13 Nov

Rules of Multi-Hand 21 at Microgaming and Others

How to Play Multi-Hand Blackjack: The serious gamer’s guide to 5-seater 21 at online casinos.

How to Play Multi-Hand Blackjack – The Serious Gamer's Guide to 5-Seater 21

Multi-Hand Blackjack is a common name applied to online casino games of 21 where the players are given the option to bet on more than one hand per deal of the cards. If you’ve ever played blackjack before, there won’t be too many surprises here. The rules don’t deviate from the standard. It is simply a game that grants you the ability to sit in more than one seat at the same time.

In years past, serious blackjack players would open more than one table at a time, just to acquire the same multi-hand capabilities. In 2006, Microgaming came up with the brilliant idea to let players compete in multiple hands all at once, all on the same table. And why not? After all, 99% of the internet’s blackjack games are played as single-user, RNG-based table games. Granting up to 5 seats to one user isn’t taking anything away from the rest of the crowd.

As you might have imagined, Microgaming’s concept caught on pretty quickly. Players were so taken by it that other digital software studios began copying the format. The basic rules of Multi-Hand Blackjack are going to be the same, no matter which platform you play it on, although subtle differences may exist in the house rules to alter the theoretical return to player (RTP) in one direction or another.

Please keep that in mind as you continue reading, as the following rules come from the Microgaming edition known as Blackjack Classic Gold Series Multi-Hand. I’ve chosen this particular variant because it offers a 0.40% house edge, the lowest of any online multi-hand blackjack game I’ve come across yet, and believe me, I’ve done a lot of looking!

How to Play Multi-Hand Blackjack

Playing multi-hand blackjack is no different than any other classic blackjack game, except that you get to control anywhere from 1 to 5 hands at a time. You can adjust the number of hands you play before the start of each new game simply by placing bets in front of the seats you want to control, and leaving blank the ones you don’t. Once you’ve placed all of your bets, press the Deal button to start.

The dealer will give one card at a time to each active player position and himself, then do the same again until everyone has two cards. You’ll be able to see all of the player cards, and the dealer’s first card (aka up-card), but not the dealer’s hole card. One at a time, you’ll complete each hand by choosing to stand, hit, double, or split, as applicable. Insurance is also available, although I’d never recommend buying it.

What sets Microgaming’s Classic Blackjack Gold Multi-Hand apart from others are the house rules of the game – the way the player and dealer can/must work their hands. By the house rules below, players face a house edge of 0.40% (RTP 99.60%).

Specific Rules of Play

  • Decks: 5
  • Soft 17: Dealer Stands
  • Doubling: Yes, on 9, 10 or 11 only
  • Splitting: Yes, 1x only
  • Double after Split: No
  • Resplit Aces: No
  • Draw to Split Aces: Yes
  • Surrender: No
  • Dealer Checks for Blackjack: No
  • Blackjack Pays: 3 to 2

Note: The rules state that the dealer will not peek for blackjack. Be careful about doubling or splitting when the dealer could have a blackjack, as you could lose the entire bet.

Multi-Hand 21 Strategy

The strategy for winning a multi-hand blackjack game is no different than the strategy for a single-hand game. You don’t take more risks on one hand and less risks on another. Maximizing your odds of winning has everything to do with following a perfect-play strategy for each and every hand. That’s what you’ll find in the strategy charts below, devised specifically for Microgaming’s Classic Gold version of multi-hand blackjack.

You’ll notice that there are three different chart tables below. Each defines how to act against the dealer’s specified up-card, with a table designated for all three types of player hands – a hard hand, a soft hand, or a paired hand.

How to Decide a Hard Hand

Hard totals are absolute totals, having no Ace worth 11 points. If a hard hand totals 12 or more points, it can bust in a single hit. Follow this chart precisely to minimize your risk.

Hard Total Correct Action by Situation
8 & Under Hit
9 Double against Dealer’s 2-6; otherwise Hit
10-11 Double against Dealer’s 2-9; otherwise Hit
12 Stand against Dealer’s 4-6; otherwise Hit
13-16 Stand against Dealer’s 2-6; otherwise Hit
17-21 Stand

How to Decide a Soft Hand

Soft totals are flexible totals that contain an Ace worth 11 points. These hands can instantly decrease by 10 points, making them impossible to bust in a single hit. This chart will help you make the most of all soft hand situations. When hitting a soft total, it can then become a hard total. Refer to the chart above as needed.

Soft Total Correct Action by Situation
17 & Under Hit
18 Double against Dealer’s 9-10; otherwise Stand
19-21 Stand

Conditions for Splitting Pairs

Pairs can be a tricky situation, especially in a game where the dealer does not peek for blackjack (i.e. your entire bet, including doubles and splits, are at risk if the dealer has blackjack). This last chart will help you decide how to play Multi-Hand Blackjack when faced with any potential splitting situation.

The rules of this game only allow a hand to be split one time. If you’ve already split once, and are unable to split a subsequent pair that this chart advises splitting, please refer to the hard/soft hand strategy charts above for the next-best maneuver.

Pair Correct Action by Situation
Ace-Ace Split
2-2 Split on dealer’s 3-7; otherwise Hit
3-3 Split on dealer’s 4-7; otherwise Hit
4-4 Hit
5-5 Double on dealer’s 2-9; otherwise Hit
6-6 Split on dealer’s 2-6; otherwise Hit
7-7 Split on dealer’s 2-7; Stand on 10; otherwise Hit
8-8 Split on dealer’s 2-9; otherwise Hit
9-9 Split on dealer’s 2-6 or 8-9; otherwise Stand
10-10 Stand

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