Understanding the Blackjack Five-Card Charlie Rule

min read
An ace of spades and a queen of hearts leaning against stacks of casino chips.
BetMGM Jun 13, 2023, 8:32 AM

There are many exciting casino table games to enjoy at a casino, but there’s no doubt that blackjack is one of the games that keeps casual and experienced gamblers coming back for more. This is because blackjack offers an experience that’s easy for casual players to get into while offering a greater degree of depth for more serious gamblers. 

However, there are also less common variations with rules that sometimes catch both less and more experienced players off-guard. One of these variations is the Five-Card Charlie rule. Here’s what you need to know about this variation when you play at a casino online or at a traditional brick-and-mortar casino venue.

The Standard Rules of Blackjack

The first thing you need to do to ensure you understand how the Five-Card Charlie rule works is to have a clear understanding of the standard rules of blackjack.

In blackjack, the aim of the game is to get a hand that is higher in value than the dealer’s hand, but you must not go over a total of 21. If you do, you will go bust and immediately lose the game. If you get a total of exactly 21 from an ace and a 10 in your starting hand, this is known as a “blackjack,” and you immediately win the game, making this the ideal hand to have. This rule is also applicable to the dealer. In the rare situation where both the dealer and player have the same value hand, a “push,” or tie, is declared and the player’s bet is returned. 

Should neither the dealer nor the player receive a blackjack, play will continue with the player deciding on what action to take. During this phase of the game, a player can decide to:

  • Hit: Ask the dealer for another card.
  • Stand: Keep the current hand as is.
  • Double down: Double the bet, receive one more card and then stand.
  • Split: You can only split if you have two cards that have the same value. A split works by taking your single hand and making it two hands, with an additional bet that matches your original wager being placed on your second hand. You can learn more about how to split in blackjack here.

In the past, there was also the option to surrender in blackjack, which saw you forfeiting half your wager to end a hand. This rule has mostly been phased out of most blackjack games.

Once all players in a game of blackjack have finished their turns, the dealer will play their hand. The dealer must hit until they have a hand that is worth a minimum of 17, after which their hand ends. 

At this stage of the game, the players with higher value hands than the dealer all get paid out, while those with weaker hands than the dealer lose their wagers.

How the Five-Card Charlie Rule Works

Now that you clearly understand the basics of blackjack, you’re set to learn how the Five-Card Charlie rule works. 

In a typical game of blackjack, players will receive cards until they stand or go bust. When the Five-Card Charlie rule is in effect, a player who has five cards but whose hand’s total value is still less than 21 will receive an automatic win. 

For example, suppose you currently have a four-card hand worth a total of 8 (you have four 2s.) Then you receive a fifth card and it’s a 3, bringing your total hand value to 11. Regardless of whether the dealer has a stronger hand or not, the player will win because they have reached the five-card goal without going bust. 

However, if a player manages to achieve a Five-Card Charlie, but the dealer has blackjack (a 10 and an ace,) the dealer will still win. This is the one exception to this rule. Regardless of this, it still gives players a slight advantage compared to the typical house edge in blackjack. The only downside is that this rule might encourage a player to draw on four cards, which might lead to them going bust more often if they don’t hit in the right situations.

Other Interesting Blackjack Variations

Of course, Five-Card Charlie is one of many blackjack variants that exist. There are many other twists on a typical game of blackjack that you might enjoy. Here are three interesting blackjack variations that you may want to try out, either in person or when playing live dealer casino games online.

Perfect Pairs Blackjack

Perfect Pairs blackjack is a simple side bet where a player can place a bet that a player will receive one of three different pair variations in their starting hand. These variations are as follows.

Mixed Pair

This is when a player receives two cards with the same value but from different suits. For example, a 2 of hearts and a 2 of spades. The payout odds for this wager are 5–1.

Colored Pair

This is when a player receives two cards of the same value and same color but from different suits. For example, a 2 of hearts and 2 of diamonds. The payout odds for this wager are 12–1.

Perfect Pair

This is when a player receives two cards of the same value and from the same suit. For example, both cards are a 2 of hearts. The payout odds for this wager are 30–1. 

This is only possible in blackjack games where more than one deck is being used; however, this is fairly common to reduce the chances of a player counting cards.

Blackjack Switch

Blackjack Switch switches things up by giving the player two hands with two cards, with the player required to make an equal wager on each hand. In this variation, the usual actions of hit, stand, double down and split are now joined by an additional gameplay option: switch. 

As you may already have guessed, the switch action allows you to switch two of your cards between each of your hands. If you do want to switch cards, it must be done before you make any other decisions. After you switch two of your cards, the game plays out as normal until a winner is decided.

Vegas Strip Blackjack

At a glance, Vegas Strip blackjack might seem to play like regular blackjack. However, it offers the player a number of options that they don’t get in a regular blackjack game. Where this game differs from regular blackjack is that players can split up to four hands of pairs and that they are allowed to double down after a hand is split. Cards with a value of 10 can also be split even if they are not the same type of card. For example, you can split a king and a queen, but when it comes to aces, players are only allowed to split once per ace. If you split an ace and get a 10, it is not a blackjack but simply a 21, which means you don’t get an automatic win.

Enjoy Live Dealer Blackjack and More at BetMGM

If you’re interested in the best online blackjack, whether it’s the live dealer or digital versions of the game, BetMGM has you covered. From live dealer blackjack games like Infinite Blackjack, Lightning Blackjack and Live Blackjack to digital blackjack titles like BetMGM Blackjack Pro, Platinum Blackjack Pro and New York Jets Blackjack, there’s a wide variety of blackjack variants to keep you entertained. 

And if you like to mix it up, there are other exciting online casino games for you to play, including online slots, roulette, variety games and more.

Register at BetMGM to find the perfect online game at your casino of choice.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
About the Author


Read More

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.