Blackjack Insurance – is it worth it?
No matter how lucky you are, playing blackjack comes with inevitable losses. Regardless of whether you’re playing online or in person, the dealer starting with a face-up ace can seem disastrous.
But do you take the blackjack insurance bet you’re offered, or stick with your original wager?
Blackjack insurance: Playing it safe – or not
An insurance bet is an appealing proposition for many new blackjack players. An insurance bet can be up to half the value of your main table bet, and pays 2 to 1. So, if your original bet was £20 and the dealer has a face-up ace, you can make a £10 insurance bet. If the dealer has a 10 face-down, you’ll lose your £20 main table bet – but win £20 on the insurance, and thus break even.
Taking blackjack insurance is touted as a safe choice, and dealers often even advise players who have a blackjack to take insurance to cement money. In a normal hand, if both dealer and player have blackjack, they tie and thus no money changes hand; but instead, you can win on the insurance, and turn a profit as if your hand was paid at 1 to 1.
What the maths says
The problem with taking blackjack insurance is that it is not mathematically sound. Like all bets, it works off probability – it’s approximately a 1 in 3 chance that the dealer has a 10-value card to complete their blackjack, which is why insurance is paid out at 2 to 1. Winning a hand, by contrast, is usually paid out at 3 to 2.
But the chance the dealer has a natural blackjack is 4 in 13, as there are 4 10-value cards (10, Jack, Queen, King) and 9 non-10 cards. As odds, this is 9:4, or 30.8 percent. In order for blacjack insurance to be a good bet, you’d need a 33.3 percent chance or better for the dealer to have a natural blackjack – which isn’t the case.
On average, if you made 130 insurance bets of £10, you would win 40 of them and lose 90. That gives you total winnings of £800 (£20 profit times 40 wins), and total losses of £900 (£10 loss times 90 losses), putting you firmly in the red.
In most cases, taking the insurance bet is a bad idea as it’s slightly more likely to lose you money. Instead, focus on making the best plays you can with the cards you have. And if the dealer has a natural blackjack, it’s all part of the game – hopefully you’ll get one soon too!