Blackjack beats all other house-banked card games in terms of popularity by a large margin, mainly due to its simple rules, straightforward strategy, and low house edge. In addition to these merits, there is a proliferation of side bets players can make to add more excitement to their blackjack sessions.
Some of these wagers have the potential to return substantial payouts for relatively small stakes which further increases their appeal. However, the extra excitement comes at a cost since side bets have significantly higher house edges than those in the main game.
Casino operators constantly invent new side wagers in an effort to attract more action to their blackjack tables, but most of these additional betting options are of little to no value to players. Our objective in this article is to sift out the blackjack side bets with the highest theoretical return and explain how they work.
Blackjack Side Bets Basics
Side bets are additional betting options available in some blackjack games. They are optional and players can make them in addition to their bets in the main game. Most side wagers generally require a small stake and offer considerably larger returns than the standard blackjack payouts.
They typically involve guessing what combination of cards will be dealt to the player or the dealer, or sometimes both. The chips for side bets are posted in designated betting boxes on the table layout located next to the betting spots reserved for the main wagers. Side bets must be posted at the very beginning of a round before any cards are dealt at the table.
In the majority of cases, players must place a wager in the main blackjack game before they become eligible for making side bets. Separate minimums and maximums apply to side bets. The limits are normally posted on special plaques or printed straight on the table layout.
Side bets are settled immediately after the initial deal before patrons make any playing decisions. Their outcomes are irrelevant to the main game and the round proceeds as usual, with players hitting, standing, splitting, or doubling down on their hands.
Main Takeaway Points for Blackjack Side Bets
Side bets are optional wagers players can make at the start of a round.
Side bets return substantially higher payouts than winning hands in the main game.
Players must wager on the main game before they can make side bets.
The dealer settles winning side bets before players act on their hands.
Blackjack Players Love Side Bets, Here Is Why
Side bets excite the interest of blackjack players for several reasons
They cost little to make.
They can potentially yield rather appetizing payouts.
They do not require any skill or decision-making.
Side bets are quite inexpensive to make, although the limits generally vary based on the game you play. Side betting in most blackjack variants released by Felt Gaming starts at ¢0,10, while the maximum reaches $250. By means of comparison, All Bets Blackjack by Playtech has a less flexible betting range with a $100 ceiling on side wagers.
High payouts are the main attraction when it comes to side bets. The most you can win in the main game is a payout of 3 to 2 when you are dealt a blackjack, although few variants pay better at odds of 2 to 1. All other winning hands in the main game return even-money payouts.
By contrast, side bets offer significantly higher rewards, giving you the chance to win as much as 1,000 times your bet in some cases. On the downside, the casino advantage increases significantly with side bets and rarely drops below 4%. Some of these additional betting options carry house edges as high as 11%.
Finally, the vast majority of side bets require little to no involvement on behalf of players. No skill is involved for the most part since winning or losing both come down to sheer chance. All players must do is decide how much money they want to put at stake and then post the corresponding amount in chips on the layout.
The Most Player-Friendly Side Bets in Blackjack
Blackjack has established itself as a player-favorite because it comes with a very low house edge compared to most other games on the casino floor. Players who have brought their basic strategy to perfection face house edges under 0.50% in blackjack variants with favorable rules.
Even if you play terribly and rely solely on hunches, you are still battling a relatively tolerable house edge that increases to approximately 2% without basic strategy. This is not the case with side bets where you are playing at a huge disadvantage in hopes of pocketing a big payout.
Yet, if you are looking to take your chances of winning a higher payout, we recommend you do it with the side bets that yield the lowest house edges. The list below comprises the blackjack side wagers that put players at the smallest disadvantage. There is a slew of other options but their house edges are so appalling that we recommend against playing them.