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Last Updated: July 17, 2013
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If you had the option to get a fixed 18 points in blackjack automatically, would you take it? I think a lot of players would, thinking that 18 is good enough. That is the question posed by a new blackjack side bet seen at the Santa Fe Station in October, 2010. At all the Santa Fe's six-deck blackjack tables, players have the option to make an Instant 18 side bet on a second hand with exactly 18 points.
As stated in the introduction, the Instant 18 hand is worth exactly 18 points. Wins pay even money. I haven't seen the game, but I am told there is an 18 printed on the felt. I'm also told a primary blackjack bet is required to make the side bet. I don't know the limits on the side bet.
The following table shows the expected value of the Instant 18 bet, according to the number of decks and whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17. At the Santa Fe Station, they use six decks and the dealer hits a soft 17, so the house edge there is 2.04%.
Instant 18 — Expected Values
on Soft 17
on Soft 17
*: The makers of Instant 18 take issue with my house edge of 2.04% (rounded) for six decks and the dealer hits a soft 17. They claim the house edge is 2.03% and that this figure is recognized by Nevada Gaming Control Board. The reader may decide for himself who to believe.
A house edge of 2.04% is much higher than in conventional blackjack, so I would recommend declining the Instant 18 option. In all fairness, 2.04% is a much lower house edge than most side bets, but unlike most side bets, Instant 18 doesn't offer the chance of a big win.