Blackjack part 4: 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 insurance bet you’re offered, or stick with your original wager? Here at LadyLucks we will give you the low down, then head over to our fantastic HD blackjack to put it to the test!
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 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 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 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!
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