Published: 3/28/2008 12:11 AM

There's something fundamental about blackjack that most players don't understand, and what happened at the casino the other day gives and excellent example of it. The fellow on my left was playing two hands. He was dealt a blackjack and a 17. I had blackjack also.

The dealer had an Ace up and asked if I wanted Even Money. I waved it off. The other player commented in surprise, "How can you not take it -- I'm takin' it!" as he motioned for the guaranteed payoff on his blackjack. I responded, "Aren't you going to insure the 17 too?" His predictable answer was, "Seventeen's not worth Insuring."

Hoping to turn on a light bulb in his mind, I said, "It doesn't matter which hand you insure -- you're still going to come out of it with the exact same money."

His blank stare told me I wasn't reaching him on this. But I can use his mistake to get through to you, because most of you need to understand this as badly as he does. First, let me clarify that taking Even Money on blackjack against a dealer's Ace is nothing more than taking Insurance. Here's the proof.

Say you bet $50 and get blackjack against an Ace. Now suppose there was no such thing as Even Money per se, but you could still take Insurance -- so you do. The dealer checks her hole card -- no blackjack. What happens? She scoops up your $25 Insurance bet, then pays you $75 for your blackjack. That's a $50 net profit, which incidentally, is equal to the amount of your original bet.

But what if she does have the blackjack? Then, your own blackjack will "push" with hers, but -- she'll pay you 2-to-1 odds, or $50 for winning your Insurance bet. Once again, you've netted the same $50.

So whenever you have blackjack against an Ace, if you take Insurance you'll win the amount of your bet whether the dealer has blackjack or not! The house merely cuts through the red tape by paying you Even Money right up front.

Now how does that make my tablemate end up with the same money whether he insured his blackjack or his 17? Stick with me here, because this will illustrate the folly in taking Even Money.

As it actually turned out in the above story, the dealer did not have blackjack and wound up busting. So our friend got paid Even Money, or $50 on his blackjack, plus another $50 on his 17, for a $100 net profit. But how would he have done if he just gambled with his blackjack and insured the 17? Then he'd have won $75 on his blackjack, lost $25 on Insurance and won $50 on his 17. That's still $100 profit, even though he insured an entirely different hand!

But what if the dealer would've had blackjack? Taking Even Money, our friend would then win $50 on his blackjack, but lose $50 on his 17 for a break-even result. And if he insured the 17 instead, he'd push on both the blackjack and the 17, for another break-even outcome.

Do you see it now? Any form of Insurance, the regular kind, or Even Money is just a separate side bet on the dealer's hand, and has nothing to do with your own. But the dealer doesn't get a 10 in the hole often enough to make either one a good bet. You're better off just letting them go!

If you still can't stomach the chance that you might not get paid on your blackjack against a dealer's Ace, then take Insurance for less. It's perfectly legal! Simply insure your $50 blackjack for $10. Now the worst thing that can possibly happen is you'll win $20 when the dealer has a 10 in the hole. If she doesn't have it, you'll net $65. Percentage wise, it's a better overall deal than Even Money.