Are Blackjack Side Bets Worth It?
Ready for some side action? Most blackjack players have heard of 21+3, Perfect Pairs and Insurance, but have you ever placed a side bet?
Many casinos, both land-based and online, offer players a more enriched betting experience when playing blackjack. Side bets come in different forms with different odds and varying payouts - but you may have found yourself wondering: are blackjack side bets worth it?
It’s no secret that this casino game doesn’t often produce substantial payouts, with most players making even money at best. This is when side bets can have their advantages - they usually offer a higher payoff.
What are Blackjack Side Bets?
A side bet is an additional wager placed at the beginning of a round, at the same time as your main bet. There are various different types, involving your own hand and in some cases the dealer’s. The three most common and well-known side bets are 21+3, Perfect Pairs and Insurance.
The 21+3 side bet in involves the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up-card. This wager is placed on the outcome that these three cards will make a Flush, Straight, Three-of-a-Kind or a Straight Flush. These poker style card combinations add something extra to your game - and potentially your wallet. In Blackjack Perfect Pairs, the 21+3 side bet options have varying odds, which should be taken into account if you’re going to place a wager on one of them. Let’s take a look at each 21+3 side bet and it’s odds, according to the paytable:
A Flush is three cards of the same suit, for example a King, 10 and 6 of diamonds. This is the lowest paying 21+3 side bet, offering odds of 5/1.
A Straight is a card combination that is three cards in a sequence, for example a 2 and 3 and a 4. Only the numbers are taken into account here; a Straight hand can consist of varying suits and colours. Offering the second lowest payout, the odds are double those of a standard flush at 10/1.
The Three-of-a-Kind side bet is placed on the outcome that the dealer’s upturned card and your own first two cards will all be of the same rank. For example, if all three cards were Jacks or 6s, regardless of suits or colours. A successful Three-of-a-Kind side bet pays 30/1.
A straight flush is three cards in numerical order and of identical suits, for example, 1 of spades, 2 of spades and 3 of spades. The odds for a straight flush are 40/1.
This is the 21+3 blackjack side bet that offers the biggest payout, with odds at 100/1. A Suited Three-of-a-Kind hand consists of three cards that are of the same suit and number, for example, three cards that are all the 5 of hearts.
The exact odds will vary from game to game, and casino to casino, but the most unlikely combinations will always produce the biggest payouts - and have the biggest house edge.
As the name suggests, the Perfect Pairs side bet is an additional wager placed on the outcome that the first two cards dealt to you are a Mixed, Coloured or Perfect Pair. This means that a pair of numbers or matching colours will pay out, whilst two cards of the same suit, colour and number will award the highest payout. Here are the three different Perfect Pairs blackjack side bets and their odds, again according to the paytable:
A Mixed Pair is a pair of two different colours - one red and one black. This Perfect Pair option offers the lowest odds, paying 5/1.
A Coloured Perfect Pair is a pair of the same colour but different suits. For example, a 10 of hearts and a 10 of diamonds would be a Coloured Perfect Pair. This side bet offers the second highest odds, and pays 10/1.
This is the most valuable Perfect Pair, paying 30/1. As you’ve probably guessed, a Perfect Pair is two cards that are of both the same suit and value. If you’re dealt two kings of hearts, for example, you’ve acquired a Perfect Pair.
Whilst the Perfect Pairs side bet has lower odds in some instances, it’s probably more likely to occur than a Suited Three-of-a-Kind Flush. It’s wise to take this into account when deciding which side bet to place.
Insurance is a side bet designed to protect players from a dealer blackjack. This side bet is only available if the dealer’s up-card is an ace. When playing online, the option to place an insurance side bet will usually appear on screen when the dealer’s cards have been dealt. The idea behind placing an insurance wager is to give players a better chance of receiving a payout despite not holding a winning hand. Insurance appeals to the more competitive player, as this is designed to reduce the house edge. A range of games offer insurance side bets that pay 2:1, for those who want to beat the dealer at his own game whilst increasing their winnings. Of course, a payout is never guaranteed as you can’t see the dealer’s second card until after the Insurance bet has been placed, but there’s certainly no harm in protecting yourself from losing your bet if you're willing to place the extra bet.
So Are Blackjack Side Bets Worth It?
The beauty of blackjack side bets is that they usually only require a small wager, but the payouts are bigger and better than those of standard bets. One of the main complaints players have is that you generally won’t leave the table with more than even-money. This is when side bets can have their advantage, but there’s often a high chance that they won’t pay off. However, any round relies on an element of luck, and side bets are no different. Plus, side bets can add that extra layer for a more enriched online casino experience. Side bets offer a more fast-paced game for players who are tired of placing one bet at a time, waiting until the end of each round for a payoff.
It’s true that side bets tend to give the house a higher edge than standard blackjack does, but knowing basic strategy can lower the house advantage overall. Players who do enjoy the strategic element of blackjack may be put off by side bets as they really are a gamble, being placed before any cards are even dealt in the case of Perfect Pairs and 21+3. Insurance offers a little more control, as you already know what the dealer’s upturned card is, as well as your own cards. Don’t get carried away by the lure of high odds and immediately start placing side bets - think realistically and logically before you make your move.
If you’re a player who likes to take risks, craves higher payouts and loves a multi-layered online blackjack experience, side bets are worth a wager. Why not spice up a traditional game of blackjack now and again? At £1 a bet, they’re fairly low risk. Our advice, players? Enjoy in moderation. Will it be 21+3, a Perfect Pair, or will you beat the dealer at his own game?
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