One of the more popular European variations of online blackjack to appear in recent years is called Hi-Lo 13 Blackjack. The name of the variation comes from the side bet that makes the game unique. In this side bet the player is wagering on whether a starting hand meets certain conditions. Like many blackjack side bets, the odds for this one are not great for the player.
Counting Edge has prepared a brief review of Hi-Lo 13 Blackjack to help you understand the game when you encounter it at your favorite online casino. Here are the important things to know.
The Basics of Hi-Lo 13 Blackjack
The information that we were able to find on this blackjack variation attributes the game to Microgaming. This developer has been responsible for some of the Internet’s most popular blackjack variations. Microgaming seems to introduce a new twist to the standard game of 21 at least once a year.
The official name of the game is European Hi-Lo Blackjack Gold. At the heart of the game is the Hi-Lo 13 side bet. This bet is an additional wager that can be made by the player before the cards are dealt. Making the bet is optional, and the results of the wager are not dependent upon the player’s original bet or the outcome of the hand. The Hi-Lo 13 Blackjack side bet is only related to the original cards dealt to the player.
There are three side bets that the player can make. Each bet offers a return based on the difficulty of the wager:
- Total of the first two cards is lower than 13 – Pays 1-1
- Total of the first two cards is higher than 13 – Pays 1-1
- Total of the first two cards is exactly 13 – Pays 10-1
Getting a 10-1 payout on a blackjack side bet might sound like a good idea. When we look at the house edge on each of these bets we can see a different story:
- Lo – House edge of 6.65%
- Hi – House edge of 7.99%
- Tie – House edge of 10.08%
As you can see, this is a horrible side bet for players. Making the side bet on every hand of blackjack played online will totally wipe out the profits a skilled blackjack player can reasonable expect.
How Hi-Lo 13 Blackjack is Dealt
In all other respects except the side bet, the game of Hi-Lo 13 Blackjack is dealt like most other online games. Microgaming states that the virtual game uses a two-deck shoe. This may seem like a good deal for card counters, but the fine print tells you that the cards are shuffled after each hand of play.
The player begins by making the minimum wager required by the game. In most casinos this is only $1. In some other casinos it can be $5. The player also has to decide before the cards are dealt if they will be making the Hi-Lo side bet. No bets can be made after the cards have been dealt except those which apply to doubling or splitting.
The player is then dealt two cards face up. The dealer is dealt one face up card and one face down card. If the side bet has been made, the player will be paid for a winning bet. If the best is lost, the chips are removed from play and the play for the regular hand begins.
Player Options in Hi-Lo 13 Blackjack
In European Hi-Lo 13 Blackjack players are allowed to act on their hands in a number of ways. The player may hit or stand to improve their total. The player may also double down or split a hand subject to the following rules:
- Doubling down is only allowed on totals of 9, 10, or 11
- Splitting is allowed, and aces can be drawn to after splitting
There is no insurance offered in this variation of the game.
Dealer Options in Hi-Lo 13 Blackjack
In this variation of blackjack the dealer is required to hit a soft 17. Otherwise the dealer stands on all totals of 17 or above, and must hit all totals of 16 or below.
The interesting rule in this version of European blackjack is that the dealer does not peek for blackjack when holding a ten or an ace. This means that the player can lose extra money on split or doubled down hands. This small change helps to improve the house edge.
Should You Play Hi-Low 13 Blackjack Online?
In the opinion of Counting Edge you should choose a standard game over European Hi-Lo 13 Blackjack. There is little point of playing the side bet in this game. It is too hard to win, and the return is very low for the risk that you will be expected to make.
You may be wondering, why not just play the game without the Hi-Lo 13 side bet? The trouble with this type of blackjack is the no-peek rule for the dealer. Imagine that you have been dealt a pair of 8s to begin. You choose to split the 8s, and receive a 3 on one of them. You double this hand down and receive a 9 for a 20. On the second hand you receive an ace for a 19 and stand. You have played the hand perfectly are are ready for your reward.
No reward is coming because the whole time the dealer had a blackjack. You did not know this because of the no-peek rule in European blackjack. If the dealer had peeked before the hand began, you would have been beaten right away and lost less money. In some cases you may have even been able to surrender your hand and reclaim half of your bet.