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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

You Can Lead a Blackjack Horse to Water, But ....

28 September 2007

A few weeks ago, we discussed the disadvantages of taking Insurance in blackjack, and why it's basically a bad bet -- no matter what hand you have. I did my level best to lay out all the theoretical properties in an earnest attempt to cure you of the Insurance trap.

Later that day, I received an e-mail from a reader of that article on a related facet of the Insurance bet. Below is a condensed summary of his reply:

Hi Fred,

I know Insurance is a non-profitable bet. So is every other bet in the casino unless you count cards. If anybody were to ask me, I would generally recommend against taking Insurance. But -- here's what I do and why.

I only take Insurance when I have a blackjack. And I always take Insurance whenever I have a blackjack (also known as "even money")! I understand that it is a separate bet, but hedging my bet this way assures that every time I have a blackjack and the dealer shows an Ace, I get paid.

My reasoning is that although I agree in the long run this costs me money, how long is the long run? How many years do I have to play for the averages to even out? By playing it safe, I am falling somewhere between more ahead or less ahead of where I would have been if I did not take the even money settlement.

By the way, I never take insurance on just a good hand, because with a merely good hand, like 20, you can lose both bets. But with a blackjack, I can win or I can win. It's not totally logical, but it's safe.

This reader's viewpoint on "even money" is so prevalent in the blackjack world that I must include here, the essence of my response to it, for all of you who may share his mindset:

Dear Sir,

Here are some facts to shed light on the question of the long run and even money.

1) In a six-deck game, the dealer will have an Ace up while you have blackjack once every 284 hands, on average.

2) At a normal pace of around 85 hands per hour and playing two hours per week, the "even money" opportunity will come up for you roughly 30 times per year.

So how long do you have to play before the averages even out? Of those 30 times, the dealer needs to have the 10 in the hole at least 11 times for you to save anything by taking even money. If she has the blackjack any fewer than 10 times, you make more money by just taking your chances.

Combinatorial probability says there's only a 30% chance that the dealer will have the blackjack more than 10 times out of 30. There's a 70% chance, she'll have it 10 times or less. So if you play two hours per week, it's around 2-to-1 in favor of having a better fiscal blackjack year by just taking your chances with blackjack against an Ace.

If you still prefer taking even money, then ask yourself this: Just how small a guaranteed payoff am I willing to settle for in exchange for risking a sure winner? Would I go for 80% of my bet rather than 100%? How about 60% -- or maybe even 40%? How low will you go before you say, "Forget it – I'll take my chances"? Wherever that is, exactly what would make you balk at that particular point?

Here's the real point where you should balk: When you have a $100 blackjack and the dealer's got an Ace up, you're looking at a statistical $104 winner. That's what you'll average by just gambling it out. This is the "street value" of your hand. If somebody offers you more than $104 for your hand, you should take it. If they offer you less, you're better off keeping it.

By now, if I haven't convinced some of you out there to give up even money, I consider myself a failure.

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