Blackjack insurance is a side bet that pays 2-to-1, which can make it appealing at the table. However, the option doesn’t provide good returns in the long run and should be avoided. We will go over the math behind this and show you exactly why taking insurance in blackjack is a bad idea.
What is Insurance in Blackjack?
Available in most variations of the game, blackjack insurance is a side bet that players can make when the dealer is showing an ace. The bet is worth half of the initial bet for the hand. It pays 2:1 if the dealer’s hand turns out to be blackjack (21 from the first two cards).
This means that if you take the blackjack insurance and the dealer does have 21, you are breaking even on the hand since the side bet covers the lost hand bet.
How the Math Works
For the best odds, let’s take single-deck blackjack with 52 cards and no special jokers. Here, we have 13 card rankings and four of them are worth 10 points. The dealer needs any 10-point card to create blackjack, which will pay the insurance bet. That’s a total of 16 cards in the deck that will create 21.
As a result, the odds are 9/4 against us winning the bet, which is a house edge of around 6% on a 2:1 payout. However, this house edge goes down even further if there are 10-point cards already dealt.
If we only bet $10 in the perfect spots for taking insurance in blackjack, we win on average 16 times and lose 33 times. This is because there are 16 cards out of the remaining 49 in the deck that will give the dealer 21. One of the cards is the ace and the other two are our initial cards. For the other 33, we lose the side bet.
Since the bet pays 2:1, we end up winning $320 and losing $330, on average out of 49 hands when we take insurance.
When to Take Insurance?
Given the blackjack insurance rules and odds, it is never a good idea to place the side bet. Even the best-case scenarios give the player a disadvantage.
If the hands on the table also have one or several cards worth 10, the value of blackjack insurance goes down even further. Now, there are even fewer cards that would give the dealer 21.
One argument for taking insurance is that you are winning something even if the dealer has blackjack. While this is true, the reality is that you will not just place the side bet once and win it. In the long run, you will lose more money on insurance than you will win.
Why it is Best to Avoid Blackjack Insurance
The goal of a blackjack strategy is not to win every hand, but to reduce the house edge over a long period of time. This will result in better results at the tables. Taking insurance does not help the player in this regard. Instead, the side bet will negatively affect the overall returns.
Moreover, the option can also distract the player from applying the perfect strategy and even from counting cards. In land-based casinos, the dealer will ask each player at the table if they wish to place an insurance bet when showing an ace. At online casinos, the blackjack insurance option will appear as an extra button, depending on the version of the game.
Having the right decision in mind will help you focus on your gameplay. You shouldn’t worry about side bets that don’t provide good value.
To sum up, blackjack insurance may seem like a good bet since it provides an out when the dealer is most likely to get 21. However, this option doesn’t provide good returns in the long run and negatively affects the blackjack winning odds.
We recommend focusing on blackjack basic strategy or card counting, and not worrying about the insurance. When the option appears, simply decline and continue with your session. Our experts can assure you that insurance is a bad bet.
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