So, what is a rummy in blackjack?
The word has multiple blackjack implications.
But the way the question is phrased, it usually refers to a side bet that you can make. I’ll explain that below.
Then I’ll explain other uses of the word rummy as it relates to blackjack.
So, what IS a rummy in blackjack?
A rummy in blackjack consists of 3 cards of the same rank, 3 cards of adjacent ranks, or 3 cards of the same suit — the 3 cards consists of your 1st 2 cards and the dealer’s up-card.
The rank is the number or character on the card. For example, if you have a 4, 4, and the dealer has a 4, too, you have a rummy.
Adjacent ranks are just the numbers next to each other according to the card ranks, as follows: A, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A. For example, if your 2 cards are the 7 and 8 (of any suit), and the dealer has a 9, you have a rummy.
The suit is the club, diamond, heart, or spades symbol on the card. For example, if you have the 7 and 8 of hearts, and the dealer has an ace of hearts, you have a rummy. In poker terms, this is a 3-card flush.
Why Does a Rummy Matter in Blackjack?
In some casinos, you can place an optional side bet called a “rummy bet.” If you get a rummy, you get a payout that varies by casino, but it’s often in the range of 9 to 1.
If you don’t get a rummy, which is most of the time, you lose that side bet.
Also, you should know that regardless of whether you win or lose the rummy side bet, the rest of the game plays out normally. The rummy side bet doesn’t affect the main action, and the main action doesn’t affect the rummy bet.
Rummy Side Bet Odds
Assuming the payout is 9 to 1, the house edge for the rummy side bet is 4.14% (according to Bovada).
Those are terrible odds, by the way. This should surprise no one. Side bets in blackjack are almost always terrible.
The house edge for the main game in blackjack is below 1%. That assumes you’re using perfect basic strategy, which isn’t hard to do anyway.
Generally, you should stick with bets that have a lower house edge rather than a higher house edge.
It’s a common side bet available at sportsbook-associated online casinos like 5Dimes and Bovada.
Rummy – The Costa Rica Blackjack Alternative
In Costa Rica, blackjack is illegal. To try to get around this, many casinos in Costa Rica offer a variation of rummy as an alternative.
Here’s how to play casino rummy in Costa Rica:
You play rummy at a blackjack-sized table with a dealer and room for 7 players. The rules vary by casino, but these are pretty standard.
The dealer uses between 4 and 6 decks of standard playing cards. You get 2 cards, just like in blackjack, but you DO NOT get a 3 to 2 payout for a blackjack.
The points are still determined the same way as in blackjack. The ace and the 10 (or a face) card still count as 21 points.
The dealer is required to stand on a soft 17 or higher. You’re allowed to take early surrender, and you can double down on any 2 cards — even after splitting.
You can also re-split pairs, including aces, but with a limit of 4 hands.
You are NOT allowed to hit split aces, though.
And instead of the bonus payout for the blackjack, you get bonuses if you have a 3 of a kind or a 3-card straight flush, as follows:
- 3 of a kind pays off at 3 to 1, but it pays off at 5 to 1 if it’s suited or if the 3 cards total 21.
- A 3-card straight flush pays off at 3 to 1, but it totals 21, you get 5 to 1.
Also, you get the bonus payouts even if you bust.
The bonus payouts apply to your total amount bet after doubling.
If you split earlier in the hand, you don’t get a bonus payout at all.
How to Play Rummy Blackjack
If you don’t know anything at all about how to play blackjack, here’s how it works:
The dealer gives you 2 cards and also takes 2 cards for herself. She deals one of her cards face-up, so you know what cards you have and you know one of the cards she has.
Any total of 22 or higher is a bust.
The cards are worth their ranking — a 7 of spades is worth 7 points.
The face cards are each worth 10, and the ace is worth 1 or 11.
Your goal is to beat the dealer. You do this by having a total higher than the dealer or by still being in the hand when the dealer busts.
You act first, and you decide whether to take additional cards (hitting) or stand on the total you have.
And, you also have the option of doubling down or splitting.
To double down, you double the size of your bet and take one (and exactly one) more card.
To split, you must have 2 cards of the same rank. You put up an additional bet, and the 2 cards each become the 1st card of 2 new hands.
Rummy Blackjack Odds, the House Edge, and Basic Strategy
You measure the odds in a casino game by the house edge. That’s a long-term estimate of how much you’re expected to lose on each bet. In blackjack games, including Costa Rica rummy, the house edge assumes you’re playing the game with optimal strategy.
That’s called basic strategy.
In Costa Rica rummy, the house edge is 1% if you play with perfect basic strategy.
That’s a great number — the casino games with the worst odds have a house edge over 30%.
Most gamblers deviate from basic strategy on a hunch or because they don’t have it memorized.
This adds between 2% and 4% to the house edge, so it’s in your interesting to memorize basic strategy.
Luckily, for rummy blackjack, basic strategy is easy:
The 1st task is to see if you have a hand you can split. This means you must have a pair. You’ll never split these pairs:
You’ll split the following pairs in the following situations:
- 6s if the dealer has a 5 or 6 showing
- 7s if the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6 showing
- 8s if the dealer has an 8 or lower showing.
- 9s if the dealer has a 9 or lower showing (with the exception if the dealer has a 7)
- aces unless the dealer has an ace showing
Hard and Soft Hands
If you don’t have a pair, you play your hand based on whether you have a hard or soft total. A soft total is one in which you have an ace that you can count as 1 or 11.
If you don’t have an ace, or if you have an ace that must count as 1 to keep from busting, you have a hard hand.
Here’s how you play your soft hands:
- Always hit a soft 12 or lower.
- Hit a soft 13 unless the dealer has a 5 or 6 — in those cases, double down.
- Hit a soft 15 or 16 unless the dealer has a 4, 5, or 6 — in those cases, double down.
- Also, hit a soft 17 unless the dealer has a 3, 4, 5, or6.
- Stand on a soft 17 unless the dealer has a 9 or higher, in which case, hit.
- Always stand on a soft 19 or higher.
Here’s how you play your hard hands:
- Always hit any hard total of 8 or lower.
- Hit a hard 9 unless the dealer has a 3, 4, 5, or 6 — in that case, double down.
- Double down on a hard 10 or 11 unless the dealer has a 10 or ace — in that case, just hit.
- Hit a hard 12 if the dealer has a 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, or 10. Otherwise, stand.
- Stand on a hard 13, 14, 15, or 16 if the dealer has a 6 or lower. Otherwise, hit.
- Always stand on a hard 17 or higher.
If you want to learn more about the house edge, check out Tim’s post about how expected value can be negative or positive.
You can decide how much money to bring to the casino by understanding the game, the house edge, and its volatility. Read more about that here.
Where to Go Next
If you want a more detailed basic strategy with no mistakes, visit the Wizard of Odds page on the subject. He offers a convenient colored strategy table.
That’s about everything you could hope to want to know about what a rummy in blackjack is. That covers both the side bet that’s often available at sports books. And it also covers the Costa Rica game that’s supposed to be a substitute for real blackjack.
If you’re looking for something easier to learn, check out my post about the easiest casino games to learn.