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21 Duel Blackjack is a blackjack variation offered at Playtech casinos. I find the game to be more interesting and enjoyable than traditional blackjack. Unfortunately the game's house edge and variance are much higher than other Playtech blackjack games, so it is usually a poor choice for bonus play.


Rules and Play

At the start of the hand, 6 cards are dealt -- 2 player cards, 2 dealer cards, and 2 communal cards. 3 cards are visible to the player -- 1 of the player cards and the 2 common communal cards. The player forms a blackjack hand using his upcard and 1 of the 2 communal cards. After the cards are dealt, the player has 3 options:

--Play the hand using the 1st communal card, doubling his initial bet
--Play the hand using the 2nd communal card, doubling his initial bet
--Fold the hand, forfeiting his initial bet

If the hand is played, the player has the choice to either play with the selected 2-card hand, or hit and make a 3-card hand using his 2nd (face down) player card. The player can only hit once and cannot double or split. After the player has made his decision, the dealer reveals his hand.

If the dealer has a 13 or better, the dealer "qualifies." If the player wins the hand and the dealer qualifies, the player wins 1:1 on his full bet. If the dealer does not qualify (regardless of whether the player wins or loses the hand), then the player wins the initial bet, and the raise bet is returned. If the player loses the hand and the dealer qualifies, then the player loses his full bet. If the player and dealer push, both bets are returned.

The dealer must follow a specific set of rules when forming his hand, which is known as the "house way." The Playtech dealer chooses the communal card that forms the highest ranked hand in the table below, then hits if he has 16 or less. For example, if the dealer had a 7 and the communal cards were 2 and 10, the dealer would choose the 2 because 7+2=9 is higher ranked than 7+10=17. He would hit after selecting the 2 because 9 is 16 or less.

Soft 16-12
Hard 12-16



Until you get a feel for the game, I recommend using the optimal strategy calculator. Enter your upcard and the two communal cards (board cards), and the calc will output the hand with the strategy decisions with the highest EV -- either hand 1 or hand 2, and either hit or stand. Once you get used to the game, you probably will only need the calc for close calls.

Instead of the calc, you may prefer using the strategy guidelines I've listed below. The house edge per unit wagered is ~1.65% when following these guidelines... ~0.03% more than optimal.

1. Fold on the following hands, otherwise play. Note that the folded hands have a player upcard of 2-7 and a communal card of 10 or A.

Player Upcard Communal Card 1 Communal Card 2
2 10 5-6
3 10 4-5
4 10 3-4
5 10 2, 7-10
6 10 6-10
7 10 5-7
2 A 5-6, 10
3 A 9-10
4 A 8-10
5 A 7-10
6 A 8

2. If you are playing the hand, choose the communal card such that you form the highest two-card rank on the list below:

Soft 16
Soft 15-12
Hard 16 when stand*
Hard 12
Hard 13
Hard 15 when stand*
Hard 14-16 (when hit)
*See stand exceptions in step #3

3. Generally hit 16 or less and stand on 17 or greater. Exceptions are below:

-Hit soft 17, if one of the communal cards is an ace
-Stand on hard 15-16, if both communal cards are 2-6
-Stand on hard 16, with communal cards of 10 & 2


House Edge

Under Playtech rules with 6 decks, the house edge (defined per initial bet) of 21 Duel Blackjack is 3.08%. The average bet size is 1.90x the initial ante bet, making the house edge per unit wagered 1.62%. The latter value of 1.62% is more appropriate to estimate expected loss over a wagering requirement.


Variance and Bet Size

The standard deviation per initial bet of Playtech 21 Duel Blackjack is 1.72. The average bet size is 1.90x the initial ante bet, making the standard deviation per unit wagered 1.25. The latter value of 1.25 is more appropriate for estimating range of return while completing a wagering requirement.


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