Stay informed with the
Recent Articles
Best of John G. Brokopp

# Blackjack Gimmick Bets Are a Distraction

10 October 2000

Gaming industry leaders are always in search of inventive ways for patrons to wager. Even the game of blackjack, which is the one game that requires a degree of skill to play successfully, isn't exempt. Casinos continue to try to squeeze extra dollars out of the pockets of gamblers by experimenting with side-bet gimmicks that offer bonus payoffs.

My wife and I came across one during our recent trip to Laughlin, Nevada. It's a gimmick called "Bonus Blackjack" played at the Pioneer Gambling Hall & Hotel. Here's how it works: Players have an option to make an extra \$1 to \$25 bet on the first deal after a new shuffle that either they, the dealer, or both of them will be dealt a blackjack. The wager is made by placing the side bet in circles situated on either side of the betting square. One circle is designated "dealer blackjack", the other one "player blackjack". Each bet pays 15 to 1.

There's also a progressive jackpot associated with the bet: If a player has made a side bet on BOTH propositions (dealer blackjack and player blackjack) he will win the progressive pot if he gets a blackjack in the ace and jack of spades on the first deal after a new shuffle. The casino starts the pool with \$25 in "seed" money. When we were in Laughlin in early September the pot was up to \$114, but I was told by pit supervisors that they've seen it in the \$700 to \$800 range.

When you take into account the fact that only a nickel out of every dollar goes into the progressive pot while the casino pockets the rest, you can see how really difficult it is to win if it's possible for the jackpot to grow into the hundreds of dollars.

The Pioneer plays its blackjack out of one and two-deck games, which makes the game an enticing wagering proposition in and of itself. Adding the gimmick merely clutters play up as far as I'm concerned. Without doing the math, I'd venture a guess to say it's strictly a "sucker" bet.

Perhaps if the progressive jackpot reaches a certain level it could become an advantageous goal, but my advice is this: If you're looking to get lucky for a buck on your casino adventures, stick to the slots, the roulette wheel, or even an occasional "hardway" at craps. Save your dollars at the blackjack table for what really counts...beating the dealer and winning your bet!

Casinos have tried other blackjack gimmicks. In the recent past, such twists have included "Supersuits" and "21 Super Bucks". They offered progressive jackpots for different blackjack card combinations, but they really never gained in popularity on a broad scale.

Some smaller casinos around the country have attempted to lure players with bonus payoffs for certain hands, including getting a "21" with three sevens or a 3-card hand of 6-7-8, among others. Even though you may not have to put up extra money to participate in such bonuses, you have to watch that the table rules haven't been compromised to the detriment of the players in any way.

At least one blackjack variation that has caught on in some gaming jurisdictions is Royal Match 21. It requires the player to make a side bet of a dollar or more in addition to his regular wager. If the first two cards dealt to the player are of the same suit, he wins a bonus payoff. The player can make an additional side bet if he decides to play out his hand in the anticipation of getting an additional suited card.

Yet another blackjack side bet surfaced a couple of years ago. It's called 21 Madness. The game got its start in Reno and Lake Tahoe in Nevada in 1997 but has since spread to other areas of the country.

In 21 Madness, the player has the option of making a side bet in addition to his regular wager. If he's dealt a blackjack he wins the opportunity to pocket a bonus payoff of between \$5 and \$1,000. The bonus involves an electronic button that is in the dealer's possession. When the player taps the button, a random number generator (RNG) is activated, the 21 Madness wheel spins, and the bonus is revealed. The amount of the payoff is therefore based upon the same principle used in determining slot machine payoffs.

The bottom line with 21 Madness is that it's designed to siphon more dollars from gaming enthusiasts while at the same time not creating a distracting atmosphere for gamblers who wish to play the game seriously. It siphons off dollars, all right, but whether or not it's a distraction is very debatable.

Blackjack requires concentration. If it's played correctly, the house edge against you can be reduced significantly. Why clutter it up, and even worse, attempt to take away the monetary edge we all gain by tempting players to cough up an extra buck on every hand that's played?

Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
Recent Articles
Best of John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insiderâ€™s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

#### Books by John G. Brokopp:

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insiderâ€™s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.