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Blackjack Side-Bets - What Are They and Are They Worth It?

Blackjack Side-Bets - What Are They and Are They Worth It?

A side bet is an additional wager placed at the beginning of a round in Blackjack, at the same time as your main bet. There are different types, involving your hand and in some cases the dealer’s hand. If you are playing online blackjack, side bets can often be placed by putting chips in the relevant side bet box alongside your main betting box on the table. The house edge for a side bet is very dependent on the payoff schedule, which is not necessarily the same from one casino to the next. As a general guideline, side bets in blackjack have high house edges and should be avoided. But if you insist on trying your luck, you should at least stick to the side bets that have the lowest house edge. Better yet, you can learn a counting system that is specific to the side bet and that can give you an edge. The amount you can wager on a side bet may also vary from casino to casino. Here is a summary of the more popular blackjack side bets that you may find on blackjack tables in land-based and online casinos.

Why are side-bets offered?

Side bets at blackjack are offered for two basic reasons: 

  • To add a little excitement for players who want more out of the game than trying to grind out a profit one bet at a time.
  • To increase action to generate more profit for the house.

There are many different types of side-bets namely:

21+3

The 21+3 blackjack side bet pays off based on the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card. If the three cards form a flush, straight, three-of-a-kind, or straight flush, the player wins. In the original version of the 21+3 side bet, the payout for each of the winning hands was 9 to 1, resulting in a house edge of 3.24%. Nowadays, new pay tables have been introduced that have higher house edges and greater volatility.

Three-of-a-kind

The Three-of-a-Kind side bet is placed on the outcome that the dealer’s upturned card and your own first two cards will all be of the same rank. For example, if all three cards were Jacks or 6s, regardless of suits or colours. A successful Three-of-a-Kind side bet pays 30/1.

Straight Flush

A straight flush is three cards in numerical order and of identical suits, for example, 1 of spades, 2 of spades and 3 of spades. The odds for a straight flush are 40/1.

Royal Match

The Royal Match side bet is offered at single-deck and multi-deck tables. If you make this bet in a multi-deck game, and your first two dealt cards are suited (known as an Easy Match) the payoff is 5 to 2. With a Royal Match and a suited King and Queen pay 25 to 1. Also, you receive a 5 to 1 payoff for a suited blackjack. These are player-friendly payouts that result in a house edge of 3.7%. In the single-deck version, the payoffs are 3 to 1 for an Easy Match and 10 to 1 for a Royal Match (house edge 3.8%).

Over/Under 13

A player can wager on whether the sum of his first two cards will be over, or under, 13. A total of 13 always loses and the ace counts as 1. The house edge for the Over 13 wager is 6.5%, and for the Under 13, it is 10%. The side bet is usually offered on 6 and 8 deck games.

Super Sevens

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). If you draw a third 7 it 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 will not deal a third card to the player and the house edge on this side bet is 12.6%. However, some casinos will give the player a third card in this situation and the house edge drops to 11.4%.

Lucky Ladies

At the Lucky Ladies side-bet, 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%.

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 sixes of clubs) pays 15 to 1. The house edge is 10.6%.

Perfect pairs

As the name suggests, the Perfect Pairs side bet is an additional wager placed on the outcome that the first two cards dealt with you are a Mixed, Coloured or Perfect Pair. This means that a pair of numbers or matching colours will payout, whilst two cards of the same suit, colour and number will award the highest payout. Here are the three different Perfect Pairs blackjack side bets and their odds, again according to the paytable:

Mixed Pair

A Mixed Pair is a pair of two different colours - one red and one black. This Perfect Pair option offers the lowest odds, paying 5/1.

Coloured Pair

A Coloured Perfect Pair is a pair of the same colour but different suits. For example, a 10 of hearts and a 10 of diamonds would be a Coloured Perfect Pair. This side bet offers the second-highest odds and pays 10/1.

Perfect Pair

This is the most valuable Perfect Pair, paying 30/1. As you have probably guessed, a Perfect Pair is two cards that are of both the same suit and value. If you are dealt two kings of hearts, for example, you have acquired a Perfect Pair.

Insurance

Insurance is a side bet designed to protect players from a dealer blackjack. This side bet is only available if the dealer’s up-card is an ace. When playing online, the option to place an insurance side bet will usually appear on the screen when the dealer’s cards have been dealt. The idea behind placing an insurance wager is to give players a better chance of receiving a payout despite not holding a winning hand. Insurance appeals to the more competitive player, as this is designed to reduce the house edge. A range of games offers insurance side bets that pay 2:1, for those who want to beat the dealer at his own game whilst increasing their winnings. Of course, a payout is never guaranteed as you cannot see the dealer’s second card until after the Insurance bet has been placed, but there is certainly no harm in protecting yourself from losing your bet if you are willing to place the extra bet.

The main features to remember about side-bets are:

  • The appeal of blackjack side bets is the relatively large amount of money you can win for a small wager.
  • Side bets have high house edges and should be avoided.
  • If you want to wager on a side bet, you should research to determine if a counting system exists, and learn the system.

Are the Blackjack side-bets worth it?

The advantage of side bets in blackjack is that they generally only involve a small wager, but the payouts are bigger and greater than the regular bets. One of the biggest concerns players have is that you do not usually leave the table with more than even-money. It is when side bets may have an advantage, but there is also a strong risk they won't be paying off. Any round, though, is based on an element of luck and side bets are no different. For a more enhanced online casino experience, side bets will add the extra layer. Side bets offer a more fast-paced game for players tired of placing one bet at a time, waiting for a payout until the end of each round.

Conclusion

It is indeed true that side bets tend to give a higher edge to the house than standard blackjack does, but knowing basic strategy can lower the overall house advantage. In the case of perfect pairs and 21+3, players who love the strategic dimension of blackjack may be put off by side bets because they are a gamble, being placed before any cards are even dealt. Insurance offers a bit more control, as you already know what the upgraded card of the dealer is, and your cards. Yet you should not get carried away by the appeal of high odds and start making side bets immediately. Instead, you are expected to think objectively and critically before you step. If you are a player who likes taking the risks, craves higher payouts and loves a multi-layered online blackjack experience, side bets are worth a wager.