Even money strategy

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When sitting at the blackjack table and being dealt 21, it’s always just as frustrating to see the dealer turning over an ace. There’s a risk that the dealer will have 21 as well, resulting in the hand pushing. To not risk ending up not making any profit from such a good hand as 21, it can be very tempting to choose the even money option that is being offered.

No matter how tempting this offer could be, the option is never a good one. Even money is nothing but a blackjack insurance in disguise, which in the long run will lead to giving up 4% of your winnings. Therefore this option is not a part of basic strategy, which is the optimal blackjack strategy to use based on the most profitable mathematical decisions.

In the following article we’ll take a closer look at how the even money option is used at the table; thoroughly explain why it’s the same thing as insurance and by using math show you why you’ll lose 4% of your winnings in the long run if you use the option.

How even money is used

Even money is an option that’s available when you’re being dealt 21 and the dealer’s first card is showing an ace. By choosing the even money option, you’ll instantly end the hand and receive a payout of double your stake. In other words you don’t have to risk that the dealer has 21 as well, which would have resulted in a push, only giving you your stake back. By using even money you’re able to make a profit instantly no matter what the dealer has. The profit will be slightly lower than it would if you didn’t choose the option and the dealer in fact didn’t have 21 as this would have paid 1.5:1 (2,5 times your stake), instead of the 1:1 (2 times your stake) that even money pays.

If you for instance bet €2, are dealt black jack and the dealer is showing an ace, you have the option to instantly choose a win of €4. Should you decide not to and it turns out that the dealer has blackjack, you would win nothing. If it on the other hand turns out that the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, you would win a total of €5.

Should you always choose the even money option in the above scenario, you would always be guaranteed a net profit of €2. This is at the cost of winning €1 less than what you otherwise would every time the dealer turns out not having blackjack.

Even money is the same as insurance

If you would go back in time you would find that the even money option didn’t exist at the tables. This might not come as a surprise, but the funny thing is that the introduction of it didn’t really bring anything new to the table as it’s the exact same thing as using insurance. The fact is that the even money option was introduced to the game as a way to get players to insure more of their hands. This is because the insurance option always is in favour of the house. As even money will instantly guarantee a profit, this option is much more tempting and easy to choose than having to place a side bet on insurance. In the end it is however the same thing, which we will illustrate with the below example:

Let’s assume that you’re betting €2, are dealt 21 and the dealer is showing an ace. You’re being offered even money, which means that you could instantly take a win of €4, making a net profit of €2 and ending the hand. Let’s say that you choose not to, but instead you decide to use the insurance option, which means that you would have to place an extra side bet of half of your original stake. There are now two things that could happen in the hand:

1. You insure your hand with €1 and the dealer is showing 21. Your original bet is being pushed and you therefore only receive that stake back. You do however win €3 on your side bet as insurance pays 2:1 (3 times your stake). This means that you reached a total net profit of €2 for the hand (€3 win – €1 bet for insurance).

2. You insure your hand with €1 and it turns out that the dealer doesn’t have 21. This means that your original bet is won and you therefore win €5 as your blackjack pays 1,5:1 (2,5 times the stake). In other words you’ve reached a profit of €3 (€5 win – €2 original bet). However, as you also placed an insurance bet of €1 which you lost, your total net profit for the hand is €2 (€3 profit on the original bet – €1 bet for insurance).

As you can see, no matter if you choose to take even money straight away or decide to insure your hand, your net profit will be exactly the same. Therefore even money is nothing but an easier way to insure your hand.

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The math behind even money

With the below example we will illustrate why the even money option over time will result in giving up 4% of your winnings.

To make things simple, let’s assume that you’re sitting at a table where only one deck is being used. If you’ve been dealt blackjack and the dealer is showing an ace, there are 49 unseen cards left in the deck, whereas 15 of these are either 10s or face cards. The are 16 in total (four 10s, four jacks, four queens and four kings), but as your blackjack hand is made up of one of these there are only 15 left.

This means that the dealer will turn over a 10 or a face card 15 times out of 49, which is the same as 30,6% (15/49). Let’s assume that you play out this scenario 49 times, bet €2 each time and always choose the even money option. In such a case you would win €4 each time, which is a €2 net profit. This would result in a total net profit of €98 (€2 net profit * 49 scenarios).

Should you choose not to take the even money option, 15 of these 49 scenarios would result in a push. The remaining 34 would however each lead to a €5 win, which is a €3 net profit. In total this would result in a net profit of €102 (€3 net profit * 34).

As your total win with even money turned out to be €98 and the total win without using the option €102, you would on average lose €4 (€98 – €102) for every €98 bet where the even money option is used. This is the same as a 4% loss (4/98), which means that that you’re giving up 4% of your potential winnings every time the option is used.

The only time that even money is an advantageous option to use is if you would know that more than a third of the unseen cards are either 10s or face cards. With such a knowledge the option would always be a profitable one in the long run as the odds would be in your favour.

Last words

To be offered even money can be very tempting as it will always result in a guaranteed win no matter what the dealer has. The option is however nothing but an insurance in disugise and an insurance is always an option that is in favour of the house, unless you would know that more than a third of the unseen cards are 10s or face cards. Even money is therefore not a part of the optimal blackjack strategy, known as basic strategy, but maximizing your winnings is best done by staying away from the option.