31 Dec

Complete Guide to Geoff Hall’s Zombie Blackjack

How to play Zombie Blackjack, where busted hands return from the dead to feast upon the dealer!

How to Play Zombie Blackjack, where Busted Hands Return from the DeadOkay, maybe that description is a bit dramatic, but in a way, that’s exactly how Zombie Blackjack rules play out. If the player busts, and the dealer goes on to bust with a certain range of hands, the player’s dead cards will rise from their hyperbolic grave to defeat the dealer, winning the hand for an even money payout.

This is the latest creation of blackjack mastermind Geoff Hall – the same inventor who brought us Blackjack Switch, Free Bet Blackjack and Zappit 21. His card gaming innovations are known far and wide, from the Las Vegas Strip, to Macau, China, to the cybernetic world of online casinos. After Mr. Hall sold the rights to Zombie Blackjack to Scientific Games in 2017, Scientific profited with a license extension to the online casino software group, Genesis Gaming in mid-2018.

Why Zombies? Exploiting a Hot Topic for Fun and Profit

No doubt, Hall’s ingenuity had a lot to do with satisfying a generational craze for the so-called Zombie Apocalypse. And why not? The zombie theme has earned Hollywood billions of dollars in everything from Zombieland to The Walking Dead. Pulling a game from a proverbial hat of trending topics fulfills multiple needs, from the entertainment desires of players, to the wallet padding of everyone involved in the creation and installment of Zombie 21.

As for the game itself, the ability to turn a busted hand undead comes with consequences. In this case, the 22 Push rule is applied. If the dealer busts with 22, it will push against all active player hands. The end result is a 98.97% RTP (1.03% house edge). With odds like that, Zombie Blackjack is nothing more than a niche-market form of entertainment. Anyone looking to exploit the casino with deep strategies could do far better.

With that being said, let’s take a closer look at the game.

How to Play Zombie Blackjack

For the most part, the rules of Zombie 21 follow standard blackjack rules. Hitting, splitting and doubling options are all typical of the game. The rules begin to deviate when two particular instances occur; when a player busts against the dealer’s 7-A up-card (aka Zombie), or when the dealer busts with exactly 22 (aka 22 Push).

Zombie Rule: This rule states that, if the dealer has a 7, 8, 9, 10 or Ace showing, and the player busts, the player’s hand will turn into a Zombie. The player’s wager is transferred to a special section of the table, where it becomes a boxed bet, or “coffin bet”. When this happens, the dealer must play out his hand to completion, whether all player hands bust or not. If the dealer goes on to bust with a total of 23 or more, all player’s with Zombie hands will receive a 1 to 1 payout on their coffin bets.

22 Push: This is where the casino’s shift the house edge back into their favor (and then some). Any time the dealer busts with a total of exactly 22 points, it is not considered a bust, but rather a push against all active (non-busted) player hands, except a player’s blackjack. All coffin bets will lose to the dealer’s 22.

The complete rules of Zombie Blackjack – as it’s played at The Venetian in Las Vegas, as well as Genesis Gaming-powered online casinos, both delivering a 98.97% RTP – are as follows:

Specific Rules of Play

  • Decks: 8
  • Soft 17: Dealer Stand
  • Doubling: Yes, on any two cards
  • Splitting: Yes, 1x only
  • Double after Split: Yes
  • Resplit Aces: No
  • Draw to Split Aces: No
  • Surrender: No
  • Dealer Checks for Blackjack: Yes
  • Dealer 22: Pushes against all but blackjack; Wins against Zombie
  • Zombie: Pays 1 to 1 against dealer’s 23+
  • Blackjack Pays: 3 to 2

Zombie 21 Strategy

As I’ve already stated, Zombie Blackjack is not the best game for players seeking to exploit the house edge with a grand strategy. Card counting in Vegas won’t do enough to slide the advantage into your favor, and employing a perfect strategy chart will only harvest an RTP of 98.97% (house edge 1.03%). If your intent is grinding perfect play for profit, you’ve got the wrong game. However, if you love the whole zombie theme – as many of today’s younger gambling-aged generation do – the entertainment factor is strong in this one.

Playing with basic strategy will at least ensure that you’re getting the lowest edge with every hand. The charts below provide just that. There are three separate charts to choose from. The condition of your hand will determine which to use at any given time. The charts are segmented for a player’s hard hand, soft hand or paired hand. Scroll to the appropriate chart, choose your current hand total from the left column, and follow the directions in the right column, according to the dealer’s face-up card.

How to Decide a Hard Hand

A hard hand is any total that does not include an Ace worth 11 points.

Hard Total Correct Action by Situation
8 & Under Hit
9 Double against Dealer’s 6; otherwise Hit
10 Double against Dealer’s 2-6; otherwise Hit
11 Double against dealer’s 2-7; otherwise Hit
12 Stand against Dealer’s 5-6; otherwise Hit
13 Stand against Dealer’s 3-6; otherwise Hit
14-16 Stand against Dealer’s 2-6; otherwise Hit
17 Stand against Dealer’s 2-7; otherwise Hit
18-21 Stand

How to Decide a Soft Hand

A soft hand is any total that includes an Ace worth 11 points.

Soft Total Correct Action by Situation
Up to 15 Hit
16 Double against Dealer’s 6; otherwise Hit
17 Double against Dealer’s 5-6; otherwise Hit
18 Double against Dealer’s 5-6; Hit against 8-A; otherwise Stand
19-21 Stand

Conditions for Splitting Pairs

Splitting the right pairs is critical to preserving the highest RTP. This final chart shows you how to play Zombie Blackjack when dealt any pair. Note that, by the rules above, you are only able to split once per hand. If this chart advises splitting again after you’ve already done so, refer to the appropriate hard/soft hand chart above for the correct action.

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

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