Guide to Playing Blackjack in Mines Games Easy Win Vegas: Match the Dealer Side Bet
My idea of a good time gambling in Las Vegas largely means applying basic strategy and grinding close equity spots at the blackjack tables.
Blackjack’s staying power as a staple of the casino table game scene isn’t an accident. By combining player decision points and partial information to create a highly strategic experience, blackjack levels the playing field between players and the house.
Unlike other casino classics like the slots and roulette, blackjack doesn’t leave a player’s fate up to the whims of fate and random luck. Instead, the game allows sharp thinkers and strategists a rare opportunity to take on the house on (nearly) level ground.
With all that said, however, blackjack in its most basic form can admittedly get a bit boring – especially for basic strategy players. Because every decision is bound by cold logic and ironclad probabilities, experienced players can tend to go on autopilot. As soon as they see their starting hand total relative to the dealer’s up card, the subsequent gameplay process plays out like clockwork.
For this reason, many blackjack regulars enjoy adding an element of chance to the equation by placing side bets. These optional wagers can come in many forms, but their basic purpose is to provide players with a secondary “sweat” on each hand. While you busy yourself with the task of sorting through basic strategy guidelines in the base game, a blackjack side bet offers another dimension more akin to pure gambling.
Based on my personal love of blackjack side bets, I took the time to write up detailed guides on my five favorite offerings. To catch up my previous series installments on a few other blackjack side bets, check out the links below:
- 21 + 3
- Lucky Ladies
- Lucky Lucky
- Perfect Pairs
And to finish things off, this page is devoted to an especially easy to learn blackjack side bet known as “Match the Dealer.”
Introduction to the Match the Dealer Side Bet
Match the Dealer is a side bet which was originally developed in 1999 by casino game designer Masque Publishing.
Veteran casino gamblers probably recognize the Colorado-based Masque Publishing as the company responsible for coining a blackjack variant known as “Spanish 21.” In that game, the traditional 48-card deck of playing cards used in Spain replaces the 52-card deck, with the four 10s removed entirely.
Thus, it’s no surprise to learn that the Match the Dealer side bet is widely available in Las Vegas on both standard blackjack and Spanish 21 tables.
The premise of Match the Dealer side bet action is quite simple to grasp, even for blackjack beginners who have little to no experience playing other side bet options.
After placing a secondary wager, the player hopes to see either one or both of their two starting cards match with the dealer’s up card. When a match is made, the player earns premium payouts ranging from 4 to 1 through 38 to 1 – depending on the following:
- How many cards were matched
- Whether those matches contained cards of the same suit.
Matches will appear on approximately 13 percent of all deals, so landing a winner on your Match the Dealer side bet is a decided longshot. But thanks to a juiced up escalating pay table, all it takes is one win to subsidize a shoe’s worth of speculating.
It’s been 20 years since Match the Dealer hit casino floors in Sin City and beyond, and in that time, the side bet has become extremely popular with players and casino operators alike.
How to Land a Winner on the Match the Dealer Side Bet
One might suspect that a side bet like Match the Dealer doesn’t offer much in the way of options, but in reality, this wager provides multiple ways to win.
Check out the table below to see exactly how your hole cards can match up with the dealer’s up card to produce a sweet payout:
Match the Dealer Side Bet Qualifying Hands
|2 Suited Matches||Two cards of identical rank AND suit|
|1 Suited Match + 1 Unsuited Match||Two cards of identical rank with ONE suited match|
|1 Suited Match||One card of identical rank AND suit|
|2 Unsuited Matches||Two cards of identical rank with NO suited matches|
|1 Unsuited Match||One card of identical rank but no suited match|
As you can see, using two player hole cards and a single dealer up card creates five possible matching scenarios.
In any game using a shoe with four decks or more, repeat cards combine to make two suited matches a distinct possibility. From there, you might match both cards in terms of rank, while only one of them matches the dealer’s up card suit. Or, you could make a single suited match, and finally, two matches based on rank with no suitedness to speak of.
As for the payouts awarded when you score on the Match the Dealer side bet, the pay tables are slightly different based on how many decks the shoe holds. See the table below for a full breakdown of Match the Dealer side bet payouts:
Match the Dealer Side Bet Payouts
|DECKS||1 UNSUITED MATCH||1 SUITED MATCH|
|2||4 to 1||19 to 1|
|4||4 to 1||12 to 1|
|5||3 to 1||15 to 1|
|6||4 to 1||11 to 1|
|8||3 to 1||14 to 1|
|DECKS||2 UNSUITED MATCHES||2 SUITED MATCHES|
|2||8 to 1||N/A|
|4||8 to 1||24 to 1|
|5||6 to 1||30 to 1|
|6||8 to 1||22 to 1|
|8||6 to 1||28 to 1|
|DECKS||1 SUITED MATCH + 1 UNSUITED MATCH|
|2||23 to 1|
|4||16 to 1|
|5||18 to 1|
|6||15 to 1|
|8||17 to 1|
Those numbers can be a mouthful, so given the fact that most Las Vegas casinos utilize either six- or eight-deck shoes on their blackjack tables, I’ll stick with those standard formats going forward.
