Blackjack is a simple game on the surface, but there is a reason it has endured for many hundreds of years, a reason it can be played professionally and profited from consistently, and that’s because there are many layers underneath the surface. If you click onto any blackjack forum you will find pages upon pages of threads discussing individual rules, rules that the average newcomer may not even give a second thought to, but rules that make a massive difference to the average professional.
One of those rules is the insurance rule, and in this guide we will discuss whether or not you should take it. The answer may just surprise you…
What is Blackjack Insurance?
Blackjack insurance is an option offered to players when the dealer’s two cards have been dealt and the face-up card is an ace. Players wager half their stake in return for odds of 2 to 1, and if the dealer turns over a 10 card and wins the hand, then the player gets their money back.
This is not technically a side bet but rather it’s a feature that you will find on the majority of blackjack variants, with the only exception being those that show both (or none) of the dealer’s hole cards, such as Double Exposure Blackjack and Pontoon.
Blackjack insurance sounds like a great deal, and it’s one that appeals to all casual players. After all, everyone likes to hedge their bets and know that they will get a return whether they win or lose. But is that the case? Should you take blackjack insurance and if not, why not? These are the questions we aim to answer here, but before we get to them, let’s look at some of the reasons blackjack insurance is so popular.
Casual Players vs Professionals
There is a huge gulf between the average blackjack newbie and a blackjack professional. This is true for many games of course, but rarely will you find such a sizeable gulf in such an otherwise simple game.
There are many ways in which they differ. The average casual casino player focuses on their hand above all else; a pro will always focus on the dealer’s hand first. A casual player will take every side bet and special bet going; a pro will avoid them like the plague. And, most importantly for the context of this article, a casual player will take blackjack insurance every single time; a pro knows that this is always a very bad idea.
Should You Take Blackjack Insurance?
As mentioned above, blackjack insurance is something that’s best avoided if you want to beat the game of blackjack on a consistent basis. It’s not something that can be debated, it’s not something that can go either way. The simple fact is that if you take insurance 100 times over the course of an extended session then you will likely lose more money than you gain.
Blackjack is a game of chance, and the only way to beat a game of chance is to reduce the edge that the house has over you. The way that blackjack players do this is to use something known as Basic Blackjack Strategy, which is a learned system of moves that tells them what they should do at every possible turn.
They know, for instance, that if the dealer has a 10 in their hand then there is a good chance they will score a 17 or more; but if they have a 2 or a 3 then there is a good chance they will struggle. A player will take advantage of this by taking fewer or more risks, whether that means hitting on a soft 17 in the case of the first example, or standing on a hard 16 in the second.
Insurance is just another aspect of this and the math states that it will cost more than it wins. Still don’t believe us? Take a look at the odds below.
The Odds of Blackjack Insurance
Of course, the casino wants you to think that blackjack insurance is a sound bet. They are there to take your money after all. They offer you a payout of 2 to 1 in the event that you take insurance and the dealer hits a blackjack, which means they are claiming odds of 33.33%. But there are 13 different cards in a deck, of which 4 will give them a blackjack, so the actual odds are just over 30%.
It’s only a small difference, but in a game of blackjack the house always has a slight edge over you and as a player your goal is to play clean in order to keep that edge low and, if possible, to tip it in your favour. You’re not going to do that by giving up a couple percentage points.
It also means that if you were to take out insurance 100 times over the course of the night, you could expect to lose at least 52 of those times.
But it Always Works for Me!
This is a statement we see a lot, a statement that every professional player has heard a few dozen times from casual players and beginners. There are a few factors at play here. Firstly, we tend to only remember the wins and the winning streaks, and we conveniently gloss over the losses; secondly, and more importantly, we’re talking about statistical probabilities, not definite certainties.
Let’s imagine that you have a 10-sided dice in your hand. If you roll that dice five times then you know that the odds of it landing on number 2 through to 10 are high and that there is a greater chance of it landing on these numbers every time then there is of it landing on 1 a single time. However, it’s also possible that you can roll that dice and get a 1 every single time.
Does that mean that 1 is somehow luckier or more likely? No. You just got very lucky.
This luck can happen in blackjack too, but if you want to be a successful player then you need to take the luck factor out and one of the ways that you can do that is to never take blackjack insurance!