by Simon Beasor
For many players, the attraction of blackjack is the simplicity of the rules and the bets placed. However, for some, these are a big disadvantage of the game. Some players are not satisfied with the even money game and want a little more excitement, and potential profit, from their game play. This is why many casinos now offer blackjack side bets to enhance the action and add some variety to the game play.
Blackjack has been played for centuries, with the first mention of ‘trente-un’ appearing as early as 1440. Players back then could never imagine how competitive the world of casinos, both brick-and-mortar and online versions, would one day become. Blackjack side bets are a way for casinos to attract new players with new ways to win at the oldest of card games.
What is a blackjack side bet?
These bets are predictions based on the initial cards dealt to the player and the dealer. They have nothing to do with the main game, and there is no skill or strategy involved, although it is theoretically possible to count cards to make your predictions more accurate. For most players, however, it is simply a matter of guessing which cards will be dealt.
Blackjack side bets offer a far greater potential return than the main game, but they also come with a much higher casino edge. In the main Blackjack game, the bet pays even money, or 2:1, for a blackjack, with a casino edge of just 0.5%. Side bets, on the other hand, can pay anything up to 5000:1, but the casino edge is also significantly higher, often over 10%. So, while you may win more in the short term with side bets, over time you will inevitably lose.
Typical side bets
The side bets available will vary from casino to casino, but here are a few of the more common varieties of wagers.
- Insurance – This side bet covers the player against the dealer making blackjack if their card on show is an ace. You bet half your stake, and it pays 2-1 if the dealer does indeed have a blackjack.
- Perfect Pairs – This bet predicts that you will be dealt a pair with your first two cards.
- 5-1 for a mixed pair of the same value
- 12-1 for a matching color pair
- 25-1 for a perfect pair of identical cards
- 21+3 – This bet predicts the combination of all three upturned cards from the player and the dealer.
- 5-1 for a non-consecutive flush
- 10-1 for a non-suited straight
- 30-1 for three of a kind
- 40-1 for a straight flush
- 100-1 for three identical cards
- Over/under 13 – This bet predicts the total value of the player’s cards will be more or less than 13. It is an even money bet, with the house collecting all bets if the sum is exactly 13; however, some casinos take bets that pay around 6-1 for this outcome.
- Royal match – This bet predicts the suited cards in the player’s hand and returns 25-1 for suited kings and queens and 5-2 for other suited cards.
- Lucky ladies – This bet predicts that the total of the player’s cards will be 20. It pays 4-1 for an unsuited 20, 10-1 for a suited 20, 25-1 for a matched and suited 20 and 200-1 for two queens of hearts. This increases to 1000-1 if the dealer has a blackjack.
- Super sevens – This bet predicts that the player will be dealt sevens and pays 3-1 for one seven, 50-1 for two mixed sevens, 100-1 for two suited sevens and 500-1 if the third card is also a seven. If all three sevens are the same suit, you will hit the jackpot with a 5000-1 payout. (Note—some casinos will not deal a third card if the dealer has a blackjack, so check their policy before placing this bet.)
A shot in the dark
At the end of the day, the cards you are dealt in blackjack are no more predictable than the final resting slot for the ball in roulette. This means that side bets are just as much down to chance as picking a number at random from 1-36. But if you are after a little extra fun on the side of your serious blackjack strategy play, then they could be just what you are looking for.