Ever heard of a blackjack game in which the dealer doesn’t have a hole card?
You will now.
No, this isn’t some strange variation of blackjack. There are no side bets involved here. And even though on the surface a dealer without a hole card seems pretty harmless, it actually isn’t.
The way it works is that the dealer will deal two cards to each player at the table, and then only one to himself. Each player plays out his or her hand, and then the dealer receives his second card and continues to play out his hand from there.
The good thing about this style of blackjack is that it doesn’t impact the players in terms of cards. Think of that argument against that third base superstition—a player can’t make or break a dealer. Similarly, when the dealer receives his second card doesn’t really matter. There is no way of knowing if the card he would have had as a hole card in a normal game would be the best for him, or that the card he receives after all the other players have played out is best.
But that’s where the good stops.
What if the second card the dealer receives gives him a natural blackjack? And you’ve doubled down or split pairs? That’s twice the money you lost.
In a regular game if the dealer has a card worth 10 or an Ace showing he will check (after offering insurance in the case of the Ace) to see if he has blackjack. If he does the hand stops right there. This happens before players have made any decisions to double down or split pairs. And if the dealer does have blackjack you won’t have lost twice the money.
In this no hole card style a player could double down or split a pair before the dealer even receives his second card. You would have doubled your bet at more risk. Because if the dealer gets a natural blackjack when he receives his second card, you will have lost twice the money. And you wouldn’t have if he had had a hole card.
Luckily for those of you who play blackjack online this isn’t a concern. I have yet to see this sort of game in online blackjack. But if you’re on a cruise it is possible that you could encounter this type of game. If you do only play low stakes since there’s more risk involved. And even though it undermines basic strategy, I wouldn’t double down or split if the dealer’s first card is an Ace or a 10 card.