If you know about playing blackjack, then you’ll know there are extra tools to use in it. These tools come in the form of different side bets and moves that can occur during gameplay. It is up to you if you decide to use them and, indeed, when you use them. What is key is knowing when the best time to use blackjack tools is. Plus, you need to know what each of the tools does beforehand. One of those tools exists in the shape of blackjack insurance.
You may have seen this appear on-screen while playing online. It will sometimes pop up at certain moments for you to make use of, if you so wish. If you’ve never used it before, then you may be the type of player who passes on it. That’s quite the normal thing to do, especially if you’re a new player to blackjack. Yet the insurance option is there for a reason. In this guide, we will look at what blackjack insurance is and when you should use it. Then, you can incorporate its presence into your own gaming strategy.
What Is Blackjack Insurance?
Blackjack insurance serves as a side bet, to put it in simple terms. It is usually offered if the dealer’s up-card is an ace. At this point, you insure your own hand against the dealer’s, should it turn out to be a blackjack hand. Taking the opportunity to use insurance will pay out 2/1 if it’s correct. The maximum bet allowed on it is usually half of the main wager you have placed.
Through it, you stand the chance of breaking even. This will occur if the dealer does indeed have a blackjack hand. While you will still lose your main bet in this circumstance, the insurance provides a payout.
Insurance is usually offered at a specific time in the game. This is before the dealer checks their hole card (the one facing down). Of course, if the hole card in the dealer’s hand has a value of 10, it forms 21 with the ace. Thus, the blackjack insurance would pay out to you, if you have taken it.
You as the player will always make the first move against the dealer. Of course, you don’t have complete information on the dealer’s hand. This is why you need to make the best kind of guess possible. Determining how good your hand(s) are in comparison to the dealer’s isn’t always easy. Yet with the dealer’s up-card displayed, things should become a little simpler. Through this, you should have a better idea of when to hit, stick or double down.
In the same vein, you can get a decent idea of when taking blackjack insurance is ideal from this. The question is, what is the ideal time for you to utilise the insurance option?
When Should You Take Blackjack Insurance?
Insurance is often looked upon as being quite appealing for players. Seeing that the dealer’s up-card is an ace can be intimidating. Thus, giving yourself a bit of back-up against that hand being a blackjack seems perfect. After all, there is a large chance that the dealer will have a blackjack. Yet you have to consider something else. Probability.
When it comes to probability, insurance is likely to be a losing bet to take. At least over the long term. The only time it doesn’t fall into this hole is if you are a skilled card counter. Beginners aren’t likely to have that sort of status. Even various professionals cannot consider themselves adept card counters.
The only way you can receive a payout from insurance is when the dealer’s face-down card is a 10-value one. That means a 10, J, Q or K. Anyone who is able to count cards will know how many of these remain in the deck undealt. Thus, they have the idea in mind of how risky it is to make use of an insurance side bet. If they know the percentage is on their side, they can make it work. For the general recreational player, blackjack insurance isn’t worth getting involved in.
When playing blackjack, the aim is to get as close to 21 as possible and have your hand beat the dealer’s. Any time the result is a tie, then a ‘push’ outcome occurs. This sees you receive your wager back.
It can sometimes be a good idea to take insurance if lots of decks are in play. The more card decks used, the more 10-value cards exist in the shoe. Thus, the dealer has a better chance of hitting a blackjack if their up-card is an ace. But even then, it remains a risky option to undertake as well. Why? Because there are also more 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s, 6s, and so on. The 2/1 payout that insurance offers isn’t big enough to warrant you taking that risk.
What to Do Instead of Taking Blackjack Insurance
Avoiding blackjack insurance is a good rule of thumb to follow. Yet that doesn’t mean you can’t utilise alternatives to enhance your gameplay. Many variations of blackjack include a variety of other side bets and bonus wagers. You can use these as you see fit. What are these alternate options, though?
The double down option in a game of blackjack can be very helpful, but only in specific times. This allows you to double your wager on a hand that you stand a better chance with. Needless to say, this is not something you should use if the dealer’s up-card is an ace. Doubling down on a hand will see you receive a single extra card to it. Nothing more, nothing less. Thus, you need to know the most appropriate times for doubling down.
If you receive a hand that features two cards of the same value, you may opt to split it. This sees you separate the two-card hand and make two hands from them. The dealer adds an extra card to each one and another bet equal to your original one comes into play. You can then proceed with gameplay in the standard way. There are certain pairs of cards that are ideal to split, and some that you shouldn’t split. We have a full guide to blackjack card splitting for you to follow.
Why Blackjack Insurance Is Never Good to Take
Casinos portray insurance as a way to insure your hand against a possible blackjack. When you get right down to it though, it serves as an extra bet. You’re betting on the dealer’s second card being a 10-value card.
This side bet doesn’t have any effect on your chances of winning the original wager placed. Because the odds are always against you on an insurance wager, it’s never a good option to select.
This can be better demonstrated with an example:
Let’s assume that you’re playing a game of single deck blackjack. This means that 16 of the 52 total cards have a value of 10. In this example, you haven’t had any 10-value cards dealt. This means that they all exist within the deck, meaning the 49 unseen cards. The dealer, of course, has an up-card that is an ace. It is at this point that you’re offered insurance in the game. Doubtless, it is a good scenario for insurance, but it’s not good enough to warrant taking it. You can’t profit from the side bet.
Let’s say you do place an insurance wager equating to £1. You get £3 each time the dealer turns over a 10-value card. Play that scenario out 49 times and on average, you would win 16 times due to the 16 winning cards. The remaining 33 times, you would lose. Every win results in a net profit of £2. On all 49 scenarios, you would win £32 (£2 x 16 = £32). Every time you lose this bet, you lose £1, totalling £33 (£1 x 33 = £33).
In our example, your total win from the 49 games would be £32. The total loss would be £33. Thus, you end up with an overall loss of £1. In essence, you lose, on average, £1 for every £49 wagered on insurance. This equates to a 2% loss. So, every hand that you play with insurance, you lose that amount on average. That is, provided you’re not holding any 10-value cards yourself. If you did, then the percentage would be of a higher amount.
As highlighted earlier, the only time insurance is of an advantage to you is if you know what’s left in the shoe. With more than a third of the unseen cards being 10s, then you stand a better chance of profiting. Of course, that profit would be a long-term scenario, rather than something sudden.
Insurance may seem like a tempting option to go for in the heat of the moment. An ace appearing as the dealer’s up-card may seem quite daunting. Thus, insuring yourself against a possible blackjack could appear to be the best option. That is especially true if you’re holding a good hand yourself. It’s an understandable situation.
The fact still remains that taking an insurance side bet is never a good option unless you know the remains of the shoe. Rather than decreasing the house edge in blackjack, insurance actually increases it. That, in turn, decreases your chances of being successful. So, in an optimal blackjack strategy, insurance bets have no place. In essence, we recommend staying away from it.