Over the years, many blackjack variants have been developed that give the players additional ways to win. Some keep the rules basically the same, while adding a couple interesting twists (Super Fun 21 is a good example), while others completely alter the structure of the game to give the player an advantage they could never have in regular blackjack (such as Double Exposure games). Typically, these advantages are balanced out with some favorable rule changes for the dealer.
But none of these games give players quite the range of options as Anything Goes Blackjack. In Anything Goes, players have the option of playing a game that’s functionally identical to regular blackjack. However, they also have four options designed to increase the player’s chances of winning each hand, adding new strategic implications and plenty of ways to recover from what feel like hopeless situations during gameplay.
How to Play Anything Goes Blackjack
To begin with, Anything Goes Blackjack is structured like a standard blackjack game. In the versions that we’ve seen online, the dealer will hit on soft 17, players may hit split aces and double after splitting, and late surrender is available. As normal, blackjacks pay 3-2, and the goal of the game is to make a hand as close to 21 as possible without going over.
The game begins with the player making a wager. After this is done, the player will receive two cards face up, while the dealer will receive one face up card and one face down card.
The player is now given the option to play their hand as they see fit. Players have the option to hit (receive an additional card) or stand (finalize their hand) at any time. Players may also double down (make a second bet in exchange for just one more card, after which they must stand) on their first two cards, or split their first two cards into two hands if they were dealt a pair. If the player should bust by making a hand of more than 21, they immediately lose that hand — unless they use one of the special options mentioned below.
After the player has finished playing their hand, the dealer will reveal their second card. Should the dealer have a hand of 16 or less, the dealer will always hit. If the dealer has a hand of 17 that includes an ace worth 11 points — a “soft” 17 — then the dealer will hit that hand, as well. On all other hands, the dealer will stand. If the dealer busts, the player immediately wins even money on their bets. Otherwise, the two hands are compared; if the player hand is higher, they win their bets, while if the dealer hand is higher, the player bets are lost. In the case of a tie, all bets push.
Special Betting Options in Anything Goes Blackjack
So far, Anything Goes Blackjack should sound exactly like a standard blackjack game. However, the game is changed significantly by the presence of four special betting options that give you the chance to replace cards and otherwise improve difficult positions during gameplay. Players may only use one of these options on each hand; they may not be combined or used multiple times during the same hand.
Option 1: Players may replace one of their first two cards, at the cost of sacrificing their initial bet and making a second bet in its place. This second bet is made on the “1” circle. The player will then be dealt a replacement card, and the hand will continue as normal.
Option 2: After doubling down, a player may choose to replace the card they received with a new card, as in Option 1. If the player chooses the option, they lose their original bet, and must make a new wager of the same size on the “2” circle.
Option 3: After doubling down, the player can choose to double down a second time, receiving a second double down card. This card will be treated separately from the first double down card; the player must make a bet equal to the size of their original bet, and it is this bet that will win or lose with the new double down card. However, this option is only available if the dealer is showing a ten or an ace. This bet is made on the “3” circle.
Option 4: If the player takes a card and busts, the player may choose to replace the bust card with a new card drawn from the shoe. To do so, the player must make a bet on the “4” circle. The original bet is still lost, but the player may win or lose the new bet depending on the results of the hand.
Strategies for Anything Goes Blackjack
The standard rules for Anything Goes blackjack are very favorable to the player. In fact, playing this game as a standard blackjack game results in a house edge of just 0.3%. This is one of the lower edges you’ll find in any online blackjack game, making it a great game even without using any of the special betting options available.
However, it’s nearly always incorrect to ever use any of those betting options in an attempt to improve your odds. While finding a full analysis of this game was difficult, the following is a shorthand look at each option and why they will not help you make money (with one exception). Remember that each of these options immediately costs you a full bet, which is very difficult to make up even with a better card.
Option 1: Replacing one card with another might be worth a full bet in some spots if we could pick the card we would receive; however, receiving a random new card will never be worth quite that much.
Option 2: Even if the player has a really positive situation and gets a terrible double down card (such as an 11 vs. a dealer 7, and receiving a small card that leaves the player with 16 or less), the difference between their bad card and their expectation on a replacement card is slightly less than a full bet.
Option 3: Because this option can only be used if the dealer is showing a ten or an ace, the usefulness of this option is severely limited. However, doubling down with 11 against a dealer ten or ace is the correct play under the rules of this game; as such, it should also be correct to double down again a second time, as you will have a slight edge on the second hand as well.
Option 4: This bet may be tempting in some cases, but the player never has an edge over the dealer in any situation where you may have busted. As such, it’s not worth risking another bet to try again.