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Blackjack side bets: Are they worth betting?

13 May 2011

In an effort to encourage more players to play blackjack -- and also to improve their margins -- many casinos have added side bets on their blackjack tables. These innocent-looking bets usually require a rather small wager (typically only a dollar), and they generally have payoffs that are greater than the customary even-money blackjack payoffs.

It's no secret that blackjack has a low house edge (around half a percent) with the relatively easy-to-learn basic playing strategy. Inventors dream up side bets to bolster casino profits, and then try to sell them to casinos. Each year at the casino industry's premier trade show Global Gaming Expo, you will find countless number of enthusiastic vendors pitching their side bets to casino officials. The reality, however, is that many of these side bets never make it to the casino floor, and the few that do die quickly because of lack of interest from players. But some have survived, and more are in the pipeline waiting for their chance.

What follows is a summary of the more popular blackjack side bets that you may find on blackjack tables. Note that the house edge for a side bet is dependent on the payoff schedule, which is not necessarily the same from one casino to the next (the payoff schedule is usually imprinted on the felt, or summarized on a placard or brochure). I've listed the best payoff schedules to look for and the corresponding house edges assuming a six-deck game.

As a general guideline, side bets in blackjack have high house edges and should be avoided. But if you insist on trying your luck, at least stick to the side bets that have the lowest house edge.

21+3

The "21" stands for blackjack and the "3" is for Three Card Poker, the poker hand consisting of the player's first two cards and the dealer's upcard. If those three cards result in a flush, straight, three-of-a-kind, or straight flush, you win 9 to 1 for the side bet. The house edge is 3.2 percent.

Royal Match

This side bet pays off if a player's first two cards are suited (paying 2.5 to 1) with a Royal Match, a suited King and Queen, paying 25 to 1. In addition, you receive a 5-to-1 payoff for a suited blackjack. The house edge is 3.7 percent.

Over/Under 13

A player wagers on whether the sum of his first two cards will be over (or under) a total of 13. The Ace counts as 1. The house edge for the Over 13 wager is 6.5 percent, and for the Under 13 it's 10 percent.

Pair Square

A player wins this side bet if his first two cards are the same rank (like a pair of 6s). An unmatched pair (like 6 of clubs and 6 of spades) pays 10 to 1. A matched pair (like a pair of 6 of clubs) pays 15 to 1. The house edge is 10.6 percent.

Super Sevens

The player hopes for lots of 7s, the more the merrier. If his first card is a 7, it pays 3 to 1. If his first two cards are 7s, the payoff depends on whether they are suited (100 to 1) or unsuited (50 to 1). Draw a third 7 and it really gets interesting. If his first three cards are unsuited 7s, the payoff is 500 to 1, and if suited, he receives the top payoff of 5,000 to 1. In some casinos, when the dealer has a blackjack and a player has two 7s, the casino won't deal a third card to the player and the house edge on this side bet is 12.6 percent. However, some casinos will give the player a third card in this situation and the house edge drops to 11.4 percent.

Lucky Ladies

Players are betting that their first two cards total 20, ideally with two queens. The top payoff is 1,000 to 1 if you get two Queens of hearts and the dealer has a blackjack. If you get "only" two Queens of hearts, it pays 200 to 1; a matched 20 (same rank and suit) pays 25 to 1; a suited 20 pays 10 to 1; and any unsuited 20 pays 4 to 1. The house edge is 17 percent.

Bonus Blackjack

This simple side bet involves betting that the player and/or dealer will get a blackjack (you can bet on a player blackjack, or a dealer blackjack, or both). The house edge if you make a single wager is 24.0 percent. If you bet on both and get an Ace and Jack of spades, you win a progressive jackpot. The breakeven for the latter is a jackpot of at least $648.

Here is something to keep in mind if you win a side bet. According to IRS Regulations, the casino should give you a W-2G if you win $600 or more and the payout is at least 300 times the amount of the wager.

Recent Articles
Best of Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

Winning Baccarat Strategies

> More Books By Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin