Blackjack Side Bets in New England Casinos

According to John Grochowski, side bets in Blackjack are offered for two basic reasons, “….to add a little excitement for players who want more out of the game than trying to grind out a profit one bet at a time, and to increase action to generate more profit for the house.”

What are the side bets offered in New England’s Casinos for Blackjack?  And are they worth playing?

We will list the side bets, explain a little about them, and give John Grochowsk’s take on if it’s worth it.  Keep in mind some side bet paytables differ even with the same game.  My suggestions is to check out the Wizard of Odds for more on side bets variance for blackjack.

Match The Dealer

In New England’s casinos, there are a variety of side bets.  The most popular is Match the Dealer, which can be found at Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods and Twin River in Rhode Island.  

The Match the Dealer side bet pays when either of the player’s first two cards match the dealer’s up card. According to Traditional blackjack, the payouts are as follows:

  • 1 non-suited match pays 4 to 1;
  • 2 non-suited matches pay 8 to 1;
  • One suited match pays 11 to 1;
  • One suited match and one non-suited match pay 15 to 1;
  • 2 suited matches pay 22 to 1.

According to many players, this side bet has a fixed house advantage that is fairly high, several times higher than blackjack. Not a good bet.

Lucky Ladies

Lucky Ladies side bet c an be found at the HOLLYWOOD Casino, Hotel & Raceway in Bangor, ME. LUCKY LADIES™ BONUS BET is a side bet based on the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card. As far as I know, it is the first side bet to be based on the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card. Since it came out, there have been many imitators.  Lucky Ladies is also known as, “The 20 Point Bonus Wager” point count of their first 2 cards equals 20.

PAYOUT SCHEDULE – First two cards: Queen of Hearts Pair (with Dealer Blackjack) = 1,000 to 1; Queen of Hearts Pair = 125 to 1; Matched 20 = 19 to 1, Suited 20 = 9 to 1;  Any 20 = 4 to 1

JG – Lucky Ladies: There’s the possibility of huge wins here, with a 1,000-1 bonanza if the player is dealt two queens of hearts while the dealer has a blackjack, or 125-1 on a pair of heart ladies regardless of the dealer hand. In the version I’ve seen, there’s also a 19-1 payoff on a 20 if both cards are the same rank and suit, 9-1 on a suited 20 on cards of different ranks, such as jack-king, or 4-1 on an unsuited 20.
That’s an attraction, to be sure, but at a 24.71 percent house edge, the cost is high. Average loss per hour is a whopping $14.83 of the $60 at risk. That dwarfs the average blackjack loss for a $10-a-hand basic strategy player, and is even higher than the loss for an average player.
Think about it: That extra $1 per hand more than doubles the average loss for a $10 blackjack bettor who is just an average player.
For those who don’t limit the side bets to a buck, just multiply by your bets. Make the side bets equal to your $10 blackjack bets, and average losses shoot up to about $20 an hour in 21 + 3, $40 in Royal Match, and $148 in Lucky Ladies.

“21+3”

This side bet, found at Oxford Casino, in Oxford,ME., pays based on the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card. If the three cards equal a flush, straight, straight flush, or three of a kind the side bet pays 9 to 1.  It does come in various versions according to the number of decks.

JG – “21 + 3: At mostly full tables, the $1 side bets mean a risk of $60 per hour. The 3.24 percent house edge means a few pennies shy of $2 extra in the house coffers. For basic strategy players, that’s just $1 less than the losses from betting 10 times as much on the main game.
Average players who are losing $12 an hour might find that extra two bucks palatable for the chance at 9-1 payoffs if their two cards plus the dealer’s up card form a flush, straight or three of a kind. It’s a much smaller leap from their regular loss rate of $1.20 per $60 wagered.

“In BETween”

This blackjack side bet has been seen a few places here and there, and in New England, it’s found found at Oxford Casino. According to Mike Shackelford, the “Wizard of Odds” himself, “The goal is for one card to fall between two others in rank. In this case, the primary goal is the dealer’s up card to fall between the player’s initial two cards.”

Progressives

The “Super Four” side bet in Mohegan Sun is the only location to offer it in New England.  Here’s more on the bet:

  • The side bet is $5 and $5 only.
  • The circle will be to the left of the blackjack bet as Match The Dealer will be retained in it’s usual place.
  • Super 4 is a progressive blackjack side bet based on the four cards consisting of the player’s and dealer’s initial two cards.
  • In both, the player wins on a dealer blackjack. The amount of the win depends on the poker value of all four cards.

One gentleman walked away feeling very lucky on July 12th after hitting the Super 4 Diamonds bonus jackpot totaling $347,456.

At Foxwoods, Blackjack Match Progressive is offered. Here’s more on the bet:

  • Blackjack Match is a side bet that wins if the player and/or the dealer have a blackjack.
  • The value of the win is maximized if the blackjacks are suited and match.
  • Unlike most other progressive side bets, this one costs $5 instead of $1 and are on a “for one” basis, meaning the original wager is not returned on a win.
  • On the top two awards, there is an “Envy Bonus,” which means a win for every other player at the table who made the side bet.

 

We visited all 7 New England Casinos this summer.  This is part of what we found.  More comparisons and info will be presented throughout the fall.

That’s all for now.

 

Mohegan Sun – Stadium Table Games

I made a short visit to Mohegan Sun Sunday to play and review stadium gaming, where 30-40 players can play at individual stations at the same time, but with only one dealer per game needed.

Casino Game Evolution

One of the first Electronic Blackjack Multiple Player games. Still can be found at Twin River Casino.

In many ways, casinos seem to be the same as they were 30 years ago – table games, chips, slots, etc.  But it has been a slow, continuous change not easily seen by the gambling eye.  Some changes have been for the better.  Remember when Ticket-In, Ticket-Out (TITO) was considered blasphemy because players supposedly wanted to use coins instead of paper, and wanted to hear the sound of coins dropping into coin bin? Until I looked down and saw my hands covered in filth from quarters, I thought so, too.  Now? – TITO is just fine, thank-you.

Table games continue to evolve.  New games are introduced, variations of old games continue, and additional side bets are invented.  But who knew a hybrid form of table games would become so popular.  Electronic table games began to be seen as soon as video slots became popular with the appearance of blackjack as an option.  Soon, experiments with group roulette blackjack & bubble craps were seen in the casino.  However, the latest evolution of electronic table games seems to be taking casinos and their patrons by storm across the country, and that was what I went to experience.

John Grochowski wrote in an early article of E-TableGaming for CasinoPlayer,  “It’s a matter of evolution, not revolution—they’re not threatening to take over anyone’s table pits, but they provide a way to bring more table-style games to more players, and player acceptance is on the rise.”  The Casino Answer Man’s article can be found here – E-Table Evolution.

The games available at Mohegan Sun are produced by SCIENTIFIC GAMING called Hybrid Fusion.  It features a live dealer and electronic betting interface, with a multi-game feature. This allows for up to four games to be played at once. This particular set-up included two blackjack games, one roulette and one baccarat. Each chair in the Stadium Gaming area of the casino (it takes up quite a bit of real estate) has its own interactive video display. Wagers are placed through the screens as live games are dealt by actual human dealers, nearby.

For another interesting article about stadium gaming, as well as a great podcast, visit Vegas FanBoy for his article,  Stadium Gambling: It’s a Big Footprint, but is it a Big Step Forward?

Five Advantages for Casino & Players:

  1. Stadium Gaming has obvious advantages for the casino. It takes just a few members of the casino staff to serve all those players, dealers for each game and a floor manager. Low cost, high return, just the way casinos like it.
  2. Planned time with friends can easily turn into a solitary evening since finding tables with multiple open seats can be nearly impossible. The “arena” makes strides to provide sufficient space for groups. While it’ll be hard to find an entirely vacant row, even scattered seats still allow for bands of gambling friends to win and lose together. Additionally, pairs can enjoy gambling side by side on different games.
  3. The arena is designed for a more social experience – is that millennials I hear  rustling in the background, eager to gamble with their buddies? And rumor has it that one game expected to be found soon would be enjoyed by groups of 25 to 75 year-lds.  The development in the future might include tournaments, tutorials, and yes – even Bingo.
  4. Every bet can be tracked, leading to player rewards data on table games as accurate as casinos collect on slot players. There’s no need for the pit supervisor to track buy-ins and estimate average bet and table speed to calculate a player rating. The data is collected automatically.
  5. Players control their own pace, and can opt out a hand anytime. For some, it’s a natural bridge between fully electronic table games and live table games. It also bridges the gap for players who prefer the solo experience, such as video poker, slot, and keno players by playing table games by oneself.
  6. Multi-station electronic configurations add potential for games with lower betting minimums. A casino that can’t justify $5 minimums at live tables might be able to swing it if one dealer—whether live or in a video representation—is serving 100 or more wagering terminals.

