If you play blackjack online at any casino that runs on Playtech’s European live dealer platform, you are offered a few side bet options in addition to your standard blackjack bets. This begs the question…should you take them?
Conventional casino player wisdom on side bets is this:
They are typically attractive looking (high payout) bets that are simple and easy to place but which offer pretty poor returns.
But there’s always an exception to rule, and you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover..blah blah blah. So I did a bit of poking around to see if the conventional wisdom applied here.
First a look at the side bets
Here’s a quick summary of what the bets are and their payouts…
- Red/Black pair: bet on this option and if a red/black pair (first 2 cards) is dealt your payout is 6:1 on your staked amount. You can bet on a red/black dealer pair or player pair.
- Colored pair: as above, only this time you’re looking for same color pairs. That is a pair or a pair. Payout on staked amount is 12:1.
- Perfect pair: Here you’re looking for an identical match. Same number/picture and same suit. Payout is 25:1.
The house psychology here is clever. In a game that traditionally offers a maximum payout of 3:2 (for blackjack) a payout of 25:1 looks on the face of it like spectacular value. But its not.
Mathematically calculated house edge
House edge, or return to player rate may be mathematically calculated for any casino game. If you were to play the above game using basic strategy and avoid the side bets, you’d be looking at at house edge of around 0.5%. For more on this calculation and house edges across different live platforms, visit our live blackjack house edge page.
Now that’s a pretty skinny house edge – and one that affords a reasonable chance of short term wins over the house. The house edge on the side bet however, is significantly worse. According to the Wizard of Odds who is the generally accepted oracle when it comes to online casino game maths, the house edge on side bets with the above payouts, and dealt from an 8 deck shoe (as is the case for Playtech’s live blackjack) is 4.1%.
It’s a pretty simple one.
Avoid the side bets and play basic strategy and you are looking at a return to player rate of around 99.5%.
On the side bets, you’re getting around 96%…that’s a house game and one you really don’t want to be playing!
As always, play within your means, and good luck!