Blackjack Side Bets Explained in Plain English
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With simple rules and easy to learn strategies, the game of blackjack is one of the most popular card games in both Las Vegas Casinos and online around the world.
Blackjack side bets add a layer of complexity to the game, though at much greater risk.
In this article we’ll take a look at the different side bet options, how they are structured and what side bets pay.
What are Blackjack side bets?
Blackjack side bets are additional bets placed during a standard game of Blackjack. They involve predicting which cards the player, and sometimes the dealer, will receive.
Wagers are made before any cards are dealt and each side bet is based on chance rather than skill, although you can count cards to help you choose the most likely combinations for your best side bets.
Why play side bets?
One of the most attractive features of the game of Blackjack is the low house edge compared to other games on the casino floor.
Good players will face a house edge of around 0.5%, and even if you play quite badly, that edge only rises to around 2%.
However, while the odds of losing big are low, the odds of winning are also poor.
Blackjack is mostly an even money game, rising to 2:1 at best if you are dealt a Blackjack.
Side bets offer you the chance to play much longer odds for higher player wins – as much as 5,000:1 in one case.
However, it must be noted that the house edge rises significantly for Blackjack side bets, with most bets carrying a house edge of 10% or more.
In other words, side bets make it a lot easier to lose money on blackjack.
Common side bets at most Casinos
There are a number of common side bets that you will find at most Blackjack tables.
These are clearly marked with the odds either printed on the Blackjack tables or available as a hand out or a side menu in the online version.
You should check the pay outs carefully before placing your bets as they can vary considerably between different Casinos or online sites.
The three main Blackjack side bets are:
- Perfect Pairs
Insurance – this is the most common Blackjack side bet and allows you to cover yourself against Blackjack if the dealer has an ace face up.
This bet involves half of your original stake and pays out at 2:1 if the dealer has Blackjack. The insurance bet reduces the overall house edge.
Perfect Pairs – this side bet uses the player’s cards only, and pays out if you are dealt two of a kind as follows:
- Mixed pair (two of the same value but different suit and colour) – pays 5:1
- Coloured pair (two of the same value and the same colour) – pays 12:1
- Perfect pair (two of the same card) – pays 25:1
The returns can vary between different Casinos and different pay tables and the house edge will depend on both the pay out and the number of decks used and can range from just 2 or 3% up to 11% or more.
21+3 – this side bet involves the player’s two cards and the upturned card of the dealer. It will pay out for a number of different combinations:
- Flush – (all cards are suited) – pays 5:1
- Straight – (all cards consecutive) – pays 10:1
- Three of a kind – (not the same suit) – pays 30:1
- Straight flush – (consecutive cards same suit) – pays 40:1
- Suited triple – (three of the same card) – pays 100:1
The house edge for the 21+3 side bet will vary depending on the number of decks used, standing at 8.78% for four decks, 7.81% for five decks, 7.14% for six decks and 6.29% for seven decks.
Other side bets to look out for
The Casino industry is highly competitive, and so new side bets are being invented all the time to try and attract new Blackjack players.
Some of these will flourish and become widely available, while others remain niche and can only be found in selected Casinos. Here are a few examples:
- Royal match – pays 5:2 for any suited player’s cards and 25:1 for suited king and queen
- Over/under 13 – pays even money for correctly predicting the sum of the player’s cards as less than or greater than 13. In most cases, exactly 13 will lose, but some Casinos will allow bets on exactly 13.
- Super sevens – this bet pays out if one or more sevens are dealt in the player’s cards. One seven pays 3:1, two unsuited sevens pays 50:1, two suited sevens pays 100:1. If the third card dealt is also a seven, then the bet will pay 500:1 unsuited and 5000:1 suited. However it is important to make sure that the Casino will still deal a third card if the dealer has a Blackjack, as some Casinos will not do this.
- Lucky ladies – this bet pays out if the player’s cards add up to 20, with an unsuited 20 paying 4:1, a suited 20 paying 10:1, a matched 20, same rank and suit pays 25:1, two queens of hearts 200:1 and two queens of hearts when dealer has Blackjack 1000:1.
Are Blackjack side bets worth playing?
Blackjack side bets do not involve any skill and you are simply betting on the luck of the draw.
What’s more, the returns do not reflect the odds of each bet coming in, which gives the house a significantly larger edge.
Blackjack side bets are best viewed as a bit of extra complexity that adds up to a session at the Blackjack table.
However, you should not make them the main focus of your gameplay or your wagering, and you should be aware of the significantly increased house edge.