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Insurance is one of the many options offered to a blackjack player, but it is an option which is most often exercised incorrectly in live play. Insurance is a side bet which is considered independently of the main wager made by the player. All casinos offer insurance as a standard option. This is true in online casinos that offer blackjack also. What players should remember, however, is that just because an option is available doesn’t always make it a good option.

Serious blackjack players should know when to use insurance and when to pass it up. Taking insurance at the right time can reduce the house edge by a small margin.

What Is Insurance

Insurance is the act of protecting your hand against the possibility that the dealer has blackjack. In a game of 21, a blackjack by the dealer means an immediate loss for the player. Whenever a dealer shows a 10, the first thing he will do after dealing the cards is check his hand for a blackjack. If the dealer has an ace in the hole, he will turn his cards over and collect the bets of every player who does not also have a blackjack.

Whenever the dealer shows an ace the process is a little different. Before peeking at his hole card, the dealer will ask the players at the table if they would like to take insurance. If a player wants to make this side bet they must place an additional bet of exactly one-half of their initial bet on the table in the area marked INSURANCE. Once all players have made their decision, the dealer will check to see if they have a blackjack.

If the dealer has a blackjack, players who took insurance will lose their original wager. They will win their insurance side bet and collect odds of 2-1. The end result here is that the player has come out even on the hand. He does not win any money, but he does not lose any. If the dealer does not have a blackjack, players who took insurance will lose their insurance bet and the hand continues as normal with players being given the opportunity to act on their hand in a normal manner.

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How To Take Insurance

As a player you can only take insurance once the dealer has asked if anyone wants to take it. When it is you turn, if you want to take insurance simply place an amount of chips equal to one-half of your original bet on the table. In other words, if you originally bet $10 on the hand you would place a $5 chip on the table near the word INSURANCE. The dealer will recognize that you have chosen to take insurance and move on to the next player.

Taking insurance does not involve speaking or any other hand motion. If you say, “I want to take insurance,” this is fine but you will look like an amateur to the other players at the table.

If you happen to be playing blackjack online, taking insurance is very simple. Whenever the dealer shows an ace a box will light up on your screen with the word INSURANCE? If you want to exercise this option, just click the box and the insurance bet will be placed automatically.

The Truth About Insurance

What a deal! The casino is offering you a way to protect yourself when the dealer has a blackjack. How nice of them, right? Wrong. The casino doesn’t do players any favors when it comes to blackjack. It may seem like insurance is a good deal for you, but let’s take a look at a few percentages. The house edge on the insurance side bet is as follows according to the number of decks used in the game:

  • Single deck —- 5.882%
  • Double deck — 6.796%
  • 4 decks ——— 7.246%
  • 6 decks ——— 7.395%
  • 8 decks ——— 7.470%

As you can see, the insurance bet is strongly in favor of the house. In other words, it is a bad bet. What those percentages reflect is how much more likely the casino is to win the bet. To simplify your understanding of the house edge, take the example of a single deck game. For every $100 you bet on insurance, the casino will win back almost $106. That means that for every $100 you bet on insurance you will get back about $94, or a $6 loss. Get the picture?

Now, losing $6 on every $100 you bet over the course of a long blackjack session might not seem like a big deal. Smart blackjack players know that it is a very big deal. Failing to pay attention to the percentages at blackjack will make you a loser.

The Only Time To Take Insurance

There is only one scenario when a blackjack player should even consider taking insurance. If you also hold a blackjack, you might want to insure your own blackjack to guarantee a positive return. Blackjacks are paid at 3-2 and they don’t come around that often. If you are unlucky enough to receive a blackjack at the same time as the dealer, this is what is known as a push. A push means that you tie the hand and receive no money for you blackjack.

When you take insurance in this scenario, you will push on the blackjack but you will collect 2-1 on your insurance bet. If the dealer does not have a blackjack you will lose the insurance bet but collect 3-2 on your blackjack.

Some players always insure their own blackjack. The truth is that it is still a bad bet. You will be better off in the long run if you ride out the hand and hope the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack.

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5 Response Comments

  • Chris C.January 11, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    If you are playing single deck and the count is in your favor (let’s say +2), wouldn’t it be a good idea to take insurance considering there are more 10’s still in play, and thus a greater chance of the dealer having a blackjack?

    • countingedgeJanuary 14, 2017 at 8:38 pm

      Hey, Chris! Thanks for being a Counting Edge reader and for asking a great question. Your question tells us that you have been doing your homework and are learning some advanced strategy and counting techniques, so well done!

      For the novice player or those who only have a limited knowledge of basic blackjack strategy, insurance should always be considered a poor option unless the player is insuring their own blackjack. However, as you stated, knowing the count and being able to combine that with basic strategy can give you an added edge. If the count is high, the chances are indeed higher that the dealer will make blackjack when showing an ace because of the greater number of tens in play. Our only general disagreement with your point would be the pivot point, or point in the count, to make this call. With some card counting methods, a +2 deck would be a powerful indicator. With most, however, +2 might not be quite high enough to merit taking the insurance. This depends to a large degree on how many decks are being used in the game. Using a basic counting method, we like +4 or higher as a pivot point in this scenario for maximum effect.

      In closing, your question is an example of why we love the game of blackjack. When you begin to take strategies and card counting to new heights, your chances of making a good profit increase exponentially. Good luck at the tables and keep us informed on your progress!

  • jiggyMarch 11, 2018 at 5:34 am

    hi guys.
    A question about insurance. I was playing BJ and I got offered an insurance on my black jack and I asked whats the diference between even money and insurance? They told me that I can insure my bj then ask for an even money . So, after i get paid even money for my bj and if the dealer hit a bj I will collect an extra 2 to 1 for my insurance on a hand that was already cashed out. Do you think I should insure all my black jack in this case?

  • countingedgeMarch 20, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Thanks for your question, Jiggy, and for being a Counting Edge reader. Your question is one of the most frequently asked in regards to insurance. Most blackjack books will tell you that insurance is a bad bet. It was put in place to raise the house edge, as all side bets are. As a general rule you should avoid taking insurance when a dealer shows an ace. The one exception to this is what you mention. Counting Edge recommends only taking insurance when you hold a blackjack. The reason for this is simple. Winning nothing when you have a blackjack is a sure way to lose a session. It is better to take even money (a 1-1 payoff) instead of risking a push for getting 3-2 on your blackjack. If the dealer has a blackjack and you do not take insurance, you have just tied on the best possible hand in blackjack. With this being said, some advanced card counters will adjust their insurance strategy based on the count. Unless you have developed your counting skills and feel comfortable doing that, only take insurance when you hold a blackjack. Good luck at the tables!

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