There’s no better feeling in the game of blackjack than the moment when the dealer busts. The tension of that dealer 14 might be palpable, but when they draw a face card to go over, it’s time for the whole table to celebrate in unison – one of the rare moments in this game where everyone can relax at the same time.
But what if there was even more to celebrate when the dealer’s hand went over 21? That’s the idea behind Buster Blackjack, one of several similar games that are offered by NYX Gaming. NYX has created several versions of blackjack that use the same rules, but that have different side bets attached to them, giving each title its own unique flavor. Unlike in the other games of this type, you won’t know if you’ve won the side wager until the very end of each hand, however: it all comes down to whether the dealer busts, and how many cards it takes them to do so.
Buster Blackjack shares a lot in common with the other “Felt” branded blackjack games created by NYX, so if you’re familiar with those, you can probably just skip ahead to our discussion of the side bet below. On the other hand, if you are new to blackjack or just want a refresher on the rules of this specific version, we’ll cover that here.
In this variant of the classic casino table game, all of the action is dealt out of a shoe made up of six decks of playing cards (no jokers), which are “shuffled” after each and every hand. At the start of any round, the player must make a bet in the indicated betting area; in this case, you can play up to three hands at once, each for their own wager. In addition, there is an optional side bet that you may also bet on by placing chips on the spot just above the main betting area; we’ll cover this wager in the next section.
At the start of each round, every player hand will get two face up cards, while the dealer will get one face up and one face down (the “hole card”). The object of the game is to beat the dealer by making a hand that is closer to 21 without going over (known as “busting”). Each card in your hand will contribute points toward your score. Any card with a number on it is worth that amount, while face cards are all worth 10 points. An ace is special: it normally counts as 11, but it may also count as one point if it would otherwise cause you to bust.
The best possible hand is known as a blackjack. In order to have this hand, you must start with an ace and a ten-point card, for a “natural” total of 21. This hand beats all others – even other hands that might score 21 – except for other blackjacks, which result in a push.
Because of the importance of blackjacks, the dealer will check to see if they have one at the start of any hand in which this is possible (in other words, whenever they are showing an ace or a ten). If the dealer shows an ace, they will also offer an insurance bet to each player. This bet costs half as much as the initial hand wager, and pays out at 2-1 if the dealer does indeed have a blackjack.
Assuming that the dealer does not have blackjack, the player then has a chance to play out their hand. In order to do so, they may choose from a variety of different options based on their hand score and what the dealer is showing. There are also some special options they can use only on their initial hand in certain circumstances. The menu of choices is as follows:
Hit: The player may hit in order to take one more card, adding it to their hand score. Stand: The player will take no more cards, choosing to keep their hand as is for the rest of the round. Double Down: The player may make a second wager (equal in size to the initial bet) in order to receive exactly one more card, after which they must stand. The player is only allowed to do this on their first two cards, and only on a score of 9, 10, or 11. Split: If the player starts with two real blackjack cards of the same rank, they may split them into two separate hands, each of which will be played for a single bet. Each hand gets a second card and then may be played as normal. In this version of the game, you may only split each hand once.
Each player hand may be played until either the player stands or busts. If the player should bust, then all bets on that hand are immediately forfeited.
Once all of the player hands have completed their actions, the dealer will reveal their hole card. Assuming there’s at least one player hand still in play, the dealer will then make decisions for their hand based on a couple of very simple rules. If the dealer has 16 or less, they will always hit; if they have 17 or more, they will always stand.
If the dealer should bust, then all remaining player bets win. Otherwise, the player and dealer scores are compared, with the higher score winning. In the case of a tie, all bets on that hand will push. All player bets win at even money, with the exception of blackjacks, which pay out at 3-2 odds.
As we noted earlier, you’ll also have the chance to play the Buster Blackjack side bet at the start of every hand. If you’ve made this bet, it will be resolved at the end of the round, after the dealer has played out their own hand.
The Buster bet pays out only if the dealer makes a total of 22 or more, thereby “busting.” Should this happen, then the Buster bet wins; otherwise, it loses. The payouts depend on just how many cards it takes for the dealer to go bust, with some extra bonuses available should the player also make a blackjack. The pay table is as follows:
Three or Four Card Bust: 2-1Five Card Bust: 4-1Six Card Bust: 18-1Seven Card Bust: 50-1Eight or More Card Bust: 250-1Seven Card Bust with Player Blackjack: 800-1Eight or More Card Bust with Player Blackjack: 2,000-1
As with this entire line of NYX games, we’re happy to say that Buster Blackjack offers some very fair returns to players. Assuming you use optimal basic strategy, the house edge is a tiny 0.37%, a number that is very good by online standards, and would be hard to match at most live casinos.
Of course, to get such a good return, you’ll have to ensure you’re not making strategic mistakes. If you want to get every last penny out of your play, then you’ll want to consult a full basic strategy chart that covers every situation you might encounter. There’s no memorization required: you can read the chart, play at your own pace, and be sure that you’re making the mathematically correct plays every time.
If you want to just jump into the game with a few simple rules to follow, then we’re happy to provide a simplified strategy that will keep you out of any serious trouble. Such easy strategies are commonly found online; perhaps the most famous is the one created by Michael Shackleford for the Wizard of Odds. Ours is similar to these, though we’ve made a few minor changes to simplify the rules as much as possible and make sure it applies specifically to this game.
Our simple strategy follows. Keep in mind that while most hands are “hard,” any hand with an ace that is still counting as 11 points is classified as “soft,” due to the fact that it cannot bust if you take another card. Simply find the hand you have below, then play it according to the rules we’ve laid out. Good luck!
8 or Less: Always hit. 9: Double down if the dealer is showing a 3-6, otherwise, hit. 10 or 11: Double down if your total is higher than the dealer up card; otherwise, hit. 12-16: Stand against a dealer showing 6 or less; hit against a dealer showing 7 or more. 17 or More: Always stand. 17 or Less: Always hit. 18: Stand against a dealer showing 8 or less; hit against dealer showing 9 or more. 19 or More: Always stand. Always split eights and aces. Never split fours, fives, or tens. For all other pairs: split against a dealer showing 6 or less; do not split against a dealer showing 7 or more. If you do not split, treat the hand as any other with its total, and follow the rules above.
In addition to the above rules, you should also refuse all insurance bets, as this wager has an advantage for the house.
While there’s no strategy involved in it, you might also be interested to know what the returns are for the Buster side bit. While this isn’t quite as good for you as some of the other NYX bonuses, a 6.20% house edge still isn’t terrible at all for an optional wager, and we imagine that some players might be willing to accept this in exchange for the shot at a 2,000-1 payout.
One of the things we haven’t talked about yet is the way that this game looks and feels. The visuals are all very attractive, and quite modern looking, with a sleek interface and easy to navigate menus showing that this is a relatively new addition to the online casino world. If you choose to play with the sound on, there’s a pleasant dealer voice that guides you through the action, and while the layout is maybe a little awkward at first, we doubt this will cause you any real problems. Tutorials are available if anything seems confusing or unclear, as well. Overall, the pace of the game is relatively slow, but not so much that it detracted from our enjoyment of this title.
Combine that slick presentation with a solid return for players, and we’re happy to report that Buster Blackjack is one of the better options for gamblers who love playing 21 and are looking for somewhere to enjoy their favorite game online. We’re not sure how the side bet will play with users, but it paid out often enough to keep us interested. If you like the overall package but are looking for a different optional bonus wager, then you can also take a look at some of NYX’s other games, including Suit ‘em Up Blackjack and Lucky Ladies Blackjack.