Dealer with an Ace, How Likely is it They Will Have a 10 Too?

One of the worst bets in blackjack is insurance. The exception to the aforementioned statement is side bets. Those surpass even insurance. But insurance in blackjack is based on scaring a player into protecting their wager.

It works like this: You are in a casino and playing some blackjack. The dealer’s up card is an Ace. There is a collective intake of breath from the other players at the table. If the hole card is a 10 it means the dealer has a natural blackjack and everyone loses. Except for those with a natural blackjack themselves, in which case they push and only get to keep their wager as opposed to receiving a 3-2 payout. It is a crappy situation all around. Once the dealer sees he has an Ace he will offer all the players insurance.

Insurance in blackjack is a separate wager that is equal to half the amount of your original wager. So if you wagered $50 your insurance wager is $25. If the dealer does indeed have a natural blackjack you would lose your original wager, but collect 1-1 on the insurance wager so that you would wind up with the amount of your original wager; but you will have still lost $50 and only received $25 from the house so that you are still out a negative net of $25. If the dealer does not have a natural blackjack the dealer will then collect your insurance wager. It all hinges on whether the dealer has a 10 for a hole card.

But what are the odds? Do the odds favor taking insurance or not?

There are only four cards with a value of 10 in blackjack. Four cards out of thirteen. That means there is only a 31% chance that the hole card will be a 10. The remaining 69% of the time the hole card will be worth something else. So based on that taking insurance is not worth the wager because the odds in blackjack are against the dealer having a 10 for the hole card.

70% Off of Blackjack Insurance

Before you get all excited, this is not a sale. If you are in a blackjack game where you are wagering $20 per hand and an insurance wager costs you $10, this does not mean that for a limited time insurance will only cost $3. Sorry, if casinos are going to try to hang on to their house edge they are not about to put a sale on insurance.

When I say 70% off of insurance I am talking about the odds of a dealer’s hole card being worth ten when the dealer has an Ace showing.

Start with 100%, then you look at the probability of that hole card being worth ten. There are thirteen cards in a suit and only four are worth ten. That gives you a roughly 30% chance that the hole card is worth ten. This also means that there is a 70% chance that the hole card will not be worth ten.

So take that 100% chance that a blackjack player has of hoping that insurance will work out in his favor and that he will at least receive that payout if the dealer does in fact have a natural blackjack, and subtract 70%. This gives you a roughly 30% chance of making anything off of an insurance wager.

Now if you knew that you had less than a 50% chance of a bet working out in your favor, would you wager on it? If you knew that a lizard almost always ran to the left, would you wager on it running to the right? No, you would not because you are smart enough to know that the odds are on the lizard running to the left, and that wagering on it running right would be most unwise.

So why would you wager on insurance when you know that the odds are against you? The house likes and encourages blackjack players to feel as if the dealer showing an Ace is more threatening than it really is. They are hoping that you will take the insurance wager even though there is only a 30% chance of you making anything off it.

While insurance will never have an actual discount, the blackjack odds on insurance panning out for a blackjack play are always 70%. While supplies last.

Some Blackjack Things Never Change

And what would be something about blackjack that does not ever change? Ever. One more ever just in case you missed it. And by never ever change I mean it is the same for blackjack in brick and mortar casinos, in online blackjack and in the mobile blackjack that is one the rise.

One such thing is insurance. Yes, insurance is the same. Not only does the rule not change, but a blackjack player’s strategy for insurance does not change no matter what format he or she is playing the game with.

Insurance is a bad bet all around mostly because it is a side bet on whether or not the dealer has a 10 for a hole card. The house makes you feel like you are making a big mistake when you do not take insurance, but the mistake lies in taking insurance. This is because there are less cards that have a value of 10 than there are cards with other values. This means that the odds of the card not being worth 10 are higher.

And speaking of side bets, they are another thing about blackjack that does not change no matter how you play it. Other than insurance, side bets are found in blackjack variations whose sole purpose is to take your money and drag your odds down.

Take Perfect Pairs for instance. Before the cards are dealt, players wager on whether or not their first to cards will be a pair or not. The problem with this is that there is no strategy that can help a player here. Being dealt a pair at the start is sheer luck and that is all.

