Let's argue about Blackjack!

Specifically about taking insurance on a dealer ace. Along with the Bingo DVD I picked up a blackjack DVD by the same guy. Another recycled 80s tape with the cheesiest graphics ever. Nothing about the actual game on the DVD that I didn’t already know but there was some good information about how to actually play in a casino (card handling, chip handling, that sort of thing) and since I’ve never played live that plus the ridiculously comic production values made it worth a buck.

The only thing this guy said about the game that differs from anything anyone else says about it was regarding buying insurance on a dealer A. Every other person who I’ve ever heard or seen discuss it says never take it, it’s a sucker bet. This guy says never take it except if you have a blackjack. He reasons thusly:

If you insure your blackjack you get paid even money and you get your insurance bet back. If you don’t insure and the dealer has blackjack, you push. No insurance and no dealer blackjack, you get paid 3:2. So with insurance, you are guaranteed a win. If you don’t take insurance, you may not win anything.

So who’s a blackjack guy and/or a math guy who wants to pick apart the reasoning? Or present your alternate theories on whether or when to take insurance.

The DVD is, of course, regarding regular blackjack. If anyone wants to discuss insurance in the context of tournament blackjack, that would be delightful.

Hmm. I play a fair amount (2 casinos in Niagara Falls) and I’m curious about this card-handling business. Players aren’t actually allowed to touch the cards in casino blackjack. What does he actually have to say about that? And what could he actually have to say about chip handling?

This is the way I’ve always played. Of course, it seems like I almost never get blackjack so the issue doesn’t come up that often.

Chip handling, he mostly said don’t touch the chips once they’re bet. Which, I did actually know. On card handling, he was differentiating between dealing from a shoe and dealing by hand. Dealing from a shoe he says never touch the cards, which are dealt face up. Dealing by hand they get dealt face down, you pick them up with one hand and pick them all the way off the table (as opposed to bending them). Hold them until you’re done and then tuck them under your bet chips. Turn them up for double downs, splits, blackjacks and busts. Remember the video was made in the 80s so maybe there were still casinos then that dealt blackjack by hand.

If insurance is a bad bet when you don’t have blackjack, it’s a bad bet when you do have blackjack. It’s the same thing.

It is so completely laughable that a guy with a DVD about doesn’t understand this. They’re still offering you 2:1 on the side bet. It just feels a little different because instead of getting 1:1 on your hand, you’re getting 3:2 on your hand. But, you don’t calculate EV based on feelings.

He offers you “even money” and if you’re dumb, you go, “all right, even money”.

But what really is going on is this: let’s say you bet $2 on a hand and $1 on insurance.

If the dealer has BJ, you push the hand and win $2 on the insurance.

If the dealer doesn’t have BJ, you win $3 on the hand and lose $1 on the insurance, for a gain of $2.

So, it makes sense to accept the insurance if the odds of the dealer having BJ are 1:1 or better. But, the odds AREN’T that good, which is why you don’t take insurance when you don’t have BJ and it’s why you don’t take insurance when you DO have BJ.

There are still casinos that deal blackjack by hand now. I can find a hand-dealt table or three at just about any Vegas casino.

Trunk beat me to it. The two bets are uncorrelated. If insurance is a good bet (which it isn’t), it would always be a good bet.

Since insurance pays 2 to 1, I think you mean to say that you buy the insurance if the odds against the dealer having BJ are 2:1 or lower. Or, to phrase it differently, if the chance of a dealer BJ is greater than 33.33%.

The “natural” chance of a dealer BJ is 4 in 13, or 30.77%. Regardless of your hand, you should only buy insurance if you’re card counting and know that the proportion of 10-cards remaining to be dealt is greater than 33.33%.

This was what I was going to add. The *only * time you should insure a blackjack is if you have been counting cards (or keeping a high/low ratio) and the deck is still so heavily stacked with 10 cards that the odds scale is tipped to make it a good bet.

