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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Insurance and Even Money Are Both Bad Blackjack Bets

10 September 2000

Probably three out of four blackjack players insure their 20s against an ace up--a costly mistake. Worse yet, about nine players out of ten take even money on their blackjacks when the dealer shows an ace--another money waster. Just what's wrong with these popular moves?

Let's look at the easiest hand first. You're dealt a pat 20 and the dealer has an ace up. The dealer asks, "Insurance anyone?" You think to yourself, "Hmm, I've got this nice hand and if she has a 10 underneath, I'm dead. But if I insure it and she has blackjack, I push. If she doesn't have blackjack, my 20 is probably a winner. So I'll take Insurance." That may sound logical, but there's a serious flaw in your reasoning. To clearly illustrate where that flaw lies, let's say you were playing not just one hand, but both hands shown below for $10 apiece:

  Dealer  
  A  
 
Hand #2   Hand #1
10/7   10/10

Now you have four choices. You could:

  1. Take insurance on your 20 and leave your 17 alone.
  2. Leave your 20 alone and take insurance on your 17.
  3. Insure both hands.
  4. Ignore the insurance option altogether.

If you're like most players, you'll take option "A." But what have you really accomplished? Let's see. When you put up that extra $5 to insure your 20, if the dealer has blackjack you'll push on your 20 and lose $10 on your 17, finishing $10 behind.

But now let's try something that looks really stupid. Let's take option "B." You'll lose $10 on your 20 to the dealer's blackjack and push on your 17 for the exact same result. Surprised? Well, that's not all.

What happens with options "A" and "B" when the dealer doesn't have blackjack and busts? You'll win $15 either way, won't you? Surprised again? Let's keep going.

Now, what if the dealer has, say, 18? With option "A," you make a $5 profit on your 20 and lose $10 on your 17, for a $5 combined loss. But wait. With option "B," you lose $15 on your 17 and win $10 on your 20 for the same $5 net loss. This is getting spooky.

And what if the dealer makes something like a five-card 21? You'll lose $25 with "A" or "B." Incredible. How can both options keep working out the same as each other? It's that flaw in your logic. You see, when you take insurance, you're not betting on your hand at all--you're betting strictly on the dealer's hand! Your hand has nothing to do with it.

If betting that the dealer has blackjack is a good bet, then you should take that bet. The problem is, it's only a good bet 8% of the time--those times when so many small cards have come out that insurance will now show a profit all by itself. If you don't know that now is that time, insurance is a sucker bet no matter what hand you have. That's why option "D" is the way to go.

It's the same story when you have blackjack. That's because accepting even money on blackjack against an ace up amounts to simply taking insurance. You'll either win $10 on your insurance bet and push the hand, or lose $5 on insurance and win $15 on your blackjack--netting $10 either way. That's why the house cuts through the red tape and just pays you even money whenever you're dumb enough to accept it. Understand that, on average, the dealer will have a 10 under her ace only 4 times out of 13. If you just tough it out, you'll win $15 nine times and push the other four, averaging $10.38 per blackjack instead of $10.


For more information about blackjack, we recommend:

Blackjack Bluebook: The Right Stuff for the Serious Player by Fred Renzey
Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey