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BLACKJACK SIDE BETS

By John Grochowski

 

John Grochowski's weekly gambling column appears in newspapers including the Detroit News online, Gary (Ind.) Post-Tribune and Naperville (Ill.) Sun, and he's a featured writer for Midwest Gaming & Travel magazine, International Gaming & Wagering Business and Slot Manager magazine. He's the author of six books on gaming, including the new revised edition of The Slot Machine Answer Book. Books are available at his Web site, http://www.casinoanswerman.com/, or from Running Count Press, Box 1488, Elmhurst, IL 60126. You can e-mail John at grochowski_j@yahoo.com.

Blackjack side bets and game variations come and go, having their moments of popularity before one of two things happens. Either players learn by trial and error that the side bet is taking their money too fast, or somebody figures out how to beat the game.

Letís call the first case the Royal Match scenario. In the mid-to-late-Ď90s, casinos throughout the nation experimented with the side bet that paid off whenever the first two cards were of the same suit, with the top payback for a suited King-Queen. It padded casino bottom lines for a while until players got burned by the 6.67 percent house edge on a common six-deck game a little too often. When the customers stopped making the bet, it had to go. Not worth paying the licensing fee for a bet nobody made.

We can call the second case the Over/Under 13 scenario. Oh, average players would have tired of it soon enough. With some variation for number of decks, house edges are about 6.6 percent when betting the first two cards will be over 13, and 10 percent on the under. But what really backed casinos off the bet early is that it is vulnerable to card counting. In fact, counters found they could get a bigger edge on Over/Under 13 than on blackjack. Casinos that allowed the Over/Under 13 bet without a blackjack bet were a counterís dream.

The latest hot blackjack side bet is Lucky Ladies. Which way will it go?

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