Agua Caliente Casinos dealer Erlynne Cuabo

How to Win in a Game of Blackjack at Agua Caliente Casinos

Here are three ways blackjack players can win bigger, according to the casino pros.

Marissa Willman Arts & Entertainment

Agua Caliente Casinos dealer Erlynne Cuabo

Agua Caliente Casinos dealer Erlynne Cuabo.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ETHAN KAMINSKY

There’s more than one way to win when it comes to blackjack at the Agua Caliente Casinos in Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, and Palm Springs. “Our optional side bets offer more opportunities to win and more excitement for our players,” says Table Games Operations Manager Nichole O’Sullivan. “The main bet on blackjack only pays even money, but if you place a side bet that pays 10-to-1, that’s an exciting payout.”

At the Agua Caliente Casinos, blackjack players choose from three optional side bets: Bust’n Loose, Player Pairs, and Push Your Luck. Guests place these side bets when they place their main bets — before the cards are dealt — for opportunities to wager on outcomes other than a card value of or closest to 21. Players can find these side bets, with payouts, listed on the table layout. “Our dealers can definitely help players learn these side bets, too,” O’Sullivan says.

Here’s what to know about the optional bets before you play your next hand. 

Armando’s Bar

Players place their side bets when they place their main bets — before the cards are dealt.

Bust’n Loose

Blackjack players at Agua Caliente Casinos have been familiar with Bust’n Loose for several years. With this side bet, the player places a wager that the dealer will bust their hand or have a card value that exceeds 21.

Two factors determine the payout in Bust’n Loose: the number of cards in the hand and the colors of those cards. Payouts increase with a higher number of cards, and payouts are also higher if those cards are all the same color (but not necessarily the same suit). The minimum payout is for a three-card bust, which pays even money. The maximum payout is for a bust with eight cards or more of the same color, which pays out at a whopping 400 to 1.

Players can bet between $5 and $50 on the main floor and $5 and $100 in high limit rooms.

Player Pairs

The side bet Player Pairs might also be familiar with blackjack players as it has been around for about 10 years. With Player Pairs, the player bets that their first two cards will be a pair.

“It doesn’t matter if you want to split those cards or not,” O’Sullivan explains. “In Player Pairs, you are only betting on those first two cards being a pair.”

The payout depends on the number of cards used at the table. For shoe games with six decks, the Player Pairs wager pays out at 11 to 1. For double deck games that use only two decks, the payout is 13 to 1.

Push Your Luck

The newest of the optional side bets, Push Your Luck made its debut earlier this year across all three Agua Caliente Casinos — the only casinos in California that offer it as a side bet.

Armando’s Bar

 Erlynne Cuabo.

With Push Your Luck, the player is betting that they will tie, or “push,” against the dealer. This offers the player a way to win when they neither win nor lose their main bet. For this side bet, the player can wager up to half the amount of their main bet for the hand. For a $50 hand, for example, a player can place a Push Your Luck side bet of up to $25.


Our optional side bets offer more opportunities to win and more excitement for our players.

Nichole O’Sullivan
Table Games
Operations Manager

For this side bet to pay out, the hand value for both the player and the dealer must be 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, or a blackjack. Players can wager between $5 and $250, as long as it’s no more than half of their main bet. This side bet pays out at 10 to 1. 

This story originally appeared in Me Yah Whae: The Magazine of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Fall/Winter 2023.