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Blackjack Switch - Part 1 of our interview with Geoff Hall

You were involved in the development of a new Blackjack variant a couple of years ago, a game called Blackjack Switch.

Q: What is the difference between Blackjack Switch and regular Blackjack?

A: In ‘Blackjack Switch’ the main difference is that the players play 2 hands of Blackjack but get the option of switching their 2nd cards of each hand around. For example, you are dealt a King & 4 on your first hand and a 6 & 9 on your second hand, giving you 2 hands of 14 and 15. You now have the option of switching the 4 & 9 around to give you 2 new hands of King, 9 and 6, 4.

This is a powerful option for the player so the casino will pay all ‘Blackjacks’ at even money (as more are created by switching) and use a ‘Push 22’ rule which means that all players’ hands left on the table are pushed if the dealer gets exactly 22. All other regular Blackjack rules i.e. doubling, splitting etc remain the same. The ‘switching’ allows the players to have more control over their hands as well as creating an interesting twist to the regular game.

Q: The Wizard of Odds website states the house edge for Blackjack Switch is 0.05% when played in a Playtech online casino. Is this the correct house edge for the game under these rules, and if so why would an online casino offer this game, with an house edge almost approaching zero? Is the house edge the same when played in land-based casinos?

A: Yes, this is the correct house edge for the online version. Playtech do not have to concern themselves with card counters, or any other form of advantage play, as the cards are shuffled after every round. Furthermore, there are numerous players who will not play the correct strategy, particularly with the ‘switch’ aspect, and this will increase the overall edge.

For land-based casinos the house edge is around 0.2% which is still extremely low for a multi-deck Blackjack game. However, as with the online play, the majority of players will not adhere to correct strategy and the proportion of difficult switch decisions make it difficult for anybody to play perfectly. Nevertheless, the very good players will benefit overall from a lower house edge with ‘Blackjack Switch’ compared with regular Blackjack.

Q: As far as online casinos are concerned, is Blackjack Switch exclusively licensed to Playtech, or can we expect more online gaming brands to incorporate this game into their game portfolios?

A: I signed an exclusivity deal with Playtech although if BOTH parties agree then ‘Blackjack Switch’ can be licensed to other online casinos. However, although I have received several requests for a license, only one other casino, outside Playtech, are licensed with the game. The casino is www.russiancasino.ru and they are operated by a company called Ensis Technologies. I would love to see the game being operated on other sites but will adhere to the agreement signed with Playtech and hope that we will involve more operators in the future.

Q: The Wizard of Odds website also says the original mathematician of the game was Karel Janecek. What can you tell us about Karel and his contribution to Blackjack Switch?

A: Karel is highly regarded in the field of Blackjack simulators and has a very successful commercial program available called ‘SBA’ – Statistical Blackjack Analyzer ( www.sba21.com ). Karel reprogrammed his SBA so that ‘Switches’ were included along with the ‘Push 22’ rule. The ‘SBA Switch’ program is not commercially available yet although it is something that we are considering in the future. The results from ‘SBA Switch’ have been confirmed by GLI Inc and Nevada Gaming Laboratories.

Q: Which land-based casinos, especially those located in Vegas and Atlantic City, currently offer Blackjack Switch? Do you expect to see Blackjack Switch appearing in more land-based casinos in the future?

A: Presently ‘Blackjack Switch’ is available in 3 casinos in Las Vegas – ‘The 4 Queens’ and ‘Fitzgerald’s’ in Downtown, Las Vegas and ‘Casino Royale’ on the ‘Strip’. The G2E exhibition is imminent and I will be exhibiting the game and expect some promising feedback. Already ‘Casino Royale’ have stated that they will install a 2nd table after just 3 days of having the first, This is especially promising as they do not have much floor space to commit to new games.

I will also be demonstrating the ‘Blackjack Switch’ video/slot machine which has been manufactured by a company called ‘JPM’, in England. I expect (and hope) to see ‘Blackjack Switch’ expand into the Nevada market as well as make it’s way into other states in America within the next 6-9 months. Players’ feedback, during the installations into Las Vegas, have been extremely encouraging with zero negative comments directed towards the game.

This interview continues with Part 2 - Playtech Poker.

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