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Is It Smart to Do Side Bets in Blackjack?

Side bets in blackjack are often considered "sucker bets" due to their high house edge. Many players wonder if they can still make money from side bets as they would from a regular blackjack game. In this article, we aim to provide an answer by discussing the house edge on side bets and the regular game.

Are Side Bets in Blackjack Money Makers?

To put it simply, side bets are not consistent money-makers for most bettors. Professional players who rely on gambling winnings tend to choose blackjack for its significantly low house edge. When playing with the proper basic blackjack strategy, the house edge is typically around 0.5%. This means that the casino's profit from wagers made on a blackjack table is only 0.5% of the total amount. For example, if 100 players each bet a total of $1,000, the casino's profit would be $50, while the players would win $950.

Achieving a house edge of 0.5% requires using specific options in certain scenarios that give players a better chance of winning and minimizing losses. These scenarios include standing with a pair of 10s instead of splitting them and surrendering a hard 16 hand. Deviating from the basic blackjack strategy can increase the house edge to approximately 2%.

Unlike side bets, blackjack is a game where players can adjust their bets to take advantage of situations with a higher chance of winning. For example, doubling down with a ten when the dealer has a five up-card can give players an edge. Doubling down allows them to double their bet and receive only one additional card. With a 10 while the dealer has a five, players have zero chances of going bust, while the dealer can lose or go over 21.

The Issue with Side Bets

The problem with side bets is that players have limited options and information. Players place their side bets before a game begins, without knowing what cards will appear or if the next hand will meet the payout conditions. As a result, side bets have an average house edge of around 10%.

Side Bets and Card Counting

Information is crucial for advantage players to gain an edge against the house. Card counting is a method where players assign values to each card and keep a running count. This technique allows card counters to have accurate information about the cards that are likely to come out in the next hand, giving them a low house edge. However, card counting does not work for popular blackjack side bets like 21+3, where players must create specific poker hands or pairs.

Vulnerable Side Bets for Advantage Players

While most side bets are not suitable for card counting, there are a few exceptions. Lucky Ladies and King's Bounty are two side bets that can be vulnerable to card counting methods.

Lucky Ladies is a side bet centered around a hand valued at 20. The queen of hearts pair offers a significant payout. According to Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D., the "ten counts" counting method can provide an advantage for Lucky Ladies side bets.

King's Bounty is another side bet focused on the value of 20 and kings. The "ten counts" method can also be effective for this side bet, offering a higher yield. With the right strategy, card counters can potentially earn a profit from King's Bounty side bets.


In conclusion, side bets in blackjack are not a reliable source of profits, and most professional players do not take them seriously. The popular side bets available in most blackjack games are not vulnerable to card counting methods. While there are a few exceptions, such as Lucky Ladies and King's Bounty, it is generally not smart to rely on side bets for making money in blackjack. It's important to approach side bets as purely for entertainment purposes and not as a means of consistent profit in the game.