Columnist

Insure your blackjack for less?

 
 
Published: 8/1/2008 12:05 AM

What do you do when you're dealt a blackjack and the dealer's got an Ace showing? If you're in the vast majority, you'll take even money - it's a sure thing. Trouble is, taking the sure thing here is the wrong play.

Even though 19 out of 20 players may take even money in this situation, at least two or three of them know full well they're not supposed to do it. They know that just gambling it out with their blackjack will make more money over time - but they're concerned about this time - right here - right now. They're not willing to face the 30 percent chance that they'll come away from this blackjack empty-handed. So they cave in and settle for the sure thing. The other 70 percent of the time when the dealer turns out not to have blackjack, they show no remorse over the half bet they just threw away.

Well, if you're one of those players, there is indeed a way to guarantee that you'll win something on your blackjack vs. an Ace without settling for even money. But first, let me explain why even money is a bad play.

In a typical shoe game, when you've got blackjack against a dealer's Ace, there are 95 possible 10s and 214 other cards she could have in the hole. It's obvious that if you always take even money on your $25 blackjack, you'll win $25 every single time. What's not so obvious is, if you never take even money, you'll win $37.50 often enough to average $26 per hand after subtracting the times you got stuck with a push.

So there you go. You can go with plan "A" and guarantee yourself a $25 profit every time - or you can do plan "B", win most but push some, and average $26 each time overall. How's that sound?

If you're disciplined enough to go with plan "B," I congratulate you and your bankroll will thank you over time. That would be the correct move. But if you can't bring yourself to turn down a sure thing, then there's always the little known plan "C".

Plan "C" isn't as good as plan "B," but percentage wise, it's decidedly better than plan "A" (even money). You see, whenever the dealer has an Ace up, you can buy insurance for half your bet - or less. That's "whenever" the dealer shows an Ace - even if you have blackjack!

So say you've got a $25 blackjack against the dealer's Ace. You can decline even money and toss a $5 chip up on the insurance ring. Since hardly anybody ever does this, the dealer will most likely stare at you in confusion. Just explain that you're insuring your blackjack for less. It's perfectly legal.

Now only two things can happen. Most likely the dealer won't have blackjack, she'll collect your losing $5 insurance bet and pay you $37.50 for your blackjack - a $32.50 profit. The other times she'll have the blackjack, which will push with your own, then she'll pay you $10 for your winning $5 insurance bet - a $10 profit.

Now you've skirted around the possibility of ending up with nothing to show for your blackjack. Sometimes you'll only make 10 bucks, but usually, you'll make $32.50. The real point however, is that your "average" profit will now be $25.60 - and you never had to settle for a total push.

If you don't think much of the extra 60 cents, then every time you could've taken even money, come home and drop 60 cents into a cookie jar.

At the end of the year, count up all the change. If you're a once-a-week player, you should have about $30 in the jar. Why give that to the house?

• For a signed copy of Fred's blackjack manual, send $16 to "Blackjack Bluebook II," P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL 60009.