Rival blackjack games are online versions of the table game
classic as produced by Rival Gaming. Rival Gaming is a
Canada-based game design company that’s famous for producing a
full suite of table and slot machine games as well as “back-end”
casino gaming software and white label licenses.
Rival Gaming’s software is highly-adaptable, provided in both
download and instant play format for Windows and Mac users. The
company also hosts a long list of mobile-compatible games, so
users of iPhones, Android phones, tablets, and other Web-enabled
gadgets are able to connect and play real-money and
pretend-money games on Rival casinos. Since Rival powers casinos
all over the world, the company has released their library
translated in a dozen world languages.
We start this article with a basic overview of Rival Gaming
and their blackjack games. The rest of the page takes a look at
the different blackjack variations they offer, with information
on each game’s house edge, and notes on strategy.
Rival Blackjack: Overview
Rival launched their software on four casinos in April of
2006. Those four sites are a mixed bag – Cocoa and DaVinci’s
Gold were both legitimate operators with good reputations. The
same can’t be said of Vegas and Paradise8. Rival’s big claim to
fame has always been their iSlots games, interactive slot
machine-style games with in-depth plot lines and a focus on
creating replay value. These games remain popular to this day.
There’s not much to set Rival’s blackjack designs apart from
their competitors – namely, Realtime Gaming, Microgaming, and
the other big-name designers. All these large-scale designers
produce games with a similar aesthetic, down to the colors and
general layout of the board. It can’t even be said that Rival’s
performance is better or worse than any other game designer,
because their white label licensing style means that performance
is a bit different from one site to the next.
One disappointing feature of Rival’s blackjack designs is the
fact that the company refuses to release information about the
number of decks they use in their blackjack games.
This is unusual. We have been able to find these details
about the games produced by all of Rival’s competitors. Without
that information, it’s difficult to come up with any solid house
edge numbers, so comparing Rival’s blackjack variants to those
produced by other designers is a huge pain. This is probably the
worst feature of Rival’s blackjack designs – what do they have
to hide, exactly?
Both of Rival’s blackjack games have a minimum bet of $1 per
hand, with the maximum bet set at $200. This number can vary a
bit from one casino to the next – we found one high-roller
version of Multi-hand Blackjack at a US-facing casino that
allows bets of up to $1,500 per hand.
Here’s a list of the blackjack games available via Rival
Of these two games, the one with the lower house edge is
Blackjack, which is essentially a standard Las Vegas rules game
with a few tweaks. Though it’s difficult to come up with a solid
house edge figure for this or any Rival game, our best guess is
that this game gives the casino an advantage of just over 0.6%.
The multi-hand blackjack game is even worse – we estimate this
game carries a house edge of 0.9%.
Below you’ll find a brief guide to the rules in place for
both of Rival’s blackjack variants. If your goal is to have fun,
poke around, and experience everything Rival has to offer, by
all means try both games. If you’re looking for the game with
the best odds, don’t waste time on Multi-Hand Blackjack.
Blackjack is Rival Gaming’s standard version of the table
game classic. It follows standard Las Vegas rules – the dealer
must hit on a soft 17 and peeks for blackjack, while the player
is allowed to double any two cards and is allowed to double
after a split.
Since Rival doesn’t divulge how many decks are used in the
game’s virtual shoe, it’s hard to come up with a figure for the
house edge. Our favorite source for this information (Wizard of
Odds) assumed an eight-deck shoe and came up with a house edge
of 0.66% based on that assumption.
If that figure is accurate, it makes Rival’s standard
blackjack game one of the worst in the industry in terms of
Multi-hand Blackjack is almost identical to the standard
blackjack variant described above, except for a couple of game
rules and the fact that you can play up to three hands at a time
on this version. Unlike in the game described above, players can
only double on 9-11, and may not double down after a split.
The overall effect of these rule changes is negative for the
player, and assuming an eight-deck shoe, the house edge is an
At last count, more than 100 casinos used Rival Gaming
software or licensed games from the company. Some of these
casinos are compatible with the US market. They run the gamut,
from well-known sites to more obscure URLs aimed at niche
Ignition Casino is our favorite example of a gambling site
powered by Rival software. Ignition Casino is owned and operated
by Lynton Limited, one of the newest US-facing casino websites.
With Slots.lv as a sister site and a growing reputation,
Ignition is creating a lot of buzz.
They’ve chosen to use a blend of the world’s top-rated
software suites, combining games from Rival, Betsoft, NetEnt,
and others. The site’s welcome bonus is a 100% deposit match
worth up to $1,000, with a 25x rollover requirement. That’s
about average for the North American gambling market. Currently,
Ignition’s library of casino games totals 247 titles. Ignition
Casino accepts bitcoin deposits and pays bitcoin withdrawals as
It’s easy for us to recommend the proper way to play Rival
Gaming’s blackjack games, since the company only hosts two
variants, and one is obviously superior to another. The only
reason to play Multi-hand Blackjack is if you want to play
multiple hands badly enough to give the casino an extra 0.3%
edge against you.
