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Blackjack side bets revisited

24 March 2002

It's been awhile since I reviewed blackjack side bets. Since then there has been a proliferation of new bets, so I decided to take another look at them.

Since casinos do not have big margins on their blackjack tables, they often try to offer these side bets to boost profits. For example, some side bets require that the player make a bet that the player's two-card hand will be over or under 13, or the first two cards are of the same rank. Other side bets pay a bonus if a player gets three suited 7s or if a player is dealt a suited king or queen. What follows is a summary of these side bets and a recommendation as to whether or not they are worth playing.

Three Way Action

This is three games in one--blackjack, high card wins (combat), and 7-card stud. A player can bet on any one or all three games. You play blackjack with regular house rules (on some tables if you get seven cards without going over 21 you automatically win). In combat it's the players first card against the dealer's up card, high card wins (pays even money). The dealer will win half the bet if the two cards tie. Casino edge is 2.9 percent. Additional cards are given to the player and dealer to make a 7-card poker hand with the highest hand winning (players receive even money). The dealer must have at least an ace or higher to qualify or player wins half the bet. The casino edge is 3.2 percent. Other than the normal blackjack game, I'd pass on the other two side bets.

Pair Square

A player wins this side bet if his first two cards are of the same rank. For a 6-deck game, the payoff for an unmatched pair is 10 to 1 and if matched the payoff increases to 15 to 1. The payoffs vary for different numbers of decks, but the casino's edge in all cases is around 6 percent or more. This is another side bet that should be avoided.

Perfect Pairs

The game uses eight decks of cards. Players bet that their first two cards are a pair. A Perfect Pair (same rank and suit) pays 30 to 1, a Colored Pair (a pair of same rank and color pays 10 to 1, and a Red/Black pair pays 5 to 1. Overall house edge is 3.45 percent. Again not recommended.

21+3

This game combines a Three Card Poker side bet with blackjack. Essentially the player makes a side bet that his first two dealt cards plus the dealer's up card will be a flush, straight, straight flush or three of a kind. If so the side bet pays 9 to 1. In a six-deck game, the casino's edge is 3 percent; more respectable than most side bets, but still higher than the casino's edge on traditional blackjack.

5 Card 21

This side bet pays 2 to 1 if the player gets a winning 5-card hand totaling 21. There are about 20 deviations from basic strategy for any player who wants to try for the 5-card 21 and the house edge is only 0.2 percent. You'll find the complete basic strategy in Stanford Wong's book, Basic Blackjack.

Over/Under bet

This side bet allows a player to wager that the likelihood of his two initial cards will total either over 13 or under 13 (if the total is exactly 13 the player loses both the over and under bet). Arnold Snyder studied this bet in great detail and reported his results in the Over/Under Report. The bottom line is that the house has an edge of 6.6 percent for the over bet and 10 percent for the under bet (typical 6-deck game). This side bet is not recommended if you are a basic strategy player. However, Snyder went on to demonstrate that by using card counting techniques, it's possible for the player to actually gain the advantage. Good bet if you learn the counting system for it.

Super 7s

Here the player makes a side bet in the hopes he is dealt one or more 7s. For example, if his first card is a 7, the payoff is 3 to 1. If his first two cards are unsuited 7s, it's a 50 to 1 payoff and if both 7s are suited, the payoff skyrockets to 100 to 1. Finally if the player is dealt three 7s, the payoff is 500 to 1 if unsuited and a whopping 5,000 to 1 if suited.

Although the high payoffs are inviting when you do the math the casino's edge is around 11 percent. That's a suckers bet in anybody's book.

Royal Match

A player makes a side bet and gets paid a bonus if the first two cards are suited (3 to 1) and a 10 to 1 bonus if the two suited cards are a king and queen (royal match). These payoffs are for single-deck games and the house edge is around 4 percent. The payoffs can vary from the above and the odds change if more decks of cards are used. But no matter, I've yet to see an established payoff high enough that reduces the house edge to a respectable level. Avoid this side bet.

Streak

Here the player bets on how many hands he will win in succession (from 2 to 5). The house edge is anywhere from 8 to 14 percent. Ouch!

Suited 6-7-8

Players win this side bet if the first three cards dealt are 6-7-8 of the same suit and the player wins the hand. Only in the case if you hold a suited 6-7 against a dealer's 2 should you violate basic strategy and hit. The basic strategy player actually has the very slight edge on this side bet (0.01 percent or about a penny for every $100 bet).

Red/Black

This is a simple side bet. You bet on the color of the dealer's up card. If the dealer's card is a deuce of the color you bet on then you push. This gives the house a 3.8 percent edge.

Progressive Blackjack

You bet a dollar and get paid for being dealt aces. The more aces, the higher the payoff. Payoffs start at 3 to 1 if a player gets an ace as his first card. Get two aces on your first two cards and the payoff is 15 to 1 (if they're suited it's 50 to 1). The payoffs keep increasing for three aces (suited and non-suited) and finally four aces. If you achieve the latter and all aces are either red or black you win the amount on the progressive meter. The casino's edge varies depending upon the amount of the progressive jackpot but in general it's more than 15 percent. Avoid it.

Bonus Blackjack

This side bet involves betting that the player and/or the dealer will get a blackjack (you can bet on a player blackjack or a dealer blackjack or both). If you bet on both and you get an ace and jack of spades, you win a progressive bonus. The casino's edge is about 3.7 percent (six decks), too high for comfort.

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:

> 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:

Winning Baccarat Strategies

> More Books By Henry Tamburin