What Is Insurance In Blackjack?
Insurance is an optional blackjack bet that is available when the dealer’s upcard is an ace, and the dealer hasn’t checked for blackjack yet. Not all tables offer Insurance but those that do allow players an opportunity to hedge their wager against the house coming out on top with a blackjack. Basic strategy offers a glimpse into the optimal scenarios for hitting, standing and splitting, but when should you think about taking Insurance? This guide will cover everything you need to know about blackjack Insurance and when you should consider taking this bet.
Blackjack is a popular casino game with easy-to-follow rules. The game’s objective is to beat the house by forming a hand with a value that’s closest to 21 without going over it. All cards take their face value, and J, Q, and K are all 10 points each. The ace can be 11 points or just one, depending on the hand’s total value. If having the ace at 11 will push the hand over 21, then it will count as one.
Online blackjack tables have a limited betting window, usually only a few seconds. Aside from the main bet, online tables offer the option to place a side bet (or several) as well, such as the Any Pair, Hot 3, Bust It and 21+3 side bets. When betting time is over, players who made a bet will be dealt two cards face up, and the dealer receives one card face up (upcard) and a second card face down (hole card). Since players know their cards, they must use the dealer’s upcard to estimate the probability of winning with their hand.
After the initial cards have been dealt, the player will be the first to act — hit, stand, split or double down. Hitting draws another card, while standing keeps the hand as is and ends the turn. Splitting is only available on pairs or same-value cards (like 10-J, for example). Doubling down will double the wager in exchange for only one additional card, after which the player’s turn ends. Tables also offer the option to take Insurance or, more rarely, to surrender. Surrendering forfeits the hand in return for half the wager, and Insurance is a safety net (at the cost of half the original wager) if the dealer has blackjack.
Pretty simple, right? Don’t take the simplicity for granted — this game is packed with strategy!
Blackjack Insurance Bet
In short, Insurance is a bit of protection offered to the player when the dealer shows an ace and before the dealer checks for blackjack on their second card. This optional bet is usually set at half the original wager and pays out 2:1 if the dealer has blackjack.
The blackjack Insurance bet will appear when it’s time to make a move, unlike a side bet, and this wager is only available after the initial cards have been dealt. Since the player always makes the first move, they must use their two cards and mathematical probability to gauge how likely the dealer is to hit 21 and whether their hand is worth playing.
Unlike splitting and doubling down, the Insurance bet doesn’t have clean-cut, defined instances when a player should or shouldn’t take the wager. Instead, there are a few conditions to take into account when considering taking the Insurance bet. Let’s take a closer look.
When To Take Insurance
Whether or not you should take Insurance depends on the number of decks played, the number of ten-valued cards and the remainder of non-ten cards in the deck(s).
- In a one-deck game, skilled players may deduce the odds of the dealer making blackjack by keeping track of how many ten-point value cards are left in the deck.
- In a land-based casino, when you have a blackjack and the dealer's upcard is an ace, you can take even money (not recommended), but you can never place an Insurance bet on a blackjack. Unlike their brick-and-mortar counterparts, online casinos offer Insurance even if you have blackjack.
- As the number of decks in a shoe increases, the viability of the Insurance bet decreases.
- Some players argue that Insurance on a multi-deck game is advantageous; however, Insurance bets brings less money in the long run.
- Online tables are often played with a six or eight-deck shoe, which is periodically cut and shuffled. The muck is also incorporated back into the shoe, meaning that card counters and advantage players lose out by default.
- If you have a weak hand, like 14 or 15, you will likely lose the round; thus, the Insurance bet won’t make a difference.
Insurance And The House Edge
The house edge in blackjack is one of the lowest among all casino games, standing at just about 0.5%. With the Insurance bet, the house advantage will increase and vary depending on the number of decks in the shoes. For example, a single-deck show will have an edge of 5.88% on Insurance, and a six-deck shoe will sit at 7.39%. Online casino tables typically use an eight-deck shoe, which bumps the edge up to a whopping 7.47%. Even though the Insurance bet is there to help the player break even when the dealer is off to a good start, it is evidently quite disadvantageous to the player.
Skilled blackjack players may still see some success when taking the Insurance bet or another side bet, but players are advised against placing this bet in all circumstances. Empirical evidence points to an increased house advantage on this bet and a loss of profitability over the long term.
Don’t forget that regardless of the house rules or strategy you choose to play, there is no method out there that guarantees a win. Basic strategy is a great place to start, but there are as many approaches to playing blackjack as there are players! Before you get started, make sure to have a look at the table rules, payouts and side bet odds to help you make the most of your gameplay while managing your bankroll responsibly.