Rival Gaming

Rival Gaming is one of the new names in Internet casino game design. They opened for business in 2006, having since carved out a niche for itself as the designer of a popular line of Internet slot machines. Theur i-Slots are by far the company’s most-popular games. But Rival isn’t just about video gambling – they offer table games, including three versions of blackjack.

Their library of casino titles includes a traditional Las Vegas-style blackjack game, a multi-hand game for players who like a little more excitement per round, and Blackjack Mini. The latter is part of the  “Mini” series of games, including slots and other casino games, designed for fast and easy access for customers that use just about any type of computer, Web browser, or operating system.

Offering table gamblers a standard version, a miniature version for easy access, and a multi-hand game may not represent the widest selection of titles in the industry, but it does give just about any player a game they’ll like. If you want to play up to three hands at once, a single game using traditional American rules, or a miniature game that loads instantly in your browser, Rival has you covered.

All three variants are available at all of the casinos that run their software. Since these casinos still accept bets from American players, they have an advantage over other online casino software development companies that haven’t been able to adjust after the passing of the UIGEA. That means big business, since the American gambling market is a big chunk of the worldwide industry.

Player Options

Rival gets good reviews for their game graphics, and the 21 games are no different – bright colors, sound effects, and video-game style animations abound. But players can mute sounds, the dealer’s voice, and tweak a number of other player options to make the game just like they like it. The player interface at for all three variants is user-friendly; all in-game options (Re-bet, Deal, Hit, Stand, Split, Double Down) light up when they’re valid, a way to help novices learn game basics.

Variations, Variants, and Games Offered

This online game designer currently only hosts three versions of blackjack, fewer than some of the big names in the industry. Here’s a breakdown of each of Rival’s 21 variations.

Standard Blackjack

Rival’s standard version is based on the rules you’d find at most table games in Las Vegas. The shoe is shuffled between each hand. Rival’s standard game pays 3 to 2 for naturals, and insurance is available any time the dealer shows Ace, paying out at 2 to 1.

Players can split their hand up to three times, for a total of four hands going at once. Aces can be split only once. Customers can double down on any of their first two cards, no matter the total, and can also double down after a split.

The dealer must take a hit on a soft total of 17, which is bad news for the player, as it increases the house edge by about 0.2%. One rule unique to this version of the standard game is that any time you can put together a hand of eleven cards without busting, you win no matter your total or the dealer’s total. Also not common in Vegas games, all ties are push, even if both the dealer and the player have a natural.

Multi-Hand Blackjack

If you’re an online gambler looking for lots of variety, the multi-hand title might disappoint, because it’s exactly the same game as their standard title, only gamblers have the option of wagering on three hands at once per deal. As with the standard rules version, the software provider allows their member casinos to set their own table limits, but most casinos have similar wagering limits and minimums–between $1 and $500, or $3 and $1,500 if you play all three hands at once. This gives high rollers a place to bet, even though that $1,500 wager has to be spread across three hands.

Why do some customers want to play multi-hand table games? Some gamblers like to have as much action going on at once as possible, and if you follow basic strategy, playing more than one hand doesn’t affect your odds of winning at all, just the amount you can win or lose in a given hand or gambling session.

No rules differences exist between multi-hand and standard blackjack. Gamblers can split each of their three hands up to three times, for a total of twelve hands going on at once. Aces can be split, but only once. Gamblers can double down on any of their first two cards and are also given the option of doubling down after a split.

The dealer is required to hit a soft total of 17. Just as in the traditional game, players that can put together an eleven-card hand without busting are automatic winners. Remember that all ties result in a push, even a tie between two naturals.

Mini Blackjack

These rules are the same as in the other two games, except that there are no multi-hand options available. This version exists so that their customers could have access to a browser-based 21 game; customers who own Macs or don’t run a Windows-compatible computer or operating system can’t play either of Rival’s other variants, but at least they can play the company’s Mini version.

Download Size & Requirements

Rival uses a two-tiered download system to give their customers one of the fastest downloads in the industry. The first file you download is just 387 kb, a file about the size of a college essay. After that file downloads, you can enter the casino and look around while other games and files continue downloading in the background. Even if your computer’s Internet connection is on the slow side, a download of 387 kb shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.

Rival Gaming offers only a Windows-compatible download, so Mac owners or people who run an OS besides Windows will have to play instant versions only, though their own website and many of the casinos that use their software have announced a new Mac-specific version to launch by 2014 as the world’s “first Mac-specific online casino software suite.”

The Best Odds?

You can influence your odds of winning by playing perfect basic strategy. Outside of that, the casino’s edge on the standard game is about -0.62%.