Stop reading this Gambling Guide right now. Pretend that you’ve never heard of Blackjack Insurance and try to wipe the term completely from your memory. It is one of the worst bets in a casino that should always be ignored and never made under any circumstance. Still reading? OK, let’s discuss why this bet exists and how it vacuums up piles of cash from players’ bankrolls all over the world, each and every day.
You will see printed on the felt of almost every blackjack table in existence,
Insurance Pays 2 to 1. Often it is the largest thing printed on the table. So you need to ask yourself: if the casino is promoting a specific bet so aggressively, doesn’t it tell you something about the odds for the player? It sure does.
What is Blackjack Insurance?
The opportunity for “insurance” arises in only one situation during a blackjack game – when the dealer’s up card is an Ace. That Ace looks pretty intimidating staring out from in front of the dealer, so he generously goes around the table asking each player if they would like insurance against the possibility of a game-ending Dealer Blackjack. If players bite on the offer, a side bet of up to 50% of the original stake can be wagered that indeed there is a ten-value card hiding underneath that bullet.
If the dealer does have a blackjack, the insurance bet will pay double and cover the loss of the original hand, allowing the player to break even. That sounds like a pretty good consolation prize and the longer the dealer takes to ask if you want insurance, the more inevitable the certainty of the Dealer Blackjack becomes in your mind. You therefore cough up the chips to cover the insurance and the dealer then flips an 8. It happens every time…or at least it “seems” like it happens every time.
What does Blackjack Insurance Protect Against?
You are not insuring the success or failure of your own hand, you are simply betting whether the dealer will make a blackjack with the two cards that they have dealt themselves. In real life most people believe that insurance is a good thing to have against the possibility of something bad happening. It’s totally understandable. On the tables, a dealer blackjack is certainly something bad, but what are the actual odds of it occurring?
Is Blackjack Insurance a Bad Bet?
Let’s say you have placed a $10 initial bet at a blackjack table. The dealer then shows an ace and you take the maximum amount of insurance available to you based on your wager amount, say $5. If the hole card creates a Dealer Blackjack you will now break even on your wager. That is certainly better than losing the entire $10, but the odds that a ten-spot is lurking under the dealer’s ace are roughly only 31%, translating to 4 in 13 times.
This is what makes Insurance such a bad bet – the true payout on insurance should be 3 to 1, but the house is only offering 2 to 1. And if you make enough bad bets in a casino, you’re going to burn through your bankroll and not have any funds left to play smart blackjack that’s based on sound strategy.
Is Blackjack Insurance Ever a Good Bet?
There is only one situation where blackjack insurance is a good bet and it can only be executed by advanced players who are skilled at card counting. This is because they can identify when the shoe is full of ten-value cards to the extent that the odds of a dealer having blackjack are statistically increased. These experts can then make favorable, odds-friendly insurance bets when the opportunity arises, and some claim that this is actually one of the most profitable wagers that can be made on the tables.
It should be noted that if you are playing live dealer blackjack online, most studio dealers are shuffling the shoe half way through it so the potential card counters at home can never achieve deep enough shoe penetration to be effective. The vast majority of players are not counting cards anyway, making this policy pretty much moot.
So while we can all agree that it’s a good thing to be properly insured in most facets of life, the blackjack table is not one of them. Save your money for a better bet.