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Your 2020 Blackjack Side Bets Strategy Guide

The online blackjack landscape is incredibly fierce: there are thousands of casinos to choose from and so they need to go the extra mile to entice new players. So what can casinos do to become more appealing?

Side bets are in-game features which add spice and variety to blackjack games. They also let players access much higher-value bets than the typical 3:2 payout. Players bet on whether specific situations will happen, for example their 2 cards and the dealer’s up card forming a flush or straight.

Since this is unlikely, the bets are highly volatile and come with substantial payouts, often 10:1 or higher.

Side bets - blackjackcanada

Why do casinos offer side bets?

For casual and speculative blackjack players, side bets make playing more exciting. There’s the chance to earn more money and an added element of thrill compared to classic blackjack.

Blackjack side bet payouts are the marketed reason for their introduction, at least. In reality, they also increase house edge and allow casinos to laugh all the way to the bank. Players adopting basic strategy can expect to drop house edge as low as 0.5%; playing side bets could skyrocket this above 10%. But as you’ll see, there are also strategies to bring the house edge back down again.

The most popular side bets and how they work

Here’s a quick rundown of the most common side bets in blackjack.  

21+3

Probably the game’s most popular side bet, 21+3 is highly volatile. Players bet on their 2 dealt cards and the dealer’s face-up card, forming a poker hand. While the payouts vary at each casino, below are figures players can expect to see:

  • Flush – 5/1
  • Straight – 10/1
  • Three of a kind – 30/1
  • Straight flush – 40/1
  • Suited three of a kind – 100/1

These high-value pay tables mean the house edge is variable but always a significant jump on regular play.

Pair Square

Players are looking for the dealer to give them a pair. Unsuited pairs payout 10/1 while suited pairs pay an improved 15/1. The house edge using this bet 10.6%.

Royal Match

There’s a classic side bet known as an Easy Match: being dealt two suited cards. This pays out 5:2. Most popular in multi-deck blackjack, the Royal Match requires a suited King and Queen and pays out a huge 25:1.

While the odds are more favourable here than the 21+3, the house edge does jump up to nearly 4%.

Over/Under 13

A wager on the total of the player’s dealt cards, usually reserved for 6 or 8-deck games.

ResultUnder 13
(house edge 10%)
Over 13
(house edge 6.5%)
Under 13WinLose
13 exactlyLose Lose
Over 13 Lose Win

Both bets pay out even, however some casinos offer an ‘exactly 13’ bet that’s likely to pay out around 10/1. Like many side bets, this one is highly vulnerable to card counting with the right strategy.

Super Sevens

This is one of the spicier side bets and the potential payout can get monstrously high. Players are betting on 7s – as many 7s as possible!

  • One 7 – pays 3/1
  • Two 7s – pays 50/1
  • Two suited 7s – pays 100/1
  • Three 7s – pays 500/1
  • Three suited 7s – pays 5,000/1

If players draw all 3 cards, the house edge increases up to nearly 11.5%, a long way from our 0.5% using basic strategy. However, if you’re playing the occasional game for the thrill of it, then it doesn’t get much more thrilling than Super Sevens.

Lucky Ladies

Lucky Ladies is a crazy side bet that brings a crazy house edge: 17%! Players are betting on their hand totalling exactly 20, but there are of course different levels of payout:

  • Any unsuited 20 – pays 4/1
  • Any suited 20 – 20/1
  • Same suit and rank – 25/1
  • Two queens of hearts – 200/1
  • Two suited queens of hearts – 1,000/1

Again players stand to win a huge payout if their luck is in, but it’s not a bet which professional players are likely to take on.

Should I use side bets?

The use of side bets comes down to the kind of player you are. If you’re a casual player optimistically trying to score a big win and have fun, then side bets really do add an extra element. Blackjack side bet payouts are high and they keep your adrenaline pumping. You can also use card counting strategies to massively increase your odds of winning – see the next section.

But for professional players looking to minimise house edge, side bets are better avoided. Put your energy into regular card counting and basic strategy, and you’ll reap more consistent rewards.

Master side bets using card counting

Card counting in regular blackjack is very challenging – check out our guide on how to do it well. But there is a powerful blackjack side bet strategy which can overhaul the high odds: card counting. As a very quick example, players can count the suits drawn from the shoe while playing the 21 + 3 side bet, looking for a flush.

Once the count gets very high, the odds of your suit coming out in a group is higher. Bet big here and cash in on the win to substantially drop the house edge. It’s simple but incredibly effective, and similar strategies can be applied to other lucrative side bets.