Blackjack Insurance – How It Works & When Should You Take It
Last Updated: August 21, 2023
Blackjack is a game of fine edges and one of the few casino games where your gameplay strategy and decisions actually impact the house edge over you.
Decisions on when to split your hand, double up your bet, or take insurance in Blackjack make all the difference and separate the best blackjack players from the rest.
Blackjack insurance is one of the most commonly offered options in the game, but one that significantly diminishes your overall chances to win.
In this guide, I am going to teach you what is insurance in Blackjack, why it is not a good idea to take it in most cases, and whether there are times when accepting it might be the right play.
Before we can go into the strategy of when and if to accept Blackjack insurance, let’s talk about what it is and how it works first.
What Is Insurance in Blackjack?
Plays like split, double up, and surrender play a significant part in that strategy, as there is an optimal time to use each of these plays to improve your odds and decrease the house edge.
Blackjack insurance is another option that is occasionally available in the game and one that you can incorporate into your Blackjack strategy if you so choose.
Anytime a Blackjack hand is dealt, and the dealer is showing an Ace as their up-card, you are given an option of insurance.
If you decide to accept Blackjack insurance, you must place an extra bet worth 50% of your initial stake.
For instance, if you are playing $20 per hand, you will need to place an extra $10 chip to accept insurance.
At this point, the dealer will check his cards for Blackjack. If the dealer does not have Blackjack, which is more likely, they will take your insurance bet, and the hand will continue.
On the other hand, if the dealer does have a card worth 10 points for a Blackjack, you will be paid on your insurance bet, but your original stake will be lost.
Insurance in Blackjack pays 2:1, which means that in the above example, you would receive a total of $30 on your $10 insurance bet while losing the initial $20 bet, effectively breaking even for the hand.
However, you only break even if the dealer has Blackjack, while you lose an extra $10 if they don’t and are still a favorite to lose your original bet, going up against an Ace.
Blackjack Insurance Rules & House Edge
The only thing worth looking at when deciding whether to make a certain play or not in any gambling game is the way it affects your overall odds of winning and the casino’s overall edge.
When it comes to the Blackjack insurance bet, it offers a payout of 2:1, while the odds of you winning the bet are 9/4, as there are nine card ranks that work against you and only four that work for you.
To explain that in more detail:
- You will lose the insurance bet anytime the dealer has a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or Ace in the hole.
- You will only win it when they have a T, J, Q, or K as the second card.
The 2:1 payout on the bet means you are losing straight up, and if you were to accept this side bet every time it is offered, you would be losing a lot of money in the long run.
The casino maintains an edge of 5.8% on insurance when playing with a single deck and as much as 7.5% when playing with eight decks, which are terrible numbers for the player.
In comparison, playing optimal strategy against the dealer every single hand, you will be able to get the house edge in Blackjack to well under 1% and as low as 0.25% if all the rules work in your favor, which they do in some casinos.
To make a long story short, Blackjack insurance is one of the worst bets you can take in the game and one that significantly hurts your odds of winning and gives the house a greater edge over you.
⭐ Should I Ever Take Insurance in Blackjack?
Now that you know all the Blackjack insurance rules and you understand the extra edge it gives the casino, it should be pretty clear that insurance is a sucker’s bet.
You will never find insurance as a recommended choice in any situation in Blackjack's basic strategy, and that’s because this bet can never work in your favor.
The only time it can be profitable to accept insurance is if you are counting cards and you know that a great number of cards are valued 10 in the deck compared to all other cards.
However, card counting is not possible in online Blackjack, and it is also banned in most live casinos. With casinos now shuffling the shoes earlier and playing with multiple decks, the house edge on Blackjack insurance only goes up.
Regardless of your Blackjack strategy, you should never accept insurance when offered by the dealer, and simply ride out the hand, play the basic strategy, and wait for the odds to even out.
What is Even Money Insurance in Blackjack?
There is another situation in which players get confused about insurance in Blackjack, and that’s when they have a Blackjack against the dealer’s Ace.
In this situation, the dealer will, in some casinos, offer “even money.” The even money bet allows you to insure your Blackjack and simply take a 1:1 payout on it immediately.
This bet protects you from the dealer having Blackjack, in which case the hand is a push, and you simply get your money back.
However, it is worth noting that even money, just like regular insurance, is not a profitable bet and that you are better off not accepting the bet and letting the hand ride out.
You will receive the full Blackjack payout 9 out of 13 times and get your bet back 4 out of 13 times instead of getting paid 1:1 each time.
This means that if you were to bet $20 each time, you would get a profit of $270 ($30 x 9) for the 13 hands if you played them out and only $260 ($20 x 13) if you took even money each time.
So, in short, just like insurance, even money is another sucker’s bet designed to increase the house edge and win more money from unsuspecting players.
Why do Some Players Still Take Insurance?
If you go down to the casino and sit down at the Blackjack tables, you will see people play the game in wildly different ways, which might come as a surprise.
Since Blackjack is a solved game, there is only one way to play each hand, and there should be no deviations from that strategy.
And yet, people are superstitious, believe in luck, and have hunches, all of which lead them to play all gambling games in ways that only hurt them.
You will see people taking insurance at the Blackjack tables, and you might even hear some comments if you don’t take it and the dealer happens to have Blackjack.
Remember to ignore all the comments, don’t try to explain why insurance is a bad bet, and simply play the strategy that you know works best.
Final Words on Insurance in Blackjack
You now know all there is to know about Blackjack insurance, and that’s not very much, as there is only one approach to this side bet that’s right.
When playing Blackjack, you should never accept insurance or even money bets and should always continue playing the hand following the basic strategy.
Even if you don’t know the basic strategy to perfection, refuse all insurance offers when playing at online casinos. Try to play your hands in a way that makes sense from a mathematical standpoint, not based on fear or the worst-case scenarios.