In the latest edition of our “A to Z of Gambling” series, we’ll be taking a look at the letter “I”. We’ll be discussing an important poker concept, in the form of “Implied Odds”, as well as looking at different aspects of the roulette table with the “Inside Bets”, and we’ll reveal why taking “Insurance” when playing blackjack is a mistake.
I is for… Implied Odds
Found at the poker table, “implied odds” is a concept related to “pot odds“. Where pot odds deals with the amount of chips already in the pot, implied odds concerns what will likely end up in pot in the immediate future.
It is just as important to be familiar with the idea of implied odds as with regular pot odds (called “immediate odds”) as poker is an unpredictable game and the information available to you at any point during a hand can change.
Let’s take an example; there may be player at your table who loves to call big bets on the river with weak hands, rather than risk being bluffed out of a pot (and let’s face it, we all know a guy like that). Imagine you’re holding two suited cards and the flop gives you four to a flush. Your river-calling opponent makes a bet and everybody folds to you. You are being offered the correct pot odds and so you make the call.
The turn card falls and offers you no help, but you suspect it hasn’t helped your opponent either. He bets again and this time you aren’t getting quite the correct pot odds. So obviously, you should fold… shouldn’t you? Well, possibly not, because we know that this player falls in love with his hands and that he’ll likely call a big bet on the river with his top pair type holdings. If you can hit your flush on the river, you can feel sure that you’ll win enough from him to make up the shortfall on the turn and probably more.
However, there is a problem with implied odds, in that it’s all too easy to justify a bad play – or at least to get a little over optimistic. If for example, you held the king of hearts in your hand, with two hearts on the flop and a third on the turn, it is probably a little naive to expect our river-calling friend to call a large bet on the end without a hand of his own, should the river complete your flush, as four hearts on the board will likely scare him out of the pot. So if you were not getting the correct odds on the turn, you should likely still fold, as using implied odds to justify a call in this example would almost certainly be wrong.
With implied odds, it is easy to fall into the wrong way of thinking. “If I make this flush, I’ll win a huge pot so I’ll just call regardless”. It is important to consider how many people are left in the pot, what sort hands they are likely to be holding and what their general playing styles are. As always in poker, there are lots of variables to consider, so be careful to put the right amount of thought into your implied odds before making a decision.
I is for… Inside Bets
All roulette layouts are divided up into two clear sections – the “Inside” and the “Outside”. The outside bets are the ones away from the individual numbers, such as Odd and Even, Red and Black, the columns or the dozens. The inside bets are found on the individual numbers themselves and are as follows:
Bet on a single number by placing a chip in the middle of the box containing your chosen number. This includes zero (and double zero on an American roulette wheel) and you will be paid at 35/1 if the bet comes in.
Bet on two numbers by placing a chip on the line between the two numbers, such as 8 and 9 or 8 and 11. The odds paid for a winning split bet are 17/1. On American roulette layouts, you may choose to bet on the split between the zero and the double zero.
Corner bets are placed by placing the chip on the intersection between the four numbers of your choice, such as the point where 1, 2, 4 and 5 all meet. This type of roulette bet pays 8/1.
Street bets are sometimes called “Line” bets by roulette players and they pay odds of 11/1. These bets consist of three numbers and you place them by putting your chip on the line between the inside and outside bets, covering the first number in the row (such as the 9 in a 7, 8 and 9 street bet).
Like the regular street bet, only this roulette bet covers six separate numbers, such as 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. It is effectively covering two streets and pays only 5/1.
Depending whether the game is European roulette or American roulette, there are also a few other inside bets to be found:
The Trio is only found on a European roulette table – that is, a table with a single zero only. This bet allows you to cover the zero with two other number and is placed by covering the point where the 0, 1 and 2 or the 0, 2 and 3 meet. A Trio pays at 11/1.
The Basket is found on the American roulette table (a layout with both a zero and a double zero) and pays at 6/1. Chips are placed at the intersection of the three numbers of your choice; either 0, 1 and 2; 0, 00 and 2; or 00, 2 and 3.
Top Line bets are found on the American roulette layout and consist of five numbers – 0, 00, 1, 2 and 3. To place this particular roulette wager, chips must be placed at the corner of 0 and 1, or the corner of 00 and 3. The payout is 6/1.
I is for… Insurance
When playing blackjack, you may have noticed that when the dealer has an Ace showing, he or she will offer you “Insurance”. What this basically means, is that you can bet half of your original stake and should the dealer have blackjack, you will be paid at 2-1 on the additional wager. So what you are doing, the casino will have you believe, is “insuring” your bet, or protecting your losses should the dealer have blackjack.
Let us get something clear right from the off – Insurance is a terrible bet and should be avoided at all costs. Here’s why:
What is really happening, is that you are betting on the value of the dealer’s down card being ten. We already know that he or she has an Ace showing, so for the dealer to have blackjack, the down card must be a card with the value of ten. The actual odds of this being the case are 9/4; the King, Queen, Jack and Ten are all worth ten points, while the remaining nine cards (Ace to 9) have values worth something other than ten.
So there are four cards that will win the bet and nine that will cause the bet to lose, making the odds 9/4 against winning the bet. The casino is offering to pay you 2/1 for this bet (3.00 if you prefer decimal odds) – lower than the true odds of 9/4 (3.25) – so in the long term, you will lose money by taking the bet.
The only justification for taking insurance at the blackjack table, comes when you are counting cards and you believe the shoe to be rich in ten value cards. For the bet to break even, there needs to be eight non-ten value cards to four and to make long term profit, there needs to be seven or fewer cards with values other than ten – scenarios that will never happen. If you can find a shoe that is richer in tens though, this could also allow the wager to become profitable, depending on the exact count.
But unless you are a skilled blackjack card counter, the general rule of thumb is simple: never take insurance!
Next time, we’ll be taking a look at the letter “J”. Until then, best of luck with your gambling!