Perfect Pairs Blackjack
Perfect Pairs blackjack plays almost exactly like a regular game of 21. The big difference is the "perfect pairs" side bet, which offers the opportunity to win a large jackpot. As with most side bets with large payouts, the house edge is higher than you're probably prepared for.
The purpose of this page is to explain how to play Perfect Pairs blackjack, what the house edge is for both the main game and for the optional side bet, and the correct basic strategy to follow while playing.
How to Play
The rules for playing Perfect Pairs are the same as a standard game. You get two cards. The dealer gets two cards. You get to hit, stand, double down, etc. You bust if you go over 21, and the dealer does too.
The only difference is the side bet. This bet is won or lost separately from your main bet.
You win the main bet by either getting closer to 21 than the dealer or still being in the hand when the dealer busts.
You win the perfect pairs bet by getting a pair. That sounds easy enough, but the payout is based on how good your pair is.
Here's a typical payout table:
- Different colors and different suits: 5 to 1
- Same color but different suits: 10 to 1
- Same color and same suit (the eponymous perfect pair): 30 to 1
Of course, different casinos will have different payouts. You might only see 25 to 1 in some casinos for a perfect pair, but another, more generous property might offer a 35 to 1 payout. The amounts can vary for the other combinations, too. You might see 6 to 1 or 12 to 1 payouts instead of 5 to 1 and 10 to 1.
Casinos are experts at manipulating the payouts for some hands in order to adjust the house edge accordingly. They'll compare how many people play at one set of payouts with how much they're projected to earn, and they optimize accordingly. They want the most action with the highest edge. Adjusting the payouts for the side bets is one way they can accomplish this.
The House Edge
The house edge for the perfect pairs side bet hovers between 2% or and 11%.
You'll only see a perfect pair come up once in about every 60 hands on average. Depending on what kind of luck you're having, you might see it come up a little more often or a lot less often, but the frequency should hover right around those numbers.
The house edge for blackjack is hard to calculate, as it's based on a large number of situations.
But calculating the house edge for this individual side bet isn't hard at all.
You start by calculating the odds of getting each hand and comparing that with the payout for each hand.
We'll assume that you're playing in a game with 8 decks for purposes of this example.
For the top payout of 30 to 1, you have to calculate the odds of being dealt a 2nd card that's the same rank and suit as your first card. With 8 decks in play, you have 416 cards total, but one of those has already been dealt. That leaves 415 cards, but only 7 of them will make your hand. So the probability of getting a "perfect pair" is 7/415, or about 1 in 59.
- That's a 1.69% chance of winning 30 units.
For same color but different suits, we use a similar calculation. You have 415 cards, and 8 cards which will make your hand. The probability of making this hand is 8/415, or about 1 in 51.
- That's a 1.93% chance of winning 10 units.
For the lowest paying hand, which is a pair of different colors and different suits, we use another similar calculation. You still have 415 cards, but you still only have 16 cards which will make your hand. (Some of these cards will make a higher paying hand, so they don't factor into the calculation.) The probability of making this hand is the same as before, 16/415, or about 1 in 26.
- That's a 3.86% chance of winning 5 units.
The expected value of each of those payouts can be calculated by multiplying the percentage chance of hitting the hand by the payout, as follows:
- 1.69% X 30 = 0.507
- 1.93% X 10 = 0.193
- 3.86% X 5 = 0.193
When you add those 3 possibilities together, you get the payback percentage for the bet.
- 0.507 + 0.193 + 0.193 = 89.3%.
- Subtract that from 100%, and your house edge is 10.7%.
A casino which offers a higher payout on these hands would offer a lower house edge. And changing the number of decks would also affect the payout percentage, for obvious reasons.
Here's an example of how changing the payout on a hand would change the house edge:
Suppose you got 35 to 1 instead of 30 to 1. That would change the expected value on that payout from 0.507 to 0.5915. That's a huge difference of about 9%, which would decrease the house edge to 1.7%, making this a much more reasonable bet.
Here's an example of how changing the number of decks in play would change the house edge:
Suppose you have 6 decks in play instead of 8. Instead of a 7/415 chance of hitting your hand, you now have a 5/306 chance of hitting your hand. That's a 1.63% chance of hitting the top paying hand, instead of 1.69%. So the house edge on this side bet would actually go up with fewer decks in play.
A Simple Strategy for the Perfect Pairs Bet
Be advised that this strategy does nothing to eliminate or reduce the house edge. It's just a fun way to take advantage of the perfect pairs side bet without losing too much money and still having a chance to hit one of those big payouts.
The idea is to set aside a separate bankroll of betting units equal to the payout for a perfect pair.
If you're playing in a casino that offers a 25 to 1 payout for a perfect pair, and you're playing for $5 per hand, set aside $125 for the perfect pair bet. (That's $5 times 25.)
Use that $125 to bet $5 each hand on the perfect pair side bet until you run out of bankroll or until you hit a perfect pair and get your 25 to 1 payout.
There's a reasonable chance you'll hit a perfect pair at some point between 1 and 60 hands. If you hit it during the first 25 hands, you'll have generated a profit, possibly a large one. If you don't hit a perfect pair, you've only lost $125.
Play your regular blackjack hand as normal, as if you didn't have any money put on the perfect pair bet. You'll use standard basic strategy to play your normal blackjack hand. Depending on the other rules variations, you'll be facing a house edge of around 1%, maybe less.
Perfect Pairs Blackjack is a fun little variant with an interesting side bet with a relatively high house edge. But the house edge on this bet isn't much higher than the house edge on games with comparable high payout bets like roulette—in fact, in some cases you might even be able to face a slightly lower house edge than in roulette. It all depends on how much the payouts are for the various hands.
A simple money management technique that enables you take a shot at this big payout without risking a huge amount of money involves setting aside a separate bankroll specifically for that side bet. By making that amount the equivalent of the payout for the perfect pairs bet, you give yourself a reasonable chance at hitting this min-jackpot before you run out of money. The sooner you get lucky, the more you'll profit.
But as with any negative expectation bet, you're going to see more losses than wins in the long run. Money management techniques can't chance the odds of a game, and Perfect Pairs blackjack is no exception to this rule of thumb.