The Mystery that is Insurance in Blackjack

When playing blackjack online or in a casino, at some point in time you have most likely been offered insurance. There are a lot of notions out there as to whether insurance is a good bet or a waste. So which is it? Or is it both?

First, let’s take a look at what insurance is.

The way that it is explained to you, is that an insurance bet is to protect you from losing all your money in case the dealer has a natural blackjack. Insurance is only offered when the dealer’s up card is an Ace—one of the cards that is required to have a natural. The reason insurance is offered on Aces and not on ten value cards is because Aces are smaller in number than the ten value cards and less likely to appear.

Now, insurance is really a side bet on whether or not the dealer’s hole card is a ten value card. You are making a 2-1 bet on what that card is. If it is a ten value then you get the 2-1 payout. And if the hole card isn’t worth 10 then you lose your insurance bet.

When looking at all the outcomes of making an insurance bet, you will find that there are three winning situations, two losing and one push. You will win money if you and the dealer both have naturals, if you have blackjack and the dealer doesn’t, and if neither of you have blackjack and you win the hand. You lose if neither of you have blackjack and you lose the hand, and if neither of you have naturals and you tie the hand. The only push outcome happens when you don’t have blackjack and the dealer does.

So three winning chances and one push versus two loses sounds pretty good right?

Wrong.

Let’s look at this from a statistical point of view, because, let’s face it, we are dealing with numbers and probability. Let’s say we’re talking about an infinite shoe, and since most tables use six to eight decks and online casinos have RNGs, we might as well think of them as infinite. With that number of decks or an RNG, there is a nine-to-four odds against the hole card being worth 10; this is because for every four ten value cards there are nine others.

Now we’ll combine math with statistics. Let’s say that in one year you make a $5 insurance bet 1300 times (considering how often a dealer has an Ace up card that’s a lot of blackjack). Going off of the nine-to-four statistic, you’d win 400 times and lose 900 times.

Translate that into money now. Winning a $5 insurance would give you $10. So if you won 400 times you would have made $4,000. For every time you lost a $5 insurance bet you would lose that $5. So losing 900 insurance bets means that you have lost $4,500. Add $4,000 and a negative $4,500 and you are left with a loss of $500.

And that is why, for the most part, you do not take insurance in both online blackjack and land based blackjack.

However, if you’re a card counter, there is an instance when taking insurance can be profitable.

Keep an eye open for Card Counting and Insurance.

Blackjack: The Root of the Phobia & How to Overcome It!

Who’s afraid of blackjack?

Actually quite a lot of people.

So what do they do when at the casinos?

They play slots. They want to try playing strategic games, they want to try blackjack. But they’re afraid of it.

What are they afraid of?

They’re afraid of making mistakes when playing. I suppose this is understandable. We all know that there are die-hard blackjack players who are barely able to restrain themselves when a novice player doesn’t play exactly right. So it’s completely understandable that a novice blackjack player would be intimidated.

But, hey, everyone makes mistakes—even those die-hard blackjack players.

So how do you, slot player or not, gain the confidence to play blackjack?

Start at the beginning and learn the rules. The objective is to beat the dealer without going over 21.

You will be dealt two cards. Add up their value to get your hand total. The dealer will have also received two cards, one will be face up and the other face down.

At this point you have to choose how to play. If you want to try to increase your hand total, then hit for more cards. Once you are happy with your hand total you stand. You can also stand if you are happy with the first two cards you were dealt—you do not have to hit unless you wish to. You can also double down; you would double your original bet and receive one more card before having to stand. If you are dealt two cards with the same value, a pair, you can split them into two separate hands by adding another bet of the same amount as the your original. Each card will receive another card so that each hand will start with two cards. You then play each hand individually.

Learning the game is the easy part. The hard part, and this is what intimidates new players the most, which play to you make and when?

This is surprisingly easy too. Use a basic strategy chart. This is a chart with the best statistical play for every card total versus each dealer’s up card. A basic strategy chart will tell you how to play each hand. Just play how it tells you to and stick with it. You will win more hands in the long run than if you played without it.

This will give you a good start in learning blackjack. Try playing at low stakes table to start out with or practice playing for free online in a casino’s free play mode. Practice will help build your confidence and make you comfortable with the game.

Card Counting For the Win!

Card counters out there, rejoice! We have scored a legal victory! Well, we have in Indiana, but you have to start somewhere.

I’m sorry to interrupt The Misplayed Blackjack Hands series that I was doing, but I came across this news piece, and as it made me happy, I wanted to share.

