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 each of those listings, and a huge number of variations of most of the games.
In card games alone, for example, there are hundreds of different games, each with their own take on a theme. That number increases further when you look at slots; each and every company can put their own ‘skin’ onto a slot game meaning that there are hundreds of thousands that you could play if you really wanted to.
One of the ways in which online casino providers try to stand out is by offering something slightly different in the way of side games. The most popular main game on which to offer side games is poker, mainly because it’s a card game that can operate at quite a slow pace, especially 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 of them sticking in the same 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 leans 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 tempt you to play and take your money when they don’t pay – don’t be fooled at the table.
Side Game Pros
To be honest, the side you take on this argument may well come down to your previous experience playing side games.
If your first encounter saw you lose some money then you might well think that they’re a waste of time, whilst if you were a winner then you may want to repeat 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 your main game. They are designed to fit nicely into the gaps.
Obviously, in order to achieve this, the companies that create them need to make them quick to play which means they’ll be over before you know it. This is good because you get the winning opportunity without committing much time to it.
Side games don’t take a great deal of mental or emotional investment, which is something that will definitely appeal to players whose focus lies elsewhere.
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 the main game that you’re playing, it shouldn’t take over.
Therefore, you don’t want to have to spend 10 minutes figuring out the rules to a side game, because then it is taking up more of your attention than the game you were trying to play in the first place.
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, however, side games have a risk / reward element 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. Even if you are fortunate and all it does is pay for your main game that is a bonus.
Of course, this isn’t guaranteed so you need to have a bankroll that can handle this and be willing to lose the extra money.
When games are fast and snappy with potentially decent rewards 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, not just the winning potential.
Imagine, therefore, being able to play a mini-slot game within a slot game (this does exist). 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 patience and concentration. That’s not always all that useful if you’re waiting for a Live Casino game to start, for example.
You might have a live game of cards starting in five minutes so you don’t have time to mess around with a full scale 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 a perfect solution.
Side Game Cons
We couldn’t claim to be a balanced and unbiased website if we didn’t make it clear that it’s not always roses when it comes to online gaming.
This is probably even more accurate when it comes to side games.
As mentioned before, some people love side games but some people don’t, so let’s have a look at the downsides to better understand both sides of the argument.
They are Sometimes Too Quick
As much as this factor can be seen as a positive, the case could also be made that side games are too quick, and thus poor value for money.
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 get through 5 x one minute games during a 5 minute gap in play of your main game.
Depending on stakes, this has the potential to destroy your bankroll in no time, so you need to be aware.
They are Sometimes Too Easy
This is another positive that can be flipped to be seen as a negative. Some people enjoy more in-depth games because they feel more of a sense of achievement when they win using a carefully thought out strategy. Side games that are over before you know it and are all about chance don’t offer this feeling at all.
If you’re the sort of person that likes to feel as though your skill led you to the win rather than blind luck then you might not be a massive advocate of side games.
They are Distracting
One of the big reasons that people might shy away from side game is that they can become a distraction from the main event. This is a perfectly valid point, given that not everyone is as able to split their concentration effectively.
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 may well throw you all out of whack and put you in the wrong head space.
For this reason, some players choose to ignore side games altogether, and wish they weren’t available in the first place.
They Can Be Poor Value
Your stakes when playing a side game are likely to be significantly lower than your stakes for 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 as a side game and get much worse value for your money than if you played it in the main casino.
Not to mention the fact that you could get through a side game much faster than a main game:
|Stake Per Game||Time Per Game||Total Time Played||Total Spent|
|Main Game||£5||10 mins||30 mins||£15|
|Side Game||£1||1 min||30 mins||£30|
Blackjack Side Bets
Blackjack is one of the most player friendly games in the casino in every way. It’s easy to understand, plays at a good pace, variations are numerous, and many variations having a house edge of less than 0.5%.
This all adds up to a fun, affordable, and potentially profitable evening, however, some blackjack side bets are stacked massively in the casinos favour, often exceeding 10%. We will talk about some of the most frequently offered side bets below.
Taking insurance against the dealer getting a blackjack when an ace is showing is so common that many players think of it as part of the regular game. In actual fact this is a side bet, and it is stacked in favour of the house and should be avoided at all costs.
When the dealer shows an Ace and you take insurance, you bet half of the stake again; 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 (no blackjack), the insurance bet placed is lost and the game will continue as normal.
Sounds great, right? A little extra protection. 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 regardless. The difference between these two figures is a house edge of more than 12%, and this is the case whenever this bet is made.
Mathematically speaking then, for every £100 you stake on insurance, the casino will be £12 better off. Massive odds that are not in your favour so you should steer clear of this type of bet.
This one allows you to bet on the first two card being a pair. If you can correctly guess the colour or suit then the payouts are even bigger. An example of the odds you can get on this bet:
- Any mixed colour pair pays 5:1
- Same colour pair pays 10:1
- Same suit pair pays 30:1
The odds for this side bet favour the house by quite some margin, especially if the game is played with fewer decks of cards (as there are less possible pairs).
The above odds look great when you compare them to the payouts for the original game, but the chances of these pairings occurring is very slim – around 1 in every 60 hands played on average. As you can imagine, this can end up costing more to bet on than you would ever get back unless your pair came in early.
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.
You may well find a number of games titled Bonus Blackjack that work slightly differently.
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 when placing this bet:
- Betting that the first card is a 7 – 3:1
- Betting that you have two 7’s of mixed suits – 50:1
- Betting that you have two 7’s of the same suit – 100:1
- Betting you have three unsuited 7’s – 500:1
- Betting that you have three suited 7’s – 5000:1
Just remember, odds of 5000:1 are high for a reason, it probably ain’t going to happen.
Roulette Side Bets
Although less common, there are a few side bets on certain roulette tables that you can dd to your list of potential bets.
Here are two.
Lucky Ball Roulette is one such game, during which four random numbers are picked as the lucky balls and allocated a colour to make each one individual. These pay out at 60:1, 75:1, 100:1, and 120:1.
Of course, the ball does need to land on one of these numbers for you to receive the increased odds, but for a relatively small bet you could get much higher returns, so if you like single number betting anyway it makes sense to take the extra opportunity.
If a slot and a roulette table had a baby then it might look something like Ra Roulette – apologies for the hideous imagery there.
As well as the regular roulette bets you will also see symbols from the popular slot Book of Ra on the table. At the same time as the wheel is spun a single reel displaying the symbols will also spin. The two are not related so you can win on the table but not on the reel and vice verser.
Technically this is just two bets at the same time, but as you are betting on two different outcomes you have two different sets of odds at play, but the convenience of betting on both from the same interface.