a pair of 10-value cards and then double down, if allowed, when facing the dealer’s 13~ 16. If doubling after a split is allowed, splitting 5’s is the right choice facing the dealer’s hard 16—a move rarely advocated in other Blackjack games.
Occasionally players will come across versions of Double Exposure Blackjack that pay bonuses, such as 2:1 on the Ace-Jack of hearts. This improves the odds of winning slightly. If a suited 6-7-8 pays double in this game, then hitting a suited 6-7, 6-8, or 7-8 may be warranted facing the dealer’s 12~16.
Stupak’s reputation as one of gambling’s most celebrated hustlers was cemented by his successful launch of Double Exposure Blackjack, a game nobody ever believed possible. He went on to invent a less popular single-deck Blackjack game called “Dealt to the Bottom,” again preying upon players’ desires by shuffling only after every card in the deck had been used. As you might guess, the house still maintains a big edge, just one more piece of evidence that there is no “something for nothing” in any Blackjack-based casino game.