Insurance is necessary for many things in life, but it’s debatable whether it is necessary when playing blackjack. While blackjack insurance is far from compulsory, it’s certainly no stranger to controversy. It sounds good on paper, but it’s a highly volatile move and one that we don’t advise taking lightly.
When the dealer shows an Ace, you can choose to buy blackjack insurance. It’s a side bet that the dealer will get a natural blackjack on their next card. Since it requires you to wager half of your original bet, and it pays 2 to 1, you break even if everything goes according to plan.
So, how do you know if the dealer will get 21? You don’t unless you are good at card counting, and even then, it’s no guarantee. There is only a one in three chance they pull a ten, so if you rely solely on luck, it can easily backfire. Let’s take a closer look at the insurance bet and what makes it so contentious.
Blackjack Insurance Example
Before getting into the nuances of when to place an insurance bet, first, we will examine how it works.
The following are examples of how an insurance bet would play out when it’s in your favor and when it isn’t.
Winning Blackjack Insurance Bet
- Let’s say your original bet is $10.
- Your hand is a Jack and 9. (The suit doesn’t matter.)
- The dealer has a face-up Ace and an unknown hole card.
- Your blackjack insurance cost is half your starting wager, or $5.
- The dealer’s second card is any ten in the deck, giving them a blackjack.
- The insurance pays off and you get $15.
Losing Blackjack Insurance Bet
- Your original bet is still $10
- This time you get an 8 and a 10.
- The dealer again shows an Ace.
- Blackjack insurance is still $5, at half your original wager.
- The dealer turns over a non-ten, like a 4.
- Your $5 insurance bet is lost. The dealer’s hand plays out, hopefully not beating yours.
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When Should You Take The Insurance Bet In Blackjack?
You can choose to take this side bet after standing and before the dealer reveals their face-down card, but only if they show an Ace.
At that point, they will typically go around the table and ask each player if they want to buy insurance. If you’re playing online, the option will be available in button form.
The big question is should you take blackjack insurance? Generally speaking, there aren’t really any mathematical situations that justify this side bet.
Should You Take Insurance With Two Tens?
Some people suggest buying insurance if your hand is a 20 in an attempt to break even if the dealer gets a blackjack. However, two tens in your hand are two fewer tens in the dealer’s deck, which lowers the probability of it paying off.
If you like to play based on gut feelings, of course, you can take the risk. Just understand that overall, the odds are not in your favor.
Blackjack Insurance Odds
The odds of winning an insurance bet vary depending on the number of decks and how many 10’s have been dealt. On average, the probability of the dealer’s face-down card being a ten-value is 9 to 4. With those odds compared to the payout of 2 to 1, the casino has a significant edge.
The house edge for your main wager in single-deck blackjack is under 1% with optimal play. However, the insurance side-bet carries a whopping 5.8% house edge, which increases to 7.5% with multiple decks. While you may get lucky here and there, you are statistically likely to lose out in the long run.
The exception to the rule is expert card counters that can pinpoint an advantage when it arises. But if you’re that skilled at blackjack, we can assume you’re busy playing and probably not reading this article.
LegitimateCasino.com’s Expert Advice
“While it sounds like an easy way to break even, insurance is known as a sucker bet for a reason.
Statistically, you are going to lose two out of three times. Every losing bet is handing the house a percentage of your bankroll, and we all know how much that hurts.”
When To Avoid The Insurance Bet
Generally, we advise you not to take it most of the time, but here are a few instances when you definitely should avoid the insurance bet:
- There are two tens in your hand or multiple tens on the table, meaning fewer are in the shoe.
- You’re playing with multiple decks. There are more 10’s, but the house edge is also higher.
- You’re not an experienced card counter.
- You’re unsure.
The Bottom Line: The Odds Are Against You
Blackjack is a long-run game, and insurance is for those who know how to make it work to their advantage over time. They are playing the game in expert mode.
If you’re feeling lucky, of course, the choice is yours. Just understand the risks and know that when it comes to the insurance bet, the odds are against you.