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New side bets, games on horizon for state's casinos

| Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, 8:53 p.m.

Pennsylvania gamblers soon could have almost a dozen new games and side bets to play.

State gaming regulators have approved new side bets for blackjack, craps and baccarat, as well as the addition of Double Attack Blackjack, a variation of gambling's most popular table game, plus six types of poker games.

Players and casinos can't try their hands at the games yet. A proposal describing the rules of each side bet and game is under state review. When they are approved, each casino will decide which, if any, it wants to add. The offerings probably will be available early next year.

The “House Money” side bet for blackjack and all forms of baccarat — mini, midi and traditional — is likely to garner attention. It debuted this fall in a handful of casinos across the country.

What sets House Money apart from other side bets is that it gives players the option of adding their winnings from the side bet to their bet on the regular game.

Say a player with a $10 blackjack bet and a $2 House Money side bet is dealt a suited Ace-King. That combination pays 9-to-1 on the side bet and, like the existing Lucky Ladies or In Between side bets, is paid off before players act on their blackjack hands.

With House Money, the player with the Ace-King has the option of adding the $18 in winnings to his blackjack bet. In this case, his original $10 bet grows to $28, and the blackjack payoff gives him a $42 win.

Only four types of blackjack hands win the side bet: a two-card straight (for example, 6 of hearts and 7 of spades), which pays even money; a pair, which pays 3-to-1; a two-card straight flush (8 and 9 of clubs), which pays 4-to-1; and a suited Ace-King, which pays 9-to-1.

In the three versions of baccarat, the House Money bet pays 3-to-1 if either the player hand or banker hand has a pair and 15-to-1 if both hands are dealt pairs.

House Money is a product of SHFL Entertainment, formerly Shuffle Master Inc.

Another blackjack side bet on the horizon is Straight Jack, which offers a progressive jackpot starting at $5,000. The progressive, which can reach five or six figures, pays off for a six-card straight, Ace through six, with the Ace of Spades. SHFL also markets Straight Jack.

In Double Attack Blackjack — not to be confused with the book “Blackjack Attack” by renowned mathematician Don Schlesinger — players may raise their bet after seeing the dealer's up card and may surrender even after taking additional cards. The trade-off is that player blackjacks are paid even money, and one-fourth of the 10-value cards are removed from the eight-deck shoe.

For dice players, Bonus Craps is another long-shot bet that offers a big payout if a roll produces a variety of numbers before a seven is thrown. The bet must be made before a come-out roll. “All small” bettors win 34-to-1 if the numbers two through six appear before a seven; likewise, “all tall” bettors win 34-to-1 if eight through 12 appear before a seven; and “all or nothing” bettors win 175-to-1 if two through six and eight through 12 appear before a seven.

Poker rooms will be given the option of adding these games: Five-Card Omaha, Triple Draw 2-7, Triple Draw A-5, Badugi, Triple Draw Badacey and Triple Draw Badeucey.

In Five-Card Omaha, players receive five down cards instead of four. They must use two of their cards plus three of the five community cards to make the best poker hand. Casinos will be able to offer the game as Omaha High or High-Low Split.

In Triple Draw 2-7 and A-5, each player is dealt five cards. The game has four betting rounds and three opportunities to draw replacements. The lowest hand wins — 7-5-4-3-2 is the best in the 2-7 version, and Ace-2-3-4-5 is best in the A-5 version.

Badugi also is a triple-draw game, but each hand has only four cards. The goal is a hand with multiple suits and low cards. The best hand is Ace-2-3-4 with a card of each suit.

Badeucy is a split-pot version of Triple Draw A-5, and Badeucy is a split-pot version of Triple Draw 2-7. The best badugi hand and the best low hand each get half the pot.

The proposed regulation returns the option of an increased payout for a mini-royal, or suited Queen-King-Ace, in Three Card Poker. Gaming regulations allowed the mini-royal bonus when table games started in 2010 but it was inadvertently omitted when the temporary regulations were made permanent, a state spokesman says.

Mark Gruetze is administrative editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7838 or

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