Blackjack, like most casino games, is a single-person game. It pits the player against the house, represented by the dealer, whose actions are controlled completely by the rules of the game. Here I present a way to play Blackjack as a game of solitaire.
In Blackjack, as played in casinos, only the player has freedom of action. The dealer’s actions are controlled by the rules of the game. Therefore, if betting is ignored and the player also performs the dealer’s actions according to the rules, Blackjack can be considered to be a game of solitaire. In fact, the popular solitaire variant Canfield was originally devised as a gambling game. The player purchased a deck of cards and played the solitaire game—under the watchful eye of a house employee—until completion. The player was then paid according to the number of cards that were successfully moved to the foundations.
Playing one hand of Blackjack, win or lose, is fairly straightforward. To genuinely enjoy the game, however, it is necessary to play a series of deals and keep a running score, and in fact, this is essential to gain the benefits of splitting and doubling down. This requires some way to keep score.
In the solitaire game described here, the cards themselves are used to track the score. Each game consists of one time through one or more shuffled decks. The player plays three hands in each deal. When the end of the deck is reached, the score determines whether the player wins (beats the house), loses, or draws. This is a fast-playing solitaire game, which can be used to practice and sharpen one’s Blackjack skills, including card counting. Any Blackjack variant can be used as the basis of this game.
Blackjack Solitaire uses the following layout:
Spaces 1, 2, and 3 are used for the player’s three hands. The dealer’s cards go in D. B and W are used for scoring. Blackjack uses all 52 cards of the deck. More than one deck can be used. After the deck or decks have been shuffled, the top card is removed (burned), revealed, and placed face up (reversed) near the bottom of the deck, about a dozen cards from the bottom.
Starting on the right, deal one card face up to each of the player’s spaces: 1, 2, and 3. Deal one card face up to D. Deal a second card face up to the three player spaces, again going from right to left. If the variant of Blackjack calls for a hole card, place it face down on top of the dealer’s face-up card. I usually play the European variant that doesn’t use a hole card.
The cards in each hand should be stacked and offset vertically so that the value of the underlying cards are visible, the same way that cards are stacked in the tableau in most solitaire games. The player’s hands should stack by adding cards downward; the dealer’s hand should stack by adding cards upward. An example of this stacking is shown below:
With the cards having been dealt, the player plays each of the hands in turn, starting with the hand on the right (space 1). Splitting and doubling down are allowed according to the rules of the Blackjack variant. Splits are formed by adding a new hand beside the existing stacks. Doubling down is indicated by placing one card face down on the two initial cards.
If any of the hands doesn’t bust, turn over the dealer’s hole card (or deal a card from the deck if there is no hole card) and play the dealer’s hand according to the rules of the variant. When the dealer is finished, each hand is evaluated and scored by placing cards from the the hand face down in W. The number of cards for each outcome is given below:
|Dealer wins||0 cards|
|Player wins (no double down)||2 cards|
|Player wins after doubling down||3 cards|
|Blackjack||1 card straight and|
|1 card turned sideways|
The remaining cards that are not placed in W are added to the bottom of the deck. Finally, one card from the dealer’s hand is placed face down in B. In addition, a card is place sideways in B for every hand (resulting from splits) in excess of the original three and for every double-down hand that lost.
Continue to deal and play more hands. When the reversed card reaches the top of the deck, place it face down, sideways across the dealer’s hand to indicate that the deck has been completed and that the game ends after the current deal. Each deck of cards should result in four or five deals. The game is scored from the cards in W and B as follows:
|Each straight card in W||+10|
|Each sideways card in W||+15|
|Each straight card in B||−30|
|Each sideways card in B||−10|
If Blackjack pays 2:1 in the variant used, then sideways cards in W are worth +20. Positive scores win; negative scores lose.