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Is Free Bet Blackjack Better Than Regular Blackjack?

If you love playing blackjack, you may have heard about a new variant called Free Bet Blackjack that many casinos now offer. With enticing rewards like free double downs and split hands, along with bonus payouts when the dealer busts on 22, Free Bet Blackjack seems too good to be true.

But is this new blackjack game all it‘s cracked up to be? Does Free Bet Blackjack actually give you better odds and more ways to win compared to regular blackjack?

As an avid blackjack player myself, I decided to dig into the details and crunch the numbers. In this guide, I‘ll share my in-depth research to answer the question definitively – is Free Bet Blackjack better than regular blackjack?

After looking at the house edge, rules, strategy adjustments, and potential pros/cons of each game, I think you‘ll find the answer quite clear. Let‘s get started!

A Quick Refresher – How Does Regular Blackjack Work?

Before we can compare the two, let‘s make sure we‘re all on the same page about how classic blackjack works.

In regular blackjack, the goal is to beat the dealer by getting closer to 21 without going over. Numbered cards are worth their face value, face cards are 10, and aces are 1 or 11. Players are trying to beat the dealer‘s hand, not the other players.

After receiving two cards, players can choose to "hit" and receive more cards, or "stand" if they are satisfied with their hand value. Other options like doubling down or splitting pairs give you more ways to maximize your hands when the circumstances are right.

The dealer acts last, hitting until their hand value is 17 or higher, at which point they must stand. If the players‘ hands are closer to 21 than the dealer‘s hand, the players win an amount equal to their original bet. If the dealer is closer without busting, the players lose their wager.

By using optimal basic strategy, the house edge in regular blackjack generally ranges between 0.5% to 1% depending on the specific rules and number of decks used. This gives blackjack one of the lowest house advantages among casino table games.

But can Free Bet Blackjack improve on these already good odds for players? Let‘s break it down.

What Makes Free Bet Blackjack Different From Regular Blackjack?

Free Bet Blackjack was trademarked and introduced by Scientific Games in 2016 as a creative twist on classic blackjack. Like other popular blackjack variations including Spanish 21 and Blackjack Switch, it aims to spice up the gameplay with some unique rules.

Here are the key differences between Free Bet Blackjack and regular blackjack:

  • Free double downs – Players can double their original bet for free when holding hard totals of 9, 10, or 11. You don‘t have to place an additional wager.

  • Free splits – All pairs may be split for free, with the exception of 4s. No extra bet required to split your hand.

  • Dealer hits soft 17 – Unlike regular blackjack where the dealer stands on soft 17, in Free Bet Blackjack the dealer must hit on soft 17.

  • Free bet on dealer 22 – When the dealer busts with a hand totaling 22, players receive a Free Bet in the amount of their original wager.

  • 6-7 deck shoe – Instead of the typical 1-2 decks used in regular blackjack, Free Bet Blackjack uses 6-7 decks shuffled together.

As you can see, two key differences are the opportunities for "free" bets on doubles/splits and the free bet payout when the dealer busts on 22. But do these changes actually add up to better odds for the player? Let‘s crunch the numbers.

The House Edge – Free Bet Blackjack vs Regular Blackjack

One of the most important factors to compare is the house edge, which represents how much the casino expects to profit from the game over time. Here is how the house edge stacks up:

GameRulesHouse Edge
Regular BlackjackDealer stands on soft 17,
1-2 decks
0.5% – 1%
Free Bet BlackjackDealer hits soft 17,
6-7 decks

House edge when optimal strategy is used – Source: Wizard of Odds

As you can see, Free Bet Blackjack has a lower house edge at just 0.39% compared to 0.5-1% for regular blackjack. While both games have relatively low casino advantage, Free Bet Blackjack gives the player better base odds right off the bat.

This lower edge is achieved by the opportunities for free doubles and splits, along with the free bet bonus when the dealer busts on 22. These rewards counterbalance the fact that the dealer hits on soft 17 and the increased deck size compared to normal blackjack.

However, the 6-7 decks do make Free Bet Blackjack more challenging to gain an edge at through card counting techniques. But for the average player, the reduced house edge is a major plus.

Let‘s see how the gameplay and strategy differs between the two blackjack variants.

How Does Basic Strategy Differ Between the Games?

