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As we know, the classic gameplay of blackjack runs throughout the myriad of different variants of play that have emerged in the past few decades.
Beat the dealer to 21 and you will win: blackjack gets no more complicated than that.
There are styles of the classic casino game that have a number of different betting options, however, and one such title is Hi Lo Blackjack.
This is a fun game that adds an element of betting risk into the proceedings – but who knows, if your luck is in, then it may make your main table play more profitable.
The basis of the gameplay in Hi Lo Blackjack is the same as in any other version. You’re looking to hit 21, or as close to it as possible, by standing, hitting and doubling down as necessary.
The difference with Hi Lo is that there is an added betting option for players to explore: simply, you are wagering on whether your second hole card will be “Hi” or “Lo” compared to your first.
It is the amalgamation of two games: blackjack and Hi Lo, which in itself is played at online casinos and in games houses around the world.
Hi Lo is so simple that it doesn’t need a rulebook so much as a rule Post-It Note, but there are a couple of anomalies that players should remember.
Firstly, all you need to do is select your chip size from the stack and add that to your Hi or Lo boxes.
Your bet wins if:
The standard pecking order of cards is true in Hi Lo, with the king the highest-ranking and two the lowest. Another golden rule of this side game is that an ace has no numerical value.
Your bet loses if:
Your bet is pushed when:
Once the deal has been completed, Hi Lo bets are settled instantly, and then normal blackjack gameplay resumes.
Clearly, you have a theoretical chance of 50% of your second card being higher or lower than your first card, so this is a classic “coin flip” scenario.
Interestingly, the house pays 1:1 for successful wagers, which is the correct amount given the probabilities. However, players should note that often six decks are used in this version of the game, which conflates the odds slightly as opposed to if you were playing a single-deck game.
With sportsbooks, for example, you would never be paid out 1:1 on a true 50/50 bet, because they would build their own profit margin into the payout. At least the casinos are playing ball!
Should it help your thinking, a traditional Hi Lo game played in a casino – not with any blackjack elements – has a Return to Player (RTP) rate of around 96%, which gives us an understanding of the house’s edge even when the rules suggest a level of parity between player and dealer.
However, Hi Lo Blackjack games offer an RTP as high as 99.8%.
There is an important distinction to make here between two aspects of blackjack bearing the Hi Lo name.
The game Hi Lo Blackjack is an entity in itself, as described above.
There is also the Hi Lo system for counting cards in blackjack, which is also often displayed as High-Low.
While the Hi Lo count won’t necessarily help you in the side bet bearing the same name, it can be a very useful way of lowering the house edge by predicting which cards are going to be dealt next.
A number of pre-eminent blackjack theorists, including Stanford Wong, Harvey Dubner and Don Schlesinger, have written about the trials and tribulations of card counting, but the general consensus is that when done well, the High-Low count can be a really effective tool for blackjack players to utilise.
As is the case with most card counting techniques, the actual concept behind the High-Low count is simple enough to understand but rather more complex to act out!
With the system, cards are grouped and given a theoretical score:
This process enables you to keep a running count of where a game is at – for example, if the sequence of cards dealt was A-7-3-4-9-J-2, then the running count would be -1, 0, +1, +1, 0, -1, +1, or in other words +1.
The next step in the High-Low process is to establish the true count, and you do this by dividing the running count with the number of decks remaining.
If your gameplay yielded a running count of +6 and there were three decks remaining, then your true count would be +2.
The true count gives you a more accurate representation of where a game of blackjack is at in terms of the cards left to be dealt.
The general rule of thumb is that the higher the count is, the more you should bet. Why? Because there are more aces, faces and tens left to be dealt than low cards, by virtue of the maths.
As we have discovered, in blackjack parlance, the meanings of Hi Lo and High-Low are very different.
Hi Lo is a form of blackjack that is popular with many players – the added jeopardy of the side bet adding an extra layer of excitement to proceedings.
Meanwhile, you can utilise the High-Low card counting system within Hi Lo Blackjack – but be warned, an inadequate card counter is on a collision course with bankroll-busting mayhem. Only attempt to count cards if you are confident in your abilities.
You can test out your High-Low game by playing Hi Lo Blackjack, and other variants, for free at Bitcasino. All you need to do to get started is register for a new player account.
Words: Sean McNulty