Blackjack Side Bets: 21 + 3

Today we are going to look at another variation of blackjack. Thankfully this one is rarely found in the online blackjack sections of online casinos. Today’s variation of discussion is 21 + 3.

The idea behind this one comes from an attempt to combine blackjack and poker, to somehow bring two of the most popular casino table games together. In 21 + 3, the 21 stands for the blackjack side of the marriage and the game’s main highlight, while the 3 represents the Three Card Poker variation of poker.

When playing, the blackjack player has to place a side bet, which is usually around a dollar on average, as well as place a wager for the actual game of blackjack. Once all wagers are made the dealer will deal the cards. In order to win the side 21 + 3 wager, the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card must make up a flush, a straight, a straight flush or a three of a kind. So long as those three cards make up one of those poker hands, the player receives a 9-1 payout.

It sounds simple enough, but like all side bets in blackjack variations, there is no way for the player to impact the outcome of the side wager—the part in which the two player cards and dealer’s up card make one of the hands from Three Card Poker. It is all chance. As a result the house edge is higher.

In blackjack the house edge, if you are playing according to basic strategy, is 0.5%. That makes it the lowest house edge on the casino floor. But the side wager portion of 21 + 3 is 3.2% in a six deck game. Since the two portions of the game are separate from one another they have separate house edges. The difference between 0.5% and 3.2% is harsh. It is for reasons like the difference in house edge that I say to avoid blackjack variations with side bets.

Rate of Play in Blackjack

There is one aspect of the house edge that players have direct control over. I know you are thinking, what could that possibly be? After all the house has a built in advantage from playing last, which the player cannot control. And even though a player can control how they play out their hand—something the majority of casino games lack—players in blackjack cannot control what cards they are dealt. So what is left that is in the player’s hands in blackjack that they can control?

Their rate of play. Quite simply put, the rate at which plays through rounds of blackjack. If you play at a fast rate, making quick decisions and hurrying through the execution of your plays, you are playing more hands compared to someone who slows down their play, playing at a relaxing pace without all the haste.

At first you might think, ‘So what? What is the big deal? So what if I play faster than someone else?’ but think about this: the more hands you play in an hour the more money you stand to lose. Check it out.

Let’s say you are playing in a game of blackjack with a flat 2% house edge. Based on the meaning of house edge, you will lose $2 out of every $10 you play. Let’s now say you play sixty hands in an hour; you have an expected loss of $120 in an hour. You may lose it, you may not. But based on house edge, that is your expected loss.

Now let’s say you only play forty hands of blackjack in an hour. Your expected loss based on the house edge in blackjack is only $80. That is a $40 difference for slowing down each hand from one minute to one and a half minutes. A thirty second increase per hand and you will have cut your expected loss by 33%.

Slowing down you rate of play lessens your expected losses in blackjack, which does not leave as many opportunities for the house to win and take your money. Blackjack strategy tidbit for today is to slow your rate of play down.

Thoughts on Card Counting

I have been thinking some about card counting of late? Does it impact the house edge, a blackjack player’s odds or both? And that question brought up the difference of strategies such as basic strategy in blackjack opposed to card counting. Are they the same or different?

I am inclined to think that there is a reason casinos are not fond of card counting. And I think it is because it increases both a player’s blackjack odds and still impacts the house edge.

Basic strategy impacts the house edge in that it gives players the best statistical play to make. That does not mean that a player is more likely to win the hand. It is just the play that makes the most of the cards that have been dealt or minimizes the damage when dealt bad cards. But there is still a roughly 44% chance of winning. The impact that basic strategy has on the house edge is due to money and profit. The best statistical play does not guarantee a win, but increases the odds of profitability; that is how it hits lowers the house edge.

But on the other hand, card counting hits the house edge because players have increased their chances of winning as well as their profitability. They know when the deck is rich in high cards and they take advantage of that by increasing their wagers. In that way the increase their profitability while increasing their chances of winning. And that is why casinos have such a problem with card counting and the fact that a skilled card counter can tilt the blackjack odds in favor of himself.

Truth About Single Deck Blackjack

While blackjack may have started out a single deck card game years and years ago, it has evolved since those days into a mere shadow of its former self. The odds have changed and so have so has its payout.

Which is why I shook my head and laughed when I read an article written by someone who obviously knew nothing about blackjack. According to them the best thing about single deck blackjack and their best reason for choosing a single deck game was because you got to hold the cards and could literally slap down a blackjack on the table.

Really? That is your reason for opting for single deck blackjack?

Well, buddy, you can enjoy that slapping and card holding but there are some things about single deck blackjack that will make a seasoned blackjack player who knows the truth about modern single deck games are more likely to seek out a multi deck game. And here is why:

Single deck blackjack games will, nine times out of ten, will offer a 6-5 payout as opposed to the good ol’ 3-2 payout for a natural blackjack. And that 6-5 payout is a pretty hefty hit to a player’s blackjack odds. Just playing in a game of blackjack with a 6-5 payout on a natural drives the house’s edge up by 1.39%.

