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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Guarantee 20: Good or Gimmick?

23 July 1999

The Empress Casino Hammond announced recently that they've added a new twist to blackjack at some of their tables. Called "Guarantee 20", it's not in the same category as a side bet such as the "Royal Match 21" that's offered at Harrah's Joliet. It's an option that's incorporated into the course of play, but no matter which way you look at it, Guarantee 20 is still a gimmick.

The rules for Guarantee 20 are the same as regular blackjack except when it comes to exercising the gimmick option. For openers, instead of revealing an "up card", the dealer starts play with both of his cards face down. He then asks any player at the table who has a 2-card total of 20 if they would like the "guarantee".

If a player qualifies and accepts the guarantee, the dealer takes their wager and moves it into a section on the layout designated as the "guarantee box". The dealer then proceeds to reveal his up-card. If the up-card is not an ace or a 10-value card, he pays those who accepted the guarantee one-half of their wager and removes their cards.

If the dealer shows a 10-calue card for an up-card, he then checks the hole card to see if he has a blackjack. If the dealer has a blackjack, he takes all the losing wagers, then pays all players who exercised the guarantee option even money on their bet. If the dealer does not have blackjack, he pays all players who accepted the guarantee one-half of their wager and removes their cards.

If the dealer's up-card is an ace, he asks all players who have not accepted the guarantee if they would like insurance. If the dealer has blackjack, he takes all losing wagers, pays insurance bets off at the normal 2-1, then pays all guarantee players even money on their bets. If he doesn't have blackjack, he pays guarantee players one-half of their bet.

Once all guarantee hands have been settled, the game continues as regular blackjack.

This columnist's take on Guarantee 20 is an unscientific one, but my gambling instincts tell me that the value of taking the option is "iffy" at best. Look at it this way: A 2-card total of 20 is the second best 2-card hand you can get. Only a blackjack tops it. It's the third best overall hand you can get. Only blackjack and drawing to 21 top it. Why play games with such a strong hand?

Guarantee 20 is in some respects a variation of the traditional blackjack option known as "surrender". When surrender is offered at a blackjack table, it permits the player to fold his hand after looking at his first two cards and the dealer's up-card in exchange for surrendering one-half of their bet.

There is without doubt some merit in surrendering a "stiff hand" of 12 through 16 against a dealer's 10-calue card or ace. But playing games with a 20? It just doesn't make sense. There are only two ways to lose when you're holding a 20: If the dealer has blackjack or draws to 21. If he gets 20 it's a push. All other hands you win and are paid off at even money.

The lure, of course, is that exercising the Guarantee 20 option ensures the player they'll win something, half their bet at worst or even money at best. If you're frustrated when you get a "push" on your 20, or furious when the dealer draws to 21 and beats you, the guarantee may be for you. As for me, I'll take my chances holding my 20, hoping for an even money payoff. I don't feel like giving the casino an opportunity to give me only half of what I could have won.

The same holds true whenever I'm dealt a blackjack and dealer is showing an ace for an up-card. Under such situations, the player holding the blackjack can ask to be paid even money. Being paid 3-2 for a blackjack is one of the few advantages players have in blackjack. I hate to give up that advantage for an even money payoff. Unless I've been tracking the cards and figure the shoe is rich in 10-value cards, I'd just as soon take my chances and shoot for a 3-2 payoff. At worst, the dealer will show blackjack and my bet will be a "push".

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp