How To Beat 21+3 Blackjack Side Bet – Rules, Tips, Payouts & More


21+3 was first introduced in Las Vegas in 2001 and has grown to become one of the world’s most popular side bets in the past 20 years.

If you’ve ever wondered how to play or what to
look for in a good 21+3 game, we’ve got you covered.

What Is The 21+3 Side Bet?

The dealer will deal you your first two cards
and then turn over their upcard.

If your first two cards and the dealer’s top
card make a straight, a flush, or a three of a kind, you’ve won!

One of the reasons for its popularity is that it’s so easy to play.

The bet is placed in a small circle off to the side of the main wager, which is why it’s called a side bet.

Either online or in a land-based casino, you should be able to find the bet for as low as $1, although in some places like Las Vegas, you may only see it for $5 and up.

21+3 Payouts

In the original game – now owned by Galaxy
Gaming and found on land-based blackjack tables worldwide – a straight, flush,
or three of a kind was paid a simple 9 to 1.

But as online casinos flourished and other companies saw the potential, the pay tables evolved.

Some games now pay a progressive jackpot on things like three aces suited, or perhaps 270 to 1 for a three of a kind suited.

The critical thing to remember is that they
all play basically the same. Your first two cards and the dealer’s top card
need to combine to make a winning hand.

Several of the online providers offer different payouts depending on the hand dealt.

The most common of these is this payout table from IGT, which has a 4.14 percent house edge with a six-deck shoe.

Suited Three of a Kind 100 to 1
Straight Flush 35 to 1
Three of a Kind 33 to 1
Straight 10 to 1
Flush 5 to 1

Or the very similar payout from Evolution Gaming which has a 3.62 percent house edge with a six-deck shoe.

Suited Three of a Kind 100 to 1
Straight Flush 40 to 1
Three of a Kind 30 to 1
Straight 10 to 1
Flush 5 to 1

The very popular top three side bet often
accompanies the 21+3 side bet since they are both owned by Galaxy and marketed
together to casinos.

It requires that you bet both the 21+3
bet and the top three bet. Then if your two cards and the dealer’s up card are
a three of a kind, you’re paid 90 to 1.

A straight flush gets you a 180 to 1, and
three of a kind suited gets you 270 to 1. You also get your 9 to 1 payout on
your regular 21+3 bet.

The house advantage on just the top three
bet is approximately 9 percent.

The More Decks, The Merrier

The number of decks in play can influence the house
advantage by a few tenths of a point on your blackjack hand.

But the house advantage on your 21+3 bet can
change by several whole percentage points depending on the number of decks in

The original 21+3 offered up by Shufflemaster
at casinos across Europe, America and Asia is a prime example.

Here’s the paytable from 1-8 decks:

8 decks 2.74 percent
6 decks 3.24 percent
4 decks 4.24 percent
2 decks 7.26 percent
1 deck 13.3 percent

The casino’s advantage is more than twice as
much if you play the 21+3 side bet on the double-deck game vs. an eight-deck

Even on the IGT and Evolution payout tables
discussed above, the difference between a six-deck shoe and an eight-deck shoe
is almost a whole percentage point.

So this game is best played with every
payout paying 9 to 1 and on an eight-deck shoe.

Failing that, look for as many decks as
possible, with one of these pay tables preferably.

Can 21+3 Be Beaten?

While a lower house edge is always a better
bet, can the game be beaten?

Eliot Jacobson, a table games hacker of sorts,
showed that a simple count of suits was enough to beat the game, albeit with a
very low expected return and a high degree of difficulty.

But as many casinos went to progressive pay tables with three ace of spades or something similar, many individuals and teams realized they could look for progressive payouts that were large enough to give the player the advantage.

In these very limited cases, the mathematical
pendulum had swung to favor the player as the size of the jackpot grew to
offset the slight house advantage.

So it never hurts to keep an eye out for large
progressive meters when scouting for a 21+3 table.

Conversely, small jackpots on these
progressive games may mean that you are playing at a much worse house advantage
than you would be just playing on a conventional game, so beware.

21+3 Is Here To Stay

21+3 is a simple, fun side bet, which, if
you’re careful, doesn’t have to have a huge house advantage.

It can add a lot of excitement for just a $1 or $5 bet, and it gets the whole table pulling together in a way that blackjack doesn’t always.

That’s the reason it’s been around for two
decades and will probably be around for at least two more.

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