Blackjack side bets are additional bets placed by the player during a standard game of blackjack. They are based on the assumption and prediction of which cards the player, and at times the dealer, will receive. Side bets can be of several types with varying rules, house edge, probability, and payout.
This article lists and discusses the five best blackjack side bets and gives you more insight into them.
How To Judge a Side Bet in Blackjack
Blackjack side bets are played with the primary purpose of winning more with an increased payout. Most side bets, as such, are independent of the main blackjack game. There are certain factors that make a side bet worth it. The most important factor is the probability or the chance for the player to win, even if it is by using card counting strategies. If the chance factor is very less, the side bet cannot be played often because this will lead to losses.
House edge is another important factor in determining whether a side is good. The thinner the house edge, the better it is for the player. A higher house edge is risky but it can lead to a higher payout also, an example being the Super Sevens blackjack side bet. Overall, when a player places a side bet, the ultimate aim is to get a higher payout, and any side bet that promises this is a good one.
That being said, a blackjack player judges the worth of a side bet based on his own strategies and expectations from the game. Also, different players have different risk-reward preferences. So, some will prefer bets to win small amounts but frequently while a few others will go for bigger wins that come once in a while in return for higher risks.
5 Best Blackjack Side Bets
Following are some of the best blackjack side bets that players often place, rated by their fun factor, profitability, and house edge.
|Side Bet||House Edge|
1. Perfect Pairs
Perfect Pairs is one of the most popular blackjack side bets. In this, the player bets on the first two cards dealt, being the same. They might not be in the same suit though the payout is higher if they are so. It is a simple bet, which is the main reason behind its popularity.
The payouts for Perfect Pairs depend on the number of decks of cards in the shoe as well as the table you are playing at. Typically, when 8 decks of cards are used in the game, the payout for Perfect Pairs with the same cards and suit is 25:1, with a colored pair (same color and cards but different suit) is 12:1 and red/black pair is 6:1.
The house edge in Perfect Pair is 11%. In spite of this high house edge percentage, Perfect Pairs is often considered a worthy side bet in blackjack because of its probability and return-to-player, which are quite impressively 1.69% and 89% respectively.
21+3 is another profitable side bet in blackjack that enables players to win in 5 different ways. The bet is placed on not just the first two cards of the player but also the dealer's upturned card.
The 21+3 side bet is based on the following expected occurrences:
- Suited Three of a Kind is when the player's two cards and the dealer's up card are identical in value, color, and suit. The payout of this is the highest that is 100:1.
- Straight Flush is when the player's two cards and the dealer's up card are of the same suit and make a numerical sequence like 7 diamonds, 8 diamonds, etc. The payout for this is 40:1.
- Three of a Kind is when all the three cards are the same but not from matching suits. The payout is 30:1.
- Straight is when three cards do not match in suits but do make a numerical sequence. The payout is 10:1.
- Flush is when the three cards are of the same suit. It brings a payout of 5:1.
The original 21+3 side bet has a house edge of about 3.24%. However, the different variations of the side bet can result in a varying Return to Player and a house edge ranging between 2.78% to 13.39%.
Insurance is a much-discussed side bet in blackjack. Some players consciously avoid it while many blackjack experts who can also count cards consider Insurance to be one of the best blackjack side bets.
So, after the players are dealt their cards and the dealer's up card is revealed to be an Ace, they are given the option to place this bet. Players can choose to take insurance for a cost that is half of their original bet. The bet is basically on the expected occurrence that the dealer has a blackjack and if he has so, then the player's insurance bet pays out at 2:1. This also means that the player has the chance to get their overall stake back from the hand.
The Blackjack Insurance odds are 33/16 = 2.0625:1. This leads to a house edge of 2% to 3%, which is not bad though the house edge with an Insurance side bet can fluctuate a lot and get higher, at times.
4. Royal Match
Royal Match is a widely played side bet that is found in many online blackjack variations as well. In a multi-deck blackjack game, the goal of this bet is to get two suited cards, ideally a king and a queen. The payout for two suited cards is 5:2 while the same for a suited King-Queen pair is 25:1. The house edge is quite thin, about 3.7% for this side bet, which is why the Royal Match is considered to be quite a player-friendly bet.
The Royal Match side bet payout and probability depends on the number of decks of cards used in the game. The wager is offered before the round and like in all side bets; it is independent of the main blackjack game. The amount that can be wagered is determined by the casino and is always related to the amount already wagered on the blackjack hand.
5. Over/Under 13
Over/Under 13 is another blackjack side bet that is loved by players for its low house edge, which is 6.5% for Over and 13% for Under. In Over, the player bets on the prediction that the sum total of his first two cards will exceed 13. In Under, the prediction is that the sum total will not exceed 13. Now, the kicker in this side bet is that in case the sum total of the first two cards dealt to the player is 13, he loses.
An important point to take note of while playing this side bet is that aces count as one. The Over/Under 13 side bet is one of the most player-friendly ones because the house edge can be lowered further by using solid card counting strategies. In fact, there are special card counting strategies designed for this prop bet.
What Is The Least Profitable Side Bet?
Lucky Ladies is one of the least profitable side bets in blackjack. It is placed on the assumption that the player's two cards will lead to a sum total of 20. The player loses the original bet if the cards do not sum up to exactly 20. The wager can be between $1 and $25.
Lucky Ladies is considered a bad bet because the probability is less and the house edge is pretty high, over 24%. The house edge for this side bet in a game with 6 and 8 decks of cards is 24.71% and 24.05% respectively. Considering this, betting on the Lucky Ladies is an unwelcome proposition for the players.
So, in a nutshell, the best blackjack side bets are good for adding extra complexity to a game and increase the chances of a higher payout than usual. However, side bets invariably increase the house edge and should better not be made the main focus of the gameplay.
This article was published on January 10, 2021, and last updated on April 4, 2021.