Blackjack Side Bets Breakdown – Know Your Odds and Payouts
Of all the card games you can play in a casino, Blackjack is easily one of the most commonly spread ones, with fast gameplay and strategic implications being among the key reasons for its popularity.
However, despite being quite fun to play, Blackjack can become quite repetitive and less fun to play than some other casino games, especially due to the lack of opportunities to score big wins in a single hand.
This is where Blackjack side bets come in, as they provide players with an opportunity to score extra wins in every hand, and add more flare to the game itself.
In this guide to Blackjack side bets, I am going to look into all the different side bet options, discuss Blackjack side bet payouts, and talk about the winning odds and house edge of these bets.
While Blackjack side bets tend to offer negative expected value, they also add a lot of entertainment value to the game and make playing Blackjack a lot more satisfying.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what side bets are available in Blackjack, how to win them, and when you should utilize them.
What are Side Bets in Blackjack?
In order to make Blackjack more entertaining and engaging to play, both live and online casinos often decide to add Blackjack side bets into the mix, as such bets make the game more fun for recreational players.
If you decide to make a Blackjack side bet, you will usually be giving up more theoretical value than you would if you were playing without placing such a bet, but you will also be in a position to win more if you get lucky.
Blackjack side bet payouts are regularly higher than the payouts you get for simply beating the dealer’s hand, and the Blackjack side bet odds are always lower, making such bets a bigger gamble than just playing a hand of Blackjack.
While some strategy can be employed to try and win Blackjack side bets like Perfect Pairs or 21 + 3, you will rely on luck more than anything to win these bets, which means you won’t have to always think about making the right play in regard to these bets.
At each Blackjack table, whether you are playing in a live setting or an online casino, you will be notified if side bets are available, as tables will usually have special betting fields for these bets, and your dealer will be more than happy to explain them to you.
Why Casinos Offer Blackjack Side Bets?
The game of Blackjack has been around since 1700s, when it was played in different forms in among the French aristocrats.
Over the years, Blackjack saw an extraordinary rise in popularity, and with the introduction of online casinos, Blackjack became an absolute hit.
Yet, Blackjack can be quite a mundane game at times, and the maximum win of 1:1 (except for Blackjack) is not enough to keep all players glued to their seats for a long time.
This is exactly where Blackjack side bets come in, as casinos are able to give players more winning opportunities, thus making the game more appealing to gamblers.
For the first time, you will be able to more than double your money in a hand of Blackjack, and you will be able to do that without even scoring Blackjack with your initial two cards.
Keep in mind that casinos always add side bets in Blackjack to get you to make bigger bets and relinquish even more value, so be smart about how much you bet in each hand, both as your original bet and as your side bet.
Different Types of Blackjack Side Bets
Now that you know what Blackjack side bets are, let’s talk about specific side bets you can make in the game, depending on the casino you are playing at.
Some popular side bets in Blackjack include Insurance, Perfect Pairs, 21 + 3, Royal Match, Lucky Ladies, Super Sevens, and more.
Each of these bets is different in its own way, and may have to do with the cards you hold, the cards the dealer gets, or other factors.
The main thing all Blackjack side bets share is that they are all based mostly on pure luck, making them a great addition to the strategic game of Blackjack, as they exist in the background and are paid if you get lucky, regardless of how you played the hand.
Perfect Pairs Side Bet
As previously mentioned, one of the most popular side bets in Blackjack is Perfect Pairs and this Blackjack side bet concerns the two hole cards you receive at the start of a hand. To win the Perfect Pairs side bet, your two hole cards must be of the same rank.
Blackjack side bet payouts for this one can differ quite a bit, depending on how you make your pair. Making a pair of two exact same cards (such as two eights of spades) will result in a 30:1 payout, while getting both cards of the same rank and same color will pay you 10:1.
In case you are dealt a mixed pair, where both the suit and color of the two cards are mismatched, you will get paid 5:1, which is still quite a solid payout for a game like Blackjack.
So, you can expect the following payouts from the Perfect Pairs side bet:
- Perfect Pair (Same Suit): 30:1
- Colored Pair (Same Color: 10:1
- Mixed Pair: (Different Suit and Color): 5:1
In most cases, the Perfect Pairs side bet winnings are paid as soon as initial cards are dealt to all players who have made a bet and won it at a live Blackjack table.
However, before you jump at the opportunity to make this seemingly great Blackjack side bet, it is worth considering the actual odds of getting dealt a perfect pair, or a pair at all, in Blackjack.
How Often Are You Dealt a Pair in Blackjack?
When playing Blackjack with eight decks, which is the norm these days, there is a total of 416 cards in play. You will need your second card to match your first, which gives you 415 cards to work with, only seven of which complete your Perfect Pair.
This means you will only get that 30:1 payout one out of 59 times, which certainly looks pretty good for the casino and not so great for you.
Of course, there are also other opportunities to win with Perfect Pairs, as another eight cards will give you the 10:1 payout for Colored Pairs, and a further 16 will offer the 5:1 payout of Mixed Pairs.
Expressed in percentages, you will get a Perfect Pair 1.69% of the time, a Colored Pair 1.93% of the time, and a Mixed Pair 3.86% of the time, for a grand total of 7.84% of all hands.
When all the numbers are crunched, the casino retains a mathematical edge of 10.7% over you if you place a Perfect Pairs bet, which is significantly higher than the edge it has in base game of Blackjack, which is well worth considering before you bet any chips on Perfect Pairs.
Insurance Side Bet
Insurance is probably the most popular of all Blackjack side bets, as it is one that’s a part of most Blackjack games out there.
