One seemingly good bet to beginning blackjack players is taking insurance. And a major reason why beginning players are fooled into thinking insurance is a good idea is because dealers ask players beforehand if they want insurance when the opportunity arises. However, this is a very poor wager, and we’ll get into the specifics of why after explaining more about this bet.
How Insurance Bets Work
The opportunity for insurance wagers arise when the dealer draws a face-up ace; at this point, the dealer will go around the table and ask everybody if they want to take insurance. The insurance is in case the dealer receives a blackjack, and you put out half of your original bet as the insurance. Assuming the dealer does have a blackjack, you win 2-1 on your insurance wager.
To illustrate how this works, let’s say that you make a $10 bet, and the dealer shows an ace. You then take the offered insurance bet by laying another $5 out on the table. The dealer turns over his second card, which is a king, thus giving him a blackjack. In this event, you receive win $5 on your insurance bet ($10 total), but lose $10 since the dealer had a blackjack. So basically, your overall bet was a push, and this doesn’t seem like such a bad deal so far.
Now, let us assume that the dealer didn’t have a natural blackjack; in this instance, you automatically lose the $5 insurance wager; however, you still have a chance to win the original $10 wager if your hand beats the dealer’s.
Why the Insurance Bet is Bad
Consult any source of blackjack strategy and they’ll tell you that insurance is bad. And the first thing you have to understand with this concept is exactly what insurance entails. Most players mistakenly assume that insurance is meant to protect their hand in the event that the dealer has a blackjack. But the reality is that insurance is merely a wager on the dealer having a natural blackjack.
The main number you want to concentrate on here is 9:4 odds – or rather, the odds against the dealer having a blackjack when they’re showing an ace is 9:4. To break this down further, let’s say you make $5 insurance bets 130 times; based on the 9:4 odds, you’d win your bet 40 times for $400 in total winnings ($10 total earnings X 40 bets). On the other hand, you’d lose 90 of these bets for $450 in total losses ($5 total losses X 90 bets). As you can see, this leaves you $50 in the hole, thus making it a bad bet overall.