One of the common methods used to change up a blackjack game is to change the number of decks used in the shoe. As most players know, reducing the number of decks generally works in the player’s favor (as long as other rules aren’t changed to offset this advantage), as using fewer decks increases the odds of a blackjack occurring. Since players get 3-2 on a winning blackjack, this works to their advantage.
In Big Five Blackjack, standard blackjack rules are almost always used. The only difference is the unusual shoe size: Big Five Blackjack, as you might suspect, uses a five-deck shoe. This is better for the player than the standard six, eight, or “infinite” deck shoes often seen online, but doesn’t require casinos to make the tricky rules adjustments to keep an edge that they often do with single or double deck games.
Big Five Blackjack Rules
Put quite simple, Big Five Blackjack is standard blackjack with five decks. However, let’s go over the rules of blackjack one more time, just in case you’re not familiar with the game.
Play begins with each player making a bet. The player then receives a two-card hand face up, while the dealer has one face-up card (the up card) and one face-down card (the hole card).
The object of the game is to make a hand as close to 21 as possible, without going over. Each card adds to a player’s score: numbered cards are worth their printed number, face cards are worth 10 points, and an ace can be used either as an 11, or — if an 11 would cause the player to go over 21 — as a one.
The best possible starting hand is known as a blackjack, which occurs if you start the hand with an ace and a ten-point card. Before play begins, if the dealer is showing a ten or an ace, they will check for blackjack; if the dealer has one, it will be revealed, and all player hands lose (with the exception of player blackjacks, which push). In all other cases, player blackjacks pay out at 3-2 odds at the start of the hand.
If the player does not have blackjack, they’ll be given the opportunity to play their hand. At any time, a player may choose to “stand,” or stick with their current hand. Alternately, the player can choose to “hit,” in which case they’ll be given an extra card to add to their hand. The danger in this action is that the player could go over 21 points. When this occurs, the player busts, and immediately loses any bets they have made.
Players also have two special options they can choose to use on their starting hands. First, players have the option of doubling down. If the player doubles down, they must put up a second bet equal in size to their initial bet. The player then receives one more card from the dealer, after which they must stand.
The other option that is sometimes available to the player is the split. If the player has two cards of the same rank, they may split them into two hands, each of which will be played for one full bet. The dealer will then deal new second cards to each of those hands, and players will normally have the option to play them as usual (including splitting again up to a maximum of four hands, or doubling down). There is usually an exception made for aces, however; if the player splits aces, they may only receive the one additional card the dealer gives them, after which they must stand.
After the player has finished making all of their decisions, the dealer will reveal their hole card. The dealer must now play their hand according to the strict rules printed on the blackjack table. On most Big Five Blackjack tables, this means that the dealer will hit all hands of 16 or less, as well as hitting on soft 17 – that is, a 17 that includes an ace which still counts as 11 points. All other hands will result in the dealer standing.
If the dealer busts, all players still alive in the hand immediately win even money. If the dealer stands, the dealer hand is compared to the player hand. If a player has a higher total than the dealer, they win even money. If the dealer has the higher hand, the player loses their bets. In the case of a tie, all bets push.
Big Five Blackjack Strategy
Big Five Blackjack players should use a fairly standard strategy, modified only for the fact that the dealer will be hitting on a soft 17. While having only five decks in the show does improve the odds for players when compared to an eight deck game, it has no material effect on the strategy the player should use.