Many casino games offer side bets which can be played alongside the main game, but are they worth playing or will they simply drain your bankroll at a faster rate?
Whilst the house edge of a game such as blackjack is often widely known, side bets are often overlooked and as a consequence offer an opportunity for the casino to sneak in wagers which are so far in the casinos favour that they’ll make your eyes water.
In this article we take a look at some of the more common bets offered alongside popular games, starting with the players favourite, blackjack.
Are Side Games Worth Playing?
Typically speaking you can separate all casino games into one of four different categories; namely table games, card games, dice games, or slots. Obviously there are any number of derivatives within those listings, with a huge number of variation involved in each category. In card games alone, for example, there are hundreds of different games, each with their own take on a theme. That increases even more when you look at slots, given that each and every company can put their own skin onto a slot game to mean that there are hundreds of thousands of different slot games you could play if you really wanted to.
One of the ways that online casino providers try to offer something slightly different from their competitors is by adding side games onto their main games. The most popular main game to offer side games is poker, mainly because that’s a card game that can operate at quite a slow pace if you’re in a matchup with people who like to consider their every move. There can also be a bit of a wait between tournaments, so keeping punters occupied with side games increases the chance for companies of them sticking in their casino rather than heading to someone else’s. The big question, though, is whether or not they’re worth playing.
Like any casino games, the house edge is heavily in the favour of the casino, this is where they make their money, so unless you’re confident in your gameplay, you should avoid side bets as much as possible. The big odds on some of the side bets are there to temp you to play, and take your money when they don’t pay – don’t be fooled at the table.
Side Games Pros
To be honest, which side you come down on this argument might well depend on any previous experience that you’ve had playing side games. If your first encounter of them saw you lose some money then you might well think that they’re a waste of money and not for you, whilst if you were a winner then you’ll be forever chasing that buzz of seeing money enter your account for doing very little. Here’s a look at some of the positives to playing side games.
One of the crucial aspects of side games is that you can play them during the downtime of the main game that you’re playing. Obviously in order to do that the companies that create them need to make them quick to play, which means they’ll be over before you know it. Side games don’t take a great deal of mental or emotional investment, which is something that will definitely appeal to some players!
As well as being quick to play, side games are also nice and easy to understand. Again, the whole point of a side game is that it’s a quick distraction from whatever the main game is that you’re playing. There’s no point in getting involved in a game where you need to sit there for ten minutes figuring out the rules. If you like your games nice and simple then you’ll appreciate the simplicity of side games when it comes to how they work.
The Rewards Can Be High
Just because they’re quick and easy, that doesn’t necessarily mean that side games aren’t worth your time. As with most casino games, side games have a risk / reward strategy to them. There’s a real chance that you could win some decent money by playing a side game, which is what makes it appealing in the first place. At the very least you’ll probably be able to pay for your main game if you’re fortunate and grab a win.
When games are fast and fun with a potentially decent reward then the chances are high that they’ll also be fun. There’s a reason that slot machines are so popular and the fun nature of them is a big part of that. Imagine, therefore, being able to play a mini-slot game within a slot game. That’s fun doubled, isn’t it?
They Fill Time
This is definitely a positive. Online casinos are full of countless options to keep you entertained, but the majority of them take a bit of an investment in terms of time and concentration. That’s not always all that useful if you’re waiting for a Live Casino game to start, say. After all, you might have a live game of cards starting in five minutes so you don’t have time to mess around with a full-blown slot game or the like. Equally you might want something to fill your time between the roulette ball landing and the next game getting underway, so a side game is the perfect solution.
Side Game Cons
There’s no point claiming to be a balanced and unbiased website if you can’t also admit that it’s not always roses when it comes to online gaming. As mentioned before, some people love side games but some people don’t so it’s only fair that the opponents get to have their say too.
They are Sometimes Too Quick
As much as this factor can be seen as relentlessly positive, there’s also something about games being quick that some people don’t like. The fact that they can be over in a flash might mean that you end up spending more money on them than the main games, for example, given that you could play one five times if it takes about a minute per go and you’ve got five minutes to fill!
They are Sometimes Too Easy
Again, this is mostly a positive factor but for some people it might be a negative. One of the reasons that some people enjoy a game with in-depth gameplay is the reward that comes with winning; something not afforded to side games that are over before they even began. If you’re the sort of person that likes to feel as though your skill led you to winning more than sheer random luck then you might not be a massive lover of something like blackjack.
They are Distracting
One of the main reasons why people might not want to play a side game is that it will distract them from the main event. This is perfectly fair, given that not everyone is as able to concentrate on what they’re doing as everyone else. Say you’re playing an online poker tournament and have ten minutes in between rounds, do you really want to spend that time playing video poker or a slot? It might well throw you all out of whack!
They Can Be Poor Value
When you’re playing a side game the chances are that the stakes will be significantly lower than in main games, but this is counter-balanced by the fact that the casino’s edge is usually much higher. That can result in poorer payouts when compared to main games or even the main versions of a side game. That is to say, you could play blackjack in a side game and get much worse value for your money than if you played it in the main casino.
Blackjack Side Bets
Blackjack has one of the most player friendly games in the casino, with many variations having a house edge of less than 0.5%. However some blackjack side bets are stacked massively in the casinos favour, often exceeding 10%.
Taking insurance against a dealer getting a blackjack when an ace is showing is so common that many players think of it as part of the regular game rather than as a side bet, but it is stacked in favour of the house and should be avoided at all costs.
When you take insurance you bet half of their stake when the dealer shows an Ace, if their second card deals them a blackjack you’ll get paid out at 2/1, effectively returning your original stake (hence ‘insurance’). If their second card isn’t a 10 or a face card, the insurance bet placed is lost and the game will continue as normal.
Sounds great, right? Not when you look at the odds.
With an ace showing the chance of the dealer getting a blackjack is somewhere around 9/4 – the actual odds will vary based on the number of decks you’re using and what cards have already been dealt – but the payout is 2/1.
The difference between these two figures is the house edge of more than 12%, and this is the case whenever this bet is made. Technically speaking, every £100 you stake on insurance, will result in the casino receiving £12. Massive odds that are not in your favour and you should certainly steer clear of this type of bet.
This bet allows you to bet on the first two card being a pair. If you can correctly guess the colour or suit, the payouts are even bigger. An example of what odds you can get on this bet is:
- Any mixed colour pair pays 5:1
- Same suit pair pays 30:1
- Same colour pair pays 10:1
The odds for this side bet favour the house and every bet you make of this type will give the house 7.3%. The above odds are great when you compare them to the original game of 0.36 to 0.49%, but the outcome of these actually happening is very slim.
This bet will payout extra cash for Blackjack hands when the side bet is taken. Payouts for this bet can start at 15:1 and rise drastically for Blackjacks in spades or for Blackjacks that are formed as the ace and king of spades.
This bet is based purely on the number of 7’s you have in your hand. Online casinos have their own variations and payouts, but here is a typical example of what you can expect whilst placing this bet:
- Betting that the first card is a 7 is 3:1
- Betting that you have two 7’s of mixed suits is 50:1
- Betting that you have two 7’s of the same suit is 100:1
- Betting you have three unsuited 7’s is 500:1
- Betting that you have three suited 7’s is 5000:1