How to Play Blackjack
Before we look at the various side bets that are used in blackjack, it is essential to understand the basic rules of the game. Blackjack is a card game that uses one or more decks of cards. The aim of the game is simple. Players are required to build a hand of cards that has a closer value to 21 than the dealer’s hand. If a hand exceeds 21, it goes bust, which means it automatically loses. However, so long as your hand is closer to 21 than the dealer’s hand, you win. Thus, instead of trying to get as close to 21 as possible, you must instead focus on simply beating the dealer’s total or watching the dealer’s hand go bust.
In Blackjack, all numbered cards keep their face value. The picture cards (Jack, Queen, King) are all worth 10 and Aces can be worth 1 or 11. To form Blackjack (the strongest hand in the game), you are required to form a hand of 21 using only two cards – a 10-value card and an Ace.
Many Blackjack variants differentiate between Hard and Soft hands. A Hard hand is a hand that either does not contain an Ace or contains an Ace valued as 1, while a Soft hand contains an Ace valued as 11. For instance, if you have a hand of 8 and 10, it is a Hard hand. If you have a hand of 7 and Ace, it is a Soft hand. If your hand is an Ace, 3 and 10, it is considered a Hard hand, as the Ace counts as 1.
A Round of Blackjack
To start playing blackjack, you must first place your bets on the table. In many blackjack games, you will be able to play multiple hands simultaneously. Once you have placed your bets, the dealer deals two face-up cards to your hand and shows a face-up card themselves. In some variants, the dealer will also have a face-down card as well.
Each player will take their turn clockwise around the table. The options available to players may vary slightly depending on the variant being played. In nearly every version of the game player can choose from:
- Hit – this sees the hand receive another card. There is no limit on how many cards the player can receive, but they must be cautious not to go bust.
- Stand – this means keeping the hand as it is and moving onto the next player/position.
Another option, Double Down, is also widely available, but some variants do impose restrictions. If a player Doubles Down they receive a single additional card and immediately stand. In doing so, the player places an additional bet equal to the original bet.
In certain situations, the player can also choose to split their cards. If the player is dealt a pair of cards (for instance the 8 of hearts and 8 of diamonds), they can split these two cards into two separate hands. In doing so, the player doubles their bet.
Once the player has completed their turn, the dealer reveals their face-down card. The player’s hand is compared to the dealer’s hand and a payout is made accordingly. In most Blackjack games, the dealer is required to hit on 16 or lower and stand on 17 or higher. However, this may vary depending on the variant as some games will require the dealer to hit on a soft 17.
If the dealer’s face-up card is an Ace, many games will offer an Insurance Bet to the player, which protects against the dealer having a blackjack. The Insurance bet costs half of the player’s initial stake and pays 2:1 if the dealer has Blackjack.
In most blackjack games, a standard win (beating the dealer’s hand) pays even money. Additionally, a successful Blackjack traditionally pays out 3:2, but some casinos may offer different payouts like 6:5. If the dealer’s total is the same as the player’s total, the player’s stake is returned as a push.
The Most Popular Blackjack Side Bets
There are many online blackjack games that offer side bets in order to give players an additional method of winning. Below, we have included the most popular side bets found in online blackjack games. The payout values that are mentioned are typical examples, but they may vary from casino to casino.
The Perfect Pairs side bet is one of the most commonly found. The Player Pair pays if the player’s initial two cards have the same value. The Dealer Pair pays if the dealer’s initial two cards (after revealing) have the same value. The payouts may vary but typically here is how they would pay out:
- Mixed Pair – the two initial cards have the same value but different suits and different colours. It usually pays 5:1.
- Coloured Pair - the two initial cards have the same value and same colour but are from different suits. It typically pays 12:1.
- Perfect Pair – the two initial cards are identical. It usually pays 25:1.
If Perfect Pairs is the most popular side bet, 21+3 is definitely the second most popular. It pays out if the player’s two initial cards combine with the dealer’s face-up card to form one of five types of poker hands. Typically, here is how 21+3 pays:
- Flush – three cards from the same suit. It pays 5:1.
- Straight – three cards in numerical order. It pays 10:1.
- Three of a Kind – three cards that have the same value, regardless of the suit. It pays 30:1.
- Straight Flush – three cards that have the same suit and are in numerical order. It pays 40:1.
- Suited Three of a Kind – three identical cards. It pays 100:1.
The Royal Match side bet pays out if the player’s two initial cards are from the same suit. It pays 5:2 for lower combinations and 25:1 for a Royal Match (King and Queen of the same suit).
This bet pays even money if the player’s two initial cards are either above or below 13 – depending on whether you bet on higher or lower. In this side bet, Aces count as 1.
If the player’s first card is a 7, it pays out. Furthermore, it continues to pay if the player receives even more 7s. The payouts include:
- 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 5000:1
If the player’s two initial cards combine to have a value of 20, the Lucky Ladies side bet pays out accordingly:
- Unsuited 20 pays 4:1
- Suited 20 pays 10:1
- Identical 20 (same rank and suit) pays 25:1
- Two Queen of Hearts pays 200:1
- Two Queen of Hearts and Dealer Blackjack pays 1000:1
The Top3 side bet is similar to 21+3 but harder to win. However, the payouts are enhanced. It includes:
- Three of a Kind pays 90:1
- Suited Straight Flush pays 180:1
- Suited Three of a Kind pays 500:1
If the player’s two initial cards and the dealer’s face-up card have a combined total of 19, 20 or 21, the side bet pays out. It includes:
- 19 pays 1:1
- 20 pays 2:1
- Unsuited 21 pays 4:1
- Suited 21 pays 20:1
- Three 7s pay 100:1
The Buster side bet pays if the dealer goes bust. The payouts include:
- Dealer busts with 3 or 4 cards pays 2:1
- Dealer busts with 5 cards pays 4:1
- Dealer busts with 6 cards pays 18:1
- Dealer busts with 7 cards pays 50:1
- Dealer busts with 8 or more cards pays 250:1
- Dealer busts with 7 cards and Player Blackjack pays 800:1
- Dealer busts with 8 or more cards and Player Blackjack pays 2000:1
Lucky Lucky pays if the player’s two initial cards and the dealer’s up card form a combination. It includes:
- Any 19 pays 2:1
- Any 20 pays 2:1
- Unsuited 21 pays 3:1
- Suited 21 pays 15:1
- Unsuited 678 pays 25:1
- Unsuited 777 pays 50:1
- Suited 678 pays 100:1
- Suited 777 pays 200:1
Many Blackjack games are linked to a progressive jackpot. The progressive jackpot is won if the player is dealt four consecutive suited Aces. Other payouts include:
- Any Ace pays 5:1
- Two Unsuited Aces pay 50:1
- Two Suited Aces pay 100:1
- Three Unsuited Aces pay 250:1
- Four Unsuited Aces pay 2500:1
- Three Suited Aces pay 5000:1
Enjoy the Excitement of Side Bets
With a solid understanding of various blackjack side bets, you're now equipped to take advantage of the thrilling possibilities they offer. Remember to play responsibly and explore different blackjack games to find the ones that best suit your preferences. Have fun and good luck at the tables!