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Is It Smart To Do Side Bets In Blackjack

Side bets are considered “sucker bets” due to their high house edge. Is it still possible to earn money from side bets as much as you would from a regular blackjack game?

We answer that question by discussing the house edge on side bets in blackjack and the regular game.  

Are Side Bets in Blackjack Money Makers?

Blackjack side bets

To quickly answer your question, side bets are not money-makers for most bettors in terms of consistent winnings. Side bets are not the kind of action any professional players would take due to the house edge.

Professional bettors supporting their careers through gambling winnings tend to choose blackjack due to its significantly low house edge. When playing with the proper blackjack basic strategy, the house edge is set at 0.5%. That 0.5% is the casino’s profit from the wagers made on a blackjack table. Let us say 100 players played with a stake of $1,000 in total. With the house edge of 0.5%, the casino can only take $50 out of the $1,000 stake made while others take $950 in winnings.

A player can only achieve a house edge of 0.5% by using options in specific scenarios that give them a better chance at winning and minimizing their losses. These scenarios include standing with a pair of 10 instead of splitting them and surrendering a hard 16 hand. Failing to follow a blackjack chart will grant a player a 2% house edge.

Blackjack is one of the few casino games where you can adjust your bets to take advantage of situations where you have a better chance of winning. These situations include doubling down with a ten if the dealer has a five up-card. Doubling down is an option where you double your stakes and only draw one card. Having 10 while the dealer has five is when you have zero chances of going bust, while the croupier can lose to your score or go over 21.  

The issue with side bets is the players’ lack of options or information. Players add a stake on the table felt or digital blackjack table before a game to initiate a side bet. There are no methods to know what kind of cards will appear or if the next game will have the cards needed to complete one of the payout conditions. Because you are betting blindly on a chance your next hand will have a specific hand, side bets have an average house edge of 10%.

Side Bets & Card Counting

Information is crucial for any advantage players to gain a better edge against the house, which is why there are professional blackjack and poker players, and there are barely any pro-slot players. What if there is a way to get information on side bets in blackjack, such as card counting?

Card counting is a method where players assign value to each card and keep a running count. Through this method, card counters ensure a low house edge throughout their game since they have accurate information on the cards that will likely come out in the next hand. As cards are played throughout numerous games, counters adjust their bet anticipation of the remaining cards within the shoe.

Can you use card counting for popular blackjack side bets like 21+3? Unfortunately, no card-counting method would penetrate the deck and give you a running count that lets you make an accurate guess on whether the next hand will have a specific set of hands. Note that this is for side bets where you must create a poker hand (21+3) or specific pairs (perfect pairs).

Vulnerable Side Bets For Advantage Players

To reiterate, there are nearly no side bets you can use card counting on to gain a high player’s edge. The two exceptions are the following.

Lucky Ladies

Lucky Ladies is a side bet centered around a hand valued at 20. Forming 20s with tens or face cards grant you pay out of 4 to 1, while matched or suited 20s get you higher pay. The actual payout maker of this side bet is the queen of heart pairs that grants you a 125 to 1 payout and a 1,000 to 1 pay if you have this hand while the dealer has a natural blackjack hand.

According to Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D., lucky ladies are vulnerable to the “ten counts” counting method, where cards from 2 to 9 have a value of +1 while the face & ten cards are -2. They compared the “ten count” to the familiar “high-low” method in a two-deck simulation. The former card counting method yielded a 75.2% return than the latter.

Kings Bounty

King’s bounty is also centered around the value of 20 and kings, where the minimum payout only requires any hand that forms a 20. Unsuited 20s grant you a 4 to 1, and an unsuited king pair gives 6 to 1 pay. King of spades pair is the best possible hand you can make with the side bet, which pays you 200 to 1. Should the dealer have a natural blackjack with KK, your payout is 1000 to 1.

Due to its similarities to the lucky lady’s side bet, the “ten count” works with the king’s bounty. King’s bounty is much more vulnerable to the card-counting method. There is a modified version of the “ten counts” method for the king’s bounty to achieve a much higher yield. If a game’s max bet is $100 and a card counter uses the method for 200 games, they can earn approximately $97.04 per hour through the blackjack side bet.

Blackjack side bets are just for fun, not for anyone serious about making money from the game. It is not smart to make side bets if you are playing the game to profit. While side bets are vulnerable to card counting, the popular ones available in most blackjack tables are card counting proof.

This article was published on December 31, 2022, and last updated on December 28, 2022.

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