If you sit down at a casino blackjack table and know basic strategy and play like a robot you are on as even ground with the house as almost any game on the floor. You can play for a long time with the expectation of losing very little and very probably winning if you walk away at the right time. Everyone prefers winning to losing but…does that sound like a fun evening for most players?
Gamblers crave action. Lots of action. And the tendency of most players is to want to bet a little to win a lot. Casinos know these impulses and they are happy to oblige the players. Side bets are cheap – $1 minimum is common – and hold the promise of out-sized returns. What does it matter that sides are never remotely a good gamble for the player? It is action. It is good times when a side bet hits. Get me some of that.
Some of the Most Common Blackjack Side Bets in a Casino
Lucky Ladies. This popular side bet cashes any time the player gets dealt a hand of 20 with a pair of any ten-value cards. It is worth a few extra chips if those winning cards are queens. And if those lucky ladies are escorted to the table in the company of a dealer blackjack the standard payout is 1,000 to 1.
Dare Any Pair/Any Pairs. This is a side bet that pays a flat 11 to 1 any time the player is dealt a pair. That translates into a pair being received about once every 8 or 9 hands. That sound about right, doesn’t it? It may seem that being dealt a pair is relatively common because it sticks out in the mind. Actually, in single-deck blackjack the edge for the house is an eye-opening 29.41% on this money-wasting side bet.
Perfect Pairs. Speaking of pairs, this side bet in a multi-deck game ups expands the payoffs for the player dealt a pair. If the tandem is unsuited with different colors this side bet pays 5 to 1 (less than half the 11 to 1, which was a bad risk at those odds). But, if the pair is the same color with different suits the payout is 10-1. If the two cards are identical – a perfect pair – the return is an exciting 30-1.
Hi/Low. One of the fairest side bets, this gambit pits the player’s first card against the dealer’s up card, one-on-one. The house edge is only in winning all pushes.
Bonus Blackjack. This is an even simpler side bet. The gamble is whether a blackjack will be dealt in to anyone in the upcoming hand. The payout is 15 to 1 which is not nearly generous enough since the house take is a healthy 22.78% in single-deck games and just goes up from there. A variation in some casinos is to make this side bet progressive and to pay off anytime a blackjack with an ace of spades is dealt in the house.
21+3. This side bet takes the player’s two dealt cards and the dealer’s up card to create a three-card poker hand. It that hand is a straight, flush, straight flush or three of a kind the bet pays 9-1, no matter the rank of the hand.
Royal Match. This low stakes side bet wins if the player’s two dealt cards are suited; a bonus is paid if the match is royal with a king or queen on top.
Super Sevens. This popular side bet pays 3-1 if the first card dealt is a seven (at odds of 13 to 1 against) But that is just the start of the fun with this wager. The pay table escalates to 50-1 (player dealt unsuited sevens), 100-1 (dealt suited sevens), 500-1 (three sevens, unsuited) and 5000-1 (all suited sevens). Not only will the side bet return $5,000 for a $1 investment but that 21 total is likely to win the original bet as well. That is what playing blackjack side bets is all about. Only a Debbie Downer would hasten to point out the fact that the Super Seven top prize will be paid out about 15 times every million hands and the house pays out less than $890,000 on that million dollars invested.