Remember, yesterday I talked about what the house edge really is and how it is a reflection on a player’s expected loss on a wager. So let’s say that the game you are playing in is a single deck game with a house edge of 5%, meaning you can expect to lose 5% of your wager. Playing in a blackjack game with a 6-5 payout will increase the house edge to 6.39%. And that is the truth about single deck blackjack.

Just sitting down and allowing yourself to be tempted into playing in a single deck game will increase the amount of your wager that you can expect to lose on average. Why would you do that to yourself?

Explaining House Edge in Blackjack

House edge is often misinterpreted when it comes to casino games, including blackjack. More often than not players assume that house edge in blackjack has all to do with their chances of winning or losing a round, when really it does not.

House edge in blackjack has nothing to do with your odds of winning or losing a round. Or even how you will fair in terms of winning or losing for a playing streak. It has to do with money. And when it comes down to gambling when is it ever about anything other than money.

The house edge of a game is about the amount of a wager you can expect the house to keep. The house edge in some casino games is fixed. However it is not fixed in blackjack. Players can use strategy in blackjack to lower the house edge.

Now stop and think about that for a moment. Let’s go with the average house edge for blackjack: 5%. That means that you can expect the house to keep 5% of your wager. But using strategy can impact the house edge. Going along with our example so far, you can use basic strategy and over time lower the house edge to 0.5%. That means the house will only be keeping half a percent of your wager as opposed to 5% of your wager.

House edge is about money. Strategy in blackjack such as basic strategy is designed to increase how much you win and decrease the amount you lose. Through minimizing losses and increasing how much you win the house edge is impacted and ideally lowered. But remember that house edge is about money, not odds of winning or losing a hand.

What Makes Online Blackjack Better

I am willing to bet you thought that this would be about why online blackjack is better than blackjack in a brick and mortar casino. You would be wrong. Forget that explanation. We are going to look at why online blackjack is better than other online casino games, namely online slots.

Online slots have a very dominate presence in online casinos and in the online gambling industry as a whole. Think about it. More than half of the games offered are online slots games. And, for the most part, online blackjack players do not have an interest in them. Online casinos are more than happy to let online slots take the center stage because they are the big money makers. Imagine millions of people around the world happily spinning away their money on slots; and as slots games are designed to take money over time rather than pay it out, casinos are happy to let online slots sit in the lime light and offer more slots games than other casino games.

But here is where online blackjack is better.

Online blackjack offers players a better house edge. And a better house edge means a better likelihood of making a profit. And who does not want more money?

Compare if you will: online slots offer around a 14% house edge and online blackjack offers around 4% house edge before any strategy is applied to it.

Can blackjack strategy help you to low that 4% house edge even more? Yes, it can.

The easiest blackjack strategy available for free use (and which is legal to use in online casinos) is basic strategy. This delightful little gem of a blackjack strategy tells players the most opportune play to make based on their first two cards and the dealer’s up card. While this does not guarantee a win every time, it does increase the likelihood of a win. Over time basic strategy can decrease the house edge to 0.5%, giving it the best house edge available to players.

And having a 0.5% house edge means a much better chance of money in your pocket. Hence, online blackjack is better than other online casino games. Simply because players stand to have better odds in online blackjack.

One More Reason the House has the Edge in Blackjack

There are several reasons why the house has the edge in blackjack. Mostly it comes from the rules and structure of the game, such as the dealer playing last. But there is one more teeny tiny principle that is often over looked when it comes to blackjack: the house’s money.

Yes, the house has money too. Where else do you think the money the dealer hands you when you win comes from? The dealer brings the house’s money to the blackjack table on behalf of the casino, and plays with the casino’s money.

The edge the house gains from its bankroll is the result of a couple of things involving said bankroll.

For one thing, the house has a lot more money to play with than you do. This enables it to keep playing and holding out longer than players can. It leads to a principle known as Gambler’s Ruin. It is the idea that a person will keep gambling until he or she has run out of money; and they will because the house can keep playing for a heck of a lot longer since there is more money in their back pocket.

There is also the matter of the wager. When playing blackjack you must place a wager at the beginning of a round in order to play. The dealer, ergo the house, does not have to place this wager. So when they lose they lose a round they are not losing a wager. When a player loses he must give up his wager. The house does not put forth any money to risk

So it is not just because of the structure of blackjack and its rules that gives it its edge. The house edge in blackjack can come about as a result of the casino’s bankroll and it is an idea that players typically do not think of. So remember that while your bankroll is limited, the casino’s is not and that they can hold that over your head, so to speak.

On Card Counting and Blackjack

While basic strategy offers players a wonderful, easy and legal way to lower the house edge it only takes you so far. As far as 0.5% still being in the house’s favor. And while that house edge is not as great at the 8% to 12% that players are up against at a slots machine, the casino is accepting for two reasons:

1. Not every single blackjack player will play according to basic strategy, nor will they play every hand according to it, deviating and thus keeping the house edge above 0.5%.

