Natural Blackjack and Even Money

There is no feeling in blackjack like being dealt a natural blackjack. Just seeing those two cards come face up in front of you is euphoric. It is because you won that round of blackjack and you know you have won. And then every now and then the dealer will rain on your blackjack parade and have an Ace for an up card. It does not mean that you have lost; it just makes the situation a little trickier is all.

Naturally the dealer’s first act is to offer you, no, not insurance. Insurance is not offered in blackjack when the player has a natural. When the player has a natural blackjack and the dealer has an Ace showing he offers the player even money. Yes, even money. It feels like a let-down when you were already thinking you were going to get a 3-2 payout. Almost seems like a waste of a blackjack.

But there is nothing that says you have to take that even money. In fact, you should not. And there are two reasons why.

The first reason is obvious; if you take even money then you definitely are not going to get a 3-2 payout. If you decline and wait to see what the dealer has there is still a chance that you could still get your 3-2 payout. Worse come to worse, the dealer has a natural too and you have to push. At least you have not lost any money.

The other reason is your blackjack odds. Even money is the worst payout in blackjack and it hits your blackjack odds the hardest. How hard? Even money hits your blackjack odds by 2.27%. That alone should be enough to make you decline, as if the potential of losing your 3-2 payout is not bad enough.

The point though is to decline even money when you have a natural blackjack. It is too bad for your blackjack odds and it also means giving up your 3-2 payout. Always decline even money.

Blackjack vs. Dealer’s Ace

There will come a time when you will be dealt a natural blackjack. You will be elated as you will always be when one is dealt to you. But then the dealer’s up card is dealt and it’s an Ace. Bummer.

At this point the dealer will offer you even money rather than insurance. On the surface this sounds like it’s different than insurance, I mean it is a different question right?

The truth is that there is no difference between even money and insurance. Even money is the special name that casinos give insurance for natural blackjacks in hopes that you will feel all the more threatened by the dealer’s Ace and, therefore, feel more inclined to accept even money. But you don’t want to take even money because it’s a fancy way of insuring your blackjack.

First a quick reminder of what insurance is. It’s offered when the dealer has an Ace up. An insurance bet cost half the amount of your wager; so a $10 wager would have $5 insurance. Insurance pays 2-1. But all insurance really is is a side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is a 10 or not.

If the dealer does have a 10, you will lose the round but collect on your insurance bet, which in the above example would mean you would be paid $10.

Now let’s look at even money. Even money is a 1-1 payout. Let’s again say that you wagered $10 and were dealt a natural blackjack against a dealer’s Ace. If you were to take even money you would only get $10. You will have thrown away your 3-2 payout.

Even money is like chickening out. And the casino is hoping that you will because it means that they really aren’t paying you anything considering your wager was the same as what you’re getting paid. Yes, even money does guarantee you a payout but your blackjack is worth more.

Just because the dealer is showing an Ace doesn’t mean that he has blackjack.

But what happens if he does? You will have to push and you would have your wager returned to you—which is the same as an even money payout.

So the best thing for you to do, and add this to your blackjack strategy, is to decline even money. This way if he doesn’t have blackjack you beat the dealer and get the 3-2 payout. And even if the dealer does have a natural blackjack, the money you would wind up with at the end of that round is the same amount as an even money payout.

This way you still have a shot at the 3-2 payout with the push/even money amount as a backup. This way you aren’t throwing away the chance at some winnings.

Player Advantages in Blackjack—Payouts

Did you know that your 3-2 payout is an advantage all by itself? That just being paid 3-2 on a natural blackjack eats away at the house edge?

No?

It’s actually quite simple. See, every time that a blackjack player wins with a natural blackjack he receives a payout of 3-2.

The dealer, no matter what he wins with, will only receive a 1-1 payout—better known as an even money payout.

So how does this impact the house edge?

Let’s look at some math. Let’s say that you go one-on-one with a blackjack dealer for two hundred games at $10 per game. Now of those two hundred games you win fifteen with natural blackjacks, and the dealer also wins fifteen rounds with natural blackjacks; we’re going to forget the other games, only looking at those games that have been won with natural blackjack.

With the 3-2 payout you will have won $225. The blackjack dealer, being paid 1-1 for his natural blackjacks will have only won $150.

The point is that over time the blackjack player can eventually empty the dealer’s chip rack just from winning. It would take time, but we’re looking at the fact that it can be done because no matter how many times the dealer wins, he is only receiving an even money payout while the blackjack player is getting 1.5x what he has wagered.

The 3-2 payout is an advantage to the blackjack player because he is getting more for a win—his wins are worth more and accomplish more in terms of payout. In strategy, the point is to win more. And since the player is winning more money in a win it gives him an advantage that the blackjack dealer doesn’t have.

Even Money vs. Insurance

Two different names. Two different things right? You might be surprised.

Let’s say that you have a natural blackjack and the dealer has an Ace for an up card. You’re offered even money. Should you take it or not?

No, you shouldn’t.

You have the chance of winning a 3-2 payout. Why throw it away to settle for 1-1 blackjack payout? It’s kind of like having a winning argument and then backing down with meek deference.

So rather than take the even money you think you might want to insure your blackjack. You don’t want to do that either because it’s the same thing. You will come out with the same amount of money.

I’ll show you how this works. Let’s say that you have wagered $10 and you have that blackjack against an Ace. We’ll say that you take insurance on your hand, so you put forth $5. But it turns out that the dealer doesn’t have blackjack. He’ll take your $5 insurance bet…and then pay you $15. Now subtract the $5 you lost to insurance, and you’ll find that in reality your payout was only $10. Which is the same thing as taking even money.

See how it doesn’t matter whether you insure your blackjack or take even money on it?

Oh but wait! What if the dealer does have blackjack too and you have taken insurance? In that instance your blackjack would push his. And you would collect $10 on your insurance bet. It’s still the same $10 profit.

What even money does is simplify the steps in giving you the same amount you would win if you took insurance on your blackjack. But dealers don’t get a 10 for a hole card often enough to warrant taking insurance or even money in any case. Your best bet is to decline both and stick with your basic strategy.

Even Money is a Drain

We have all at one point or another been offered even money.

Even money is only offered under certain conditions. First, you have to have been dealt a natural 21. Second, the dealer’s up card must be an Ace. At that point the dealer will offer you even money.

Even money means that you are betting the same amount that you stand to lose. For example, an even money bet is when you are betting $10 to potentially win $10.

Under the circumstances that even money is offered, you can pretty much think of it as a type of “insurance” bet. With your natural and his Ace up card he will offer you even money. What this even money does is give you an immediate one to one payout.

Normally when you and the dealer both have naturals it’s a push and you win nothing, but you lose nothing also. Even money gets you a one to one payout.

But if you do this you’re sacrificing the additional 50% payout that you would bet if the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack.

So while even money might feel a bit safer you will in fact lose more money in the long run than if you avoided even money. How much are you losing? About 4% of your profit potential.

My advice is to not take even money. True you’re thinking that you’re giving up that one to one payout, but you’re not really gaining anything. Let’s say the dealer also has a natural blackjack and you have to push—you haven’t lost any money! Your profit potential hasn’t been hurt.

Since you aren’t standing to lose any money, even if you come face to face with a dealer’s natural, go ahead and decline the even money. If you have a higher hand value than the dealer or the dealer busts, you will win the three to two payout. And if the dealer has a natural too, so what? You haven’t lost any money.