If you like to play blackjack in a live casino or play blackjack online for money with one of Counting Edge’s casino partners, you’ll find a wide variation of blackjack games that offer enticing side bets. Side bets can provide an interesting diversion, but not all of them are beneficial for the player. Some of them are specifically designed to increase the house edge and distract you from your main objective.
What we’re going to do in this article is address some of the more popular side bets offered at the blackjack table and examine how they affect your chances at profitability.
What are Blackjack Side Bets?
When you sit down to play blackjack, the game itself is pretty straightforward. You try to make a hand that is closer to a total of 21 than the dealer without going over. When you play this standard form of blackjack the house edge is pretty small. Most standard blackjack games carry a house edge of 0.5% to 1%. This can be adjusted with basic blackjack strategy.
Compare this house edge with slot machines which often have a 5% house edge or more. This means that you can expect to lose $5 for every $100 you bet. Slot machines are how online casinos and live casinos pay the bills and maintain their overhead. They would much rather you put your money into a slot machine than put it in play on the blackjack table because they stand to win more money from you.
Since there are plenty of smart gamblers who understand the importance of house edge and how it affects the player’s chance to profit, casino’s have come up with a unique way to tilt the house advantage in their favor. The answer is called the blackjack side bet.
A blackjack side bet allows the player to make an additional wager in addition to the bet made on the blackjack hand. Whereas the minimum bet on a blackjack hand in a live casino can be as little as $1 online or $5 in a live casino, the side bet can always be played for a minimum of $1. Playing it for higher amounts will increase the potential reward if the player wins the wager.
Winning these wagers is no easy task, so the reward can often be pretty generous. There are as many blackjack side bets as there are variations of the game. In-Between has become a favorite side bet in many live and online casinos because it has the appearance of being easy to hit. In this side bet, the player is hoping that the dealer’s up card falls in between his/her two face up cards. For example, if the dealer shows a 7 and you have a 3 and a 10, you win the In Between side bet. That’s great, but don’t forget that you also have a 13 against the dealer’s 7 which you must now deal with.
Insurance-Blackjack’s Worst Side Bet
Almost every variation of blackjack offers insurance as a betting option. This is not technically considered a side bet but is regarded as a part of the game. The truth, however, is that it is one of the worst side bets that you can play at the blackjack table.
Insurance is most often taken when you have a blackjack and the dealer shows an ace. If you play the insurance bet and he dealer has blackjack, you will win the insurance bet but not be paid on the blackjack. The insurance bet pays even money. If you lose the insurance bet you will be paid 3-2 on your blackjack but lose the insurance wager. Many players like to insure their blackjack in order to at least receive even money.
Here’s why the casino offers insurance as a side bet. They want you to take it when you have a blackjack so they might avoid the possibility of paying you 3-2 and only have to pay you even money. In almost all cases, taking insurance is a bad bet. Unless you are an experienced card counter and know when taking insurance is in your favor, avoid it like the plague.
Blackjack Side Bets Appeal to Gamblers
Live and online casinos understand that sometimes the slot player wants to give the table games a try. There is nothing they can do to prevent that, but they would be much happier if the little old ladies who like to play slot machines stayed at the one-armed bandits and spent their retirement checks. So, they introduced side games in order to satisfy the player’s urge to gamble.
Some side bets even encourage you to spend more money that you typically would at the blackjack table. Take Blackjack Switch for instance. In this amusing variation of the game you are given the opportunity to switch cards from two different hands in order to make one good hand. You should be able to see the logic in this for the casino. For starters, you are now required to play two hands instead of one. That means spending double the minimum bet on each play. If the minimum bet at the table is $5 per hand, you will now be spending $10.
The chances of getting a good strong hand on both bets are not great. In addition, there are multiple opportunities for players to make errors at basic blackjack strategy. Let’s say you are dealt 8-8 on one hand and 10-2 on the other. The dealer shows a 6. Many players are tempted in this situation to switch the 8 and 2 for a 10-8 and an 8-2. Looks pretty good on the surface. You now have an 18 and a 10 against the dealer’s 6. The obvious play now is to stand on the 18 and double down on the 10, hoping for a dealer bust. But, the dealer doesn’t always bust when they hold a 6. Sometimes they draw out.
A better play would have been to stand on the 10-2 and split the 8’s. Now you have the chance to win three hands if the dealer busts instead of two. Many recreational players just don’t have the skills to implement the basic strategy required in order to play side bets effectively.
Other side bets offered by the casino are just ratchet games, plain and simple. The probability of hitting one of them is so astronomically high that the risk just does not justify the reward.
If you decide to try your hand at blackjack side bets, you will find plenty of them at the blackjack games offered by our online casino partners. Create an account today and you can receive generous sign up bonuses that will give you free money to practice your blackjack skills. You might even get lucky and make a big score.
- What is a side bet in blackjack?
- A side bet is an optional wager placed at the beginning of a hand, separate from the main bet, based on specific conditions or outcomes other than just winning the hand.
- Are side bets dependent on the main blackjack game?
- Generally, no. Most side bets are settled independently of the main blackjack hand outcome.
- What are some popular blackjack side bets?
- Some common side bets include:
- Perfect Pairs: Betting that your initial two cards will be a pair.
- 21+3: Combines your two cards and the dealer’s upcard and pays out if they form a poker hand like a straight, flush, or three-of-a-kind.
- Insurance: A bet that the dealer has a blackjack when their upcard is an Ace.
- Super Sevens: Pays out based on the number of sevens you’re dealt in a row.
- Royal Match: Wagering that your initial two cards are of the same suit or a royal couple (King & Queen).
- Some common side bets include:
- What is the house edge on side bets?
- The house edge on side bets is typically higher than the main blackjack game. While they can offer larger payouts, the increased house edge means they tend to be less favorable to players in the long run.
- Why do players place side bets?
- Players might be enticed by the possibility of winning a larger payout than in the standard blackjack game. They also add an element of excitement and variation to the game.
- Do strategies for the main blackjack game apply to side bets?
- Not usually. Side bets are typically based on luck and chance rather than strategy. Though card counting might influence some side bet decisions, for most side bets, there isn’t a strategy that can decrease the house edge.
- How common are side bets in casinos?
- Most blackjack tables in casinos, whether live or online, will offer one or more side bet options. They are popular additions because they increase the casino’s profits.
- Can you place a side bet without a main bet in blackjack?
- No, side bets are “side” options, meaning you must place a main blackjack bet to be eligible to place a side bet.
- Are side bets available in online blackjack?
- Yes, many online blackjack games also offer various side bet options. They work similarly to those in live casinos.
- Are side bets worth it?
- While side bets can provide thrilling opportunities to win big, they generally come with a higher house edge. Players should be aware of the odds and make informed decisions based on their bankroll and risk tolerance.
For players looking to spice up their blackjack experience, side bets offer an intriguing, albeit riskier, option. It’s essential to understand the rules, payouts, and odds before diving in.