If you are looking to learn some new gambling games, Costa Rica is a great place to visit. Although gambling is legal in Costa Rica, many casinos allege that blackjack is illegal. Instead, they offer a variant called rummy.
Costa Rican rummy is in no way related to the rummy that most travelers are used to. Almost half of the tables at casinos are rummy and foreigners populate most of them. The locals don’t usually play rummy and most tourists don’t notice that they are playing rummy but instead think that they are playing blackjack. The two are very similar except for a slew of different rules and bonuses.
Similar to blackjack, a house dealer gives players 2 cards to begin with. After that, you can ask for another card or stay with the card you have. The idea is to arrive at 21 or get as close to 21 by adding up the card values without going over. Similar to Blackjack, all face cards have a value of 10. Aces count as one or 11. Although the odds are always in favor of the house, Rummy has very high odds, which can go in your favor with effective strategy and by taking advantage of the Costa Rican twists.
Up until this point the rules are the same as the blackjack known in the US. The bonuses are where the game changes. If your first three cards are either a straight or three of a kind, you are granted a rummy and are paid double. Three sevens, which total 21, pays an even higher bonus, usually a 5-to-1 payoff. In any of the above situations you are an automatic winner and bonuses are paid immediately, even if a third card causes the player to bust.
All of the three card hands are pretty rare but can cause a high payout when achieved. If a player wins a bonus after doubling, the bonus applies to the total amount of the bet. Splitting pairs is allowed, as is doubling down. Splitting however voids a player’s chance at bonuses.
The only cards that players are not allowed to split are aces.
The House Edge
In general the house edge is 1.00%. It is important to understand the bonuses because this is where most people win in rummy. The dealer stands on soft 17. If a player is dealt 21 on the deal, and the dealer also gets luck with 21, with any amount of cards, then it is a push. Four to six decks are used to play rummy. Players have noted that house advantage increases, as the number of decks goes down. This is probably because three of a kind bonuses are harder to get. Some casinos do offer the common Blackjack although most do not advertise it outright. In many cases blackjack and Costa Rican rummy are played from the same table. Feel free to ask the dealer if blackjack is available and clarify the rules as they might be closer to Costa Rican rummy. In the end, learning rummy is a fun experience and the amount of foreigners that play it shows that it is worth trying.