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.

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