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# Even money is uneven for the player

10 September 2012

QUESTION. I have to disagree with all the experts who say you shouldn’t take even money when you have a blackjack and the dealer has an ace up. I always take even money. This way, I always win the hand, and the object is to try to win every hand. Maybe I’ll miss a few 3-2 payoffs, but when I’m just going to play an hour or two, I can’t afford to pass up winning hands. I’ll take even money every time.

ANSWER. If your goal is to win every hand, you’re doomed to failure. Because the player must complete his or her hand first, the house wins anytime the player busts, even if the dealer busts too. That one simple fact means the house will win more hands than you do, no matter what strategy you use.

The real object is to win the most money, and we do that by maximizing wins and minimizing losses. We do that by taking the opportunities to win extra money, above the amount of our original bet. We double down when the situation favors us. We split pairs to get extra money on the table when it’s to our advantage. And we go for the 3-2 payoffs on blackjacks while refusing to give the money away on even money or any other form of insurance.

Unless you are a card counter, the assumption when the dealer has an ace up against your blackjack is that there is a 69.2% chance the dealer will NOT have a 10-value card down, and only a 30.8% chance that the dealer will have a blackjack. Let's say you're betting \$10 a hand, so that the 3-2 payoff on blackjack is \$15. When you take even money, settling for a \$10 payoff instead of risking a push if the dealer also has blackjack, there's better than a 69% chance that you're giving away \$5 of your winnings. You don't maximize wins by giving away money.
Unless you’re counting cards and know that more than a third of the remaining cards are 10-values that will complete a dealer blackjack, taking even money is a bad play. It’s not just a bad play over some lengthy, indefinite long run.

It’s a bad play every time you make it. Sometimes it works, just as other bad plays work sometimes. It's still a bad play, one that actually is more costly than some plays basic strategy players would never make, such as standing on 16 vs. 10.

The casino gives 2.3% of its mathematical edge back to us by paying 3-2 on blackjacks. I'm not inclined to give any of that back by settling for even money.
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John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

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John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.