Playing Side Bets at Live Casino Tables: Good or Bad for You?

Every so often, the question of side bets pops up. Should I play side bets? Are they good for me? Is there a trick to ‘beating’ the side bet and earning back my money? They’re all important questions, which we’ll tackle in today’s article.

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It’s important to remember that side bets have been added by casinos to improve their margins. So unless you have a trick up your sleeve, odds are that side bets won’t work out in your favour.

But does that mean all side bets are hopeless? Well, yes and no. It depends on how much you put on each side bet, if card counting is possible, and if you’re lucky. Particularly that last one! Trust us, you will need luck if you plan on scoring substantial wins with side bets. Because they are mathematically designed to lower your chances of success. So after picking your online casino and getting ready to play, you start a round of blackjack. What are your side bet options?

Common Side bets

21+3: The way this side bet works is that it checks the player’s two cards and the dealer’s visible card. If the combination forms a flush, straight, three-of-a-kind or straight flush, the player wins! How much you’ll receive as payment depends on the table you’re playing. Traditionally, this side bet grants a 9:1 win.

Royal Match: This side bet is composed of two parts. The first is the Easy Match, which just checks if your first two dealt cards are suited. The Royal Match demands a suited king and queen to be the first two cards that you draw. The traditional payouts for these side bets are 5:2 and 25:1, respectively.

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Super Sevens: The more sevens you collect, the better your top prize! Just one seven will score you a 3:1 prize. If both your drawn cards are sevens, you’ll receive a 100:1 prize if they’re suited, or 50:1 if they’re unsuited. Then, if you draw a third seven, you can get a 500:1 prize if all three are unsuited. But if all three have the same suit, the prize jumps to an astronomical 5000:1!

Over/Under 13: Gamblers bet whether or not the total sum of their first two cards will be above or below 13. Aces always count as 1 for this side bet, and getting exactly 13 is always a loss. It’s a rather simple side-bet, though over 13 is far better of a wager than below 13.

Beating the bet

One thing that’s common to a lot of these side bets is that they offer a really good prize up-front. And if there’s one thing you learn playing live casinos, it’s that big prizes come with big house edges.

Let’s go back to Super Sevens for an example. Blackjack, without any side bets, usually has a house edge of 0.5%, give or take. The house edge for the top Super Sevens wins is an astonishing 12.6%! If you use the Under 13 side-bet a lot, that’s a 10% house edge! Even the most innocent 21+3 side-bet is a 3.24% house edge.

Now, there are ways around this, and it revolves around card-counting. These techniques are primarily aimed towards people playing the real-life versions of these games. They can work in live casinos, too. But that will usually depend on a multitude of factors, not all of which are in the player’s control.

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Of course, whether or not you will want to implement card counting is up to you. It does improve your odds of winning, but we imagine most players won’t enjoy it. For us, having to keep track of all the cards that have passed is a chore. The only gamblers that might enjoy card counting are hard-core players. And they almost unanimously reject side-bets outright.

Closing Thoughts

So, are side bets worth it? From purely a mathematical perspective, no. There are techniques you can use to give yourself an edge, sure. But personally, we don’t think those techniques are worth it. Not with most draws being determined by RNG nowadays.

Our advice? Stick to regular old blackjack. Stick to the tried and tested blackjack strategies that have been known to work. And leave side bets for what they really are: an occasional distraction when you’re feeling lucky. Not something you bet on every single hand.