Over the last half a century or so, both brick-and-mortar and online casinos have introduced a host of side bets to their blackjack tables in an effort to attract more players and their action. What many unsuspecting patrons don’t know is that these side wagers also aim at improving the casinos’ margins, generating more long-term profits for the house.
Nevertheless, side bets are a good way to make blackjack more engaging when posted occasionally. While these wagers carry significant risk, they also have the potential to be quite rewarding, often returning many times your initial stake.
In the following article, SuperCasinoSites explores the different side-bet options in blackjack, explaining their structure and how much they pay. We also take a look at these wagers’ theoretical return percentages and how they measure up against bets made in the base game.
Side Bets in Blackjack Explained
Side bets in blackjack are additional wagers players can make during the base game. They usually involve guessing what cards the dealer or the player will receive. In some instances, payouts are also awarded when the first two cards of the player and the dealer’s upcard form specific three-card poker hands.
It is important to understand these are entirely separate wagers and as such, they are settled independently from your original stake. They bear no relation to your odds of winning your main wager. Side bets must be posted at the start of a round before anyone has received their cards. They are settled immediately after the initial deal before players have made any playing decisions.
Another distinctive trait of side bets is that they offer significantly higher returns than the winning wagers in the main game. They require you to put a very small amount at stake, typically no more than a dollar.
Rather than paying even money like most other successful bets in blackjack, side bets could potentially earn you many times your stake depending on their probability of winning. In some cases, players can pocket payouts of up to 2,000 to 1. Not a bad return for a $1 wager, right?
With that in mind, we recommend players to experiment with these exciting wagers only occasionally and in moderation. Side bets yield considerably higher house edges and can quickly drain your bankroll if you are not careful.
Their outcomes have extremely long odds of winning and are based entirely on chance, although it is possible to exploit them to your advantage if you count cards. Card counting will enable you to identify the situations when certain side bets stand higher chances of winning due to the shoe’s changed composition.
Most Common Side Bets in Blackjack
There are many different side bets in blackjack but some are more commonly available than others. Perfect Pairs and the 21+3 side wagers are the most widespread options for players looking to earn a little extra on the side.
Online players can find them in RNG-based variations of the game such as those developed by Realistic Games, Playtech, NetEnt, RealTime Gaming, Microgaming, and Felt. The bets are posted in separate betting boxes. The payouts are displayed on the table layout although in some online variations you might find them in the game menu.
The Perfect Pairs and 21+3 side bets are also available across live dealer casinos powered by the Evolution Gaming software. They can be found in live variations like Blackjack Party, Free Bet Blackjack, and Infinite Blackjack, among others.
Other Supported Side Bets in Blackjack
Perfect Pairs and 21+3 are only some of the numerous side bets players can find in online blackjack. You won’t believe how inventive casinos are when it comes to increasing their margin and attracting new customers to their blackjack tables. Most of these are niche bets in the sense they are unique to specific blackjack variations developed by certain suppliers. We explain some of these exotic side wagers below.
Playing for the Progressive Jackpot with Side Bets
Progressive blackjack games are hard to come by but are well-worth the digging online because they have the potential to award life-changing prizes. In such games, players are normally required to post a small side bet, usually no more than a dollar, just to qualify for winning the pot.
There are two popular progressive blackjack games available for real-money online. One comes from the Playtech studio while the other one was developed earlier by supplier Microgaming. Let’s have a look at the Microgaming variation first.
Side Bets and Theoretical Player Return Percentages
The massive payouts are easily one of the most enticing aspects of playing the blackjack side bets, along with the added excitement these wagers yield to one’s gameplay. With that said, casinos do not offer side bets just to spice things up a little for their patrons.
The main goal here is to attract more customers to the blackjack table and lull them into playing bets with a huge negative expectation value. Or no value at all, depending on how you look at things.
As much as we hate to say it, side bets offer a significantly lower theoretical return to player than that in the main blackjack game. We advise you to look up the table below to see precisely what you are up against in terms of house edges and player return percentages with the most common side bets. By way of comparison, the base game has a house edge of roughly 0.50% with perfect basic strategy and an RTP of 99.50%.
|Side Bet Type||Return to Player For 6 Decks||House Edge for 6 Decks||Probability of Obtaining Any Qualifying Hand|
|Perfect Pairs||93.89%||6.11%||7.47% (in eight-deck games)|
|21+3||92.86%||7.14%||29.17% (in six-deck games)|
|Suit ‘Em Up||95.35%||4.65%||24.76%|
|Over/Under 13||93.44% for Over; 89.93% for Under||6.56% for Over; 10.07% for Under||46.73% for Over;44.97% for Under|
|Match the Dealer||95.94%||4.06%||14.27%|
|Pair Square/Any Pair||95.90% for 8 decks||4.096% for 8 decks||7.47% for 8 decks|
|Progressive Blackjack||40.31% + for 8 decks||59.69% – for 8 decks||0.57% for 8 decks|