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Side Bets at Blackjack

3 April 2022

Just as in the basic game of blackjack, the number of decks makes a difference in many blackjack side bets.

However, more decks increase the blackjack house edge but can decrease the edge on the side bets.

Perfect Pairs is a case in point. Galaxy Gaming, which originally licensed the side bet for distribution in the United Kingdom in 2019, has had success online. Now Galaxy and Wicks have agreed on licenses to distribute in live casinos in the United States and Europe.

It's easy to play and to deal. Those are musts for a side bet. Casinos can't afford to add a side bet that slows the main game. Fewer hands means less profit for the casino.

Perfect Pairs is decided on the first two player cards, so it flows naturally with the game. And since it's decided in two cards, the bet also can be used as a side in baccarat, where the initial deal consists of two-card hands.

You win with any pair in your first two cards. The biggest payoffs come with two cards of the same rank and suit, such as two 9s of diamonds. That's a perfect pair.

A smaller payoff comes on a colored pair -- two card of the same rank and color, such as 9 of diamonds and 9 of hearts. The game also pays on black and red pairs, such as 9 of diamonds and 9 of clubs.

Material on galaxygaming.com says you can win up to 30-1, but four pay tables have been spotted, and three of them have a top pay of 25-1. What's available to you depends on which version your casino offers.

Let's first look at the pay table that starts at 30-1, with house edges listed by Michael Shackelford at wizardofodds.com.

In that version, a perfect pair pays 30-1, a colored pair pays 10-1 and a black-red pair pays 5-1. If your first two cards don't pair up, the dealer collects your Perfect Pairs bet and blackjack play continues as usual.

At least two decks must be in play. There are no perfect pairs possible if there is only one card of a given suit and denomination.

There are more chances to make perfect pairs with more decks, so the house edge decreases with each deck in play. In a double deck game, there are only two 9s of diamonds, and both have to be dealt to the same person to make a perfect pair. With eight decks, there are eight 9s of diamonds and more opportunities.

With the 30-10-5 pay table, house edges are 25.2 percent with two decks, 10.6 with four, 7.7 with five, 5.8 with six and 3.4 with eight. The house edge with two decks is more than seven times as high as with eight decks.

If the payoffs are 25-1 for a perfect pair, 12-1 for a colored pair and 6-1 for a black-red pair, house percentages are 22.3 with two decks, 10.1 with four, 7.7 with five, 6.1 with six and 4.1 with eight.

Some casinos use the above pay table but drop black-red pairs to 5-1. That leaves house percentages with two, four, five, six and eight decks of 26.2, 14.0, 11.6, 10.0 and 7.9.

Another variation returns 25-1 on perfect pairs and 5-1 on red-black, as above, but raises colored pairs to 15-1. House edges are 20.4 percent with two decks, 8.2 with four, 5.8 with five, 4.2 with six and 2.2 with eight.

That's the best-paying version, but like all the others, it's at its best in games with more decks.
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski