21 Duel Blackjack Strategy Guide

21 Duel Blackjack, offered by Playtech and a few other software providers, is an incredibly deep game from a strategic standpoint, and is not quite like any other blackjack game out there. It involves multiple decisions that are atypical for the genre, and that makes it perfect for players who like learning new games.

Introduction to 21 Duel Blackjack Strategy

Generally speaking, most blackjack variations aren’t actually all that different from each other. They may have different rules about the dealer peeking for blackjack or when you can double or split, but from a structural standpoint, they are all virtually the same.

21 Duel Blackjack blows this idea out of the water and offers a style of play that is completely different on a structural level while still retaining blackjack-oriented decisions.

If you are really familiar with how strategy works for other styles of blackjack, then you’ll find that learning this game is a bit easier, but you’ll still have new things to figure out and new problems to solve.

That dynamic makes 21 Duel Blackjack a pretty big hit among players who are checking out new options because they’ve already found themselves bored of the more traditional blackjack games.

The Rules and Game Procedure

The rules for this game are a bit different than usual, as we mentioned above, so we’re going to walk through how a hand works first and then give some details on other rules down below.

  1. The player starts by making an ante wager. A side bet called 2 Up is available, but we won’t be getting into it much because it doesn’t involve any strategy and has the same house edge no matter what you do.
  2. After your ante wager is placed, you’ll be given two cards, one up and one down, and the dealer will get two cards face-down.
  3. Two community cards will be dealt face-up across the middle. The player gets to choose one of these two to be the second card in their hand, and that will cost another bet called the raise that’s worth the same size as the ante. Alternatively, players can fold their hand and give up their ante.
  4. If you choose a community card, then you get to decide to hit or not. Hitting will give you the other face-down card added to your total, and standing will see that card be discarded.
  5. The dealer then chooses a community card based on a “house way” of handling that decision, and the totals are compared.
  6. The dealer needs a total of at least 13 to qualify. If the dealer doesn’t qualify, you win 1:1 on the ante, and the raise pushes.
  7. If the dealer qualifies and you win, then you’ll win 1:1 on both wagers. Losing obviously means you lose both bets.

This is the basic gameplay procedure. It involves two strategic decisions (folding/picking a community card and the resulting decision to hit or stand).

A few other rules that are important to note are as follows:

  • There are effectively no blackjacks in this game. Natural 21 totals pay 1:1 like everything else.
  • This game is usually played with six of the standard 52-card decks.
  • All cards use their standard blackjack values, including aces that are 1 or 11, whichever is the highest without going over 21.

With these basic rules and how the gameplay works out of the way, we can start to get into some strategy.

Strategy for 21 Duel Blackjack

There’s a lot to get into for strategy for this game, but it’s all based on few basic principles. We’ll break down what you need to think about in the general sense for players who want to sort of figure it out on their own, and we’ll also get into some more detailed strategies down before for players who are more serious about trying to play as perfectly as possible.

The Basic Concepts and Motifs

In any blackjack variation, including this one, you need to have a good idea of which pieces of information you’re using to make your decisions. In most blackjack styles, the information you have is your own total and the one card you can see of the dealer’s.

What you have to adjust to in this game is that the information in front of you is different. You cannot see either of the dealer’s cards, and you have to make choices based on hitting once or not and which of the two community cards you want to complete your hand.

These are different pieces of information than you’re usually faced with. Even with the decision to hit or stand, which is a normal choice you can make in blackjack, you still don’t have either of the dealer’s cards to use to make your decision. This means that the strategies used are based on pieces of information that you most likely don’t have experience with.

That’s the basis of the strategic issue in this game, and it’s the issue we’re going to tackle in the following as we look at some more specific examples.

Building Specific Strategies

It’s possible to play this game by a chart that will tell you the exact, perfect, mathematically correct play to make in any possible scenario. However, that is a really hard thing to do and makes this game pretty boring because you end up taking some of the fun out of it.

Instead, we recommend learning to play based around the idea of basic principles and then going from there. There are a few basic principles that you’ll want to use to guide your play in different types of spots, and we’ll list those here before getting into specific examples.

  • You will very rarely fold in this game. As a general rule, you should probably avoid folding at all until you start to feel like you can play on an advanced level because you’ll lose a ton of value folding incorrectly and giving up hands that are actually worth playing.
  • With your first decision to pick between the two community cards, you can either pick with hitting in mind or with standing in mind.
  • If you’re picking with standing in mind, then you’ll want to try to get a strong final total of 17 or more.
  • Otherwise, if you’re picking with hitting in mind, then hard totals of 9, 10 and 11 are good, and soft totals of 12-16 are also good.
  • If you’re left without the ability to go from any of the above listed hands, then just make a decision based around whatever feels like the lesser of two evils.

With these guidelines, we can look at some specific examples of how strategy works in this game, but note one thing:

You need to decide which card to pick AND if you’re going to stand or hit all at the same time. Don’t pick a card without knowing what you’re going to do with it.

With that all having been said, let’s jump into some specific examples.

Example Hands in 21 Duel Blackjack

In what follows, we’re going to look at a few example hands, how the gameplay goes and what you’re looking to accomplish with your play.

Example Hand 1: Starting Card of 6, Options Are 5 or 8

Your two options for starting cards are to pick the 5 or 8, and that will give you a total of 11 or 13. As you’ve seen in our overview of the basic strategies above, having a starting hand of 11 is a pretty good hard total to hit from.

However, and veteran blackjack players will know this as well, a total of 13 is difficult to play because it’s not high enough to win on its own, but it’s too high to safely hit since you’ll bust out a very high percentage of the time.

With that in mind, the obvious choice is to go with the 5 and to hit.

Example Hand 2: Starting Card of 9, Options are 5 or 8

As always, the first thing that we should do is look at the two totals that we have available as our two options. If we choose the 5, then our total is 14, and if we choose the 8, our total is 17.

We mentioned that 17 is a pretty decent hard total to have, and we also mentioned that mid-level hard totals like 14 (or the example of 13 above) are difficult to play well because neither hitting or standing look like attractive options.

Along these lines, picking the 8 and going with a total of 17 is the way to go here.

Example Hand 3: Starting Card of 10, Options Are 2 or 5

Our two totals that are available are a hard 12 or a hard 15. Both of these are in that range where they aren’t a lot of fun to play because both hitting and standing don’t look like great options.

In these types of spots, we have to choose the lesser of two evils. Playing with the 12 is better than the 15 because neither will win on the value of the hand alone since the dealer hits with less than 17, but we will have a much lower chance of busting out with a total of 12 than with a total of 15.

If you learn how to play these difficult spots well, the easier spots become really straightforward, and you can become pretty strong at 21 Duel Blackjack fairly quickly.


With 21 Duel Blackjack, you have a lot to think about from a strategic basis that’s different than what the usual styles of blackjack bring. However, once you identify exactly what it is that you’re looking for and trying to accomplish, you’ll have a pretty easy time playing most hands.

That will leave the more difficult spots where you have two options that are really close. However, because they’re so close, if you do make a mistake, it won’t be a big one, so you don’t have very much to worry about while learning this game as long as you stick with the basic principles of figuring out what you’re trying to accomplish with your play that we have laid out in the above.