Blackjack Insurance Bet: A Good or a Bad Option?
Although most of the game of blackjack is pretty straightforward for most casino players, there are some side bets on the table such as the insurance bet which are more of a mystery to some gamblers. Is taking out a blackjack insurance actually worth it, or should you avoid this bet?
The goal of the game of blackjack is simple and can be derived from the alternative name of ’21’ which is used for this game. You have to ideally reach a score of 21, or otherwise get as close to 21 as possible. Above all, the goal is to beat the hand of the dealer in getting as close to 21 without going over this number, as that way you will go bust and automatically lose your hand.
In the game, a natural blackjack is the term used for a starting hand in which you immediately hit the score of 21 with your first two cards that are dealt at the beginning of each game. This automatically is a hand containing an ace as one of your two cards, with the other card being a king, queen, jack or ten.
Insurance is a side bet offered by the casino when the dealer has an ace as his open card at the beginning of the game. There is now a big danger that the dealer might hit a natural blackjack, as any king, queen, jack or ten will suffice for him to complete his hand.
You can take out the insurance bet at any point in the game until the dealer opens his face down card and starts to plays his hand.
When you have taken out insurance, you must place half of your original bet on the table as your ‘insurance fee’. If the dealer indeed will have a natural blackjack, you will receive a 2 to 1 pay-out.
Insuring when you have a natural blackjack
Players who have a natural blackjack themselves may also take out insurance, and in taking maximum insurance they win an amount equal to their main wager. Fully insuring your own blackjack against a dealer’s blackjack is therefore referred to as “taking even money”. There is no difference in results between taking even money and insuring a blackjack.
To understand why taking out a blackjack insurance is an attractive option for gamblers, you need to know more about the basics. When a dealer has an Ace face up, the chance that a card with a value of 10 will come up as the dealer’s second card is slightly less than 1 out of 3 times. Placing an insurance bet is to protect you from this outcome.
Yet side bets are often invented by the casino to lure players who are new to the game in placing an extra bet which in the long run only earns the house extra money. In fact, they try to make you feel safe by calling it insurance in the first place! It’s actually a pretty clever marketing trick, as taking out insurance is almost always a bad bet. Below we will discuss why this is the case.
The insurance side bet in blackjack has been given this name so that players feel like their hand is being protected. We take out insurance for our house or car to protect the value of our beloved assets. However, that is not the case with blackjack. Rather than being a true form of insurance, the insurance here is in reality just an extra bet where you assume the dealer has a blackjack.
The odds against the dealer getting a natural blackjack if the face up card is an ace are 9 to 4. This alone should be enough to show any player that it is a bet that is not worth it in the long run.
Theoretically speaking, with a 2 to 1 insurance pay-out this comes down at 8 to 9, still to the disadvantage of the player. Let’s put it in another way: If you were to take insurance 100 times with a bet of 10 euro, you would win 31 times for a total of 620 euro. But this means that you lose 69 times for 690 euros.
The same logic applies when you have a natural blackjack. If you take the insurance bet, you either win 10 euro on your bet or have a tie with the dealer, or end up losing the 5 euro insurance bet while you win 15 euro on your own natural blackjack hand. So what’s the point? Either way you win 10 euro. However, without taking out insurance, you will lose an average of 10.40 euros per blackjack. The insurance option sounds nice until you break it down into numbers.
So I should never take out a blackjack insurance?
This question is a bit more complicated as the answer is ‘yes and no’ at the same time! There are rare cases where the odds are in your favour for the dealer to draw a 10 after getting an ace, in which situation you should technically opt for the insurance. However, this requires some good card counting skills as you need to know how many high cards are left in the dealer’s shoe.
Novice players who are not familiar with card counting strategies should probably not deal with insurance bets at all. However, if you have the blackjack skills and are able to count cards, there are situations where taking out insurance is one of the last options for optimising your odds in blackjack.
For this reason, it is not fair to say that you should absolutely never insure, but it is a good guideline to most players For those who are interested in taking out insurance, read on more below.
The exception to the rule
As is the case with most rules and tricks in casino gambling, there is always an exception. If you are a player with a lot of experience and good card counting then you can place an insurance bet when the odds are in your favour. The odds are in your favour when one of the three cards remaining in the deck have a value of 10.
Card counting allows you to know which cards are left in the deck. You focus on how many tens are left in the deck to know if insurance is worth it. Many of the skilled blackjack players who use this particular strategy know exactly how likely they are themselves to get dealt a card with the value of 10.
Insurance is generally a trap that many players fall for as they are completely unaware of blackjack odds and the maths behind the game. You have to think carefully why the casino offers you this option in the first place. If it wouldn’t be in their advantage, it simply wouldn’t be on the table to begin with! Casinos are set up to beat you with these types of rules in the long run. The only way to beat them is to fully understand how strategies work.
If you are a novice player, it is best never to take out insurance at blackjack. However, if you are a gifted blackjack player and have a mathematical mindset and good memory, you should definitely try to understand the card counting strategy. Gifted card counters can actually use the insurance bet for their own benefit – but you would need to know exactly when to place money at this bet and when not.