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Wild New Side Bets at Blackjack

24 December 2012

By John Grochowski

As the most popular casino table game for roughly a half century, blackjack has an intrigue of its own. With decisions on when to hit or stand, whether to split pairs or maybe double down, and then waiting for the dealer play to see if your decisions pay off or come to naught --- well, there’s plenty to hold your interest.

But some players are always looking for a little extra. It’s for those players that blackjack side bets were invented, separate plays that offer a chance at a single big hit. The house edge usually is a bit higher than on the basic game of blackjack. Those who play accept that for the chance at that one-hand bonanza.

I’ve written about a number of the most common side bets, including 21 + 3 and Royal Match, which seems to disappear and make a resurgence every few years. Let’s look at a few others. You won’t find these everywhere to play, but when you do, you want to be prepared.

Lucky Ladies: An Internet favorite that spread into brick-and-mortar casinos, Lucky Ladies is a wager that your first two cards will total 20. There are three pay tables. On one, any unsuited 20 will bring you a 4-1 payoff, and you’ll get 9-1 on a suited 20, 19-1 on a matched 20 where both suit and rank match, 125-1 on two Queens of hearts, and 1,000-1 on two Queens of hearts when the dealer has a blackjack. Michael Shackelford’s Web site lists the house edges as ranging from 24.05 percent with eight decks to 38.16 percent with one deck --- the more decks, the lower the house edge.

A second pay table leaves the top and bottom payoffs alone, but raises the suited 20 to 10-1, matched 20 to 25-1 and Queen of hearts pair to 200-1. That cuts house edges to a range from 16.73 percent to 36.05 percent.

Note that even the best pay table on this wager, the second pay table in an eight-deck game, has a house edge of 16.73 percent. Those who make the bet are jackpot chasers, willing to absorb the extra risk for the chance at a big hit.

Second Chance Blackjack: This one is fun to play, though it hasn’t yet made a big casino breakthrough. Second Chance Blackjack’s side bet is a combination of blackjack and poker. If you make the Second Chance wager and bust, the card that busts your hand is used along with four additional cards dealt to make a five-card poker hand. Winners are paid according to a pay table that starts at even money for a suited pair of 2s through 10s and tops out at 250-1 for a royal flush. House edge is 5.28 percent, so you pay a little extra premium for that second chance..

Perfect Pairs: A reader e-mailed to ask about this one, a side bet I hadn’t yet seen. It turns out there are several pay tables. The one the reader saw pay 25-1 on suited pairs --- two 8s of clubs, for example would be a perfect pair that brings that 25-1 return.

There’s also a 12-1 payoff on black or red pairs. If those two 8s included an 8 of spades and an 8 of clubs, you’d get 12-1. And it pays 6-1 on any pair, so that’s what you’d get if your 8 of spades was accompanied by an 8 of hearts.

At that pay table, the house edge is 6.1 percent on a six-deck game, and a bit lower at 4.1 percent on an eight-deck game.

Bonanza Blackjack: A $1 side bet pays off if you have a 20 AND the dealer’s face up card is a 10. It aims to take the sting out of the frustration factor that comes when the dealer turns up a second 10-value to match that 20.

Here, by the time that happens, you’ve already won. You might even be rooting for that second dealer 10. If your 20 consists of two cards of the same rank and suit, and both dealer cards match yours, that’s worth $25,000 for your $1 investment. If you have two Kings of diamonds, and the dealer’s up card also is a King of diamonds, that’s worth at least $2,500, but you’re REALLY rooting for the dealer to have another King of diamonds face down.

There are smaller payoffs for other player 20/dealer 10 combos down to $10 if your cards are of different ranks and suits.

This is a big jackpot game, so the house edge is high, at 18.2 percent. If you’re jackpot hunting, you’ll have to spot the house a bigger edge than on the base game to have a chance at that bonanza.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (; Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at
John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago, with podcasts at Look for John Grochowski on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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