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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Perfect Pairs Gives Blackjack a New Twist

4 November 2009

The last time I counted, there were 35 different variations of blackjack side bets that have been created by entrepreneurs and gaming companies through the years.

Many of them enjoyed brief flings in casinos before disappearing, others are popular in select jurisdictions but never gained widespread appeal.

Some, however, have stood the test of time, including Lucky Ladies, 21 + 3, Royal Match, and another option called Perfect Pairs.

Every one of them is unique in its own way, but they all have one thing in common, and that is to provide a means for casino operators to extract extra revenue from blackjack tables.

Perfect Pairs was recently introduced at Empress Joliet in Illinois, which along with its Penn National Gaming owned sister property, Hollywood Casino Aurora, are the only casinos in the Chicago area to offer the bet.

The simplicity of the wager makes it an attractive proposition even for beginners. You win if the first two cards that you are dealt are a pair.

The highest ranking hand is a "perfect pair" consisting of identical cards of the same suit. Next is a "colored pair" of identical cards being either black-suited or red-suited. The lowest winning hand is a "mixed pair" comprised of one red suited card and one black suited card.

The game is available in three pay tables. Empress has opted for the one that pays 25 to 1 for a perfect pair, 12 to 1 for a colored pair, and 6 to 1 for a mixed pair.

All of the blackjack tables at Empress utilize six-deck shoes, which creates a house edge on the Perfect Pairs side bet of 6.11 percent according to an analysis of the game performed by Mike "The Wizard of Odds" Shackleford.

That alone makes it a proposition that's far too expensive if you make a wager on every hand. Blackjack is one game that, if played correctly, can keep the house advantage hovering at around one percent.

The skill factor associated with the game is something that casino operators take into account very seriously, which is why they're always trying to counterbalance the play of experts with ways to make the tables more profitable.

Empress is offering the Perfect Pairs option on four tables that vary in minimum base game wagers from $10 to $50. The side bet, however, can be made with a minimum amount of $1 up to a maximum of $10.

In order to make a Perfect Pairs wager the player must have made a regular blackjack bet on the hand.

After the first two cards are dealt to each player, the dealer takes all losing bets and makes payouts to all winning Perfect Pairs wagers. The game then resumes as normal.

Perfect Pairs is a twist that can add a new element of intrigue to blackjack, even for experienced players, but unless you keep your wagers to a minimum and make then only once in a while, it can be a destructive force on your bankroll.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp