What Does It Mean To Take Insurance In Blackjack

On this page we’ll try to debunk the myths surrounding Blackjack Insurance and Even Money bets and explain why they are considered a sucker bet. These two bets are practically the same, their purpose is to insure yourself against dealer having a blackjack. The only difference is your hand value in each particular situation: if you have a natural (meaning blackjack) then you are offered even money, in all other cases – insurance.

The insurance bet is a separate bet that the dealer has a blackjack. You put up half the amount of money of your regular bet and if you win you are paid 2-to-1. So you win your insurance bet but you also lose your regular bet to the dealer's blackjack. Thus, in that round you break even. Many players will also take maximum insurance with a two-card natural hand, rather than risk a push, but this is more disadvantageous in the long run, since the Ten in the player’s blackjack means it is less likely the dealer has blackjack. Insurance is taken far too often.

Blackjack Insurance

If the dealer’s face up card is an Ace, and you don’t hold a blackjack, then you will be offered to place insurance bet, which can be worth up to half of your original bet. Then, if the dealer reveals a blackjack, you lose your original bet, but paid 2 to 1 on the side bet. That’s the reason why this is called insurance, because it protects you from dealer’s blackjack. If on the other hand, the dealer doesn’t pull a 10-value card, you lose the insurance bet, while your original wager is settled in a usual way.

The only difference between “even money” and “insurance” is a semantic one. Even money is just insurance when you have a blackjack. Insurance is available any time the dealer has an ace showing, but even money is only available when the dealer has an ace showing and you have a blackjack. There’s An Exception to Every Rule. 2) The dealer does have blackjack-your blackjack will push the dealer's blackjack, and your insurance bet will pay 50 (2 x$25) In either case your net profit will be an even money payout of $50. At the same time, you could just ask for even money if offered. One does not insure every blackjack, the count dictates when to insure and not to insure. When a player has a Blackjack and the dealer’s upcard is an Ace, they may ask the player if they want “even money.” This means accepting a 1:1 payout on their original bet before the dealer checks for Blackjack. Like insurance, this bet isn’t generally advisable because players are statistically better off not taking the bet.

Insurance Rules and Odds

1. First, it’s important to understand that insurance is a side bet, meaning it has no influence on your original wager, which in either case will be completed as usual. Similar to all side bets, it carries higher house edge than the basic game.

What Does It Mean To Take Insurance In Blackjack Terms

2. Second, whether insurance is a good or a bad has nothing to do with the value of your hand. Insurance gives you a chance to protect yourself against a dealer’s blackjack and it makes just as much sense to insure on 17 as it does when you have a hand totaling 20. Whether you win or lose the side bet depends solely on the dealer’s hole card, while your hand wins or loses regardless of whether or not you take the insurance bet.

3. Furthermore, you know the dealer will get blackjack around 4 out of 13 times, which is 31%. Since you’re getting 2-1 odds on insurance, you need to be right 1 out of 3 times. In other words, you need to be right 33% of the time just to break-even and that’s not going to happen.



Let’s say that you place a $5 insurance bet 13 times. You will win 4 times earning $40 ($10×4). You will lose 9 times – $45. Final result: minus $5, which means that in the long run, you will lose 7.7% on all your insurance bets. Doesn’t really sound like a smart move.

Are there any exceptions: if you are counting cards then yes. See the last chapter.

Even Money

If the player has blackjack and the dealer is showing an ace, then the player will be offered even money, which means getting paid 1 to 1 on blackjack rather than the usual 3 to 2. If the player doesn’t take even money and the dealer gets blackjack, then we get a tie which results in push. Even money is basically insurance against a push when you have blackjack. Taking this bet guarantees that you will get a payout, but after a quick check, you will find that even money is a horrible bet.

Even Money Odds

Let’s analyse both scenarios: First, the dealer is going to push on your blackjack around 31% of the time. The probability of the dealer getting a Ten, Jack, Queen, or King can be counted by seeing how many of these cards are in the shoe. There’s four of each card, meaning there are 16 cards out of the 52 in the deck to give dealer a blackjack. Even with more decks in the shoe, the probability remains pretty much the same, which is a bit less than 31%. (We will ignore those minor differences in order not to complicate things). Thus, your chances of winning and getting a payout of 3 to 2 are 69% of the time (actually a bit more than that).

