A few weeks ago, I discussed a new game that was about to be released called House Money. Just before the article went to print, I found out that due to a technical snafu, the game did NOT go live in the casino I mentioned in that article. But, in the ensuing weeks, it has gone live in four casinos (Cannery in LV, Drift on Inn and Great American Casino in Washington and Pala Casino in California) for a total of eight tables.
As a quick refresher, House Money is a sidebet for blackjack. On the surface it seems very simplistic. You make the optional sidebet wager before the hand is dealt. If you are dealt a 2-Card Straight Flush, a Straight or a Pair, you win. What makes House Money stand out is what happens next. You can either just take you winnings and play your blackjack game as normal OR you can take all those winnings and add them to your base blackjack wager. It then becomes a part of your wager just as if you made it before the hand was dealt. If you double, you must match the entire wager (unless the casino allows doubling for less). If you split the hand, you must match the entire wager and be prepared for additional splits and/or doubling.
Some decisions are rather easy. If you're dealt a suited K-A (or even an off-suit K-A), there is not much to think about. You take your winnings and cap your base bet. If the Dealer has blackjack, no big deal, it all pushes and it is as if you took your winnings in the first place. If the Dealer DOESN'T have blackjack, then you'll win 3 to 2 for the ENTIRE wager!
Other decisions will be almost as easy. If you're dealt a Pair of 10's or Face Cards, you'll always cap your base blackjack bet. The Dealer will check for blackjack first, so you don't have to worry about losing your sidebet winnings that way. Sometimes, the decision NOT to cap your wager will be rather easy too. If you're dealt a 6-7 looking into a 10, you'll gladly take your winnings and know that whatever happens in the base game, the hand can't be an overall loser.
There are two strategy problems that you are going to come across. The first are the hands in which the strategy is less obvious. For example, it may be no surprise that we cap the wager with a 9-10 against a 2 through 8. But, we also do it against a 9 through Ace. Yes, you're going to lose some of the hands against a 10 with a 19 but the odds are still in your favor. It may also be difficult for you to cap your base blackjack wager when you have a 4-5 against an 8. Yes, you are likely to draw a 10, but there will be times you draw a 6 and are stuck with a 15 against that 8. You'll have to have the courage to risk busting the hand even with a wager that might be 3-10 times larger than your normal wager!
The second strategy issue is going to be the double down and even more so, the potential split hands. If you are dealt a 5-6, you must be ready to cap your base wager and then double the entire amount in order to maximize the payback of the sidebet. So, if you are a $5 player and you put $5 on the sidebet and are dealt a suited 5-6, you'll win $20 on the sidebet and have $25 to add to your base wager. You're now a $30 blackjack Player and you have to be ready to put down another $30 in these cases.
In similar fashion, if you are dealt a Pair of 8's, you cap your base wager against a 2 through 7, which is probably no surprise. With the Pair of 8's, you'll win $15 on the sidebet and have $20 to add to the base wager, making you a $25 Player. Now, you have to split those 8's and be ready for the possibility of being dealt a 2, 3 or 8 leaving you with $25 double downs or splits. You can quickly have $100 on the table.
But, as the guy who did the math for Shuffle Master for this game, I can tell you that if you want to have a shot at earning the 98.3% payback from the sidebet, you're going to have not only cap your bet at the right times, but once you do, you must play blackjack using standard strategy. One of the incredible features of House Money is that while it has its own strategy, it does not change basic Blackjack Strategy one bit!
If you are interested in learning the complete strategy for House Money, I have created a simple 8 1/2" x 11" tipsheet that shows you when to cap your wager and when to take the money. It is valid for all shoe sizes. Eventually, I hope to shrink it down to a pocket-sized strategy card that you can bring with you to the casino, but for now, this will have to do. If you are interested in ordering it, please send a check or money order to Gambatria, P.O. Box 36474, Las Vegas, NV 89134.