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Insurance in Blackjack

A. Antonova (editor) |

Insurance Bet – Safe Haven or Casino Trick?

Insurance in BlackjackAs there are different styles of blackjack play, some players prefer to minimize the risks as much as possible. In some variants of the game of 21, you may see that players are allowed to make an insurance bet. This betting option allows players to make an additional wager, half the size of their original bet, whenever the dealer’s face-up card is an ace. Players who prefer a safer approach, enjoy this option as it is paying 2:1 if the dealer ends up holding a blackjack.

Although taking insurance sounds like a very safe option, especially if you are new to blackjack, many expert players will advise you to avoid making this type of side bet. The reason for that is that the insurance bet actually increases the house edge, giving the casino an additional advantage over the player. In this article, we will discuss how the insurance bet is made and whether it is a good option to make use of while playing blackjack.

What is Insurance in Blackjack

Blackjack InsuranceInsurance is an optional move which is offered by most casinos, both online and land-based. To take insurance means to place a side bet which can be put only if the up card of the dealer is an ace. The main idea of this move is to give players the opportunity to insure their hand and get paid if the dealer has blackjack. In order to take advantage of the insurance option, you need to place a side bet that costs half of your initial wager.

In case that the dealer gets a blackjack when the hidden card is revealed, the insurance bet wins and you are paid according to the payout the respective casino offers. It can differ from one place to another, however, it is very easy to find it as it is usually displayed on the blackjack table. The standard payout for insurance is 2:1 and for blackjack – 3:2. If the dealer doesn’t get blackjack, you lose the side bet and the outcome of your hand will be determined as usual, taking into account its total value and the cards of the dealer.

The insurance bet is a separate one and as such, it is treated independently.

How to Take Insurance

How to Take InsurancYou can make this move after you are dealt your first two cards and before the dealer reveals their hole card. If the dealer’s up card happens to be an ace, they will directly ask whether any of the participants would like to take insurance. In most casinos, the dealer normally announces “Insurance open” and this is the time slot when you are allowed to place this side bet in the designated area on the table.

Blackjack Player Move Insurance

It should be noted that this move is available for only a limited period of time, with the dealer announcing “Insurance closed” whne the time is up. As already mentioned, you have the chance to take insurance even when you play blackjack online. In such cases, all of the players on the virtual table are asked whether they want to take insurance. This way, you have the opportunity to either make this move or decline it which makes the game identical to its land-based counterpart.

When to Take Insurance

When to Take InsuranceThe insurance bet favors casinos and this is the main reason why it is so widespread. Many dealers tend to prompt patrons to take insurance as they know that it significantly increases the house edge. If your blackjack career is in its infancy, it is a good idea to avoid taking insurance as you are bound to lose extra money and blow your bankroll away way faster.

Blackjack fans who play according to the basic strategy should never take insurance as the side bet has a negative expectation value in the long run. In addition, your odds of winning the insurance bet are lower than the casino odds. By taking advantage of the insurance bet, you further stack the odds in favor of the house. In a single-deck blackjack, the house edge increases to 5.88% if you go for insurance.

The situation does not improve if you play multi-deck blackjack and you take Insurance. Variations using between 4 and 8 decks will nudge the house edge even higher, surpassing 7%. So, why take insurance and increase the advantage of the house when you can play according to the basic strategy and reduce the casino’s advantage to under 1%?

Let us assume that you insure your hand and the dealer gets blackjack. Then, you lose your original wager and win the insurance bet. As we already mentioned above, to make this side bet, you have to make another wager that costs half of your original stake. Having in mind that the payout for winning an insurance bet is 2:1, you simply break even rather than winning or losing anything. On the other hand, if the dealer has no blackjack, you lose the insurance bet and continue playing with your hand. However, there is no guarantee that the outcome of the round will be positive for you.

The insurance bet has proven to be advantageous only for card counters as they can determine the ratio of high-value cards to low-value ones. Keeping track of the cards enables them to get a general idea of the remaining cards in the deck. If the pack is rich in 10s, then it is a good idea to take insurance as the dealer’s chances of getting a blackjack are high enough. In fact, the insurance bet is considered to be one of the biggest benefits for players who know how to apply card counting systems correctly. It is recommended to take insurance when the true count exceeds three.

Taking Even-Money on Blackjacks

Even-MoneySome players claim that taking insurance is a good move when you have blackjack. The logic behind this statement is that blackjack is the best hand you can possibly get in this game and if the dealer also has this winning combination, the result is a tie. That means there is no winner and you don’t get anything in return for having a blackjack. If you take insurance in such cases, you will be able to get the same amount of money as your original wager, regardless of the dealer’s cards. In order to achieve this profitable outcome, you are required to take the maximum insurance.

Even though it may sound quite reasonable to some blackjack fans, the reality is quite different. If you get a blackjack and the dealer’s up card is an ace, then the casino might offer you an even-money payout. Rookie players will most likely get confused in such situations and we cannot blame them for that. The even-money payout is a disguised insurance bet.

However, there are some differences between the insurance bet and the even-money payout. While the former is available when the dealer’s face up card is an ace, the latter is offered only when the player is holding a blackjack. In addition, if players accept the even-money payout, they will receive the even-money payout before the dealer checks for a blackjack. But why is the even-money payout very similar to taking insurance?

For example, your original wager is $20, and you have a natural. The dealer’s up card is an ace, and you decide to take insurance. Then, you have to stake $10 more. If the dealer indeed has a blackjack, you will only win $20, leaving you with no payout for your blackjack. If we have the same situation, but you decide not to take insurance, the game results in a tie or “push” and nobody wins or loses. The last scenario is having a blackjack against the dealer’s ace, with the game ending with the dealer showing a hand different than a blackjack. If you decide to take insurance in that case, you lose your $10 side bet, but you win $30 for getting a blackjack. In other words, your net winnings amount to $20.

Judging by the example above, we can conclude that the insurance bet and the even-money payout offer identical returns, allowing players to break even at best. That said, some players believe that taking insurance will save them from leaving the casino empty-handed if multiple blackjack hands end up in a tie. The obvious counterargument to that claim is missing the 3:2 blackjack payout if the dealer does not hold a blackjack.

Why to Avoid Taking Insurance

Why to Avoid Taking InsuranceInsurance is a side bet which works in favor of the casino in most cases. Assuming that the dealer’s up card is an ace, it has been calculated that taking insurance will increase the house edge to around 7.39%, providing that the game is played with six packs of cards. Usually, the dealer will get blackjack around one-third of the time which makes this side bet irrelevant in a number of situations.

The aforementioned factors clearly show that if you are not a card counter, when it comes to taking insurance, you will most likely lose money in the long term by placing this side bet. Since blackjack is a skill-based game, it is essential to be prepared in advance in order to manage to reduce the house edge and prevent yourself from putting any disadvantageous bets.

Even though the insurance bet seems like a good opportunity to insure your hand, it has proven to be very risky as it only wins if the dealer has blackjack, which as shown, doesn’t occur that often. While it is true that the dealer showing a blackjack will ensure a 2:1 payout on your insurance bet, since you are losing your original stake, you are simply breaking even.


ConclusionTo sum up, basic strategy players should not take insurance regardless of the current circumstances. This side bet has proven to work in favor of the casino and in the long term, you are bound to lose money by placing it. It is no wonder that casinos advertise the insurance bet due to the fact that it highly favors them.

Thus, unless you are a card counter, do not take insurance. In general, insurance is said to be a rather disadvantageous bet for basic strategy players. If you have ever paid attention to blackjack basic strategy charts, you might have noticed that the insurance bet is not included. This is an outright indicator that this bet has to be avoided.