Blackjack is also called 21 because the game's objective is to get a hand total that is closer to 21 than the dealer. The best possible scenario is when your card values sum up to exactly 21, making a perfect blackjack. Simple, isn't it?
The standard moves to achieve this are just as straightforward. You can hit, stand, split, double down or surrender. However, winning the hand is not the only kind of bet available in this classic game.
There are a group of bets known as side bets, which are a little more complicated. These bets give adventurous players the luxury of increasing their excitement and, in doing so, access to bigger payouts.
What are blackjack side bets?
Side bets are additional bets beyond the standard moves in blackjack. Typically, blackjack side bets revolve around guessing the card suit and rank that players and the dealer receive. If you guess correctly, you win the blackjack side bets payout.
Players take part in side betting to increase the excitement. Many also love these bets because they allow bigger wins. It's important to note that side bet outcomes are based on pure luck. This is in contrast to regular blackjack moves that have to do with players' skills. As a result, most professional players who implement a conscious blackjack strategy avoid side bets entirely.
Blackjack side bet rules
Regular blackjack bets have rules about when and how to use them. In the same way, there are also blackjack side bet rules. The first thing you need to know is that most side bets are placed before the game starts. The only exception is the insurance side bet, which we will discuss later on in this guide.
Another blackjack side bet rule is that players cannot place side bets unless they've placed their main wager. So, you must stake on the game as normal before adding a side bet. This makes sense since your side bet value relies on your main wager. It will often be a percentage of your original bet.
At live dealer tables, you need to be quick with your fingers to place side bets during the small betting window available. With online blackjack, however, you are in charge of when to start the game. So, you have all the time you need to decide on a side bet.
Types of blackjack side bets
Most blackjack versions use a 52-card deck. With these games, you'll encounter several side bets, including:
21+3 side bet
With the blackjack 21+3 side bet, you win if your hole cards (initial two cards) and the dealer's up card form a sequence. It can either be a sequence of suits or rank.
Below are the options and their corresponding payouts:
- Flush: your two cards and the dealer's up card are of the same suit (pays 5:1)
- Straight: your two cards and the dealer's up card make up three consecutive ranks (pays 10:1)
- Three of a Kind: your two cards and the dealer's up card are of the same value (pays 30:1)
- Straight Flush: your two cards and the dealer's up card are of the same suit in consecutive ranks (pays 40:1)
- Suited Triple: your two cards and the dealer's up card are of the same value and suit (pays 100:1)
Royal Match side bet
The Royal Match side bet in blackjack depends on the first two cards dealt to players. If you make this bet, you predict that your starting cards will be a King and Queen of the same suit. The payoff is 10:1 in a single-deck game and 25:1 in a multi-deck game.
There are variants of the Royal Match side bet, notably the Easy Match and the Crown Treasure.
Easy Match – Here, you're betting that your first two cards will have the same suit, regardless of the ranks. It pays 3:1 in a single-deck game and 5:2 in a multi-deck game.
Crown Treasure – This is a bet that you and the dealer both receive a Royal Match. Crown Treasure is the rarest winning combo out of the three. There are no payout odds like the Easy Match and Royal Match. Instead, you get a predetermined jackpot value hosted by the game. This side bet isn't available at many tables.
Lucky Ladies side bet
The Lucky Ladies side bet is one of the most rewarding. Like the Royal Match, it depends on the players' first two cards. It's also similar to the blackjack side bets 21+3 because it has five payout variations. You win the Lucky Ladies side bet if your two cards add up to 20. The different payout options are as follows:
- Your two cards sum up to 20 but are of different suits – pays 4:1
- Your two cards sum up to 20 and are of the same suit – pays 10:1
- Your two cards sum up to 20, and have the same suit and rank – pays 25:1
- You receive two Queen of Hearts – pays 200:1
- You receive two Queen of Hearts, and the dealer gets a blackjack – pays 1,000:1
Pair Square side bet
The Pair Square side bet is often called Perfect Pairs. It's among the most popular side bets blackjack offers. As the name already hints, this side bet also has to do with your hole cards. In this case, the cards must always be of the same rank. There are three types:
- Mixed pair: This is when your hole cards are of the same rank but in both red and black. The payout is 5:1.
- Colored pair: This is when your hole cards are of the same rank and of the same color suits, such as a 9 of spades and a 9 of clubs. The payout is 10:1.
- Perfect pair: This is when your hole cards are of the same rank and the same suit. In other words, you get matching cards. The payout is 30:1.
Insurance side bet
Insurance is another popular side bet. However, it is the only one where you don't place the bet before the game begins. The idea of insurance is that you can take insurance against the dealer getting a perfect blackjack, which is an ace and a 10-value card.
If the dealer's up card is an ace, you can bet insurance so that you win if the dealer ends up with a perfect blackjack. The payout is 2:1.
Note that this bet is only available if the dealer is showing an ace.
What is the house edge on blackjack side bets?
If you didn't already know, the house edge is the casino's advantage over every bet you make. Over time, on average the dealer will win more bets than the player.
The standard blackjack house edge is 0.5% when you apply the basic blackjack strategy. Even when playing a poor game with no strategy, the house edge maxes out at 2%. This is far from the case with side bets. Most side bets will carry a house edge of 10% or higher.
Unlike standard bets on the game outcome, side bets are based on pure luck and not influenced by strategies of any sort. This is why they are riskier to play. Fortunately, the riskier the bet, the higher the payout. Blackjack standard bets pay 1:1, so this is generally an even payoff game. However, with side bets, it's different. These bets can pay as high as 5,000:1 depending on the number of decks in play.
Side bets in blackjack are a fantastic way to spice up the gameplay. There are many types to choose from, and they offer some truly amazing payouts. The most notable variations among players are the 21+3 and Perfect Pairs.
It's a good idea to understand side bets before you play them because they can be risky. The good thing is that even if you lose your side bet, that's not the end of the game for you. You still have your original bet in play, so there's still a chance to beat the dealer.
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