Breaking down blackjack’s Charlie Rule

Blackjack's Charlie Rule

Blackjack players whose only exposure to the game has been at family events or the odd evening with friends are likely to be familiar with the Charlie Rule.

The simplest breakdown is that a Five Card Charlie is regarded as the second most powerful hand in blackjack, runner-up only to a straight deal of 21 consisting of an ace and a card that has a value of 10.

How the Charlie Rule works is that a player ends up with a hand totalling 21 or less having hit three times on their initial deal to give them a live hand with five cards.

It doesn’t matter if this five-card total is 11 or 20 – when the Charlie Rule is applied, its power is identical regardless of the hand value.

Some house games utilise the Charlie Rule slightly differently, upping the number of cards beyond five to six or even seven.

Ultimately in extreme circumstances a player could secure an 11-card Charlie, consisting potentially of four aces, four 2s and three 3s.

Yet, such players used to this rule in their home games may be caught out when paying a first visit to a casino.

House Edge

When trying to work out exactly what the casino’s house edge is for a game of blackjack, various factors have to be taken into account.

These include the number of decks of cards in the dealing shoe, which can range between one and eight, whether the dealer is forced to stick or twist if dealt soft 17 and whether the payout on a blackjack is 3/2 or 6/5.

For a player fully versed in perfect blackjack strategy, the general house edge is considered to be 0.28% in the casino’s favour. Such serviceable terms cannot be found in any other game and so theoretically blackjack presents the best probability of a player leaving a casino in profit.

This is in comparison to games like baccarat, where those betting on the player concede a house edge of 1.24%, while the inclusion of the green 0 on a roulette wheel puts the house edge for that game at 2.7%.

It is calculated that if a player adapted their perfect blackjack strategy for a game where the Charlie Rule was included, the house edge would drop by 1.46%.

This shows the obvious reason why casinos are reluctant to introduce this rule to their blackjack tables.

However, this hasn’t stopped casinos lining their own pockets in a similar fashion, as the decision to pay 6/5 on blackjacks instead of the previously common 3/2 has netted them an extra 1.39% in overall profits as they give players slightly less for their inning hands.

The Adapted Strategy

When it comes to hitting or standing on a particular hand, what a player has to evaluate is not only the total of the cards they are holding but also the value of the face card of the dealer.

It stands to reason that a player should always hit if holding 11 or less as there is no danger of busting and any new card can only technically improve their hand.

If they have 12, perfect strategy dictates a hit should only be taken if the dealer is showing anything other than a 4,5 or 6, while a hand between 13 and 16 is a hit unless the dealer is holding a 2,3,4,5 or 6.

Should a player have soft 17 consisting of an ace and 6, they are advised to always hit, while a hard 17 or more should be stood on at all times.

The big difference in a game where the Charlie Rule is allowed is the strategy for a player on four cards holding a hand between 12 and 16.

In this position, they should chase the Charlie and hit, rather than stand as standard strategy dictates.

Charlie Rule games do exist

Although the dealers and pit bosses within the majority of casinos will knock back any payout claims for a Charlie, there are some circumstances where the rule does exist.

Some may specialise, at least in set hours, in gimmicked blackjack markets. Alongside boosted payoffs for five-card Charlies, similar profits could be in order for a player who makes a hand of 21 using three 7s or if they are dealt a suited blackjack.

It is also possible that some online casinos will include a Charlie among their winning hands as a way of obtaining new players.

Such a specialism may appeal to those having their first foray into the world of online gambling or the seasoned professional looking for advantageous conditions.