Blackjack Insurance: What is It Good For and Should I Ever Use It?
Sometimes during a hand of blackjack, a dealer will offer the player the option of insurance, but is this a good idea?
Generally speaking, insurance is a good thing to have. Travel insurance, car insurance, home insurance, and most notably life insurance, all play an important role in millions of people’s lives around the world when things go wrong. Taking out an insurance policy is a form of risk management, transferring the risk of loss from you onto someone else – the insurance company – for a fee that represents a fraction of the full potential loss. A $100 policy can sometimes be the difference between managing to salvage a decent holiday and spending an entire week on the beach in the same pair of underwear.
However, when offered blackjack insurance at the casino is it as worthwhile to take the insurance, or just take the risk? Let’s take a look at the casinos only offered insurance policy, and what your best option is.
What Even is Blackjack Insurance?
The main thing to know about blackjack insurance is that it’s only offered in one circumstance and involves someone – probably – having a blackjack.
Blackjack do’s & don’ts:
• Never split 10s
• Avoid betting irregularly high when you’re on a ‘streak’
• Always learn basic strategy
Insurance will become an option when the dealers’ showing up-card is an ace; already holding an ace, there’s a good chance that their second card will have a value of 10, which will give them a blackjack; the actual probability of this happening is around 1 in 3. So, when the dealer has an ace, players are offered the opportunity to place an insurance bet; these are secondary bets, and can be made up to half the value of their original bet.
If you opt to place the insurance bet the dealer will check their hidden card – the hole card – and if they have a blackjack then the insurance bet will be paid out at odds of 2:1. Naturally if this happens, you will lose your original bet unless of course you are also holding a blackjack in your hand.
The purpose of the insurance is to allow the player to break even on their hand, by betting the dealer will have a blackjack when it is probable they will.
So, Should You Take It?
However, players will only break even if the dealer does indeed have blackjack; assuming the player had a worse hand than blackjack and subsequently lost their original bet, and that they placed the insurance bet at half the value of the original.
Unfortunately, if the dealer isn’t holding a blackjack you lose the insurance bet and the initial bet will continue to be played out. So, is it worthwhile to take insurance? Usually, no it’s not.
Basic blackjack strategy players should simply never take the insurance bet, because usually they’re just throwing their money away. Although the idea seems appealing, because you still get something if the dealer is holding the all-powerful blackjack hand, it’s isn’t actually very favorable to you as a player.
The insurance bet is always given at odds 2:1, but the chances a dealer has a 10 as their hold card is almost always greater than 2:1; so, as you’re only offered these 2:1 odds you don’t get a fair betting value and shouldn’t bet. Ultimately, even if you did win an insurance bet a few times, you’ll end up losing money purely because of the pay-out odds and the chances of winning it.
As with all blackjack rules, there are exceptions and sometimes it can be favorable to take the insurance bet; however, the conditions in which it’s okay to do so are pretty specific.
First of all you wouldn’t be just playing blackjack, you would be counting cards and as such you would have a good idea of what was likely to be the dealer’s hole card. If you’re counting and know that the more than one third of the remaining cards have a ten value, then it’s more likely that an insurance bet will be a profitable one.
For a card counter, insurance is one of the most favorable play variations possible; interestingly though, it’s almost the most-important tip-offs a counter can give to the casino that the odds are no longer stacked in their favor. Counters can’t afford to ignore the option of an insurance bet, but should be careful as to how they go about it.
So, unless you know the bet is favorable, you should ignore the possibility of placing an insurance bet; it’s just not a mathematically sound strategy to exercise the insurance betting option if you are not an expert player.
Counters, stick with the travel insurance though, because you wouldn’t want to end up in Vegas with only one change of clothes and none of your carefully-planned master disguises.