European Blackjack: The Complete Guide

If you’ve yet to explore the thrill that is European Blackjack, then we’re here to introduce you to this casino classic. While there are many blackjack variants to enjoy, we believe that this is up there with the most thrilling of all. Why? Well, you’ll see that this is a game that has favorable rules for players, as well as the potential to win big. When you master European Blackjack strategy, the odds move even more in your favor.

If you like what you read here, you may be wondering where you can play European Blackjack. Well, at SlotJava, we have reviewed casinos across the US, and can recommend those that are the best to play at. When you see just how many casinos feature this game, you’ll realize just how popular European Blackjack is.

Read on as we share all you need to know about this casino classic. We’ll be covering the basics, exploring European Blackjack rules, explaining optimum strategy, and discussing payouts. At the end of this guide, you’ll be set and ready to play.

The History of Blackjack

Classic Blackjack has been a popular pastime for centuries, with the first known records of the game in the 17th century. As with many games, there’s a very good chance that Blackjack dates back even further, as the specifics of its origins are not totally clear. Because some of the details of the history have been lost, there are many variations of this game. However, the version that most people are familiar with is the European version. 

European Blackjack has been known by many names over the years, with 21 being the most common (which is what it is still called in Italy). The history of the game is rich, from Miguel de Cervantes describing it as one of the most popular pastimes amongst the men of his time to its current popularity in American casinos. 

European emigrants brought their beloved 21 across the pond to the United States, where it quickly gained popularity amongst Americans. Once prohibition began, there was a decline in popularity, but that was short-lived once 21 made its way to one of the biggest gambling spots around Las Vegas. Club managers along the strip were set on giving the game a new life now that it’s survived prohibition. With the promise of free drinks for those that have held a blackjack during a game of 21, not only did the game become a hit again, but the name Blackjack was born. 

European Blackjack: Basic Terminology

Before you can start to enjoy online European Blackjack, you need to have an overview of how the game works, and the terms that you’ll come across. Don’t worry though: as you’ll see there’s not too much to learn. In fact, one of the things that makes European Blackjack so popular is its simplicity. In terms of just how popular it is compared to other casino games, only slots come in any higher.

When you play European Blackjack, you are only playing against the dealer. Even when playing live casino versions with other players, your only aim is to beat the dealer. Whatever other players do doesn’t have any impact on you. 

The number of decks used in the game is usually 2 , but can go up to 8. Each of the cards from 2-10 has their face value. If you are dealt Jacks, Queens or Kings, these are all worth 10. Aces are a little special here and can be worth either 1 or 11. You decide based on your hand.

Initially, you are dealt two cards, and the aim is to get your hand closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand. The cards are dealt face-up, meaning that they can be seen by all. The dealer only deals themselves one up card, with the second being dealt when players have finished their hands. Seeing the dealer’s first card, and looking at your own hand, helps you to follow European Blackjack strategy.

If your hand is worth 21, you have a blackjack (the best result). If your hand is worth less than 21, you have several options:

  • Hit: You receive an extra card to increase your hand.
  • Stand: You keep the hand you have and don’t add to it.
  • Double Down: You agree to double your initial bet and only receive one more card.
  • Split: If you have two identical cards, you can split these and play two hands. You also need to place a bet on the new hand.
  • Surrender: Foreit half of your bet and exit the game. 

If at any point the value of your hand goes above 21, you’re bust and out of the game. 

European Blackjack Strategy with charts

As we’ll see soon, one of the great things about playing European Blackjack for real money is the low house edge. All games have a weighting in favor of the casino, but when you play this game, it is extremely low.  The way to get this even lower is to master European Blackjack basic strategy. 

European Blackjack strategy is all about maximizing your chances of winning while minimizing the risks. It considers the cards that you are holding, and the one that the dealer has. Based on the combinations, basic strategy will tell you whether you should hit, stand, double down, or split. Of course, this can’t guarantee a win, but it is based on probability. Following its instructions is highly recommended.

It may sound like there’s a lot to learn, but the good news is that there are European Blackjack strategy charts that sum it all up. You can simply look at your hand, consult the chart, and then act accordingly. The even better news is that you can use these charts while you’re playing, so memorizing them isn’t a must. Want even more good news? Well, below you’ll find a chart that you can’t start using right away.

