Blackjack Side Bets: Pure Fun or Pure Ripoff?


For the most part, blackjack attracts a large amount of casino visitors who enjoy using skill and strategy to lower the house edge. Of course, it always helps a casino's profits when they can interest casual players who surrender a larger house edge.

Enter blackjack side bets, which are great at attracting casual players and novices. For a small side wager people can play for a much larger prize than normal. Not only is this exciting, but it seems like harmless fun to many players. But blackjack side bets are anything but harmless when you consider the house edge. This being said, you really have to weigh the pros and cons before placing these wagers, which we'll discuss below.

Entertainment Costs

As mentioned before, the top reason to make blackjack side bets is because they add more fun and excitement to the game. If you can win a payout worth 10 times your original bet, that's huge! So it's no wonder why people love to place these wagers when they're available.

But it's also important to consider the long-term costs of making such bets. There are a lot of different side wagers available, but they all give the house edge a massive boost. For example, the '21+3' bet gives casinos a 3.24% advantage, Perfect Pairs features a 4.1% edge, '2 through 6' holds a 7.5% edge, 'Royal Match' gives casinos a 24.7% edge.

As you can see, the house advantage on these bets varies quite a bit. But in every case, the edge is much higher than the 0.5% casino advantage that you're normally facing with regular bets.

Doing the Math


Some players are fully aware of how much larger the house edge is on side bets. But they continue to make these wagers due to the thrills they get from chasing large payouts. Using the 21+3 wager as an example, you could win 9:1 on your original bet. And some of the wagers offer even higher payouts than this.

Assuming the potential for major winnings in a single hand overrides the increased house edge, then by all means go ahead and keep betting. However, we recommend that you do the math before continuing to place these bets.

To illustrate this point, let's say that you use optimal basic blackjack strategy and make a Perfect Pairs bet (4.1% casino edge) on 100 hands. If you were betting $5 per regular hand, you'd lose $2.50 over this span on average (100 x 5 x 0.005). But if your Perfect Pairs wager was equal to the regular bet every time, you'd add an extra $20.50 in losses (100 x 5 x 0.041), for a total of $23.00 in the red. And this is an obvious jump from what you'd experience through normal blackjack hands.

Making the Decision

If you're somebody who's just looking to having fun with blackjack, then side bets are an excellent way to spice up the action. But for those who are completely focused on their profits, sticking with regular hands is the way to go. Of course, the latter category of players can make an occasional side bet or two…just don't get carried away!

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