What is Insurance in Blackjack?


Other than playing Poker, playing Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games for both professional gamblers and casual players alike. The reason for this is that the game is relatively easy to learn, exciting to master, and rewarding to win, especially for those who excel at strategy. The strategic gambler who is a card counter will be drawn to the game as she can find great value from the competitive challenges and monetary rewards. Because of this, it is easy to see why it is one of the most popular casino games.

The use of insurance in Blackjack is a popular and controversial subject. Some love the practice while others feel it is a stain on the traditional version. Here we will explore the question of exactly what it is and how it works and explore the use of side bets in general.

History of Blackjack

Before we discuss the use of Insurance in Blackjack, it is important to understand the historical context. Traditional Blackjack has been around for hundreds of years. Online versions began in 1995. In the traditional setting, there is a gaming table housed in a casino and the House acts as a dealer. Using one deck, he would typically stand and distribute hands to each participant. He has control of the sequence of play and participants are seated around a blackjack table. After the House deals out the hands, players examine their hand, assert their wager, and get set to go.

In online versions, a single gamer sitting at a computer plays against the House. The deck is shuffled digitally through a card number generator. A participant then virtually places his chip before being dealt his first hand. Online play begins with the keyboard as the vehicle for making moves.

Basic Strategy

The basic strategy is to follow a set of rules that enables you to assess the best way to leverage the hand you are dealt. Skilled thinkers will use math to maximize the potential of each hand to bring in the most amount of money. This is done mainly through card counting. Thus, Blackjack is largely based on strong math skills. It is important to remember that while you can employ some basic strategies to win more often, the House always maintains an edge, and to overcome that edge you need additional strategies such as counting, deviations, and betting finesse.

Value Cards and Basic Rules

The House deals hands of two cards each to the participants as well as himself. The dealer’s hand will consist of one card that is face up and a second that is face down. Face cards are 10 value and Aces are a value card and count as 1 or 11. All others count at face value. Blackjack occurs when an ace is paired with a ten card, Jack, Queen, or King.

What is Insurance in Blackjack?

Insurance is a side bet that is completely separate from an original bet or main wager. When you make an insurance bet you are assuming that the dealer has blackjack and you are using your original wager to assert a bet.

This practice whereby players take an insurance bet is a controversial subject in the blackjack world with many feeling that over the long term the practice harms more than helps. Read on for more details on how this works.

Insurance Bet

As noted, taking insurance means you take a side bet that the dealer has Blackjack and you buy insurance. You can only do this after all initial cards have been dealt and only before the dealer checks their hole card. It will cost you half of your wager to take an insurance bet and if you choose to do so, it is usually a 2:1 bet. If the dealer shows an Ace, the insurance has paid off. It is basically a bet that the House has Blackjack.   Whether that half is worth it to you depends on whether you use your “gut” or math and logic to determine your moves. If the dealer does have blackjack, the player would break even the half was worth it.  If the dealer does not have blackjack, the player loses the bet.

The Hole Card

If a player sees in someone else’s hands a hidden card, (called a hole card) and it is not due to illegal methods like mirrors, that player is in a very favorable position to place an insurance bet. Hole cards, are hidden from view but are seen through some other method. For this reason, hole cards that are viewed can give a player a strong advantage with knowing the best time for taking an insurance bet.

Blackjack Insurance

There is no all-encompassing reason why some players favor taking Blackjack insurance, as blackjack players have different reasons every time. For those players who use only intuition when making their moves, taking insurance comes as a gut reaction. If they see a dealer doing well, they may choose to take insurance.  On the other hand, for those players who are counters, when it appears a 10 is on the horizon, they may opt to cut their losses with a Blackjack insurance bet. Generally speaking, while the odds are slightly different based on whether it is a four-deck or six-deck game. In either event, most blackjack insurance bets are usually bad bets and in the long run, the money will be lost.

Side Bet

A side bet occurs when someone places additional chips into the pot before hands are dealt. In online gaming, these wagers take place in small areas on the side of the screen. You are essentially betting that you will have a winning hand from the beginning, or from the dealer’s face-up card. The most common side bets are perfect pairs or 21+3.  These are purely based on luck, so intuitive players may be more apt to use them than card counters and more strategic players.

Even Money

When your odds are even, (“even odds”) and you stand to win or lose the same amount of money, the side bet involved is referred to as taking even money.  The Even Money bet is often viewed as ideal because for those who bet on singles, it doubles stakes if guessed correctly. Taking even money when a dealer is showing an Ace does guarantee some payout, it is debatable whether this is a good overall long term strategy.

Conclusion

As you have seen, the option to take insurance is somewhat controversial and the jury is still out on whether they make money in the long run. While no two gamers are alive, the player who believes the hidden card is an ace may grab at this opportunity to cut his losses, but the gains may be small and temporary. A dealer’s up card may, in the end, be more helpful to the strategic thinker.