In terms of six-deck blackjack, the Match the Dealer side bet offers payouts of 4 to 1 on a single unsuited match; 8 to 1 on two unsuited matches; 11 to 1 for a single suited match; 15 to 1 for a single suited match plus an unsuited match; and 22 to 1 for two suited matches.
When you can find an eight-deck game going, the payouts dip slightly to 3 to 1 on a single unsuited match and 6 to 1 on two unsuited matches, but they climb to 14 to 1 for a single suited match, 17 to 1 for a suited match plus an unsuited match, and 28 to 1 for two unsuited matches.
Probabilities and House Edge Rates for the Match the Dealer Side Bet
Sizing up the relative merits of a blackjack side bet like Match the Dealer is all about assessing the probability of success and the player’s expected return. By sorting through those statistical data points, one can calculate the house edge on the overall bet.
Below you’ll find the relevant data for Match the Dealer side bets made when a six-deck shoe is in play:
Match the Dealer Side Bet (Six-Decks) Combos, Probabilities, and Expected Return Rates
|2 Suited Matches||10||0.021 percent||0.004564|
|1 Suited + 1 Unsuited Match||90||0.19 percent||0.028005|
|1 Suited Match||1,440||2.99 percent||0.328597|
|2 Unsuited Matches||153||0.32 percent||0.025392|
|1 Unsuited Match||5,184||10.75 percent||0.430163|
|No Matches||41,328||85.73 prcent||-0.857338|
And the following table highlights probabilities and expected return rates when playing Match the Dealer with an eight-deck shoe:
Match the Dealer Side Bet (Eight-Decks) Combos, Probabilities, and Expected Return Rates
|2 Suited Matches||21||0.024 percent||0.006845|
|1 Suited + 1 Unsuited Match||168||0.19 percent||0.033246|
|1 Suited Match||2,688||3.13 percent||0.438065|
|2 Unsuited Matches||276||0.32 percent||0.019277|
|1 Unsuited Match||9,216||10.73 percent||0.321844|
|No Matches||73,536||85.60 percent||-0.856015|
The numbers track rather closely, but astute observers will notice that an eight-deck shoe actually favors the player when it comes to the house edge.
The lower right-hand corner in each table expresses the overall house edge rate, which stands at 4.06 percent with a six-deck shoe and falls to 3.67 percent when eight decks are in play. The difference here is negligible, however, so you don’t need to worry too much about shopping around for eight-deck shoes.
In both cases, a house edge of either 3.67 percent or 4.06 percent is well within the realm of respectability for chance-based gambling. Don’t take my word for it though, just ask those double-zero roulette enthusiasts who have no problem fading a 5.26 percent house edge on each spin.
Other than that though, the probabilities of making various matching hands mirror one another quite closely across the board.
Overall, when playing the Match the Dealer side bet, you can expect to hit some sort of winner on roughly 15 percent of all deals.
The bulk of those winners will be of the low-level 1 Suited Match variety – with a nearly 11 percent win rate – good for a 4 to 1 payout using six decks and 3 to 1 on your money using eight decks. Next up are the 1 Suited Match winners, which will show up just over 3 percent of the time.
Unfortunately, landing the topline payouts for hitting 2 Suited Matches is a steep longshot, clocking in at well under one-tenth of one percent.
Traps to Watch Out for When Playing the Perfect Pairs Side Bet
The only major pitfall plaguing Match the Dealer side bet fans concerns “short-deck” games which use smaller shoes.
I’ve focused on the six- and eight-deck shoes for good reason, as playing with a four-deck shoe instantly increases the house edge against you to 4.84 percent. That’s nearly a full percentage point higher in terms of negative expected return, so blackjack players who enjoy splashing around on the Match the Dealer side bet should consider ditching the play whenever a four-deck shoe is in play.
Match the Dealer is one of the original blackjack side bets to hit the market, and it’s withstood the test of time for several reasons. By offering a fairly generous win rate of 15 percent, and a snug average house edge rate of 3.87 percent, Match the Dealer doesn’t go out of its way to punish players. The next time you’re in Las Vegas and want to spice your blackjack session up, put a chip or two down on Match the Dealer and see if you can pair up on the dealer’s up card for a profit.