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.
Blackjack Rules and Moves Explained
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
|7.47% (in eight-deck games)
|29.17% (in six-deck games)
|Suit ‘Em Up
|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
|Pair Square/Any Pair
|95.90% for 8 decks
|4.096% for 8 decks
|7.47% for 8 decks
|40.31% + for 8 decks
|59.69% – for 8 decks
|0.57% for 8 decks
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Find the answers of questions people asked so far:
Can I place several side bets in blackjack or do I need to stick with one?
If the blackjack variation you play online supports several side bet options, you can make use of all of them. If you are feeling extra lucky and you can afford it, you can make two or multiple side bets in addition to your regular blackjack bet. You must be careful, however, as side bets always require additional wagers. That increases the risk level and if you cannot afford it, you may exhaust your bankroll much quicker if you run out of luck. What is more, winning one side bet may not cover losing the rest of the additional wagers. That is why we advise you to always carefully assess your budget, the risk you are willing to take, and the potential return you may enjoy if your side bets are successful.
Which is the most risky side bet in blackjack games I can find online?
Making a side bet in blackjack is risky in itself, there are some side wagers that are extremely risky and are not suitable for recreational players who cannot afford to spend huge amounts on blackjack. One such side bet is Luck Ladies, which can be found on online blackjack variants by Felt Gaming. With the opportunity to win a payout of 100 to 1 when you see a pair of Queens of Hearts being dealt to the player’s side, this is a side bet that can be extremely rewarding. However, these payouts are even less generous than the general payouts for Lucky Ladies, which are supposed to pay significantly higher and even offer a special payout of 1,000 to 1 for a pair of Queens of Hearts and a dealer blackjack. Even if you come across such blackjack variants online you will still play with a crazy high house edge of 17.64%. This naturally makes this side bet extremely risky and maybe a bad option for players who are not ready to exhaust their bankroll too fast.
Can I use card counting for beating side bets in blackjack?
Interestingly enough, card counting is not a strategic play applicable only to the main game of blackjack. Many popular side bets offered in blackjack can actually be extremely rewarding towards card counters. One example is the Lucky Ladies side bet, which awards a payout whenever the player’s initial two cards and the dealer’s up-card form a total of 19, 20, or 21. Depending on the cards comprising the total of 21, there might be special payouts of up to 200 to 1.
Since the cards carrying the values of 6, 7, and 8 are important for those who wish to win the Lucky Lady side bet, card counters should concentrate on determining the number of 6s, 7s, and 8s remaining in the shoe. Having predominantly As, 6s, 7s, or 8s in the shoe is a good indicator for the card counter to make this side bet. However, a shoe filled with mostly 2s, 3s, or 10-value cards indicated that making the Lucky Lady side bet is not the best option.