We all know that a hand of 18 is a pretty good hand. After all, following basic blackjack strategy, you will always stand on a hard 18, regardless of the dealer’s up card. Even if you’re terrible at math, you probably know that a hand of 18 can only be beaten by three hands: 19, 20 and 21.
Therefore, you would probably be pretty happy to be dealt an 18. Well, what if you could be guaranteed of being dealt a hand of exactly 18 on every round? Would you take those odds?
That is the option you have if the blackjack game you are playing has the “Instant 18” side bet. This side bet has been found in casinos in California, Las Vegas and online. The side bet is simple. In addition to one regular hand, you would wager on a second hand that will be exactly 18 points. Wins on the side bet pay even money.
That may sound like a great deal, but like all side bets, it is not. Casinos don’t offer side bets out of the kindness of their hearts. They offer side bets to make money. Like all side bets, the Instant 18 bet carries a higher house edge than the regular game. One of the things that lowers the house edge of traditional blackjack to as low as 0.5% is the fact that blackjacks pay out 3:2. If you lose that extra payout by having all wins pay even money, you lose a significant amount of money.
The house edge of the Instant 18 side bet is different depending on the number of decks and whether the dealer hits a soft 17. Most blackjack tables, including online, use eight decks, though. With eight decks, the house edge is 0.66% if the dealer stands on a soft 17. That’s not too bad, but it’s worse than the 0.5% for the regular game. If the dealer hits a soft 17, though, the house edge for that blackjack side bet is 2.06%. That’s more than an extra 2% that goes to the house.