GENERIC BASIC STRATEGY
THE HIGH-LOW SYSTEM
HOW TO WIN WITHOUT GETTING KICKED OUT
Most casinos offer "insurance", a side bet that you may make when the dealer shows an ace. A dealer showing any other card does not offer insurance. Some casinos never offer insurance, ace or no ace. The insurance bet is almost always limited to half the original bet.
If you wish to take insurance, place a new bet in front of your original bet. The dealer with a natural (i.e. a 10 in the hole) pays two to one on the insurance bet. If the dealer does not have a natural, you 10se your insurance bet.
If both you and the dealer have naturals, the insurance bet still wins two to one. If the dealer has a natural while you do not, the win on the insurance bet equals the 10ss on the original hand and no money changes hands.
Most of the time you will not have a natural and the dealer will not have a natural. Then you must select one of several options. The order in which you will consider them is: Surrender, Split a pair, double down, hit or stand. Not all options are available in all casinos. In any casino, however, you may have to make several consecutive decisions.
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Is Insurance a Good Bet
The insurance bet should be seen as independent from your initial stake, as it doesn’t affect what happens to that. As such, there are basically only two possible outcomes to consider; you either win the insurance bet or you 10se it. To win you need the dealer to have a blackjack, which means his second card must be either a ten or a picture card. The chances of this happening are approximately 30%, which of course means the chances of it not happening are around 70%.
In the long run, therefore, you will win an insurance bet approximately 30% of the time, and 10se it approximately 70% of the time. These are rough figures, and they don’t account for what other cards may have been dealt, but they are accurate enough to show that the insurance bet is a bad one. Let’s look at what you could expect to happen if you placed this bet 100 times, based on a $50 stake.
- Your total stakes would be $5,000 (100 x $50).
- You would win $100 (it pays at 2:1 remember) 30 times.
- You would 10se $50 70 times.
- Your total winnings would be $3,000 (30 x $100)
- Your total losses would be $3,500 (70 x $50)
- Your net position would be a $500 10ss.
I’ve obviously simplified things here somewhat, but the fact remains that taking insurance is (mathematically speaking) a bad bet. That’s why my advice is to avoid it, as it will ultimately cost you money over time.
Exceptions to the Rule
Although I don’t advise placing the insurance bet, there are two exceptions to this rule. The first applies if you are counting cards and believe the remaining deck is heavy on tens. In this circumstance the dealer is more likely to have a blackjack, so the insurance bet may be mathematically in your favor.
The second exception has nothing to do with math. In fact, many blackjack experts would disagree with this particular piece of advice. I personally think it’s valid though. If you’ve placed a larger than usual initial stake and get dealt a blackjack, and then the dealer shows an ace, you might want to at least consider the insurance bet. Although it’s still mathematically a bad bet, sometimes it’s acceptable to forget about the math and just because you feel that you need a “safety net” of guaranteeing a win when you have a large stake at risk can be appealing.
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