Posts Tagged ‘blackjack side bets’

Blackjack Side Bets: Insurance

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Lately I have been writing about a variety of blackjack side bets. Though the side bets come in a number of variations, none have better odds than the regular game. Since the house edge of the side bets is higher, you stand to lose more money playing them. That means that as enticing as those side bets are, it’s best to avoid them.

There is one side bet that people don’t even think of as a side bet, though. That is insurance. The reason most people don’t think of insurance as a side bet is because it’s not something that is played up as one. Side bets usually get cool names that redefine the game, such as Perfect Pairs Blackjack or Lucky Sevens Blackjack. With insurance, on the other hand, everything is normal until the dealer draws an ace as an up card.

When the dealer draws an ace as his up card, he will offer you insurance. This isn’t out of the kindness of the dealer’s heart; it’s to make money. Many players will get worried and think that they must take the insurance, because the dealer is likely to have a blackjack, so it’s best to insure their bet against a certain loss.

The problem is that the dealer having an ace doesn’t mean he has a blackjack. Taking insurance is a side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is a ten. If you take the insurance bet, you place a bet half the size of your original wager on the fact that the dealer has a ten in the hole. If he does, you receive a 2:1 payout on the insurance bet. Doubling half your bet wins you nothing; you only break even. If the dealer doesn’t have a ten in the hole, you lose that wager and then continue with the hand, giving you a chance to lose twice.

Sound good? I didn’t think so. One reason people think that insurance is a good bet is because they overestimate the odds of the dealer having a ten in the hole. They know that there are more tens in a deck than any other value, so it is most likely to be a ten, right? Wrong.

There are more tens than any other value, but there are more non-tens than tens. In a deck of cards, 4/13 of the cards (or 16/52) have a value of ten. That means that 9/13 (or 36/52) have a non-ten value. That means betting that the dealer has a ten in the hole is a bad bet.

There is one way in which taking insurance can be beneficial and that is if you know that the deck is rich in tens. If you are counting cards, you will know whether a lot of tens have been played or if there are still a lot in the deck. If the deck is rich in tens, taking this bet can be a good idea. Otherwise, I advise staying away from the insurance bet. Like any other side bet, it has worse odds than the regular game of blackjack.

Blackjack Side Bets: Lucky Lucky

Monday, December 20th, 2010

There will never be a shortage of side bets for the game of blackjack. Walk into any casino for the first time and you’re bound to find a side bet that you have never seen before. Unfortunately, none of the side bets are good deals. As a general rule – and I have yet to find a blackjack side bet that doesn’t follow this rule – side bets have a higher house edge than the regular game. Therefore, it’s best to stick to the traditional game and avoid side bets. Since I’m sure you’re curious, though, here’s what you need to know about the Lucky Lucky side bet.

The Lucky Lucky side bet for blackjack is a bet based on the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card. If those three cards together make certain combinations, the player wins money. For example, if the three cards are all sevens in the same suit, the player wins 200 times their bet. If the three cards are a suited 6, 7 and 8, the payout is 100:1. Unsuited triple sevens pays out 50:1 and an unsuited 6, 7, 8 pays out 30:1.

Other winning combinations don’t pay out nearly as well. If all three cards add up to 21 but are a different suit, the payout is 15:1. If they add up to an unsuited 21, the payout is 3:1. Any cards that add up to 19 or 20 pay out 2:1 and every other combination is a losing bet.

Some of those payouts may sound good, but the odds are stacked against you. Getting a 200:1 payout would be exciting, but that only has a 0.0016% chance of happening. Even the winning combination with the best odds, a combination of 20, only has 7.5% odds of happening. Overall, the Lucky Lucky side bet has a 2.65% house edge. That’ relatively low for a blackjack side bet, but it’s considerably higher than the house edge of 0.5% for the regular game when you play using basic strategy.

Blackjack Side Bets: Instant 18

Friday, December 17th, 2010

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.

Blackjack side bets can be a fun way to try something new, but they are not good for your wallet. For that reason, wise money management suggests avoiding all blackjack side bets.

Blackjack Side Bets: Lucky Ladies

Monday, December 13th, 2010

One of the things that adds constant variety to the game of blackjack is the endless supply of side bets. Though I advise against playing any side bet, it is good to know what they are. Lucky Ladies is a popular side bet that can be found in many casinos, both on land and online.