The best way to play blackjack is to follow something called
“basic strategy” to the letter. Without going into too much
detail, basic strategy has been developed over the past four or
five decades by people much smarter than any of us. Blackjack
basic strategy describes the ideal play for every in-game
situation. Over the years, blackjack thinkers have created
strategy sets for all sorts of blackjack variants. Lucky for us,
someone has analyzed Rival’s basic blackjack game and come up
with the mathematically-correct plays for every position.
Here’s a guide to basic strategy for Rival Gaming’s blackjack
Hard totals are the easiest to play. Essentially, any hard
total below 12 is a hit, while hard totals of 12 or more are a
simple matter of deciding whether to hit or stand. The ability
to double down affects strategy a bit more than that – below is
a quick guide to basic Rival hard total strategy.
If your hold a hard total of 5-8, you should always take
If you have a hard total of 9, you should double down
against a dealer 3-6. Otherwise, take a hit.
When you hold a hard total of 10, you double down
against a dealer 2-9. You only take a hit against a dealer
10 or Ace.
If you’re lucky enough to be dealt a hard total of 11,
you should double down against any dealer up-card.
With a hard total of 12, stand against a dealer 4, 5, or
6. Otherwise, take a hit.
With a hard total of 13-16, stand against a dealer 2-6.
Otherwise, take a hit.
Hard totals of 17 and higher are the easiest to play –
Because of the way Rival sets up their blackjack games, soft
totals require a bit more finesse. Essentially, you stand on a
soft total of 18 and higher, taking a hit with a soft 17 or
lower. There’s a little more to it than that – read on and
become a master at Rival blackjack soft hands.
With a soft total of 13-14, double down against a dealer
5 or 6. Otherwise, take a hit.
With a soft total of 15-16, the double down range
increases a little, so you double against a dealer 4-6.
Otherwise, take a hit.
With a soft total of 17, that double down range
increases even more, so you should double against a dealer
3-6. Otherwise, take a hit.
If you hold a soft total of 18, double down against a
dealer 2-6 and stand against a dealer 7 or 8. Otherwise,
take a hit.
If you hold a soft total of 19, you should double down
against a dealer 6. Otherwise, stand.
If you hold a soft total of 20, always stand.
The question of whether or not to split pairs causes
headaches for blackjack players. If you follow the strategy
below when playing Rival blackjack, you can skip the aspirin.
Split pairs of 2s or 3s against a dealer 2-7. Otherwise,
take a hit.
You should only split pairs of 4s against a dealer 5 or
6. Otherwise, take a hit.
You should double down on pairs of 5s against a dealer
2-9. Otherwise, take a hit.
Split pairs of 6s against a dealer 2-6. Otherwise, take
Split pairs of 7s against a dealer 2-7. Otherwise, take
Always split pairs of 8s.
With a pair of 9s, you should stand against a dealer 7,
10, or Ace. Otherwise, split.
With a pair of 10s, always stand.
Always split pairs of Aces.
Rival Gaming is one of very few blackjack designers that
we’ve reviewed that make their games available to the US market.
The fact that they do business with Americans makes them very
popular among a certain subset of gamblers. It’s also noteworthy
that Rival has been in the business of designing casino games
since the early 2000s, and appears to be adding new licensees at
a rate faster than other designers.
We do have some qualms about this game provider though.
For starters, the company produces just two versions of
blackjack, both of which give the casino an edge much higher
than the industry standard. It doesn’t help that some of the
sites that have licensed Rival’s software have gone rogue. The
big reason for this problem is the fact that Rival releases
their games as “white label software,” and companies like Netad
Management license a few Rival games and rip-off their
customers. We’re not saying that Rival has anything to do with
this – just that it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Truth be told, Rival’s blackjack games are middle of the
road. Not only do they grant the casino a bigger advantage than
just about every other online blackjack game, they look dated,
and they aren’t varied enough to create an atmosphere conducive
to replay. When we learned that Rival doesn’t even let people
know how many decks are in the virtual shoes of their blackjack
games, we were a little shocked. It’s unusual because every
other game designer we’ve reviewed has given that information
That said, Rival does produce online blackjack games that you
can play for real money. If you’re looking to place blackjack
wagers for real (or pretend) money on the Internet, Rival games
are available at tons of gambling websites aimed at different
markets from around the world. So long as you follow basic
strategy, and avoid the Multi-Hand Blackjack game with a 0.9%
house edge, you’ll enjoy your time spent playing Rival blackjack
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