Blackjack Bob isn’t one for side bets. That doesn’t mean he isn’t interested, and over a late February lunch, he brought up one he’d spotted online.
“The logo said ‘Blazing 777 Blackjack,’ but the dealer kept saying ‘Blazing 7s,’ Bob said. “It take it that’s related to the slot machine.”
It is. Blazing 777 Blackjack was developed by Bally Technologies, which was merged into Scientific Games, which since has become Light & Wonder. Bally Gaming introduced the Blazing 7s progressive slot machine in the 1970s, and the “Blazing” brand has been a big asset to the company and its successors ever since.
“Aha. So it’s been around a while,” Bob said. “I don’t recall seeing it live, but I spent some time in New Jersey over the holidays and played online.
“It seemed simple enough. You want to see 7s in your first two cards and the dealer’s up card. I wasn’t about to play it. Regular blackjack is my game, and I’m not playing anything without knowing the numbers. I figured you could fill in the details.”
Most commonly, Blazing 777 is a $1 side bet, but it can be a $5 bet. Like its namesake slot, it includes a progressive jackpot.
Casinos have options on pay tables. In two of them, one jackpot builds. In a third, three different-sized pots build separately.
Let’s call these pay tables 1, 2 and 3.
Pay table 1: Three same-suit 7s, jackpot; three 7s same color but mixed suits, 10 percent of jackpot; three 7s of mixed suits and colors, 200-for-1; two 7s, 25-for-1; one 7, 2-for-1.
Pay table 2: Three 7s of diamonds, Jackpot; three suited 7s in hearts, clubs or spades, 10 percent of jackpot; three same color 7s, 500-for-1; three mixed 7s, 200-for-1; two 7s, 25-for-1; one 7, 2-for-1.
Pay table 3: Three 7s of diamonds, mega jackpot; three suited 7s of hearts, clubs or spades, major jackpot; three same-color 7s, minor jackpot; three mixed 7s, 200-for-1; two 7s, 25-for-1; one 7, 2-for-1.
Bob jumped to the natural question “So what about the house edge?
It’s variable, as it must be with any progressive jackpot. Let’s use pay table 2 as an example as detailed by Michael Shackelford at wizardofodds.com.
In a six-deck game, the fixed, non-progressive payoffs on one 7, two 7s, three mixed 7s or three same color 7s bring back to players 48.03 percent of everything they wager.
On $1 side bets, each $1,000 in the progressive meter adds 0.52 percent to the average return. On $5 side bets, each $1,000 adds 0.10 percent to the return.
So with a $10,000 jackpot, the average return on a $1 side bet is 53.2 percent, while on a $5 bet the return would be 48.7 percent. For a break-even point with a 100 percent average return, the jackpot would have to reach $100,216.92 with a $1 bet or $500,084.62 with a $5 bet.
Numbers vary with each pay table, but in any version, the jackpots have to be very large for the Blazing 777 house edge to sink as low as the less than 1 percent a basic strategy player gets on the main game.
In a six-deck game, you’ll average a winner 14.8 percent of the time, with 14.2 percent for one 7, 5.3 percent for two 7s, 0.3 percent for three mixed 7s, 0.07 percent for three same-color 7s and 0.0015 percent for three same-suit 7s.
None of that surprised Bob.
“Side bets are fine,” he said. “If players want a shot at a big jackpot, that’s their business. I’ll just keep grinding it out for low payoffs but a low house edge.”