Blackjack is a game that should be familiar to all frequenters of casinos and other gambling establishments and regardless of whether you actually spend any time at the blackjack table, you undoubtedly know how it works.
The player tries to get as close as possible to having the total value of their cards equal to 21 without ever going over that number. There’s a bit more to it than that, but one thing you can depend on when you enter a casino is that blackjack will be blackjack. There are no major variations to the game that change from locale to locale – if you know how to play blackjack, you can play it pretty much anywhere.
Or can you?
In truth, though there aren’t any major variations in poker along the lines of the different types of poker games there are out there, there are certain rule variations that can alter the gameplay just enough to keep seasoned players on their toes.
Chief among these rule variations is what is known as the “no-peek” rule. It’s a rule that disadvantages the player and gives the house a further 0.11% house advantage. That may not seem like much, but every fraction of a percentage matters when it comes to gambling against the house.
What is the no-peek rule, you may be wondering, though?
Let’s break it down.
What It Is
To understand no-peek blackjack, we first have to understand what peeking is in blackjack. It’s not, as you may guess, another word for cheating by looking at another player’s hand, but involves the dealer peeking at their face-down card in a very specific situation.
That situation is where the dealer is dealt two cards, one face-up and one-face down and the face-up card is showing an ace – or, in some casinos, when even a 10-value card is showing – the dealer then “peeks” at their face-down card to see if they have a blackjack. If they do then they immediately claim the bets of everyone at the table except for any player who also has a blackjack, in which case the two blackjacks cancel each other out, or “push”, and the player takes back their hand.
I no-peek-rules blackjack, the dealer either only deals one face-up card to themselves and only deal themselves a second card after the round – where all players at the table have stood (stopped asking for more cards) or gone bust (gone over a total of 21) – or they deal two cards to themselves and don’t check that face-down card until the end of the round.
Obviously, the result is basically the same: players don’t find out whether the dealer has a blackjack until everyone else is finished playing.
What It Means
You might not think that revealing a second card at the end doesn’t make any difference as the blackjack beats all other hands except for other blackjacks. And in a simple game of blackjack where players place their bets at the beginning of the round and just play the cards they are dealt until either standing or going bust. The thing is, though, that there are two very popular moves in blackjack that do involve putting more money on the table beyond their opening bet: splitting and doubling.
Splitting refers to when the player gets two cards of the same value and splits them into two new hands with their initial bet now placed on both of the new hands. Doubling is when the player is so sure that the next card is going to win them the round (primarily when their total is 11, as they have a 16/ 52 chance of drawing a ten-value card) that they double up their initial wager before being dealt that card.
As such, unlike when the dealer peeks on an ace (and sometimes a 10-valued card) at the outset, if the dealer only shows their second card at the end of the round and they reveal a blackjack, they don’t just claim all of the initial bets but all doubles and splits that were played that round.
How to Play It
It is, therefore, extremely important when hitting the table at any casino (or an online blackjack machine) that you establish whether that table has a no-peeking rule. The reason for this is obvious: there is a subtle but crucial difference in how you play your hand.
In no-peek blackjack, if the dealer is showing an ace, you should never, ever split your hand unless you’re dealt two aces. And you should certainly never, under any circumstance, double your bet when playing against a revealed ace in no-peek blackjack. It’s a bit more complicated if the dealer is showing a 10-value card (a ten or a picture card), but as a rule, doubling is pretty much never a good idea in that case, and splitting be done rarely in all cases except where you have a pair of aces.
It does, of course, also depend on how much you bet at the outset. If you went for the minimum bet and you want to double on a particularly good hand then the small chance of losing that doubled bet is worth it for the low cost that you’ll incur even if you lose that doubled up bet. The same is also true when it comes to splitting, but in all cases when the dealer is showing a 10-value card or an ace, the only hand you should be splitting on in any case is a pair of aces.
Beyond these points, though, there should be very little difference between playing peek or no-peak blackjack.