With the Lucky Ladies side bet, you win if you draw a 20-point hand. That means any hand where the total adds up to 20 will win you something. How much you win depends on what specific cards you have.

There are a number of possible pay tables that you might see for Lucky Ladies blackjack. If you insist on playing this side bet, be sure you know what the pay table is. Here I will cover the most common pay table. In that pay table, any unsuited 20 pays out 4:1. A suited 20, meaning all cards in the hand are the same suit and add up to a total of 20, pays out 9:1. A matched 20, which is cards of the same rank and suit, pays out 19:1. If you have a pair of a Queen of hearts, the casino pays out 125:1. The biggest money is if you have a pair of Queen of hearts and the dealer has a blackjack. In that case, you win a payout of 1,000:1.

Those payouts sound pretty good, but remember that when it comes to casino games, the general rule is the higher the payout, the less likely the outcome is to happen. That rule applies here as well. With the pay table I described, the house edge ranges from 24.05% for an eight-deck game to 38.16% for a single-deck game.

When you compare that to the house edge for the regular game of blackjack, which can be reduced to 0.5% by using blackjack basic strategy, it is clear that this side bet is not a good deal. If you do play and get that 1,000 to 1 payout, though, you’ll be pretty happy. That is the appeal of side bets. You will most likely come out a loser, but there is that slim chance you could get a big payout.

Blackjack Side Bets: Royal Match

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Royal Match is a blackjack side bet that is commonly offered in casinos. It’s a rather simple side bet, but one I advise avoiding. Like all side bets, it carries a higher house advantage than the regular game.

Royal match is a side bet that concerns the first two cards of a player’s hand. They place their bets before drawing their first card and then win or lose money based on the first two cards they receive. This bet is independent of the hand because it takes place before the hand is paid out.

The player wins money if the first two cards match in suit. A regular match, such as a king of spades and a six of spades, pays out 5:2. A “royal match” is drawing two royal cards (king or queen) that have the same suit. If you draw a royal match, the casino pays out 25:1. Both of those may sounds good because of the good payouts, but the odds are still against you.

The odds for this blackjack side bet vary depending on the number of decks in play. Your odds increase with each deck, because that gives you more potential matches. If the game is played with 6 decks, as is the norm, the casino has a 6.46% house edge with the royal match side bet. With a single-deck game, this side bet has a house edge of 10.86%. Keeping in mind that blackjack basic strategy reduces the house edge of the regular game to 0.5%, those are very bad odds.

If you decide to play one of these side bets, it should be with the same state of mind as playing a progressive slot machine. In all likelihood, you will lose your money on the bet. On the slim chance that you win, though, there will be good money.

Blackjack Side Bets

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

You’ve probably heard people say to stay away from blackjack side bets. Or maybe you’ve heard people say that the side bets are for suckers. Count me among those people. As I have said many times, side bets have a higher house edge than the traditional blackjack game, which with basic strategy can be lowered to 0.5%.

“But I really want to play some side bets,” you say. “Can’t you give me some advice?” First of all, you realize that you’re asking for advice on ignoring my advice, right? Okay, I will look past that and help you out. Here is my advice for blackjack side bets.

Blackjack side bets can come in the traditional game – such as taking insurance – or in blackjack variations – such as Triple Sevens. In either case, the side bet has a higher house edge than the normal game, meaning that the money you wager on that side bet is more likely to be lost than if you had bet it on the regular game. With that in mind, I have two pieces of advice.

First, if you simply want to play some blackjack side bets and variations as something different, try doing it for free. Most online casinos offer free blackjack games. I advise playing the free games if you simply want something new. You get to experience a different way to play blackjack without losing more of your money.

If you must wager money on the game to have fun, though, I suggest you follow my second piece of advice: Recognize that you are probably throwing your money away. You should treat side bets the same as progressive slots. They offer a worse house edge than regular slots, but if you win it will be worth it. You probably won’t win, though. People play progressive slots, knowing that they are unlikely to win anything, in the hopes that against all odds, they will hit the jackpot. The same should be your mindset for side bets. Wagering on a side bet will likely cost you your money, but if you do happen to win, it will be pretty exciting. Some side bets – those that have the lowest odds of occurring – pay out huge prizes. To some people, taking a shot at that big money is worth the likelihood of losing your wager. If you are okay with that, then it’s okay to spend money on a side bet. Just know the odds of the bet and the probability of being unsuccessful.

