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What is Blackjack Insurance?
Insurance sounds like a great thing, right? We’re always advised to take out insurance just in case something bad happens. But what about insurance in Blackjack? Is it such a good idea to take out insurance when you are playing blackjack?
If you have ever witnessed it in play, then you might be curious about what blackjack insurance is and how it works. Well, this is simply an extra bet you’ll find in certain versions of the game, giving you the opportunity to protect yourself against the dealer achieving a blackjack. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
In this guide, we’ll be answering the question ‘What is an insurance blackjack bet?’, as well as looking at how it works, the best and worst scenarios to take up the options - and whether it’s the right way to go, or if this is one case where Insurance is simply a bad idea.
What is the Insurance Bet in Blackjack?
Blackjack has several side bets, and the insurance bet is one of them. Basically, an insurance bet in blackjack is a side bet that is designed to protect players from losing their initial bet if the dealer could potentially have a blackjack - and it is offered when the dealer's up card is an Ace.
The cards will be dealt as usual - if the dealer’s upcard is an Ace, before they check for a blackjack, all players around the table will be given the option to make an insurance bet. Normally, this bet can be up to half the amount of your original bet.
Those who do choose to take an insurance bet will place their additional bet in the designated area on the blackjack table, which will usually be demarcated as the Insurance spot.
Once all the insurance bets have been made, the dealer's hole card can be checked. If the dealer does indeed have a blackjack (so their face-down card is a 10-value card such as 10, J, Q, or K), then the insurance bet will pay out.
If your insurance bet does win, in most games, it usually pays out at 2 to 1. So, in other words, if you placed a £10 insurance bet and the dealer does have a blackjack, you would get a £20 payout plus your original £10 stake would be returned.
However, if the dealer doesn’t have a natural blackjack, then the insurance bet is lost. In this case, the game will then go on as normal - and you can still win or lose your original bets depending on your own hand's value compared to the dealer’s hand.
Clearly, the insurance bet can seem appealing - as it does appear to protect you against a dealer's blackjack - however, it will impact your overall blackjack strategy.
In most cases, more experienced players tend to avoid taking insurance as the odds are usually not in their favour. This is because the payout for a winning insurance bet is a lot lower than the actual odds of the dealer having a blackjack when showing an Ace - so essentially, it’s not a value bet, and it has a high house edge.
When is the Best Scenario to Select Insurance?
Given this, is there actually a good scenario to choose insurance? Well, we’ll take a look at when it might possibly be a good idea to take it - and when you should avoid it.
When to Consider Insurance
Late in the Deck: If you are playing a single-deck game, where most of the cards have already been dealt, and you haven't seen many ten-value cards, the likelihood of the dealer having blackjack is higher than normal - and this could be a good time to consider taking the insurance bet option.
When to Avoid Insurance
It’s fair to say that there are more scenarios where avoiding this type of bet is the better option:
Basic Strategy: If you are following the basic blackjack strategy - which is based on making the statistically best choices, it usually advises players against taking insurance because the odds of winning such a bet are not great in the long run.
In Most Multi-Deck Games and If You Aren’t a Card Counter: Ultimately, taking out insurance is almost never a great idea - the odds state that it’s nearly always a bad bet. Logically, there are more low-value cards (2 to 9) in a deck than 10-value cards. So, statistically, there is a much greater chance that the dealer won’t have blackjack. Unless you are playing a single-deck game and know that there are more tens left than small numbers, it’s almost always the better idea to skip the insurance bet.
Placing big insurance bets, in the long run, can lead to substantial losses if the dealer doesn't have a blackjack. Ultimately, it's generally wise to avoid making any blackjack insurance bets - especially large ones - that could potentially impact your bankroll.
Although insurance seems as though it might provide short-term protection against the dealer potentially having blackjack, this isn’t a recommended long-term strategy for most players. Instead, it’s a better idea to master the game and make your decisions based on the cards you know are in play.
Is It Worth Selecting Blackjack Insurance?
Many choose to avoid blackjack insurance with some of the following reasons making it less favourable for players.
When you take insurance, you're essentially betting that the dealer has a blackjack, and the payout for a successful insurance bet is normally 2 to 1 in most variations. However, the odds of the dealer having a blackjack are much lower than the actual payout implies. In fact, statistically, the probability of the dealer having a blackjack is less than one-third. This means that in the long run, you'll end up losing money more often than you'll win when taking insurance.
In a game with such a low house edge, the house advantage on blackjack insurance bets can be as high as 6% or more, depending on the specific blackjack variation you’re playing and the number of decks in play. Online blackjack has a wide variety of games available to play, so make sure to find out what version you are playing before making any bets.
This means that, on average, you are more likely to lose your bet if you choose insurance every time the dealer shows an Ace.
Most blackjack players choose to use the basic blackjack strategy, which is based on statistical analysis - and advises against taking insurance in most situations. Following the basic strategy gives you the best ways in which you should play your hand in any given scenario - and it normally involves declining insurance unless you have reason to believe that there is a higher-than-normal chance that the dealer is likely to have a blackjack.
One important aspect of any casino game is bankroll management and budgeting - and taking insurance can have a big impact on your overall bankroll, especially if you're making large insurance bets.
So - should you take out an insurance bet in blackjack? Well, the odds and house edge associated with blackjack insurance certainly indicate that it’s probably not the best move to make. It's generally not a long-term strategy and won't apply in all scenarios. Instead, you’re simply better off focusing on learning the game and knowing the best way to play each hand statistically.