And, as already mentioned, there are certaily plenty of casino blackjack tables where you handle your own cards.

what Freddy The Pig said.

also if you have a blackjack the dealer is less likely to draw a ten as you have one in your hand

Be careful with your terminology. Most casinos still deal blackjack by hand (meaning not using a machine). The distinction is between single deck blackjack and multi-deck blackjack. Single deck blackjack is dealt face down to hinder card counting and you may touch them. The only way the term “by hand” applies is to indicate that the deck is shuffled after every hand, which is not how it’s commonly understood. Multi-deck blackjack dealt from a shoe you do not touch.

I’d agree with most everything said here, but wanted to add that hand dealing is generally only used in single deck and sometimes double-deck blackjack.

Both have worse odds and are notorious for playing 6:5 for blackjacks, but that’s another topic.

A friend of mine loves to play blackjack. She is also a big believer in “playing 7s”, which they do at this one casino I’ve accompanied her to a couple of times. I don’t know if all casinos do this, as I really don’t go to them.

You bet a $1 chip if you want to play 7s. If your first dealt card is a 7, you win some money ($2.50 IIRC). If you get two 7s in a row, you win $50. If you get three, you win $500. Then there’s some additional winnings to be had if they’re all the same suit or something.

She claims that she has seen several people get dealt triple 7s. I myself observed her get three of them a few weeks ago (though she’d just run out of $1 chips and hadn’t bet on the 7s in that hand…man was she pissed).

What are the odds in playing the 7s? Do many casinos do this in conjunction with blackjack?

That has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Assuming a six-deck shoe and no card-counting, it’s a reasonable approximation to say that the odds of getting a 7 is 1/13. So, for her $1 bet, she has a 1 in 13 chance of winning $2.50, a 1 in 169 chance of winning $52.50 and a 1 in 2197 chance of winning $552.50 (assuming the payouts are cumulative).

Am I missing something? Are they actually offering something with odds that terrible?

Assuming a sufficiently large shoe, the expected value of the bet on “7s” given the payout you mentioned is $2.50/13 + $50/13[sup]2[/sup] + $500/13[sup]3[/sup] - $1 = -0.28. Which is pretty terrible. However, if there are benefits for getting the same suit, the EV gets better.

which one do you prefer? i haven’t ventured to the new one on the american side, but i’ve gont to casino niagara a bunch of times.

as a college student at wonderful canisius, i love me some blackjack.

yes, the correlation between college student and gambler is close.

I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve played at tables with a side bet that pays 4:1 for your first two cards to equal 20, 9:1 if they’re suited, 19:1 if they are two of the same card, 250:1 if they are both QH, and 1000:1 if both are QH and dealer has blackjack.

I’m led to wonder if maybe the bet can push with certain cards coming up. Say, it’s a push if you win the hand or if you draw a face card. That’s the only way I can imagine anyone playing this game.

I never played on a riverboat, but I have a friend that did.

He said that they do offer this game. The odds are that bad. And EVERYONE plays it. They’d say to him, “why aren’t you playing. If you hit 2 7’s, they pay you 50-1”.

These would be the people who think that third base can “take the dealer’s bust card” and that kind of crap.

Those payouts are about as good as the daily Pick 3 and Pick 4 aren’t they?

I wouldn’t take a side bet like that. Now, if I was playing the game I was talking about, it’d mostly be to kill time, so we’re talking about a two-dollar blackjack bet and a one-dollar side bet. The house edge is 24.71%, which is actually worse than that 7s side-bet, which is still like 13%, depending on the exact pay table.

Side bets are sucker bets. I’m a little ashamed that I play them at times and would never do so if I was betting serious amounts of money. The only game I can think of where it’s worth it to take the side bet is Fortune Pai-Gow, preferably with a full table.

Lemme rephrase that. I would sometimes take a sidebet, but only if I’m gambling low amounts of money anyway. Say, for example, I’m waiting to get in on a poker game or tourney. Twenty bucks can last a while at a $2 blackjack table and won’t really cut into my buy-in if I’m waiting on a ring game. Then I might take the side bet hoping to get abnormally lucky and have it hit a few times, at least enough to balance out the losses.