Blackjack Strategy: Don’t Take Insurance

Friday, April 30th, 2010

In the game of blackjack, whether you’re playing online blackjack or at a brick and mortar casino, you and the house have the same goal. That goal is to make money. Unfortunately, those goals are mutually exclusive. They can’t both occur at the same time. If you win money, the casino loses money and vice versa. For that reason, you need to keep in mind that while the dealer should be trusted, his interests are not the same as your own.

There are a lot of rules and decisions that are beneficial to the player, such as splitting and doubling in the correct situations. Unless you ask for help, though, the dealer won’t remind you to do that. The dealer probably won’t say, “You have a pair of sevens. Would you like to split them?” It’s up to you to know that you should split a pair of sevens.

However, there is one decision that the dealer will always ask you about and that is insurance. If the dealer has an ace as an up card, he will ask if you want to buy insurance against a blackjack. Not only that, but “Insurance pays 2 to 1” can usually be found printed right on the blackjack table, just to remind you. Is that out of the kindness of his heart? Hardly. The dealer is quick to ask about this because insurance is a bet with a high house edge. You’ll notice that the table doesn’t have “You should always split aces” printed on it.

Insurance is a suckers bet and you shouldn’t take it. For those who don’t know much about the rule, insurance is offered when the dealer has an ace as an up card, because in that case if he has a 10 in the hole, he has a natural blackjack and you would always lose unless you also have a blackjack. The dealer then offers insurance where you get paid 2 to 1 if he does have a blackjack and if he doesn’t, he wins that side bet and can also win the original bet if he still beats your hand.

Therefore, insurance is basically a bet that the dealer has a 10 in the hole. While there are more cards with a value of 10 than any other value, you need to remember that it’s still outnumbered. There are 4 cards (10, J, Q, K) out of every 13 that have a value of 10. That means there are 9 cards out of 13 that have a different value. In that case, the dealer would have a 69% chance of having something other than a 10 in the hole and a 69% chance of winning the insurance side bet.

For that reason, you shouldn’t take insurance when it is offered to you. In fact, as a general rule you should avoid any side bets in blackjack, because almost all of them have a higher house edge than the regular game. The only exception is if you are counting cards, which you can’t do at an online casino, and determined that the deck is rich in tens. In all other situations, if the dealer offers you insurance, say thanks, but no thanks.

Blackjack Side Bets: Royal Match

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Side bets are quite common in the game of blackjack, whether you play at an online casino or the brick and mortar variety. One of the reasons for the popularity of side bets is that players (incorrectly) see them as an easy way to win extra money. Another reason for their popularity is that casinos know that they are an easy way for the casino to take more money, since the house edge for the side bets are usually higher than on the regular game of blackjack. They also provide a sense of variety for the players who like to mix things up.

One of the more popular side bets at online casinos and land-based casinos is the royal match bet. This side bet, like with the perfect pairs side bet, only concerns the first two cards dealt to the player. In this bet, the player wins if the first two cards are in the same suit (an “easy match”) and gets a higher payout if they are in the same suit and one is a queen and the other a king (a “royal match”).

It’s really that simple. So what are your odds? There are two different common pay tables for this blackjack side bet, which I will call Pay Table A and Pay Table B. Pay Table A, which is more common, pays 2.5:1 for an easy match and 25:1 for a royal match. In Pay Table B, which you don’t see quite as often, the casino pays 3:1 for an easy match and 10:1 for a royal match. Players have a 23.2% chance of drawing an easy match and a 0.3% chance of drawing a royal match.

As you can see, Pay Table A pays slightly less for an easy match but significantly more for a royal match. However, since easy matches are much more common, Pay Table B is a much better deal. In fact, if you’re playing with 4 or more decks, there is actually a player advantage for this side bet (which is why the first pay table is more common at casinos).

The house edge for this blackjack side bet varies greatly depending on the number of decks in pay, for obvious reason. The more decks are being used, the more cards there are. The more cards there are, the more pairs are available to draw. Therefore, though the house edge for the regular blackjack game increases as the number of decks increases, your odds in the royal match side bet are the best in an 8-deck game.

