Tricky Plays That Come Up in European Blackjack

Published: March 27, 2014

European blackjack is one of the most popular variations of blackjack played online today. There are some key elements of this game that stand out, and this can create some tricky plays for the otherwise strong blackjack player. These plays are somewhat simple to understand once you pay attention to the specific rule differences found in the European version of this game, but if you ignore them like most players do, then you will pay dearly in terms of having a much higher house advantage than you would normally see with correct play.

The key rule difference used in European blackjack is the no peek rule. What this means is that the dealer never peeks to see if he or she has a blackjack. It's not immediately obvious why this is such a big deal, and that's one of the reasons why European blackjack tricks so many players into making sub-optimal plays on a regular basis. If you want to understand the core of European blackjack and gain an intuitive feel for the adjustments that you should make from a typical set of strategies, then really understanding what the no-peek rule changes is key.

Suppose that you have some hand and the dealer has an ace showing. If the dealer checks for blackjack, then you will never have the chance to make a strategic decision when the dealer actually does have blackjack because your hand loses right away. However, suppose the dealer does not check for blackjack. Now you have the chance to double or split right into a trap when the dealer has a ten face-down to go with his or her ace. The general idea here is that the no-peek rule makes the dealer's hand much stronger when they have an ace showing and somewhat stronger when they have a ten, jack, queen or king showing.

With this in mind, you can pretty easily figure out the correct ways of adjusting to European blackjack. In short, except for one rare exception, you will never split or double against a ten or ace, and you will play along the lines of expecting to lose more often than not, and that includes more surrendering if you're able to. The exception to this rule is to split aces when you're facing a ten. Your ability to make blackjacks combined with the higher blackjack payoff overtake the disadvantage of the no-peek rule in this particular scenario.