Mohegan Sun Experience

Mohegan Sun was the first casino destination resort in North America to offer their players the Scientific Games Corporation Stadium Blackjack game on the company’s Fusion Hybrid electronic table system which connects four live-dealt games to Mohegan Sun’s three on-property casinos.

How Blackjack Is Played

The game features shared starting hands for all players, followed by independent decision-making by each player as the hand progresses. For example, the usual procedure of receive a card, see the dealer’s up card, then receive a second card is still true.  However, after that, to stand or hit, surrender, double or split, remains the personal players decision. Then, “community cards” are dealt, one at a time until all players decisions are made. Finally, the dealer plays out his hand as the rules allow.

BlackJack Rules

I was pleasantly surprised by the BJ rules.  All were 3/2 (yeah, not 6/5 or even money!).  Splitting, surrender and doubling rules are typical and match the casino rules.  Three side bets are included. Undesirable rules includes: 1) dealer hits on Soft 17. 2) no double after splitting. Not a bad play, not great, but definitely beats 6/5 for a BJ.

Conclusion

All in all, it was fun.  Not having to put up with pompous “know-it-all” or obnoxious drunks was another positive.  But it does lack the camaraderie found at a traditional blackjack table.  Depends what atmosphere floats your gambling boat.  I found it to be very user friendly. It is easy to switch between games on a wide screen that’s easy to navigate.  If you know how to play the table game, it only takes a quick look to find the buttons needed such as table status, countdown, wagers and results.

Foxwoods is rumored to be the next New England casino to introduce stadium gaming in the Great Cedar Casino where the 360 slot area was.  Most likely, it should be added to the Fox Casino, where one of the best night-clubs on the East Coast resides.

I can’t see this being used for video poker, some other table/carnival games, and standard craps.  Then again, I was against TITO when it first came out, so let the evolution continue!

Binbin

 

Blackjack Basic Strategy for Doubling Down – Plus Resource Links

Blackjack

Blackjack

I remember sitting at a $5 Blackjack table at Arizona Charlie’s in Las Vegas a few years ago.  It was the annual trek to VIMFP (the Vegas Internet Mafia Family Picnic) sponsored by the Vegas Gang at VegasTripping. It was late, my bankroll was dwindling. I had to decide to double a $25 bet, with only $100 left. Basic strategy said yes, I did, and I won.  I went to bed with money in my pocket – it was a good thing!

One of the toughest decisions beginning Blackjack players face is “Doubling Down.” This is simply placing another wager on your hand which is equal to your initial bet, and for this wager you will receive another card. However, like all Blackjack strategies, you should only use this option when perfect strategy calls for it.

BlackjackVariations in Blackjack rules are many, some even distinct to locale – such as surrender in Atlantic City, where I first saw it.  The house rules are displayed on a small sign at the side of the dealer and will let you know when you can double down your hand.

According to 888CasinoBlog, a great blackjack strategy website, “most casinos allow you to double down on any two-card hand (hard or soft), whereas some restrict doubling to specific starting hands, e.g., doubling is allowed only on hard 10 and 11. The best player-friendly doubling rules are when you can double down on any two cards.”

Basic strategy for doubling down is as follows for beginning players at a 6 deck shoe. Taken from Al Moe’s article Six Keys to Winning At Blackjack”

Hard Hands6-deck-black-shoe

  • 9 – double against a dealer 2 through 6 and hit 7 through ace
  • 10 – double against a dealer 2 through 9
  • 11 – double against a dealer 2 through 10

2. Soft Hands

  • 16 and 17 – double against a dealer 2 through 6, otherwise hit
  • 18 – double against a dealer 2 through 6, stand against a 7 or eight, hit against 9, 10 or ace

Other considerations include:

  • # of decks used
  • dealer’s up card
  • hard hands vs. soft hands ( for example – a soft 18 = A, 7; a hard 18 would be 10, 8)
  • doubling on low pairs (4,4 or 5,5) considering a single deck vs. 4-8 deck shoe.
basic_strategy_chart

Basic Strategy Card from BlackjackInstitute.com

As I continued to look at strategy cards & Blackjack websites, I realized that beyond basic strategy of doubling down, I was not the one to give the many viewpoints and advanced strategies needed to know.

So, here are websites for those of you beyond the “6 deck shoe basic strategy” play. Enjoy.

The Ultimate Guide to Blackjack by Henry Tamburin at 888CasinoBlog

The Wizard of Odds

Blackjack Institute

Blackjack: The Forum

I hope this has been helpful, or at least, encourages you to check out other Blackjack resources.

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