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.
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 software:
- Multi-Hand Blackjack
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.
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.
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 markets.Ignition Casino
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 well.
Strategy Tips for Playing Rival Blackjack
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 game:
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 a hit.
- 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 – always stand.
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 a hit.
- Split pairs of 7s against a dealer 2-7. Otherwise, take a hit.
- 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.
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 away.
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 games.