Blackjack Variations: The Perfect Pairs Side Bet
Blackjack has attracted many side-bets over the years. The one which has stood the test of time and become the name of a variation in its own right is ‘Perfect Pairs’. This can be added to most variants of the game – though is most commonly added to the standard US Blackjack rules. The attraction of this bet is that you can end up with a big windfall, which adds an edge of excitement to the game. You’ll pay a higher house edge to enjoy this, so it is a matter of balancing the added entertainment with the long term cost.
This article explains how Perfect Pairs works, including the different payouts for combinations of pairs and suits. After that I have put this game into the context of a hand, so you’ll be ready to hit the tables, either live or online, and bet on those pairs right away.
How Perfect Pairs Works
The key thing about this bet is that it is completely separate from the hand against the dealer. It does not matter what the dealer shows (even Blackjack), the Perfect Pairs bet is settled based on your own cards only.
To start the game you place a bet on a separate betting square on the felt. The minimum bet allowed is usually the same as the minimum for the main game ($5 to $10 for live casinos, as little as $1 online). Some casinos might allow different denominations or have maximum bet sizes specified.
You receive your cards as normal, and will be paid out on this bet if you hit a pair. This is already a healthy 5:1 on your bet, and goes up even further for color-matched and suited pairs. If your pair is the same color (black or red) then you’ll be paid out at 10:1, if your pair is the same suit, then you’ll be paid a huge 30:1 on your bet. Multiple deck games are obviously a pre-requisite for suited pairs to happen.
Putting Perfect Pairs into Context
Here is the order of events in a standard US Blackjack game which includes this side-bet.
First the decks are shuffled, put into the shoe and the players place their bets. You’ll need to place a separate bet on a designated square to participate in Perfect Pairs. You will not be able to play this game without also participating in the main player-v-dealer part of the game.
Next each player gets two cards, one at a time from the dealer’s left. The dealer has one visible card and another face-down. This is where the perfect pairs bet is resolved. Players are paid out based on whether their pair is mixed, color-matched or suited.
The dealer will now check for Blackjack if her up card is a picture or an ace. If this hand is not Blackjack the players will have the opportunity to make the standard decisions of whether to hit, stand, double or (where offered) surrender. Pairs created after any split do not have any bearing on the Perfect Pairs side bet.
Is Perfect Pairs a Good Bet?
As far as the house edge is concerned, this is not a great bet – though not as bad as many other side-bets offered across different casino games. The edge here is around 6% in favor of the house, which is not far from the US roulette house edge.
Balancing this edge with the extra excitement of a windfall (particularly the 30:1 wins) is a matter of personal taste. If this bet adds genuine entertainment value to your game – then do not let any math put you off of enjoying it. To put this bet into context, it is a lot better (in terms of house edge) than the frequently taken Insurance against Dealer Blackjack.