The insurance side bet is designed to give players some protection against the dealer holding a Blackjack at the start of the hand, which is why this bet can only be made when the dealer’s up-card is an Ace.
In such a situation, you are offered insurance. The Blackjack insurance will cost you half of your original bet, and will pay you 2:1 if the dealer does happen to have a Blackjack.
If the dealer does not have a Blackjack, you will lose your insurance bet, but will be able to proceed with the original hand and keep playing as you normally would.
While many recreational Blackjack players often take insurance, fearing the dealer having Blackjack, it is actually a bet you don’t really want to accept for the most part.
The casino retains an edge of 7.5% on insurance when playing with six or more decks, while the casino edge is still a formidable 5.8% even in single deck Blackjack games.
In order to make insurance a more equitable bet, the casino would have to offer a slightly higher payout than 2:1, but you will not find this at any Blackjack tables, which makes insurance a bet you usually want to avoid.
21 + 3 Side Bet
The next Blackjack side bet worth considering is 21 + 3, which considers your hole cards and the dealer’s up-card at the start of the hand, and offers payouts of up to 100:1.
In all fairness, 21 + 3 is one of the most entertaining side bets you will find in any game, as it will allow you to score some crazy wins if you get lucky, and make each hand a lot more exciting.
If you do place a 21 + 3 Blackjack side bet, your goal will be to make a poker-style hand from the three cards in question, such as a flush, straight, three of a kind, etc.
Depending on the likelihood of getting certain cards, payouts for 21 + 3 go from as low as 5:1 for a flush, to 100:1 for a suited three of a kind, the least likely hand you can make.
21 + 3 offers by far the highest of all Blackjack side bet payouts, which are as follows:
- Flush: (any three suited cards): 5:1
- Straight: (three cards in a sequence): 10:1
- Three of a Kind: (three equally ranked cards): 30:1
- Straight Flush: (three suited cards in a sequence): 40:1
- Suited Three of a Kind: (three suited and equally ranked cards) 100:1
This leads us to Blackjack side bet odds for different 21 + 1 options, which will demonstrate just how hard it is to make these hands, and why the payouts are so high.
21+3 Blackjack Side Bet Odds
Originally, all hands that qualified for 21 + 3 used to pay the same, at 9:1, but the paytable I listed above is used in most cases these days.
The top paying hand, Suited Three of a Kind, only occurs once in every 4,999 hands, which makes the 100:1 payout almost completely insignificant.
It is worth noting that the bet does also pay for hands that are much easier to make, such as straights and flushes, with the following odds to make each of these hands:
- Flush: 73 in 1177 Hands
- Straight: 31 in 969 Hands
- Three of a Kind: 1 in 199 Hands
- Straight Flush: 1 in 499 Hands
- Suited Three of a Kind: 1 in 4999 Hands
The exact house edge related to the 21 + 3 Blackjack side bet depends on a number of factors, including the number of decks in play, and the exact payout for the bet, which can differ from one casino to the next.
However, the average house edge for this side bet is 4.62%, which is still significantly higher than what you would expect from the game of Blackjack.
Yet, with 21 + 3 being such an entertaining side bet, it may be worth betting a couple of dollars on it while playing the original game for higher stakes.
Lucky Ladies Side Bet
Another popular Blackjack side bet that can be placed in both land-based and online casinos is called Lucky Ladies. Holding a hand that totals twenty is the only objective of this side bet.
If you decide to place a Lucky Ladies side bet, you will get paid 4:1 simply for having a total of 20, regardless of which two cards you were dealt to get there.
However, much higher payouts can be scored from the Lucky Ladies side bet, as having suited cards, matching cards, or specifically Queens of Hearts (Lucky Ladies), will give you a bigger payout.
Here are all the payouts you can expect from the Lucky Ladies side bet:
- Two off-suit cards valued 20: 4:1
- Two suited cards valued 20: 9:1
- Two matching cards valued 20: 19:1
- Two Queens of Hearts: 125:1
- Two Queens o Hearts and the dealer has a Blackjack: 1,000:1
With payouts going all the way up to 1,000:1, Lucky Ladies appears as one of the best Blackjack side bets, but it is actually one of the worst bets you can make in a casino in general.
The casino retains an astronomical house edge of 24.7% on all Lucky Ladies bets, which means you are losing a quarter of everything you place on this side bet in the long run.
If you want to play Blackjack with side bets, look to bets like 21 + 3 or Perfect Pairs for more reasonable house edge and try to avoid placing any money on Lucky Ladies to protect your bankroll.
Other Types of Blackjack Side Bets
While the Blackjack side bets I just described are the most commonly found ones, there are plenty of others that are available in some Blackjack games.
You may encounter the following side bets when you play Blackjack online:
- Lucky Lucky: Bet on whether the dealer's up-card and your two hole cards will have a total value of 19 or 20. You can also bet on the three cards being 6, 7, or 8, or three 7s.
- Super Sevens: Bet on the number of sevens in your hand. The payout is 3:1 if your first card is a seven. If you get two 7s, the payout is typically 50:1 for different suits and 100:1 for suited sevens.
- Over/Under 13: Bet on whether the value of your hole cards will be greater or lower than 13. Over/Under 13 side bets usually offer payouts of up to 10:1.
- Royal Match: Royal Matchis a bet onwhether your two hole cards will be the Queen and King sharing the same suit. Royal Match side bets usually offer payouts of 10:1 in Blackjack games with multiple decks and 25:1 in single-deck Blackjack games.
- Easy Match: Bet on your hole cards being suited. Easy Match side bets offer payouts of 3:1 in single-deck and 5:2 in multi-deck Blackjack games.