2. And the house still has the edge. As long as they have some kind of an edge they are a happy casino.

But then along comes those wily card counting blackjack players.

Casinos very much do not like card counting blackjack players. This is more about money than anything. On the surface card counting evens out the house edge and can even, for the skilled card counter, tip the edge in favor of the player.

If these card counting blackjack players were playing for fun or for fake money the casino would not care at all if the house edge slipped in favor of the player. But when money is involved, well that is another story.

When the house edge is in favor of the house, they stand a greater chance of making money off of the players. But when the edge goes to the player, the casino winds up paying more money to the player—something that they do not want to do on a regular basis. A slots jackpot here, and an honest 3-2 payout on a high-end wager to a non-card counting player, sure they are okay with. But a player who is taking regular advantage, no.

That is why if you are going to be a regular card counting blackjack player there is another skill you need to acquire: appearing that you are not counting cards.

Pit bosses, when they suspect that a player is counting cards or that something funny is going on, will come over to the table and strike up conversation with players. And often players will talk with the other players at the table or even with the dealer.

It is the player who with the bets going form $5 up to $50 suddenly that is not talking that will catch their attention. So the other skill you need to teach yourself to go hand-in-hand with card counting is the ability to keep an eye on the cards, keep your count and still interact with the other players, the dealer and even the pit boss if he stops by.

The point here is to be social and to appear that you are not counting cards when you really are. If you can interact with the others while playing blackjack the casino staff will not think that your mind is focused on counting. But then they assume that card counting blackjack players are not smart enough to do two things at once.

Taking Away the Dealer’s Edge

Did you know that the edge in an average game of blackjack starts out at around 7.8%? This applies to blackjack in a brick and mortar casino and to online blackjack. Does not matter where you find your blackjack, it all starts out at 7.8%

So if blackjack starts out at 7.8% why do most places tell you it really starts at around 5%?

That one is simple to answer really and it is the most direct to take away the dealer’s edge. All you need to do is play in a blackjack game in which you receive a 3-2 payout for a natural blackjack. That is it. It is that easy. A 3-2 payout for a natural blackjack takes 2.35% off of the dealer’s edge, dropping it down to 5.45%.

The reason a 3-2 payout cuts into the dealer’s edge so much is because, while you are getting paid for nothing more than being lucky enough to be dealt 21 in two cards, the dealer receives nothing if he is dealt a natural blackjack.

Want to know another couple of easy ways that a blackjack player can hit the dealer’s edge?

There are two common place player plays that knock some off of the dealer’s edge: double down and splitting pairs. Having the ability to double down knocks a healthy 1.6% off of the dealer’s edge, while splitting pairs takes 0.4% off.

Now while the rules help, you need to actually double down and split pairs. Think of the increased opportunities to make a profit.

The reason that a 3-2 payout, doubling down and splitting pairs hits the house edge in blackjack is because these are opportunities for profit that the house does not have. Think about it. The dealer does not receive a special payout for a natural blackjack. And he cannot double down or split pairs either. When it comes to casino games, blackjack offers rules and plays that take away from the dealer’s edge without too much effort on the player’s part.

So if you really want to be that smart blackjack player take advantage of the rules and payouts that are available to you.

Side Bets in Blackjack—Perfect Pairs

Side bets are never a good idea in blackjack. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing online or in a casino. Side bets are an easy way to lose more of your money, and lose it faster.

Sure the side bets sound like fun. Maybe they’re a way to heighten the gambling thrill. But in reality, if you stop and think about how a side bet works, you’ll see that it’s not a great idea to play with them.

For example, let’s take a look at Blackjack Perfect Pairs.

Perfect Pairs is played like any other game of blackjack. It’s usually played with six decks and has the same house rules as a standard game of blackjack. So regular game play has the same odds as a normal game. You can use basic strategy in the game and lower the house edge on the portion of Perfect Pairs that is played like regular blackjack.

Now for the Perfect Pairs part. In this blackjack variation, players can make a side bet on whether the first two cards they’re dealt will be a pair.

Yes, that is the side bet and key to this variation of blackjack. You are merely wagering your money on whether you’ll be dealt a pair in your first two cards. And, unlike regular blackjack, there is nothing a player can do to alter the house odds for the side bet portion; there is no way to increase your chances of being dealt a pair.

It seems like a silly thing to wager on.

In Perfect Pairs there are three ways to win the side bet in Perfect Pairs:

– A perfect pair is made up of two cards that are identical; payout is 25
– A colored pair is made up of two cards of the same rank and color, just different suits; payout is 12
– A red/black pair is made up two cards of the same rank; payout is 6

Without one of those types of pairs you will lose your side bet.

Now let’s look at the house edge on Perfect Pairs versus the house edge on a standard version of blackjack:

– Perfect Pairs: 4.10%
– Standard Blackjack pre-basic strategy: 2-5%
– Standard Blackjack with basic strategy: 0.05%

Would you rather play against a house edge of 4.10% in which you can’t lower the odds? Or just stick to standard blackjack that you can influence?