What every player should know about insurance bet in blackjack
Insurance bet payouts may seem appealing, but the reality of this side bet paying out is questionable. Find out whether this side bet is worth the risk with Mr Blackjack.
Insurance bets are one of the most common topics new players want to discuss, and with good reason. Casinos frequently offer insurance bets to players, and the payouts on these wagers are appealing. But have you ever stopped and thought about why casinos always offer these big payout bets? Find out whether insurance bets are worth the gamble, and start playing smarter blackjack with us.
Insurance bet is a special wager casinos offer to players whenever the dealer has an Ace showing as their first card. Essentially, a player wagers 50% of their initial bet against the chance that the dealer has a 10 under their Ace, which would give them blackjack. If the dealer has blackjack your 50% bet is placed next to your initial bet as a payout, or 2:1. Everyone that did not take insurance loses their bet. In the event that the dealer does not have blackjack, the 50% wager will be taken by the casino.
In order for the dealer to check if they have blackjack they use what is called a peek mirror in casinos today. Before that though, dealers used to lift their hole card, which created two problems:
- The dealer knew the value of their facedown card, which opened up the opportunity for cheating with the dealer involved.
- Someone sitting at another table could see the hole card and motion to a player at the other table — like that famous scene in the movie Casino with Mr Happy. Both of these circumstances could lead to unfair player advantage.
The insurance bet only pays out 30% of the time, which is why the casino offers it to you at 50%, giving the house a roughly 20% advantage.
There is always a reason the casino offers you insurance, and it is not for your benefit. If you are offered insurance 1,000 times during your blackjack career and you take it 1,000 times, you will have less money in your bank account in the long run than you would if you had declined insurance every time.
You should only take the insurance bet if you are a card counter and the count is very high: +8 or better. If the deck is rich in 10s, the odds of a 10 being the next card will make it worthwhile for you to take the insurance.
As a general rule players shouldn't take the insurance bet, but the exception lies with the professional card counters, and when they choose to adjust basic strategy given the running count.
You can always spot new blackjack players at the casino by the fact that they take insurance wagers every time. Don't play into the casino's hands; avoid the insurance bet, unless you're an experienced player.
What this lesson covers
- The mathematics behind insurance bet
- How often insurance bet pays out
- The optimal conditions to make this wager
Meet Mr Blackjack
With a career spanning two decades, Mathieu Blake knows his way around a blackjack table. He's taught and entertained over 100,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel NeverSplit10's . In this series he'll take you through basic strategy, card counting, and bankroll management. Take a seat with Mr Blackjack and become a winning player.
- Is insurance bet good in blackjack?
Insurance bet has negative expected value. This means that if you were to bet on this wager every time, you would lose more money than you would win long-term. Our insurance bet guide covers this in more detail.
- How much does insurance bet cost?
An insurance bet costs half your original wager and has a payout of 2:1. As an example if your initial wager was $10, your insurance bet will cost $5 with a potential payout of $10 on the wager.
- Do payouts on insurance bets change in blackjack?
The standard payout for insurance bet is 2:1. If you find casinos offering lower payouts, avoid them. They’re trying to increase their edge by giving you smaller winnings on your side bets.
- What does insurance mean in blackjack?
It essentially insures a player against the chance the dealer has blackjack.
- How often does the dealer have blackjack?
Generally, the dealer has blackjack 30% of the time in a game. Players might assume this means the blackjack odds are in their favor, but the house edge on these wagers mean the payouts are low on these wagers, even if you win.
- Are there other side bets I should make instead of insurance bet?
There are numerous side bets in blackjack. Some of these wagers appear in all blackjack games, other times casinos will create exclusive side bets for their tables. Our side bets guide covers the essentials behind the most popular wagers.
- Where can I practice insurance bets?
Our free blackjack arcade has dozens of blackjack games available where you can practice making insurance bets.