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Making My Point

Blackjack side bets make the game more interesting?and profitable

Making My Point

Nothing gets monkeyed with, jiggered with, and fiddled around with more than blackjack. It’s the Mr. Potato Head of table games. Such is the price of pre-eminence. Not only is blackjack the most popular card game among players, but it is also the most popular card game among inventors, who are always concocting something to—ostensibly, at least—make the game better and something to—definitely, no doubt—make themselves some money.

For players, this is great. They have more betting options and chances to win. For casinos, this is great. They are free-rolling on a chance to increase revenue without having to increase, at least not by much, expenses. For purists, this is grating. They think it’s analogous to giving the Mona Lisa a semicolon tattoo or slapping a bumper sticker on a Ferrari.

Well, roll over Da Vinci and tell Pininfarina the news: Blackjack side bets are here to stay. They’ve evolved from passing fancy to permanent staple, and if anything, they will become more and more ubiquitous moving forward. In fact, in the near future, it’s more likely than not you will see a blackjack game with two or more different side bets from two or more different suppliers.

Worlds, as George from Seinfeld once forewarned, are indeed going to collide.

Speaking of worlds, just which are the biggest blackjack side bets in the table games solar system? Well, just as there are nine planets (Pluto counts), there are nine blackjack side bets that have reached a galactic level of prominence. And here they are, listed below, in alphabetical order:

• 21+3 (Galaxy Gaming): The monster of the Midwest—and Southeast and Las Vegas, for that matter. This side bet considers the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card. Players win if that three-card population is a flush, a straight, a three of a kind or a straight flush.

• Buster Blackjack (Gambology): This is the only common-outcome side bet in the upper echelon of commercial success. When one player wins, all players win. That’s what happens when the dealer exceeds 21, and the more cards he draws doing so, the higher the payout.

• In Between (AGS): This is the newest side bet here, although its genealogy traces back to Red Dog and Acey-Deucey. Players win if the dealer’s up card falls “in between” the rank of the player’s first two cards. There is a premium payout when all three cards are the same rank.

• King’s Bounty (Shuffle Master): This bet, which pays when the player’s first two cards total 20 points, got an adrenaline shot a few months ago with the advent of the “Lucky George” bonus. The “George” twist, named not for the aforementioned Costanza or the King of England with the famous stutter, but rather for the term dealers use for generous players, works like this: If a player gets one of the top hands, the dealer automatically gets tipped.

• Lucky Ladies (Galaxy Gaming): It may still be the case, but there was definitely a moment in history when this was the No. 1 blackjack side bet in the world. Players win if their first two cards total 20, and the top hand is two Queens of Hearts combined with a dealer blackjack.

• Lucky Lucky (Canadian Stook): Like 21+3, this bet looks at the dealer’s up card and the player’s first two cards. However, instead of making a poker hand, Lucky Lucky makes a blackjack hand. The bet wins if the total is 19-21 points. Three 7s of the same suit is the highest hand possible.

• Match the Dealer (Masque Publishing): This bet works exactly as it sounds. Players win if one of their first two cards matches the rank of the dealer’s up card. There is an array of payouts that include matching the rank and suit, along with both cards matching the dealer’s up cards.

• Perfect Pairs (TCS): Once was a time when this side bet was on every blackjack game in Australia. Every. Single. One. Now, with time and tide eroding its monopoly a bit, penetration is down to 90 percent. Still. Damn. Impressive. Perfect Pairs wins if the player’s first two cards are a—wait for it—pair. Pairs of the same color pay more, and pairs of the same suit, a.k.a. “perfect pairs,” pay the most.

• Royal Match 21 (Shuffle Master): This side bet originally belonged to BET Technology, the company behind Fortune Pai Gow Poker and Casino War. Players win the top award if their first two cards are a King and Queen of the same suit.

Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Light & Wonder. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Light & Wonder or its affiliates.

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