To encourage more players to visit the blackjack tables and also to improve their margins, many casinos have added side bets.
These innocent-sounding gambles usually require a rather small wager (typically a dollar) and generally return better than the customary even-money blackjack payoffs.
It’s a competitive market for side bets. Each year at Global Gaming Expo, the casino industry’s premier trade show (Global Gaming Expo), you will find a countless number of enthusiastic vendors pitching their side bets to casino officials.The reality, however, is many of them never make it to the casino floor, and the few that do die quickly because of lack of player interest.
What follows is a summary of the more popular blackjack side bets you may find on blackjack tables. Note 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. The payoff schedule is usually imprinted on the felt, or summarized on a placard or brochure at the table. I’ve listed the best payoff schedules to look for and the corresponding house edge assuming a six-deck game.
It’s no secret that blackjack has a low house edge, around half a percent, with the relatively easy-to-learn basic playing strategy. As a general guideline, side bets 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.
House Edge: 3.2 percent
The 21 stands for blackjack and the 3 is for Three Card Poker 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.
House Edge: 3.7 percent
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.
House Edge: Over 13 is 6.5 percent; Under 13 is 10 percent
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.
House Edge: 10.6 percent
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 six of clubs) pays 15 to 1.
House Edge: 11.4-12.6 percent
The player hopes for lots of 7s, the more the merrier. If the first card is a 7, it pays 3 to 1. If the first two cards are 7s, the payoff is 100 to 1 if suited and 50 to 1 if unsuited. Draw a third 7 and now it really gets interesting. If the first three cards are unsuited 7s, the payoff is 500 to 1, and if suited, the payoff is 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.
House Edge: 17 percent
Players are betting 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. Any unsuited 20 pays 4 to 1.
House Edge: 24 percent
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.
Good luck finding the best blackjack side bets!
About the Author: Henry Tamburin is the author ofÂ Blackjack: Take The Money & Run, editor ofÂ Blackjack Insider NewsletterÂ and lead instructor for theÂ Golden Touch Blackjack CourseÂ (www.goldentouchblackjack.com). To receive his free Casino Gambling Catalog, call 888-353-3234 or visit www.smartgaming.com.