You might have heard the term ‘even money’ being uttered in a Blackjack game. Unsurprisingly, ‘even money’ describes a side bet, offering a player a 1:1 payout instead of the standard 3:2 on their bet when exhibiting an Ace and a 10-value card, otherwise known as a ‘natural blackjack’, and the dealer is showing an Ace.
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If you’re playing it safe, opting for even money might be a solid decision as you’re guaranteed an immediate payout without risking the house also revealing a blackjack. Although, blackjack buffs usually advise against taking even money as, in the long-haul, odds seem to favor the standard 3:2 payout. So, essentially, when choosing to receive even money, you’ll be forfeiting the chance of maximizing on larger wins overall, over time.
As we’ve touched upon above, the term ‘even money’ in Blackjack represents rather specific scenarios where players are offered a chance to cashout on a guaranteed win of 1:1 payout - or to receive winnings equal to the bet they’ve placed. Although, this option is only available when the player has a ‘natural blackjack’, which describes a two-card hand consisting of an Ace and a second card with a value of 10, and the house’s face-up card is an Ace.
Typically, in a standard game of blackjack, achieving a win means receiving a 3:2 payout, and while this could mean a significantly larger sum than a 1:1, many novice players feel more comfortable knowing they aren’t risking the dealer coming up with a blackjack, too - especially in the face of an Ace-up card! In such cases, some players take the option to receive even money, meaning they would receive an immediate payout equal to their original bet, regardless of the eventual outcome of the dealer's hand.
The idea behind the even money side-bet was formed as a risk mitigation strategy, and while it definitely is, as it eliminates the possibility of a push - where both the player and the dealer have the same hand or the same value, in this case a natural blackjack - which would result in a tie. In a push scenario, you neither win nor lose, and your original bet is returned.
Despite the allure of a guaranteed payout, experienced blackjack players tend to approach even money cautiously. Determining whether or not to accept even money or to stick to the standard 3:2 payout involves careful calculation of the overall odds as well as an understanding of the impact it may have on your profitability in the long-term.
The whole idea centers around perfecting strategic gameplay and taking decisions that maximize the expected gains over the course of multiple hands. While even money may seem to be the safest bet in the short term, its implications on profitability become clearer when examined in the context of the historical evolution of blackjack.
Historically, even money in blackjack traces way back to the game's inception and adaptations over hundreds of years. Blackjack, sometimes also referred to simply as ‘21’, is believed to have been invented in the 17th century. The game has had many variations in rules as it spread across different areas and cultures throughout the globe, and the introduction of even money seems to coincide with wanting to create an insurance favorable to the player, along the line.
In traditional blackjack, a natural blackjack pays out at odds of 3:2 - a rule that has remained constant through various iterations of the game.
The addition of even money can be seen as a concession to players facing an Ace-up dealer. Meanwhile, in casinos, the introduction of even money seems to have been kind of a strategic attempt to appeal to more players, by creating a seemingly more captivating, dynamic gaming environment. The even money offer now provided players with an alternative to the standard rule, ensuring a guaranteed win in such scenarios.
In time, seasoned players and amateurs began to debate the strategic implications of even money. Sure, the option presented the attractive prospect of surefire winnings, however, it also questioned the accepted insight of maximizing long-term profitability. Guided by careful strategic gameplay analysis, math and statistics, experts began challenging the idea of regularly accepting even money, and it remains a central topic for discussion to this very day.
When considering whether to take even money, it’s important to understand how insurance betting works - both measures are essentially to protect you against the possibility of a push when the dealer has an Ace-up. Just like with even money, insurance is a side-bet that is only offered when the dealer's face-up card is an Ace.
You would have to place a bet, the size of half of your original, and push on your dealer and receive a payout of 2:1 if the dealer has a blackjack. But, if the dealer doesn’t come up with a blackjack, you would forfeit that half of your original bet, and if you have a blackjack you would be paid out at the standard 3:2. Confused yet?
So, you might be thinking that even money and insurance sound pretty much like the exact same thing - well you wouldn’t be completely wrong. While they are in fact different concepts, they both come up with the same outcome at times, in the end. Let me explain further...
In both instances, we know the dealer must be showing an Ace-up card. With even money, you must have a natural blackjack, and although it’s not necessary with insurance, you would need to have a blackjack to secure your 3:2 payment. So, after losing your insurance bet, you would essentially be paid out the same amount as if you would have taken even money.
Analyzing your risks in different scenarios is key, to be able to benefit from even money. When facing an Ace-up card, the odds of whether the dealer will have a 10-value hole card is an important factor to consider when determining whether you should take or decline even money. Here, when declining even money and the dealer doesn’t have blackjack, you’ll cash in on a sizable payout of 3:2.
However, if the dealer does indeed have a blackjack, then you’ll avoid the loss associated with declining even money but you’d have missed out on the opportunity for a decent payout - even if not as large as a straight up win.
Statistically speaking though, declining even money tends to be the more favourable blackjack strategy over time; the standard 3:2 payout for a natural blackjack provides better expected value when compared with the 1:1 payout offered with even money.
Deciding whether or not to take even money ultimately rests on a player's own risk tolerance, their strategy and understanding of odds, as well as their perceptions on the dealer's likelihood of having a blackjack, and their expected value.
A player must assess whether they prefer guaranteeing definite short-term payouts, even though they might be considerably smaller than standard payouts, or if the risks of losing on some hands and winning on others will eventually lead to more profitability in the long-run.
Even money guarantees a 1:1 payout offered to players with a natural blackjack facing an Ace-up dealer, while insurance is taken to protect against the dealer having a natural blackjack, and typically pays out 2:1.
In even money players with a natural blackjack are offered a chance to cash out
immediately on a guaranteed win of 1:1 payout i.e. to receive winnings equal to the bet they’ve placed.
Professional players and strategists emphasize the importance of keeping to the standard payout, as opposed to consistently taking even money since it might hurt your chances of maximizing on the expected profits over time.
Even money is mostly advantageous when you know that more than a third of the unseen cards are either 10-value cards or face-value cards.
Even money is not usually offered in 6:5 blackjack games.
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