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Twenty One (21) With “Back Passing”

Twenty One is well-known and popular gambling card game. The game can exist in various modifications. We will focus on the variation with “Back Passing”. It is played mainly among friends in the pubs.

This game variation is quite similar to the casino Black Jack, since it is based on the same principles. However I do not recommend mixing the games. Therefore the game is called “with Back Passing” here.


How to Play Twenty One (21)?

Twenty One is usually played with a 32-card deck (7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace) in hearts, diamonds, crosses and spades. The game is controlled by the Banker – the player who holds the bank/pot. The banker is chosen either by agreement between the players or by drawing cards – the highest card wins. There is usually some minimum deposit agreed for establishment of the pot.

The game begins with the banker dealing one card to each player including him-/herself. The first player at his or her left lays the bet to his or her card. The banker adds the same amount to the bet from the pot. The requirement for the first minimum bet can be agreed. The player is then dealt another card. The bets are limited by the amount in the pot only. A player can re-bet before taking another card from the banker.

The Goal of Twenty One

The goal of the game is to achieve, or to reach as closely as possible the total of twenty-one (Black Jack). You can be dealt as many cards as you wish. If you no longer want to risk taking further cards you can declare “Enough”, “Stop” or “I am OK” and put your cards in front of you to your bet. If you exceed 21 then your bet is lost instantly and falls for the pot.

Outcome of the Game

The banker serves other players in the same fashion. The round ends with the banker, who deals him-/herself one or more cards to reach the total of twenty-one (Black Jack). There may occur three cases:

  • The sum of the bankers' cards equals 21 (or he has double ace, which is referred to as Royal Black Jack) – the banker wins all bets, even if other players have the Black Jack – if the sum of a player's cards is equal to the banker's then the banker wins.
  • The banker exceeds 21 – he or she loses on spot and must pay out all players from the pot in the amount of their individual bets. Of course he does not pay out those, who also exceeded 21 – they have lost already.
  • The sum of the bankers' cards is lower than 20, for example 19, then, in this case, the banker declares "Twenty takes!" and the players with higher sum win. Black Jack (unless it is the Royal Black Jack) does not guarantee an automatic win. Loss in case of equality gives banker the edge.

Value of Cards

The cards in Twenty One are counted as follows:

  • Numbered cards 7, 8, 9, 10 have exactly this value;
  • Aces are for 11 points;
  • Figures (Jack, Queen, King) count as 1 point;
  • Seven of Hearts, the best card in the game referred to as Chantal, can be counted according to the player's needs for 1, 7, 10 or 11 points!

Special Rules

To make the game more interesting there are certain exceptions and adjustments to the rules, which should aim to improve the chances of achieving a high value or twenty one. There are not many of them and they are easily manageable:

  • Pair of aces – the strongest combination – so-called Royal Black Jack, if the player receives double ace, he or she shows down the cards and wins immediately. If the banker receives this combination, then of course he wins all bets instantly;
  • Seven as the first card – if the player or the banker receives seven as the first card, he or she may ask the banker to trade it for another card. It is because seven is not too convenient first card (not the card that can reach Black Jack with one more card). If even the next card is seven, it can be traded again;
  • An eight after the seven – if the player or the banker gets seven as the first card and after trading it he or she gets an eight (disadvantageous card) – he or she may trade it again for a new first card;
  • Five figures – if the player (banker) receives five figures in a row (first five cards), the cards can be traded. Five figures give the total of 5 points, which is too disadvantageous to reach the Black Jack;
  • The sum of fifteen – if the player (banker) reaches the sum of 15, the cards can be returned and traded for another first card. Because with the sum of 15 it is extremely difficult to reach the Black Jack.

Fight for the Pot

The losing bets of the players come to the pot. The pot can increase rapidly from the initial minimum deposit of the banker. Especially when the players risk and play for the whole pot – then the pot grows exponentially (doubles). Money in the pot is not yet the property of the banker. To obtain it, he or she must play a “Back Passing”.

Breaking up the Pot

If any player breaks the pot before the banker declares that he or she plays “Back Passing” – either by winning the whole pot or the last money remaining in the pot, he or she becomes the new banker. If the player does not want to be the new banker, he or she may pass it to other player.

Back Passing

If the banker thinks there is enough money in the pot and wants to cash it, he or she must announce to the players that he goes for Back Passing. The game proceeds normally until the banker receives the King of Hearts or any Eight.

The King of Hearts ends the game immediately, no bets are realized, and all the money from the pot belong to the banker.


The Eight is the most terrible first card the player (banker) can get, which is the sense of Back Passing. The banker has to confess it and announce it to the players. The final round – final fight for the pot – begins.

With the Eight as the first card it is not going to be easy for the banker to reach some high value or the Black Jack (21). Even if the banker received Ace as the next card, it would not have to be enough – that makes only 19.

On the other hand the players already know that the banker has a disadvantageous card. They have got the last chance to get their money back from the pot. The bets are high especially with good first cards like Ten or Ace.

Any player can play for the whole pot, if he or she loses (exceeds 21), then the next player can play for even bigger pot. If there is some money left in the pot after the final round, the banker can keep it.

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