This article explains how to play Multi-Hand Blackjack, a popular variation of blackjack offered in online casinos.
Table of Contents
- Playing Rules
- How to Play Your Hands
- The Effect of Playing Multiple Hands
- Expected Losses
- Bankroll Swings
- Card Counting
- Progressive Betting Systems
- Playing Multiple Hands in Land-Based Casinos
1 – Playing Rules
Multi-Hand Blackjack is the same as the traditional blackjack game with this caveat: you can play more than one hand per round (up to five hands although the latter varies by the online site).
You are playing against a dealer with the objective of beating her by:
- Having your hand total higher than the dealer’s hand, or
- Having 21 or less when the dealer busts.
You have the option to play one or more hands per round. Some online casinos allow you to play up to three hands while others permit five hands (check the blackjack rules). You can also bet the same or different amounts on each hand up to the table limits.
You must decide how to play each hand to completion, in turn, starting from the hand closest to first base (dealer’s left side), and then proceeding to the player’s left toward third base (dealer’s right side).
Below is a summary of the playing rules for Multi-Hand Blackjack on 888casino.com. (Note: The playing rules may differ slightly for other online casinos; therefore, always check the playing rules.)
- Six-decks; cards shuffled after each round.
- Dealer stands on soft 17.
- Player’s untied blackjack hand pays 3 to 2.
- Doubling down is allowed only on hard 9, 10, and 11. (Only one draw card is dealt.)
- Doubling down after pair splitting is allowed.
- Pair splitting is allowed when the first two cards have the same value (e.g., K + J) as well as on identical cards (e.g., 6 + 6), up to a total of four hands.
- Split aces receive only one card. Split
- Insurance is offered when the dealer’s upcard is an ace. A winning insurance bet pays 2 to 1.
2 – How to Play Your Hands
You should not make the same playing decision on every hand. Rather, you should play each hand independently based on the cards dealt in each hand and the dealer’s upcard. The strategy you should use is the basic blackjack playing strategy, which is the optimal strategy assuming the only information you have is the cards in each hand and the value of the dealer’s upcard.
By using the basic playing strategy for every hand, you will increase your overall return to the optimal level. For example, playing Multi-Hand Blackjack with the above set of playing rules results in a 99.5% return or a 0.5% house edge using the house edge calculator on wizardofodds.com.
Also, keep this in mind when playing more than one hand: The house edge does not change; it is the same for each hand, so playing multiple hands per round will not increase your chance of winning.
3 – What is the Effect of Playing Multiple Hands?
When you play more than one hand per round, the number of hands played per hour increases but the number of rounds played per hour decreases.
Below is a table that shows the average number of rounds per hour for various numbers of players for an Atlantic City six-deck blackjack game. (Data from Table 93 from Blackjack Hall of Famer Stanford Wong’s classic book Professional Blackjack.)
|Player Hands||Rounds Per Hour|
Note: The above data is for a land-based casino. Playing blackjack online can be a faster game. Nevertheless, to make my points in this article, I’ll use the above data.
4 – Expected Losses
Suppose you play the above Multi-Hand game and play only one hand per round. You flat bet $25 and play 248 hands per hour. Let’s assume the house edge using the basic playing strategy is 0.5%. Your average theoretical loss per hour is:
$25 x 248 x 0.0050 = $31 per hour.
Let’s look at a second scenario. Now, instead of playing only one hand, you play five hands per round and bet the same amount ($25) on each hand. Your average theoretical loss per hour is:
$125 x 76 x .0050 = $48 per hour (rounded).
By playing five hands, you decrease the number of rounds played per hour but your total wagers increase five-fold per round (from $25 to $125). Because of this, you stand to lose theoretically 1.5 times more money, on average, compared to playing only one hand because you’ve exposed more of your bankroll against the house edge.
Scenario number three: Now you take the $25 that you would have bet on one hand and spread it over five hands, betting $5 per hand per round. Your average theoretical loss per hour is:
$25 x 76 x 0.0050 = $10 per hour (rounded).
Conclusion: Your expected hourly loss with basic strategy will decline (and your theoretical return will increase) when you spread the amount you would have bet on one hand over five hands per round.
5 – Bankroll Swings
You probably would think that the swings in your bankroll would be the same whether you bet, say, $20 on one hand or $10 on each of two hands since the total amount wagered per round is the same ($20).
However, the two hands are not independent because they are associated with the same dealer’s hand, so if the dealer has a lousy hand, you are likely to win both hands (and vice versa, if she has a strong hand).
What this means in practical terms is that your bankroll will not fluctuate as much when you bet $10 on each of two hands, compared to betting $20 on one hand. Additionally, for the same total amount wagered per round, betting two hands improves the chances of your bankroll lasting longer compared to betting it all on one hand.
6 – Card Counting at Multi-Hand Blackjack
Playing more than one hand in land-based casinos is a beneficial strategy for card counters who have the edge. With Multi-Hand Blackjack, the six-deck of cards are reshuffled after every hand. Therefore, there is no advantage for the card counter in this game.
7 – Progressive Betting Systems
Varying your bets in a predetermined manner, depending on if the previous hand won or lost, will not change the house edge; meaning, it will not increase your chance of winning when playing Multi-Hand Blackjack. If you use a progressive betting system on one or more hands, you will put more money at risk and your hourly theoretical loss will increase.
8 – Playing Multiple Hands in Land-Based Casinos
It’s possible to play multiple hands in a land-based casino. However, there must be open spots on a blackjack table to do so. Additionally, most casinos have this requirement if you want to play more than one hand: you must bet double the table minimum on each hand. (For more on this, click here.)
9 – Summary
- Multi-Hand Blackjack is offered in online casinos.
- It allows a player to play from one up to five hands per round.
- You should play every hand according to the basic playing strategy.
- Your theoretical loss per hour will decrease if you take what you would have bet on one hand and spread it to two or more hands.
- Playing multiple hands compared to a single hand (with the total amount bet the same per round) will decrease your bankroll swings and improve the chance of your bankroll lasting longer.
- Card counting and progressive betting will not increase your chance of winning at Multi-Hand Blackjack.
- In a land-based casino, if there are open spots on a blackjack table, you can play more than one hand but, usually, you must bet double the table minimum on each hand.