Your HandDealer’s Up CardAction
82-4Double Down or Hit
92-6Double Down
10AnyDouble Down or Stand (consult detailed strategy)
11AnyDouble Down
122-3 or 7-A
Pair (except 10s)AnySplit

Here’s a summary of what the European Blackjack strategy chart shows us:

  • Hit – Always hit if your hand is worth 8 or less. You should usually also hit on 9, 10 and 11, although this depends on what the dealer’s up card us.
  • Stand – If you’re holding 17 or more, you should stand. You may also want to stand on 16 on some occasions.
  • Double Down – If the dealer’s up card is weak (6 or less) then look to double down if your hand is worth 9, 10 or 11.
  • Split – Most pairs should be split, but not 10s. Splitting Aces is beneficial.

As we have said, using basic strategy doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win every hand of European Blackjack. However, the truth is that it will hugely increase your chances. It is something used by professionals and those who play for fun in equal measure. 

European Blackjack House Edge and Odds

One of the reasons that blackjack is so popular with players is that it has a low house edge. The house edge refers to the advantage that the casino has in the game, so the lower this is the better. With blackjack in general, you can expect a house edge of around 2%. When it comes to European Blackjack, this falls to between 0.5% and 1%. Things get even better when you play with European Blackjack basic strategy as the house edge tumbles to around 0.39%.

When it comes to the chances of you winning online European Blackjack, this can be as high as 42.22%. While it may seem that the remaining 57.78% is the houses’ chance, it’s worth mentioning that there is also the chance of a third outcome: a tie. This is known as a ‘push’ and happens around 8.48%.

European blackjack, though similar to the classic version, utilizes at least two 52-card decks. A big difference here is that the dealer stands on a soft 17 without checking their cards. This potentially leaves your bets being a little futile if they hold the winning hand.

Hard Hand vs. Soft Hand

How do you know what type of hand you have? If you are dealt a hand with an Ace, then you have a soft hand because it is easier to work with as the value of the Ace can be either 1 or 11. For example, if you are dealt an Ace and an 8, your hand can be valued at 9 or 19. 

If you are dealt a hand without an Ace, your hand is considered hard, since the total can’t vary. An example would be if you are dealt two 4 cards, the total is and can only be 8. 

European Blackjack Rules

There are players who steer clear of card games, believing that they may be too complicated to enjoy. The reality, however, is that European Blackjack is incredibly simple, and just as enjoyable as other casino games, such as free slots. Let’s take a closer look at how it all works and explore European Blackjack rules.

  • The game begins with the dealer dealing two face up cards to each player. They then deal themselves a single card. This card is face up and can be seen by the players.
  • The players go first and decide what to do with their hand. If they have less than 21, they may want to hit to increase their total. 
  • When players are happy with their total, they choose to stand.
  • The other options that we covered earlier are to double down, split, or surrender.
  • When each player has completed their hand, it is then the dealer’s turn.
  • The dealer will deal themselves another card. If they have 17 or more, they must stand.
  • The game is decided by comparing your hand to that of the dealer. Whoever is closer to 21, without exceeding it, wins.

When you play at online casinos, the game will be facilitated by a computer, unless you’re playing a live dealer version. You’ll find that live games can be played very quickly. If you are new to European Blackjack, it may be worth playing the computer version first. This allows you to take things at your own pace and familiarize yourself with the rules and gameplay. 

To make things a little clearer, let’s explore some scenarios and consider the actions you could take:

Consider a game of European Blackjack where your two cards total 12. You can see that the dealer has a 7. In this case, it may be best to hit to increase your hand. The chances of going bust are minimal here.

Now, let’s say that your first two cards see you with a strong total, such as 19 or 20. If you hit now, there’s a good chance that you’re going to go bust. In this scenario, regardless of the dealers’ card, you should stand.

If you start your hand of European Blackjack with a total of 11, and the dealer has a weak hand such as six, it would be a good idea to double down. That’s because receiving just one more card is likely to leave you in a strong position.

