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Latest Blackjack Rules in France

Blackjack in FranceBy Cliff Gill.

Blackjack is one of the oldest games of chance played today and has been around for centuries. One of the reasons for its enduring popularity is that its design was not focused on making casino money but on being roughly fair between the players and dealers, which means it has a very low house edge. However, casinos today are keen to try and increase that, for obvious reasons, and rule changes can often decrease the chances of a player finishing ahead. Whether visiting France for a holiday or living there permanently, the country has plenty of casinos, many of which offer blackjack. Here is a rundown of what might be expected and a few things that are particularly appealing or bad for players. Be aware that each casino has its own rule set, which can vary significantly, so it is prudent to check ahead of time.

Online Blackjack and Strategy

Playing blackjack in person has been popular for centuries, and recent years have also seen the rise of online blackjack games. These come in the forms of single-player/regular formats, in which the player faces a programmed dealer, and live tables, which are multiplayer games featuring a real-life dealer and table connected to players by live streaming technology.

The rules of playing blackjack in physical establishments and at online casinos can vary significantly, and so can corresponding strategic calls a player should make to maximize their prospects. Common rules at French online casinos include doubling (taking just one more extra card and doubling the bet) and surrendering (giving up a hand but getting half the stake returned). Insurance is also available. This means a side bet as protection against the dealer having blackjack when they have an ace. However, as with playing in person, insurance should not be taken as, over the long term, it decreases the chances of finishing ahead. Just as with any other game of blackjack, memorizing basic strategies to always make the right call on whether to hit, stand, split, double, or surrender will increase the chances of achieving profits. Likewise, learning to count cards (even with multi-deck games) is a major advantage for players.

Shuffle Machines

There is an advantage to tables with continuous shuffle machines (CSMs) and automatic shuffle machines (ASMs), as these both speed up the game by around 20% or so. Between these two types of counting machines, there is a significant difference. An ASM shuffles together all the decks, the player cuts, and then the cards are placed in the shoe. As the name implies, the CSM shuffles in an ongoing way as old cards are fed into it. This happens every few hands or so and makes card counting not quite worthless but certainly of far less worth than with the ASM approach. If possible, players should opt for having either no machine at their table or an ASM. There may be a stake effect (bigger wagers mean more pushback from serious players, so the CSMs are less likely to be used when the stakes are bigger). Precise figures are hard to come by, but it is believed many French casinos, perhaps half or more, use CSMs.

No Hole Card

Commonplace in France and elsewhere in Europe, the no-hole card rule is a minor variation, but one still worth knowing, as any change in the rule set is something players should know about. This rule means that the dealer will wait until players have made their decisions and completed their hands before he takes a hole card. While this would seem, at first glance, not to affect basic strategy, the dealer will also keep double down and split hand bets should he have a natural. Those taking advantage of basic strategy to make the optimal decisions at all times will, therefore, need to memorize a slightly amended version to account for no hole card rules.

Six Decks and a Shoe

French casinos typically host blackjack at tables with six decks. While not the end of the world, it is better for players to have tables with the fewest number of decks, with single-deck blackjack being a rare but near-perfect game. (Be aware that single-deck blackjack may suffer the 6:5 rule, see below, which wipes out the advantage the player would otherwise gain). Playing with six decks, as is the norm in France, reduces the player advantage by 0.56%. Unlike the single-deck version, which is usually held in hand, the six-deck variety uses a shoe. These make card counting harder and (at nefarious establishments) can be rigged so that the dealer can see the top card prior to dealing it and deal the second card if they prefer.

Re-splitting Differences

French casino rules are highly similar from one establishment to another, but there are differences, primarily revolving around re-splitting rules. Splitting pairs is technically an optional rule but is often available and means splitting a pair of cards so that two hands are held (thus also doubling the bet). When hunting for profits at the blackjack table, splitting is a terrible idea for 10s and 5s and excellent for aces and 8s. However, frequently, it’s the case that split aces can only have one card.

Re-splitting occurs after an initial split and means splitting again. Many casinos allow this but prohibit the re-splitting of aces. The latter is always a benefit, of course, and significantly more so in a multi-deck game (for the six-deck version, French casinos mostly offer, this amounts to a 0.1% improvement in player advantage). The rules in this area can differ from one casino to another.

Doubling

Doubling is the decision to take just one more card and double the bet. In France, this is usually possible on any two opening cards. Hard 11 is the classic hand on which to double, as there’s a decent shot of hitting 21. Do not expect to be able to double with a three-card hand. In addition to considering one’s own hand, it’s sensible to see what the dealer’s got, if possible. Face cards of 5 or 6 are the weakest for the dealer as they are fairly high but will require another card (which could make them bust). Doubling can occur after splitting.

Stand on Soft 17

A soft hand is one that includes an ace. Dealers normally stand on 17, whether the hand is hard or soft. This is a minor advantage to the player, and it is worth knowing as a face card of a 6 could mean the dealer has a soft 17 and will stand.

Surrender

Surrender always sounds like a bad thing, which is ironic as it is undoubtedly advantageous to the player. In France, surrender will sometimes be available. The rule comes in two varieties: early surrender and late surrender. Taking the surrender decision means the player forfeits his hand, and the dealer takes half the bet, returning the other half to the player. When the dealer has a strong face card, or the player’s hand is abysmal, surrender can be a fantastic option for those who understand seemingly small mathematical changes can add up to a big difference. Late surrender means it can only take place after the dealer checks to see if they have a natural. Early surrender means it can happen before this, which is even better for the player. A small number of French casinos permit early surrender against 10, with late surrender against other cards. Hands that are prime candidates for surrendering are hard 15 or 16 (hard, meaning a hand without an ace).

Watch out for 6:5

The rise of 6:5 tables is a golden example of a game to avoid. The correct rule set for blackjack is that a player with blackjack should make 3:2 (150% of the sum bet). However, on a 6:5 table, this plunges to 120% of the sum bet. Possibly because of the psychological factor of bigger numbers seeming to be better (even though when dealing with ratios or fractions, this need not be the case) or possibly because most players are unaware the rule is meant to be 3:2, many are content to play at 6:5 tables even though they should be shunned. This is just one of various tactics used to try and reduce player profits. In mathematical terms, a single deck table with 6:5, as a rule, has a house edge of around 1.45%, compared to just 0.18% for a single deck game with the correct 3:2 rule. Playing at a 6:5 table is deeply unwise.

Blackjack is a great game thanks to its simple gameplay mingled with the need for intelligent decision-making. In France, as elsewhere, rule sets can vary significantly, so a player should always check ahead of time to ensure they know what’s what.

IMAGE CREDIT: Microsoft Copilot

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