blackjack side bets explained

Blackjack side bets offer extra action on the side while you play, with the chance to win up to 100 times your stake. But what Blackjack side bets are available these days, how do they work and are they worth it? Those are the $64 million questions I’m about to answer!

Blackjack side bets explained

Side bets in Blackjack are totally separate wagers that have nothing to do with the outcome of your hand. They are essentially mini games that happen to use certain cards from your hand or the dealer’s hand. They don’t affect the result of your hand, and they have no bearing on the perfect Blackjack strategy.

If you’re looking for blackjack tables with side bets, you can usually find them displayed on the table near the betting zone where you place your chips. In online Blackjack, you can read the rules for each side bet, and find out the house edge or RTP too, in the help files. If you’re playing in a land-based casino, you’ll have to ask the dealer for help.

Table - 21+3 and Perfect Pair Sections

You must play a regular hand of Blackjack in order to be able to make side bets too. You make your side bet at the same time, and get paid independently.

Side bets are interesting because they offer bigger odds than Blackjack itself, give you an extra bit of excitement during your hand, and you can lose your Blackjack hand but still win your side bet.

Let’s check out the best Blackjack side bets and figure out which offer the biggest odds and best value.

Most offline and online Blackjack tables will offer at least 2 side bets, but the innovation in online Blackjack has given birth to 4 new side bets, so our comprehensive list of Blackjack side bets is now 6 games long. Let’s start with one of the seminal side bets, 21+3.

21+3

Straight Flush

The aim of the 21+3 Blackjack side bet is to make the best 3 card poker hand from your 2 starting cards and the dealer’s up card. If you complete any of these hands, you’re quids in. The RTP for the 21+3 side bet is usually around 96.30%. Here what a typical 21+3 payout table looks like, although the odds can differ from provider to provider.

Hand Payout odds 
Suited Three of a Kind 100 to 1 
Straight Flush 35 to 1 
Three of a Kind 25 to 1 
Straight 8 to 1 
Flush 5 to 1 

Any Pair

Any Pair

Any Pair is one of the simpler Blackjack side bets, as it focuses on your 2 starting cards and has only 2 possible winning outcomes.

If your starting hand is a pair, you win at least 7 times your wager. So what is the pair probability? In an 8 deck game, you’ll make a pair in Blackjack every 1 in 13 hands on average. If you make a suited pair, you’ll get a bigger payout. The Return To Player for the Any Pair side bet is 96.58%.

Hand Payout odds 
Suited Pair 20 to 1 
Any Pair 7 to 1 

Bust It

Dealer Busts in 4 Cards

Bust It is a new and interesting take on Blackjack side bets that only relates to the dealer’s hand. It was created by Evolution Gaming, is available in games like Power Blackjack and Infinite Blackjack and offers the best Blackjack side bets odds of 250 to 1.

In Bust It, you are betting not just on whether they bust, but how many cards they deal themselves before they bust!

A dealer can’t bust with 2 cards, so if the dealer does bust, you are guaranteed to win at least double your bet. The longer it takes the dealer to bust, the more you win. Some trivia for you: The dealer will bust about 1 in 3.5 hands (28% of the time). The RTP for Bust It is 94.71%, the lowest among UK Blackjack side bets, so be aware that if you like this type of bet, it comes at a slightly higher price.

Outcome Payout odds 
Bust in 8 cards or more 250 to 1 
Bust in 7 cards 100 to 1 
Bust in 6 cards 25 to 1 
Bust in 5 cards 8 to 1 
Bust in 4 cards 2 to 1 
Bust in 3 cards 1 to 1 

Hot 3

21 Unsuited

The Hot 3 side bet pays out if the combined total of your first 2 cards and the dealer’s up card is 19, 20 or 21. So for example if you are dealt Jack-2 and the dealer has a 7, your total is 19 and you would win. The RTP for this bet, which you’ll find in many Live Blackjack tables by Evolution Gaming, is 96.21%.

Hand Payout odds 
7-7-7 100 to 1 
Total 21 Suited 20 to 1 
Total 21 Unsuited 4 to 1 
Total 20 2 to 1 
Total 19 1 to 1 

Insurance

Insurance

Insurance might appear to be a standard option at every Blackjack table, but it’s a side bet nevertheless. Unlike all of the other side bets on this page, Insurance is only available once your hand has started. If the dealer’s up card is an Ace, they will ask if you want to take Insurance. It’s also different to the rest as it costs specifically half of your original bet.

We’ve already explained and analysed this bet in our Insurance guide, so for now we’ll just say that you get paid 2 to 1 odds if you win (i.e. the dealer makes Blackjack) and the RTP is around 92.60% RTP.

If you’ve read our Blackjack guide, you’ll know that always taking Insurance is one of the most common Blackjack mistakes.

Perfect Pairs

Perfect Pair

This is the most famous and popular Blackjack side bet in the UK. It’s a lot like Any Pair, except that you get paid more if you hit a Perfect Pair, and you can also hit a coloured – red or black – pair. Bear in mind that you’ll hit a perfect pair about 1 in 59 times in an 8 deck game, and the RTP for Perfect Pairs is around 96%, depending on the provider.

Hand Example Payout odds 
Perfect Pair QhQh 25 to 1 
Coloured Pair 9c9s 12 to 1 
Mixed Pair AcAh 6 to 1 

Pros & Cons

Side bets are an interesting option when you play Blackjack, mostly because Blackjack is an extremely low variance game with no opportunity for big payouts. Side bets also create extra action, even after you’ve busted your hand. Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of playing them.

Pros 

  • Exciting  
  • Easy to play 
  • Unrelated to your main Blackjack hand 
  • Bigger odds and wins available 

Cons 

  • Higher house edge 
  • Pure luck 
  • Needs good bankroll management 

My verdict: Are they worth it?

Blackjack itself has a house edge of less than 1%. You won’t find another casino game with such a low house edge. If you play well, you can make your money last for hours.

As you’ve discovered, casinos aren’t as generous when it comes to side bets in Blackjack. But while they generally have lower RTPs, they do offer Blackjack players much higher odds than you find during a regular hand, so they do have that going for them!

I won’t put you off them in general, and I’ve been partial to the odd Perfect Pair punt in my time. Just make sure you read the rules – they’re usually pretty short anyway – and you don’t get sucked into always placing side bets, otherwise your Blackjack session could cost you a lot more than you realise.

As always, get as well informed as you can, and when you play Blackjack at PlayOJO, be sure to play safe. Good luck!

Daniel Grant

Dan Grant has been writing about gambling for 15 years, and been fascinated by beating the odds for even longer. Now he’s on a mission to help others bet smarter and avoid the mistakes he made. When he’s not obsessing over bankroll strategy or counting cards badly, he’s hosting The OJO Show podcast.

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