What is rummy blackjack, and how does it differ from traditional rummy and traditional blackjack games?
The answer isn’t as simple as you might think, because the word “rummy” means multiple things in the world of blackjack.
In most casinos where it comes up, “rummy” is just a side bet you can make.
But in other casinos, it’s a separate card game with its own set of rules.
This post covers both meanings.
What Is Rummy?
Rummy isn’t just one card game – it’s a category of card games that all involve creating “melds” – multiple cards that are either of the same rank, sequenced, or suited.
A meld in rummy usually consists of 3 or 4 cards which meet one of the following criteria:
- They’re all of the same rank – for example, 3 jacks would be a possible meld, as would 3 queens or 3 aces.
- They’re all of the same suit – all clubs, all diamonds, all hearts, or all spades.
- They’re sequenced – the cards’ ranks are all in order with no gaps, like 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Most rummy games also involve drawing and discarding cards.
Rummy games are also easy to play; many people learn rummy as one of their first card games after go fish and/or war.
What Is a Rummy in Blackjack Game?
When you combine the first 2 cards in your hand with the dealer’s face-up card, you have 3 cards with the potential to make a meld. I’ve already explained that making melds is the entire point of rummy.
In some blackjack games, you just have a side bet on the rummy value of the first 3 hands (if any).
In other blackjack games, “rummy blackjack,” the rummy has bigger implications.
That will be covered later in the post.
The Rummy Side Bet
Most of the time, the optional rummy side bet pays off at 9 to 1 if you hit a rummy on those first 3 cards. In some casinos, the payout might be higher or lower than that. You can check 21+3 Blackjack Payouts comparison for more details
In blackjack games where a rummy side bet is available, the main game proceeds as normally. How you do in the blackjack game has no effect on the outcome of the rummy side bet.
The house edge for this side bet (assuming a standard 9 to 1 payout) is 4.14%. If you know much about blackjack, you won’t be surprised by this.
Most side bets in blackjack have lousy odds when compared to the main game, which usually has a house edge of less than 1% — assuming you’re playing with perfect basic strategy.
Rummy Blackjack in Costa Rica
Standard blackjack is illegal in Costa Rica, so they offer a rummy-based game that’s similar enough to blackjack to satisfy their 21-playing gamblers.
Like regular blackjack, rummy blackjack is played at a table with room for 7 players a dealer. The casino uses between 4 and 6 decks of standard playing cards for the game.
And just like in regular blackjack, you start with a 2-card hand.
You do NOT, however, get a 3 to 2 payout for a “natural” – another word for “blackjack,” which, in this context, is a 2-card hand totaling 21.
This doesn’t change how the point totals are calculated, though. The cards are still worth their face value, faces cards (the jack, queen, and king) are still worth 10 points, and aces are still worth 1 or 11.
The dealer stands on a soft total of 17.
The player options are generally looser than usual – you can take early surrender, for example. You can also double down on any 2 cards, even if you just split your hand. You can even re-split pairs.
Since you don’t get a 3 to 2 payout for a blackjack, you get a bonus payout based on rummy melds.
If you get 3 cards of the same rank, you get a 3 to 1 payoff. If the cards are all suited, you get 5 to 1. You also get 5 to 1 if the 3 cards total 21 (in other words, if you get 7s.)
If you get 3 cards of sequential rank and of the same suit, you get a 3 to 1 payout. That increases to 5 if the 3 cards total 21.
And here’s an interesting quirk:
You get the bonus payout even if you bust your hand (get a total of 22 or higher).
The only other things to remember is that the bonus payout applies to any amount you bet after doubling, and you don’t get a bonus if you split earlier in the hand.
Where to Play Rummy Blackjack Online
Rummy Blackjack for Beginners
I’ve assumed that anyone reading this page knows how to play blackjack already, but if this is ALL new to you, here’s a quick tutorial that anyone – no matter their level of experience – can follow:
The game starts when you place a bet. The dealer gives you 2 cards, and you’re competing with her. She also gets 2 cards – one of her cards is face-up, so you have SOME information about what she might have.
The game is based on a point score for your hand, and the cards have point values as follows:
- Cards with a number on them are worth that number regardless of the suit. A 2 is worth 2 points, and an 8 is worth 8 points, for example.
- The ace is worth 1 or 11 points, whichever is better for the player.
- Face cards – the jack, queen, and king – are each worth 10 points.
The object of the game is to beat the dealer, and you can do this in one of 2 ways:
- You can have a higher total than the dealer.
- You can still be in the game when the dealer busts.
Any hand with a total of 22 points or greater is a bust, which means that it’s an automatic loser.
But the dealer has position on you – if you’re hand busts, you lose immediately – even if the dealer busts later in the hand.
The player in blackjack ALWAYS plays his hand before the dealer does.
And most of your decisions will be based on hitting or standing.
To hit is to take another card and get a new total.
To stand is to settle for the total you have.
Those aren’t your only options, though.
If both cards have the same rank, you also have the option of splitting your hand. In that case, you put up a 2nd bet that’s the same size as your initial bet. You now have 2 blackjack hands, and the first card of each hand is one of the 2 cards you had in your initial hand.
Another option you have is to double (or “double down”). This means you double the size of your bet and take one (and only one) more card.
Rummy Blackjack Strategy
The house edge for rummy blackjack, as played in Costa Rica, is about 1% — assuming you use perfect basic strategy.
What’s basic strategy?
That’s just the appropriate way to play every hand in every possible situation. In other words, it’s the mathematically optimal decision to make in each situation.
If you don’t use basic strategy, the house will usually see another 1% or 2% on top of that house edge I just quoted.
In standard blackjack, basic strategy is actually pretty easy, but in rummy blackjack, you have additional considerations related to trying to get melds.
Your best bet is to find a printable rummy blackjack strategy card to take with you to the casino. The dealers don’t mind you using a printed strategy card – as long as you’re not holding up the speed of the game by using it.