Blackjack tips: stay away from side bets

On this blog I have covered a number of popular blackjack variations, including perfect pairs, double exposure and more. Many of the blackjack variations are different because of a side bet that is offered. While many people like playing these games and enjoy the extra risk and challenge of the side bets, there is something you should remember: Side bets always have a higher house edge than the regular game. By sticking to blackjack basic strategy, the regular game of blackjack has a house edge of 0.5%. The side bets in any blackjack variant are going to be considerably higher than that. Therefore, the best strategy for your bankroll is to avoid side bets and stick to the regular game. Some other blackjack experts take that a step farther and say that side bets are “sucker bets.” I’ll be nicer and say that they don’t have good odds.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at two of the more popular blackjack side bets – perfect pairs and triple sevens – as examples. Perfect Pairs is a popular blackjack variation where at any time a player can bet that their first two cards will be a pair. If they bet on a pair and get one, they can earn a payout anywhere from 5 to 1 to 30 to 1, depending on the type of pair. You can have a mixed pair, a colored pair or a perfect pair in this side bet.

While those payouts may be enticing, the odds are not on your side. While the regular blackjack game has a 0.5% house edge with basic strategy, the perfect pairs side bet has a house edge from 3.37% to 7.95% with 8 decks. If it is a 2-deck game, the side bet has a house edge up to a ridiculous 26.2%. In case you’re thinking you can gain an advantage in this side bet by counting cards, keep in mind that in order to gain an advantage you would have to at least eliminate every card of one rank. That means keeping 13 different counts. Maybe Rain Man could do that, but can you? Also, if you’re playing online blackjack, card counting doesn’t work.

Lucky Sevens is another popular side bet, where you are paid 5 to 1 if your first card is a seven, 25 to 1 if your first two cards are unsuited sevens, 50 to 1 if your first two cards are suited sevens, 250 to 1 if your first 3 cards are unsuited sevens, 1000 to 1 if your first 3 cards are suited sevens and 41,227 to 1 if your first 3 cards are all diamond sevens. That side bet can be enticing because of those rather large payouts, but just like with the lottery, keno, roulette and more, the bigger the potential payout, the less likely an event is to happen. Those bets have a low probability of coming through for you. Even the most likely bet, getting a seven on your first card, has only a 7.1% chance of happening. Those two unsuited sevens only have a .04% chance of happening. The two suited sevens? That has a 0.11% probability.

What all of this means is that the experts are right. Side bets are not wise bets. Of course, neither is playing the lottery, and millions of people do that every day. If you happen to win it will be one of the greatest decisions of your life, but it’s definitely not the wise bet because you are most likely to be throwing your money away.

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