As more and more casino software companies are releasing versions of blackjack, often they will add extra features in order to make them more appealing to players, and to hopefully make their versions stand out from all the other blackjack playing options that are available.
As blackjack is a very basic game, adding extra features is something of an issue, but that does not stop software companies from trying. One option that has become more popular in recent times is a blackjack with one or more side bet options.
What is a Blackjack Side Bet?
A side bet is a bet on the hand that is kept separate from the rest of the game play. With blackjack you need to keep side bets separate else it will completely ruin the purpose of the game. Side bets are common in other games such as Pai Gow Poker, where you can bet on the value of your hand as well as winning when your hands beat both of the dealer’s hands.
Casinos do not tend to like blackjack as they do not win as often or as much as with games such as roulette and baccarat. It might then be said that side bets are a way of tempting a player to part with more money than they would do normally for a bet that they have little actual chance of winning.
So, are blackjack side bets worth it, or not?
The most common blackjack side bet – 21+3
The ‘21+3’ side bet is offered on a small handful of blackjack variants. It has been offered in real world casinos since the early 2000s.
With this side bet you are wagering on obtaining a poker-style hand with the three face up cards that are dealt to the table – your two cards and the dealer’s up card. There are several possible criteria that these three up cards can match:
Three cards of the same suit. Payout: 5-1.
That the three cards can be arranged so that they follow in sequence. Payout: 10-1.
Three cards of the same value. Payout: 30-1.
There cards of the same suit that can be arranged so that they follow on in sequence. Payout: 40-1.
Three cards of the same suit and the same value. This hand is of course dependent upon a game of blackjack using at least three decks. The payout associated with this side bet is dependent upon the number of decks used in the game. You obviously have more chance obtaining a suited three of a kind in a game that uses eight decks as opposed to four.
Another popular variant of blackjack is called ‘perfect pairs’. Here, you are only bothered about your own cards, not the dealer’s. The object of this side bet is to be awarded your bonus bet if the two cards you are dealt are a pair. There are three kinds of possible pairs you can be dealt:
You are dealt a pair in which one of the cards is red, and one of the cards is black. Payout: 5-1.
You are dealt a pair in which one of the cards is a spade and the other is a club, or you are dealt a pair in which one of the cards is a heart and the other is a diamond. Payout: 10-1.
A perfect pair is two identical cards. Payout: 30-1.
The most common side bet in blackjack is called ‘insurance’ and is actually offered in most blackjack variants. When a dealer is dealt a hand the contains an ace as the face-up card you may be offered insurance. This is a side bet that is the same value as your normal bet.
If you take insurance then, once the dealer has peeked at their second card and revealed whether they have blackjack or not, you will be paid at a rate of 2:1 (with most variants – some pay 3:2 or 6:5) if they do indeed have blackjack. Of course, despite winning your insurance bet you will lose your original bet unless you have blackjack yourself.
Is it Worth Playing Blackjack Side Bets?
The short answer is ‘no’, but the longer answer is a little more complicated than that.
Let’s take a look at insurance. If the dealer is dealt an ace, then in most respects there are 16 cards within the pack that will complete blackjack, and 35 that will not. Therefore the odds of the dealer completing blackjack are 16/51, which (in decimal terms) is a probability of 0.31. The probability of not completing blackjack are 35/51 or 0.69.
So, you are betting on something that WILL happen 31 percent of the time and WILL NOT happen 69 percent of the time, yet you will only even get paid out at evens, which is around 7:3, yet the casino pays you 2:1, or 7:3.5. As the payout doesn’t match the odds, you will lose out in the long term.
The same goes for all blackjack side bets – what the online casino pays does not reflect your chances of winning the bet. If you take a side bet, then the casino will win in the long run.
How you feel about blackjack side bets really depends upon what sort of blackjack player you are. If you are a serious blackjack player who only wants to play online blackjack to ride the winning streaks, get lucky and end up with more money than you started with, then blackjack side bets are something to be avoided.
If, however, you want to play blackjack for fun and you find the endless counting up to 21 time and time again a little dull, then you can make your blackjack play a little more entertaining by playing a variant with side bets … just don’t expect to end on top unless you get extremely lucky indeed!
Above all, always gamble responsibly and with money that you can afford to lose.