Let’s take a closer look at the difference in payouts when you take and don’t take even money. If your original bet is $100, then the expected value of taking even money is $100. That’s simple to understand.

If you don’t take the even money bet, then as we’ve already established, you have a 69.24% chance of getting a 3 to 2 payout. So the expected value of your hand is 69.24% x $150 = $104 (actually a bit less but you get the point).

So for a $100 bet, you’re better off by around $4 if you refuse the even money. It’s that simple. Of course, the casino is happy to offer this option and increase the house edge, and you will kick the table every now and then for not getting paid 3/2, but once the dust settles, you will end up with more chips in front of you and that’s all that counts.

When it’s Worth Taking Insurance or Even Money?

What Does It Mean To Take Insurance In Blackjack Card Game

There is one exception to this rule and that’s when the odds of the dealer to get a 10 value card are higher than 33%. The only way you can spot this opportunity is by counting cards. For example, in a single deck game, if you know that one 10 value-card is out, vs. 7 non-10 value cards, dealer’s odds of getting a natural are 15/44, or 34%. In that case insurance and even money are beneficial.

We state that just to complete the picture, but unless you are a card counter, never take insurance in Blackjack.

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Blackjack Insurance: Is it a Sucker Bet?

By Arnold Snyder
(From Casino Player, May 1997)
© Arnold Snyder1997

Question from a Player: My problem is that I have this feeling that I’m taking insurance far too often. I lose this bet a lot, even though I only take insurance when my true count is +3 or more. (I’m playing mostly in six-deck games in Mississippi and Louisiana.)
On my last trip, I put in 19 hours at the tables over a three day period. I kept track of all my insurance bets. I took insurance 14 times, won 5 times and lost 9 times. I realize this is a very short test from the statistical point of view (I’ve been reading your column for years!), but my experience on all of my trips is similar to this. I lose the insurance bet way more than I win it. This is just the one trip where I kept track of my results.
What’s worse, when I win the bet, I don’t really win anything, I just break even on my hand. Winning is actually more like pushing. When I lose the insurance bet, however, I not only lose the insurance, but I still have to play the hand against a dealer ace, which also often loses. I’m starting to think this insurance bet is just a sucker bet for card counters.

Blackjack Insurance: A Side Bet, Nothing More

Answer: Many players are confused about the way insurance works because, in casino jargon, you are “insuring your hand.” Insurance is a side bet, and has nothing to do with the results of your blackjack hand.You are simply betting that the dealer has a ten in the hole. If he does, you win 2-to-1. It is not a “push” for your hand.
For example, you have a $100 bet on the table. You have a 16 vs. a dealer ace. Let’s say the insurance bet does not exist. The dealer peeks at his hole card, flips over a ten, and you lose your $100.
Now, assume insurance is offered. You have a true count of +5, so you put out $50 for insurance. Now, when the dealer flips over his ten, he pays your $50 insurance bet at 2-to-1 ($100), but you still lose your hand, so you break even.
Since, without the insurance bet, you would have been minus $100, this $50 bet gained you $100.
The actual result on your blackjack hand will be exactly the same regardless of whether or not you take insurance. If, for example, the dealer has a blackjack, you lose; if not, then you have to play out your hand vs. whatever he does have.
Also, your analysis of your blackjack insurance results indicates that you did pretty close to what you would expect as a card counter. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say all of your insurance bets were $50 each. Since you lost 9 times, this is a $450 loss; since you won 5 times (at 2-to-1), this is a $500 win. So, you’re $50 ahead of where you would have been had you never taken insurance.

Technically, your fourteen $50 insurance bets would total $700 in action. A $50 win total on $700 action would mean that insurance has paid you at the rate of 6.67% — which is more likely a positive fluctuation in your favor than a negative one.
Moncton casino buffet hours. Remember, if you win your insurance bet just half as often as you lose it, you break even. So, it will always seem like you lose this bet more than you win it, even when you are making money on it. ♠

For more card counting and blackjack analysis, see the Professional Gambling Library.
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