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Blackjack side bets explained

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Simon Young

May 1st, 2020

Most people enjoy playing blackjack because it’s so easy. You have only a few decisions to make, and with some basic blackjack strategy, you can narrow the already thin house edge even further.

As with many casino table games, some variations of blackjack offer side bets. These are chances for the more adventurous players to have an extra wager or two on the outcome of the hand.

What are blackjack side bets?

Players will be used to putting their bet in the dedicated place in front of them. If side bets are available, they will show up in smaller spaces alongside.

So, how do side bets work in blackjack? You will be adding additional chips to make a side bet before the cards are dealt, and wagering on making a winning hand from your first two cards or a combination of yours and the dealer’s face-up card.

The most common side bets are 21 + 3 or Blackjack Perfect Pairs. Gamblers love side bets as they offer the chance of blackjack side bets payout. However, strategic blackjack players might avoid them because side bets are purely based on luck.

The 21 + 3 blackjack side bet

Unlike your main blackjack bet, where you simply get a 1:1 return if you win the hand (unless you made a blackjack), with 21 + 3 you can get much more by piecing together a decent three-card "poker" hand from your own two hole cards, and the dealer’s face-up card.

The better your 21 + 3 hand, the higher the return. And, best of all, you will win regardless of the outcome of the main action. So, you can go bust and lose your original bet, but still gain much more back on a side bet.

21 +3 requires you to make one of these three-card combinations:

Flush: Three cards of the same suit. It’s the most frequent winner and, as such, pays out 5/1.

Straight: Three cards with a numbered sequence, like 6, 7, 8. An ace can be high or low. Returns are 10/1.

Three-of-a-kind: All three cards (your two and the dealer’s face-up card) must be of the same number or face card value. Payout 30/1.

Blackjack straight flush: Three running numbers of the same suit. 40/1 odds.

Suited three of a kind: All three cards must be the same number and the same suit (remember, blackjack uses many decks). It’s the highest payout at 100/1.

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Perfect pairs

The second standard blackjack side bet, this choice concentrates only on your two hole cards. They must be the same value – a pair – but the payout depends on the following:

Mixed pair: Two different colors, red and black. Payout of 5/1.

Colored: If you make a pair and they are the same color but not the same suit, for example, one club and one spade, it’s a payout of 10/1.

Perfect pair: This is what you want, the best blackjack pair where you have two of the same number in the same suit. The payout here is a healthy 30/1.

Can I play both blackjack side bets?

Yes, nothing is stopping you from playing both side bets on any hand. For those who like a bit of volatility with their blackjack, this is an excellent way of bagging a healthy win quickly. However, the flip side is that betting on both could soon deplete your balance if you don’t get lucky.

There is no real blackjack side bet strategy. Using the option depends solely on your view of risk over reward!

What about insurance?

Insurance is the third type of side bet, but one you can only elect to play if the dealer’s face-up card is an ace. The idea is that if you place insurance, you get protection if the dealer is also sitting there with a 10 or a picture card, making a blackjack, which will beat all your own hands unless you push with a blackjack as well.

The option to place insurance will be prompted on the online casino blackjack tables, and live dealers online will also alert the players. You don’t have to take the insurance, but if you do, be aware that the odds are ever so slightly against you in the long run.

Why not try blackjack side bets for yourself?

While they are easy to understand on paper, there is no better way to get to grips with blackjack side bets than by trying them for yourself. You’ll soon discover what the best side bets in blackjack are when the dealer pushes you a pile of winning chips!

Sign up to TwinSpires Casino today and head to the blackjack tables. If you need a refresher on how to play blackjack, you can read our blackjack guide first.