With the recent news about Kris Zutis’s blackjack card counting detection program, card counters have needed a boost to their morale. And that boost comes with the name of Tom Donovan.

Donovan favors the Grand Victoria riverboat casino’s blackjack tables in Rising Sun, Indiana. And he’s a card counter. His skills came to the attention of the then blackjack pit boss Patrick Banefield. Banefield told Donovan to limit his betting to $25 a hand and he would continue to let him play.

Nice to know there’s a cool pit boss.

But this all changed in June of 2006 when Sonny Duquette replaced Banefield. Here ends the happy part of the story.

Duquette barred Donovan from the Grand Victoria’s blackjack tables. Then he threw him out of the casino. In return, Donovan sued for breach of implied contract, which he says he had with Banefield.

Last Friday the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Donovan…sort of.

They upheld the dismissal of Donovan’s claim of implied contract. However, the Indiana Court of Appeals also rejected the Grand Victoria’s argument. See, the Grand Victorian said they had a common law right to exclude any patron for any reason or no reason at all.

The Indiana Court of Appeals said, “Grand Victoria may not simply take refuge in the common law right of exclusion, inasmuch as it is the public policy of this State that gambling is subject to ‘strict regulation,’ and the [Indiana Casino Control] Commission has been given exclusive authority to set rules of riverboat casino games.”

In other words, the Indiana Casino Control Commission makes the rules, not the Grand Victoria. The court ruled that he was thrown out of the casino for his mental prowess during a Commission-regulated game, so the Grand Victoria’s decision to throw him out is not protected by the common law.

We may find over the next several months or couple years more and more consumer-friendly decisions being made since more and more states are legalizing casino gambling. The States want us to play because they get a portion of the casinos’ profits in the form of gambling taxes. And with the U.S. economy being in the state that it’s in, more and more states are looking to other sources for funding their budgets—take Florida and the Seminole Tribe casinos. The taxes from the Seminole Tribe casinos help fund education in Florida.

Blackjack Players Forced Into Hiding

As we all know games of chance are illegal in the US. But around the country—or at least in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and South Carolina—courts are ruling that poker is a game of skill rather than a game of chance. So what does this have to do with blackjack?

Everything! If poker can be deemed a game of skill, so can blackjack.

Let’s look at this. Poker is being considered a game of skill because it takes skill in knowing when and how to play the cards you’ve been dealt. It’s not like slots—put a coin in, push a button and cross your fingers. In poker you choose to keep your cards or to hit. A poker player isn’t stuck with the cards he was dealt with no decisions at his disposal.

And if poker was a game of chance then everyone would have an equal opportunity to win. And in poker that just isn’t the case. Let’s say that you get five people together to play. If poker was a game of chance then each one would win ten percent of the time. But realistically a skill hierarchy will form, with the most skilled player winning a greater percent of the time than the others.

So what does this have to do with blackjack? Blackjack is also a game of skill, and its players shouldn’t have to hide or feel unwelcome in a casino. Of course, an online casino can’t tell the difference in players since each player is playing a Random Number Generator (RNG), which makes online casinos a nice home for blackjack players. But the point is that blackjack players should feel just as welcome in a land based casino as any other player.

Blackjack is a game of skill because you as a player have a decision to make in how to play your hand. Do you stand? Or do you hit? Should you double down or not? If blackjack was a game of chance you would be dealt your cards and that would be the end of it. But it’s not.

So like the example of sitting a five people down to play poker, let’s change the game to blackjack. If blackjack were a game of chance, then like the example above, each player would statistically win ten percent of the time. But as we all know, through mastery of basic strategy and card counting, a skill hierarchy will develop in this playing group as well.

So why should poker only be ruled as a game of skill and not blackjack? It could only be that poker is a better known game. But blackjack should be recognized as such too. It is by far a game of skill.

What determines the difference between a game of skill and a game of chance? It’s in how the game is played. If a player can do nothing to alter his odds then it’s a game of chance. But if the player can alter his odds through strategy or practiced methods then it’s a game of skill.

Skilled blackjack players shouldn’t have to skulk around casinos feeling that as soon as they sit down the pit boss’s eyes will be on him. The casino will make their money without a doubt. They have slots, craps, roulette and more to bring in their money. And not every single blackjack player is going to beat the casino. Some don’t even play with basic strategy, let alone card count. A skilled player shouldn’t be rewarded for being skilled by being unwelcome to play the game. And besides, casinos should remember that even professional blackjack player isn’t going to win every single hand.