30 Oct

Free Bet 21 Rules, Strategy and Tips

Learn how to play Free Bet Blackjack, taking full advantage of the house’s uncommon generosity.

Taking Advantage of the House: How to play Free Bet Blackjack

Free Bet Blackjack is one of those 21 variations that looks tantalizing in theory, but more questionable in strategic practice. It’s a game where the casino is considered generous – an uncommon trait by any measure. In the following text, we’ll talk more about the rules of this interesting game, the advantages it poses for players, and the catch – oh yes, there’s always a catch!

This unique game of 21 is the brain child of world famous casino games inventor Geoff Hall; the same man who brought us innovative titles like Blackjack Switch and Zappit! He is renowned for creating games wherein the player is given a great advantage. In this case, it’s the advantage of free Double and Split bets.

Almost every time the player Doubles or Splits their hand, the casino covers the cost, matching the player’s original bet with a free chip. If the player wins that bet, they keep the winnings. But as they say (albeit out of context), The creator giveth, and the creator taketh away.

How to Play Free Bet Blackjack

As I touched on above, the title of this game refers to the way players freely Double and/or Split their hands. The house will cover most of these bets at no cos, but all potential profit, to the player, and not just once per hand, but repeatedly, if the situation calls for it. There are special rules to applying free doubles and splits.

Free Doubles

Doubling can be applied to any 2-card hand. However, only doubles on hard totals of 9, 10 or 11 are “Free”. A double on any other 2-card total, or any soft total, must be paid for by the player.

Free Splits

Players are permitted to split up to 3 times per hand, for a total of up to 4 hands per game. All splits are covered by the house except when splitting 10s and face cards. Strategically, these hands should not be split anyway, so there’s no love lost on that rule.

The Advantage

As any good strategist knows, doubling and splitting is one of the player’s greatest advantages. They afford a chance to earn twice as much in winnings in the most favorable situations. Take away the option to Double and Split, and the house edge jumps by more than 3%. Don’t believe me? Check out Red Rake Gaming’s Fast Blackjack, which eliminates Doubles and Splits, and carries an edge of 4.21%. Ouch!

The Catch

The trade off for the Free Bet advantage is the same as the trade off in Mr. Hall’s famous Blackjack Switch – the dealer’s 22 will push against any player total except blackjack. This rule is so detrimental that it makes up for all the lost edge, and then some. Unfortunately, as good as the game sounds, it actually comes with a pretty bad house edge of 1.04% (RTP 98.96%); terrible compared to the average 0.35% of more traditionally ruled games.

The exact rules of Free Bet 21 are as follows:

Specific Rules of Play

  • Decks: 6
  • Soft 17: Dealer Hits
  • Doubling: Yes, on any 2 cards; Doubling on Hard 9, 10 or 11 “Free”
  • Splitting: Yes, 3x; Splits on all but 10s are “Free”
  • Double after Split: Yes; Free on Hard 2-card 9, 10 or 11
  • Resplit Aces: Yes
  • Draw to Split Aces: No
  • Surrender: No
  • Dealer 22: Push against all but Blackjack
  • Dealer Checks for Blackjack: No
  • Blackjack Pays: 3 to 2

Strategy for Free Bet 21

As we’ve already discussed, the RTP of 98.96% isn’t very favorable in this game. Then again, it’s not always the RTP that makes a game worth playing, especially when it comes to online, RNG-based blackjack games where card counting isn’t an option.

A lot of players find Free Bet Blackjack to be entertaining enough to play, regardless of the relatively high house edge. If you’re one of these players, following the strategy charts below will ensure you have the best possible odds of winning.

I’ve divided the charts into three categories; one wherein the player is holding hard hand totals, one designated for the player’s soft hand totals, and another just for paired hands.

How to Decide a Hard Hand

A hard hand total is any number of cards that does not have an 11-point Ace in the mix. Any hard total of 12+ can be busted with a single hit, thereby constricting the player’s optimal choices.

Hard Total Correct Action by Situation
8 & Under Hit
9-11 Free Double
12 Stand against Dealer’s 5-6; otherwise Hit
13-14 Stand against Dealer’s 3-6; otherwise Hit
15-16 Stand against Dealer’s 2-6; otherwise Hit
17 Stand against Dealer’s 2-6 or 10; otherwise Hit
18-21 Stand

How to Decide a Soft Hand

A soft hand total is any number of cards that does have an 11-point Ace in the mix. Any soft total cannot possibly be busted with a single hit or double, giving the player more liberal options. However, a soft total cannot take advantage of the Free Bet. If advised to Double, you will be required to pay for it out of your own chip stack.

Soft Total Correct Action by Situation
15 & Under Hit
16 Double on dealer’s 6, otherwise Hit
17 Double on dealer’s 5-6, otherwise Hit
18 Double on dealer’s 4-6; Stand on 7; otherwise Hit
19 Double on dealer’s 5-6, otherwise Stand
20 Double on 6; otherwise Stand
21 Stand

Conditions for Splitting Pairs

When dealt any pairs other than 10s, you’ll be tempted to split them simply because that extra bet is free. This last chart will show you strategically how to play Free Bet Blackjack when faced with any splitting situation.

Pair Correct Action by Situation
Ace-Ace Free Split
2-2 Free Split
3-3 Free Split
4-4 Free Split
5-5 Free Double
6-6 Free Split
7-7 Free Split
8-8 Free Split
9-9 Free Split
10-10 Stand

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