European Blackjack is usually played using 6 decks. The players can double after a split, while they can only double on hard totals of 9, 10, and 11. The dealer has no peek, meaning you lose your entire bet when the dealer holds a blackjack, even after you split cards or double your wager. On the other hand, the dealer stands on soft 17, which is to your advantage. Add all these rules together and you receive a 0.62% house edge. That ranks European Blackjack near the top of the twenty-one variants, despite the restrictions on doubling. You can find this game in live casinos in Macao, but usually with an early surrender option. European Blackjack was an option at most land-based casinos on the continent, except in the United Kingdom. After 2007, certain live casinos offered a version of these rules.
The game’s rules on the soft 17 are important, because those rules give a player one of the biggest single advantages of all the potential rules one could face. Most gamblers would jump at the chance to play a game with a 99.38% payout percentage, so European Blackjack is preferable to most games you’ll find in a Microgaming (or other) casino. Keep in mind that you’ll need to study basic strategy and play optimal blackjack to be able to gain this payout percentage. Most gamblers can’t play well enough to receive odds anywhere near the optimal possibilities, so the trade-off is the requirement you study, memorize, and master the basic strategy charts. The same deduction isn’t required with the other half of the perfect pairs European Blackjack game. All you need is luck.
The perfect pairs side bet gives players special payouts under three different, yet similar, scenarios. Each payout involves receiving a pair on the deal.
The more specific your hand, the more you’re paid. If you receive any unmatched pair, you’ll win a 7:1 payout when you make the side bet. So if you receive a two 7’s, with one being a black 7 (spade, club) and the other being a red 7 (diamond, heart), then you get paid 5x the original wager.
When you make the additional wager and receive a pair of the same color, but mixed suits, you’ll be paid a 15:1 payout. So if you receive a 7 of hearts with a 7 of diamonds, you receive a payout of 10x the original bet. If you receive a 6 of clubs with a 6 of spades, you also receive a 15:1 payout. Finally, if the dealer deals you two identical cards, you win a 30:1 payout. The cards have to be the same hand rank and the same suit. This is rare, but it’s a big payout for a game of blackjack, which is more of a grinder’s game.
That’s the allure of a side bet: a player gets the chance to hit a bigger payout. Just remember that side bets almost always offer worse house odds than the main bet. As long as you understand that going in and accept the greater risk, enjoy the thrill of beating the odds. The house edge on perfect pairs sits around 3.37% (for these particular payouts), meaning the average player should be paid out about $96.63 of every $100 wagered.
Compare this against the European blackjack hand to understand what you’re up against. Or, if you prefer to look at it from another perspective, remember that you’ll probably be playing with a 6-deck blackjack shoe. If so, then any given card is going to have 5 twin cards in the deck which would match the 30:1 payout option, out of a potential deck 311 cards large (six 52 card decks less one card). This means you have about a 1.6% chance of getting the 30:1 matching a card any given hand.
Combining European Blackjack with a perfect pairs side bet might sound like stitching together ill-fitting parts, but there’s a method to the madness. Let’s say you wager $5 on the main bet, with a house edge of 0.62%. Then let’s say you wager $5 extra on the perfect pairs side bet, with a house edge of 3.37%. Since the amount wagered on both bets is the same, you can combine the two set of odds and take the average of them, which averages out to a house edge of nearly exactly 2%. For every $100 you wager, expect to be paid about 98% in total winnings. You lose about 1.5% off the payout percentage for the small chance you hit a 30x payout. If you find that acceptable, there are worse bets in the casino.
Microgaming casinos offer perfect pairs combined with European Blackjack. In fact, players can play both a Gold Series version or the multiplayer version, or both at once. Gold Series is a Microgaming feature in which popular games are offered with enhanced graphics and sounds. The multiplayer games simulate the land-based casino tables, which sit seven players at full capacity.