To fully leverage the lower house edge in Free Bet Blackjack, you need to adjust your basic strategy from what you would use in regular blackjack. Here are some key strategic differences:

  • Always double down for free on hard totals of 9, 10, and 11.

  • Always split freely on pairs except 4s. Only split 4s against a dealer 5 or 6.

  • Double down more liberally on soft hands since it‘s free after splitting.

  • Hit soft 17 instead of standing since the dealer hits.

  • Take insurance more often – the free bet on dealer 22 helps offset losing insurance bets.

  • Be cautious about surrendering since the dealer busting on 22 saves more hands.

Getting the basic strategy right is critical to maximize your edge in Free Bet Blackjack. You can‘t just rely on regular blackjack strategy charts and expect the same results.

To demonstrate, here is a comparison of the proper basic strategy plays in each game when holding an example starting hand of 10-10 against a dealer 5:

DecisionRegular BlackjackFree Bet Blackjack
SplitYesYes (and double after)
Double DownNoYes (for free)
Hit or StandStandStand if no free double

As you can see, optimal strategy takes advantage of the free double down and split opportunities in Free Bet Blackjack to get the maximum edge.

Weighing the Pros and Cons of Each Game

Now that we understand the core rules and strategy for regular blackjack versus Free Bet Blackjack, let‘s compare the overall pros and cons of each game:

Pros of Regular Blackjack

  • Lower deck count makes card counting more feasible
  • Wider availability of games with favorable rules
  • Stand on soft 17 is better for the player
  • More traditional blackjack experience

Cons of Regular Blackjack

  • Higher house edge compared to Free Bet Blackjack
  • No free bet features

Pros of Free Bet Blackjack

  • Lower house edge when following optimal strategy
  • Free doubles and splits encourage bigger bets
  • Free bet payouts when dealer busts on 22
  • Novel twist on traditional blackjack

Cons of Free Bet Blackjack

  • Harder to gain card counting edge
  • More pushes on 20 vs 20 hands
  • Potentially higher variance from 6-7 decks

There are solid cases to be made for both classic blackjack and the newer Free Bet Blackjack. But for the average player, the reduced house edge and exciting free bet rewards likely make Free Bet Blackjack the more advantageous option.

Next, let‘s look at recommendations for which game may be better suited to your specific needs and situation.

Guidelines for Choosing Between Regular and Free Bet Blackjack

When should you play classic blackjack versus Free Bet Blackjack? Here are some tips:

  • If you count cards, regular blackjack with its lower deck count offers more opportunities to gain an edge. Stick to games using just 1-2 decks.

  • For casual players, Free Bet Blackjack‘s lower house edge and free bet payouts make it more player-friendly. Its novelty can also add excitement.

  • Conservative bettors may fare better at regular blackjack, where the lower variance could benefit a small bankroll. Free Bet Blackjack‘s 6-7 decks open up more fluctuation.

  • Blackjack purists might prefer the traditional rules and experience of regular blackjack over Free Bet Blackjack‘s gimmicks.

As a general rule, Free Bet Blackjack‘s reduced house edge provides casual players better odds in the long run. But advantage players, conservative bettors, and blackjack devotees could have valid reasons to stick with classic blackjack instead.

The Verdict – Free Bet Blackjack Offers Better Overall Value

After digging into the nitty-gritty details, I believe Free Bet Blackjack is clearly the more player-friendly game compared to regular blackjack.

The reduced house edge of just 0.39% versus 0.5-1% for regular blackjack is a huge plus. And when you use optimal strategy, those free double downs, splits, and bonus payouts on dealer 22s will really boost your bottom line over time.

While card counters and traditionalists may still prefer classic blackjack, recreational players benefit more from Free Bet Blackjack‘s lower built-in edge and exciting rewards. The numbers don‘t lie – over hundreds and thousands of hands, that reduced house advantage saves you serious money.

So while no blackjack game can be completely beaten without card counting prowess, Free Bet Blackjack provides the average player better odds along with a fun strategic twist. Just be sure to learn the proper basic strategy to fully capitalize on its player-friendly rules.

I hope this thorough comparison helped explain the pros, cons, strategy, and overall value of Free Bet Blackjack versus regular blackjack. Let me know if you have any other blackjack questions! I‘m always happy to share my insights as an avid player.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.