In Pay Table A, there is a 10.85% house edge with one deck, an 8.32% house edge with 2 decks, a 7.07% house edge with 4 decks, a 6.67% house edge with 6 decks and a 6.46% house edge with 8 decks. In Pay Table B, there is a 3.77% house edge with one deck and a 0.82% house edge with 2 decks. With 4 decks, there is actually a player advantage of 0.63%. There is a 1.11% player advantage with 6 decks and a 1.35% player advantage with 8 decks.

Therefore, if you can find an online casino that offers the blackjack royal match side bet with Pay Table B, you should take that bet every time.

Blackjack Side Bets: Perfect Pairs

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

One of the appealing things about blackjack is that there are a number of variations for the standard game that can keep things from being too repetitive. One of those variations is the side bet, of which there are countless combinations. One popular side bet is perfect pairs.

The perfect pairs side bet is common in casinos in Australia and London as well as online casinos. This blackjack game is simple. You play everything else like the traditional blackjack game. However, if you choose to do so, you may also place a side bet on whether or not you will draw a pair in your first two cards. Any pairs after that mean nothing; only the first two cards for this side bet count.

There are three types of pairs that you might draw in this blackjack game. The first is the “perfect pair,” which is two identical cards, such as two ace of clubs. The second type is called a “colored pair,” which is two cards that match in rank and color, such as an ace of spades and an ace of clubs (both suits are black). The third type of blackjack pair is sometimes called a “mixed pair” and other times called a “red/black pair.” This is a pair that matches in rank but is opposite color, such as an ace of hearts and ace of spades.

There are three different pay tables that are common for the perfect pairs blackjack side bet. These examples show your odds when playing with 8 decks. While the house edge for the general game of blackjack increases as the number of decks increases, the house edge on the perfect pairs strategy actually decreases. That is because the more cards there are, the more pairs exist.

In the three common pay tables, a perfect pair pays either 25:1 or 30:1, a colored pair pays either 12:1 or 10:1 and a mixed pair pays either 5:1 or 6:1. Those may sound good, but look at your probability of drawing those pairs. In an 8 deck game (these are your best odds), you have a 1.7% chance of drawing a perfect pair, a 1.9% chance of drawing a colored pair and a 3.9% chance of drawing a mixed pair.

Because of the low probability of drawing those pairs, the house edge on the perfect pairs side bet ranges from 3.37% to 7.95% with 8 decks. If you think those are bad, the perfect pairs side bet has a house edge up to 26.2% when playing with 2 decks. Compare that to the 0.5% house edge for the regular blackjack game and you see how bad your odds are with this side bet.

Most online casinos allow this side bet simply for that reason: It is an easy way for the casino to take your money. Therefore, play this side bet if you wish, but you should realize that the odds are stacked against  you.

Blackjack Variations: Triple 7s

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Just when you think you have blackjack all figured out – you learned basic strategy and counting cards – they start throwing all of these variations at you to confuse you. There are blackjack variations like Spanish 21, pontoon and extreme 21 commonly found at brick and mortar and online casinos. Some online casinos have up to 40 different blackjack variations. Today’s variation that I’m covering is triple 7s.

Triple 7s is played as a side bet to a traditional game, which means you have to play strategy for normal blackjack as well as bet on whether or not you will be dealt any sevens and take a shot at the progressive jackpot. The house edge on this side bet is over 30%.

In most ways, triple 7s plays the same as traditional blackjack. You should still play the same basic strategy and bet the same as in a normal game. One difference in the game is that both of the dealer’s initial cards are dealt face up, rather than having a hole card. In this blackjack variation, you can only double on a 9, 10 or 11 and you cannot double after splitting.

The main thing that makes triple 7s different from traditional blackjack is the payouts. Aside from the regular pay out of 3:2 for a natural blackjack, there are also bonuses for having sevens in your hand. A single 7 pays 5:1 and a pair that does not match in suit pays 25:1. A pair that has the same suit pays out 50:1 and a triple 7 has different payouts depending on the house rules. A triple 7 diamond is the best hand of all and if you have that you hit the jackpot, which is a different amount depending on how many people are playing the game.

Because the house edge on this side bet is so high, it’s hard to recommend playing triple 7s blackjack. However, like progressive slots, which have a very high house edge, there is considerable potential reward to go along with the risk of this bet. It’s all a question of how much money you want to risk and what kinds of odds you are comfortable with.