Blackjack Insurance

Hello, readers of SuperCasinoSites! My name is Dan Howard. I am one of the co-writers at this website and a person with a vast experience in playing roulette online and offline. I have helped review many of the web-based casinos and roulette variations you can read about at SuperCasinoSites, with a focus on providing you with accurate information that can help you in finding the best casino websites.

Nowadays, there are many different types of insurance one can buy – there is life insurance, car insurance, travel insurance, health insurance, property insurance, and liability insurance. You can even buy insurance in gambling establishments whenever you take a seat at one of their blackjack tables.

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The latter is a type of proposition bet in blackjack that has been the subject of hot debates for decades. Few are bold enough to argue in favor of taking insurance but the vast majority of blackjack experts recommend you to refrain from ever making this bet. Let’s take a closer look at what insurance in blackjack is, how is it identical to the blackjack even-money payout, and why you should avoid both of them if you are a basic strategy player.

How Blackjack Insurance Works

How Insurance WorksBlackjack players are offered insurance whenever the dealer’s exposed card is an Ace. This is an optional proposition wager which is treated separately from your original bet. When you buy insurance, you are practically betting your dealer has a ten-value card in the hole next to their Ace for a blackjack.

You can insure any two-card hand against a dealer blackjack by betting up to half of your original wager. The chips for the insured bets are placed within the semicircular stripe that runs across the table and reads “Insurance Pays 2 to 1”. There are two possible scenarios when you take insurance.

If the dealer indeed has a blackjack and you do not, you lose your original stake but win the insurance bet at casino odds of 2 to 1, i.e. you end up breaking even for this round. Provided that the dealer does not have a ten-value card in the hole, you lose the insurance bet and play on your hand continues as usual.

Is Taking Insurance Worth It?

InsuranceSome players argue in favor of insurance and the basic premise of their argument is that you lose your entire initial bet if you do not insure your hand as opposed to breaking even when you accept insurance.

This “rationalization” is a load of bosh. Casino operators themselves want you to believe they are doing you a favor by allowing you to insure yourself against a possible dealer blackjack. Some dealers are even instructed to advise players on accepting insurance.

The truth of the matter is you are insuring nothing. What you are doing with this side bet is wagering the dealer has a ten-value card in the hole. This has nothing to do with boosting the odds of your original bet but it has everything to do with decreasing your long-term expected value and here is why.

Suppose you are playing a six-deck game where the ratio of non-ten cards to ten-value cards is 216 to 96. The six decks have just been reshuffled, the dealer exposes an Ace at the start of the first round, and offers you to buy insurance. Provided that we do not take into consideration the composition of your starting two-card total, the ratio of non-ten-value cards to ten-value cards is now 215 to 96 because one of the Aces has already left the shoe.

Therefore, if you insure your hand for a dollar 311 times, you will incur losses of $215 because the dealer’s hole card will not be a ten-value one 215 times. The other 96 times the dealer will have a ten-value card in the hole so you will win 96 * $2 for a total of $192. It follows that $311 worth of insurance side bets is equal to net losses of $215 – $192 = $23.

Thus, insurance puts you at a massive disadvantage of (-$23 / $311) *100 = -7.39% which means the house holds an edge of nearly 7.40% with this side bet. No wonder dealers are recommending patrons to insure their hands!

But There Are Exceptions to Any Rule

ExceptionsIf you take the time to examine a basic strategy chart closely, you will surely notice one strange phenomenon. The correct plays for splitting, hitting, standing, doubling, and surrendering against all possible dealer cards are listed while insurance is strangely absent from the chart. Why is that?

The reason is simple – basic strategy players should never take insurance because it is a negative-expectation bet in the long term. The odds of winning with this wager are slimmer than the odds the casino pays you at. Of course, there are exceptions to all rules, including this one because the insurance bet is susceptible to advantage-play techniques such as card counting.

Card counters keep track of the ratio of ten-value to non-ten-value cards that remain in the shoe or deck. This gives them the opportunity to identify the situations in which insurance becomes a positive-expectation bet. When the remaining ten-value cards outnumber the non-ten-value cards, a card counter is more likely to insure their hands against a dealer blackjack.

The Blackjack Even-Money Payout

Even-Money PayoutThe even-money payout is offered when players obtain a blackjack and the dealer exposes an Ace. Most inexperienced gamblers get confused when this happens and often end up asking fellow patrons or the dealer for advice. Should they accept the even-money payout or should they decline? And of course, the dealer would always recommend them to accept even money because this way, they will not lose anything during this round.

This is a bad piece of advice which you should never take. Here is the thing – the even-money payout is basically the same thing as insurance with a few tiny differences. The first difference is that this is a possible option only when the player has a blackjack and the dealer shows an Ace. Also, if you accept even money, the dealer would pay you out before he or she peeks under their hole card for a blackjack, unlike winning insurance bets which are paid after the peek.

The Even-Money Payout is Insurance in Disguise

Even-Money PayoutInsurance and even money are the two sides of one and the same coin. Let’s take a look at a few examples to see why. In the first scenario, you insure your blackjack for $10 but the dealer also has a natural. The two blackjacks push, so you end up winning $20 in net profits.

In the second scenario, you again decide to accept insurance but it turns out the dealer does not have a natural. You lose your $10 insurance bet but the blackjack earns you $30 (1.5 times your initial $20 bet) for a net profit of $20.

The third possible situation you can find yourself in is when you decline insurance but the dealer also ends up having a natural. The two blackjacks push again and you neither lose nor win anything.

And finally, we have the situation where you decline buying insurance and the dealer does not have a ten-value card in the hole. In this case, you earn $30 in net profits plus your initial $20 stake. It follows that if you always accept insurance on your blackjacks, you inevitably end up winning even money whether or not the dealer also has a natural.