Another possibility here is that you start the round with two 8s while the dealer’s visible card is weak, such as a 5. In this case, it could be that splitting is the right option, as it gives you the chance to build two stronger hands.

If you start the game with a total of 16, and the dealer has a strong card, such as a 10, the situation is a little tricky. It may not be enough to win but hitting risks you going bust. The best course of action here could be to surrender.

By consulting a European Blackjack strategy chart, you’ll know exactly what to do to maximize your chances of winning. 

European Blackjack Payouts

When you play European Blackjack, the payouts are similar to what you’ll find in other variations of the game. However, there are a few key differences to be aware of. Let’s take a look:

Natural Blackjack 

This is when you have 21 with your first 2 cards. This is achieved by being dealt an ace and a card worth 10. When this happens, the payout is 3:2. It’s worth noting that there are many land-based casinos that have reduced this to 6:5.

Winning Hand

If you are closer to 21 than the dealer, without going bust, you get even money. This means that you get your original wager back as well as an equal amount from the dealer. 


This is when you tie with the dealer. In this case, no one wins or loses money and the original wager is returned.


When you play European Blackjack, there is the option to take insurance when the dealer has an ace as their upcard. The insurance bet can be up to half of your original one. If the dealer then ends up with a blackjack, the insurance will pay you out at 2:1. If the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack, you lose the insurance bet, but the game carries on.

Split Aces

In some online European Blackjack games, you need to be aware of how split aces are viewed. Let’s say that you split these, and then draw a 10, you may think that you have a natural blackjack, and expect a 3:2 payout. However, some games will see this as a regular 21, and not a natural blackjack. That means you won’t get the 3:2 payout. 

Wherever you choose to play European Blackjack, it’s important to check the paytable and the rules before you wager. There can be slight differences depending on the table that you’re playing at, and you need to be sure just how the payouts work.

European Blackjack vs other Blackjack games: key differences and similarities

European Blackjack is one of many variations of this classic casino game. When you take a look at these side by side, there are plenty of similarities, as well as some key differences that you need to know about. Let’s take a look at these now:

Similarities Between European Blackjack and Other Variants

  • Objective: The main objective of European Blackjack and other variants is the same: to beat the dealer’s hand without going bust by exceeding 21.
  • Card Values: When you look at all versions of blackjack, the card values are identical. Numbered cards always have their face value while picture cards are worth 10. Aces can be used as a 1 or an 11.
  • Basic Rules: When you compare basic European Blackjack rules to those found in other versions, there is plenty in common. The likes of hitting, standing, splitting and doubling down are consistent across the variants.

Key Differences 

AspectEuropean BlackjackOther Blackjack Games
Number of DecksUsually 2 DecksVaries – usually 6-8
Dealer’s CardsDealer is dealt one card face upCan be dealt 2 cards. One face up and one down.
Double DownCan only double down on 9, 10, or 11Varies
Splitting AcesCan often only receive one card after splitting acesMultiple hit allowed
Blackjack Payout3:2Can vary
  • Number of Decks: European Blackjack often uses less decks than other variants.
  • Dealer’s Card: European Blackjack sees the dealer having one face up card. In versions such as American Blackjack, the dealer is dealt 2 cards: one up and one down.
  • Double Down: European Blackjack has restrictions when it comes to doubling down.

European Blackjack - Frequently Asked Questions

Should I choose European Blackjack or American Blackjack?

Much will come down to player preference, however, European Blackjack is seen as more favorable as it has a lower house edge.

Can I play European Blackjack games online?

Yes, you can play European Blackjack online at a range of sites. There are new casinos and established ones that offer this game.

What is early surrender in Blackjack?

This allows you to forfeit half of your bet and drop out of the game after seeing the dealer’s card. This is not available in all European Blackjack games.

When should I make a side bet?

Side bets can add an extra dimension to European Blackjack by allowing other ways to win. However, the house edge on these is generally high so they should be used for fun rather than a way to increase winnings.

What is an insurance bet in European Blackjack?

An insurance bet is offered in European Blackjack when the dealer’s up card is an ace. It protects you against the chances of the dealer having a blackjack. However, the house edge on this bet is high and many players will advise against using this option.

Iain West