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Blackjack insurance : What is it?

May 08, 2022

We usually take out insurance to cushion the financial consequences of an accident. We have health insurance, car insurance and household insurance.

You can even get insurance while playing blackjack. On the surface, this certainly sounds like a good idea, but is blackjack insurance really worth it? Let's look at the numbers to find out.

How does an insurance bet work in blackjack?

How does an insurance bet work in blackjack?

Blackjack insurance is a side bet offered to the player when the dealer's up card is an ace, as an insurance against a "blackjack" in the dealer's hand.

The odds for blackjack insurance are 2/1, and the maximum bet allowed is usually half of the player's main bet. 

This provides the player with the opportunity to balance the hand in case the dealer has blackjack, even if he loses his main bet.

The insurance is offered before the dealer checks his face-down card (the card that is initially not visible to the players), and is paid out when the face-down card has a value of 10, making a 21 from two cards.

You should only play an insurance bet if the dealer's up card is an ace, you have a good hand of 15 or more, and you are sure that the dealer's second card will make blackjack.

If these circumstances do not apply, we recommend dropping the chips and continuing with the hand as usual. 

When to take insurance in blackjack?

When to take insurance in blackjack?

Insurance can be an attractive option for the player if the dealer's face-up card is an ace, since the chance that the other card has a value of 10 is almost one in three. 

However, the odds suggest that insurance will be a losing bet in the long run unless you are a very capable card counter

To win your insurance bet, the dealer must have a card with a value of 10 as a hole card. Experienced card counters can keep track of the number of cards left in the deck and determine when there are enough to make insurance a percentage decision.

What are the odds for insurance bets?

The exact odds of winning an insurance bet vary from game to game and depend on a variety of factors, from the number of decks used to the number of 10-point cards already dealt.

It may seem like the odds are stacked against the players, but those who are familiar with basic strategy and card counting can keep track and recognize when the conditions are perfect for a winning insurance bet.

Although this can be difficult in online blackjack, we recommend playing a few rounds of free blackjack to get a feel for the odds and get used to insurance betting.

If you want to play live dealer blackjack or real money blackjack, you should also consider the number of decks used. The higher the number of decks, the more likely you are to lose your insurance bet. Read also what is what is ace in Blackjack.

Why insurance should generally be avoided in blackjack?

Why insurance should generally be avoided in blackjack?

The following example shows why, even in a best-case scenario like the one below, using blackjack insurance is a bad strategy in the long run.

- You are playing alone against the dealer in a game with only one deck, and none of the cards in your first hand have a value of 10.

- This means that 16 of the remaining 49 cards have a value of 10, giving your £10 insurance bet the highest possible chance of winning.

- Nevertheless, your position remains one that will not be possible in the long run. 

- On average, the £10 insurance bet wins 16 times and loses 33 times. Each win brings £20 profit, which is £320 in total.

- However, with 33 losses of £10 each, you will be £10 in the red in total.

This hand is a best-case scenario because neither you nor any other player has cards with a value of 10 in their starting hand. If this were the case, the chance of the dealer having a hole card with a value of 10 (and you therefore winning your insurance bet) would be even smaller.

Conclusion

Despite the well-intentioned of your somewhat impetuous new friends at the blackjack table, or even in many instances an ill-informed dealer, insurance is at no time a good idea for a casual blackjack player.

The increasing number of blackjack tables paying out 6 to 5 has caused a lot of confusion when it comes to taking even money.

The casinos don't offer this shortcut because the math doesn't work the way it does at a 3-to-2 table, but you can still get insurance on your blackjack.

Perhaps the only positive thing about 6-to-5 blackjack is that it reignites the debate about eliminating insurance.

Casinos realize profit on hands per hour. Spending 10 or 15 seconds scouring the layout to ask for insurance when almost no one is claiming it can have a serious impact on profits over hundreds of thousands of hands.

The saving grace at the old 3-to-2 tables was the deeply ingrained (but bad) advice to take straight money and walk away with something. This at least ensured some player participation in the insurance bet.

But now that people are forced to insure a blackjack in 6-to-5 games, participation has dropped to an all-time low. Don't be too surprised if you walk into a casino in the not-too-distant future and insurance is no longer in bold letters on the game board.

But don't worry, your chatty friend in seat 7 can probably talk for hours about 12s versus a bust card. Discover what is soft 17 in Blackjack.

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