Blackjack is a game of strategy, of skill. This is one casino game in which a player can shift the odds that are against them and lessen them. But playing in a blackjack variation with a side bet is the fastest way to turn the odds against you. And this holds true no matter where you are playing blackjack, be it in a casino, online or on your mobile device.

Counting 10s and Insurance

In the last couple of posts we have pieced together that card counting can help us with insurance. We all understand that card counting will allow us to know when the remaining cards contain more high cards than low. So what does this have to do with turning insurance to our benefit?

High cards include 10s. And insurance is a side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is worth 10 or not. Now put two and two together—it is a hard 4. No, I am kidding. Bad blackjack joke. If the, when counting cards, you find that a significant number of low cards have been played and the remaining deck is rich in high cards it means that the chances of the dealer’s hole card being worth 10 are increased.

This means that it is not a good time to take insurance.

Now keep in mind that I am not an insurance advocate for blackjack. It is a side bet and I am steadfastly against side bets. But if you are dead set on taking insurance and are playing in a brick and mortar casino where you can count cards, do not take insurance when the remaining deck is rich in high cards. This means that if you are going to risk the side bet—I mean, insure your hand—you only want to do it when the remaining cards are rich in low cards.

Unfortunately card counting cannot be used in online blackjack because of that RNG, but you can use card counting to turn insurance a bit in your favor. You know now that you can use card counting to know if the chances are increased for the dealer to have a card worth 10 for a hole card when the remaining deck is running rich in high cards.

Now you can take that knowledge and choose to wager on the hole card or not when offered insurance. For example, if you have a hard hand and the dealer has an Ace up and you have counted the card and figured that the remaining deck is rich in high cards—meaning the dealer’s chances of having a 10 for a hole card are increased—taking insurance might not be a bad thing; you know you have a weak hand and that the remaining cards favor the dealer in this case.

That is how knowing how the richness of the remaining deck can help you to decide whether taking insurance at the blackjack table might benefit you.

Card Counting and Insurance Together

If you recall my last post I discussed what exactly insurance is in blackjack. This was my opener to my overall explanation that insurance can in fact be used in the grand scheme to make money from blackjack. But such a trick is not for the newly green players of blackjack. And it is not for online blackjack play, but that is because card counting is necessary to turn insurance to your advantage.

Blackjack is one of those casino games that players can use strategy to turn the odds in towards them. Card counting is a blackjack strategy of skill that can actually allow the player to turn the game’s overall odds in their favor and beat the house. This is because card counting allows the player to have a good idea of whether the remaining deck is rich in high or low cards. It is that same principle that allows card counting blackjack players to actually take advantage of insurance.

Remember from my last post that I said that all insurance is, is a side bet on whether or not the dealer’s hole card will turn out to be a 10 value card.

This translates over to card counting like so: 10 value cards are considering high cards. If, through counting cards, a blackjack player knows that the remaining cards are rich in high cards—meaning rich in Aces and 10 value cards—it means that the chances of the dealer’s hole card being worth 10 are increased. This is similar to how the chances of a player being dealt a natural blackjack are increased when the remaining cards are rich in high cards.

So the beginning of our blackjack strategy for taking advantage of insurance is to use card counting. And that means developing your skills in counting cards. But do not run off to the casino, counting cards and taking insurance if the deck is rich in high cards—there is one more piece that goes along with this blackjack strategy

When to Use Insurance in Blackjack

I know I have always said to never take insurance when playing blackjack. And for the most part this is true. But there are a tiny number of times in which you do want to use insurance because you can turn it to your advantage.

Now the reason I normally do not say this is because the majority of blackjack players fall into one of two categories: always taking insurance and never taking insurance. And of the two, never taking insurance is safer for your bankroll and better for your odds.

But typically the majority of players do not find, remember and exploit the small times in which it can pay to take insurance.

But to begin to understand the finer points of exploiting insurance, we need to define exactly what insurance is and how it works.

Insurance is offered in blackjack when the dealer has an Ace showing. This is because he is definitely holding one of the two cards need for a natural blackjack. The two cards needed are an Ace and a 10 value card; of the two, the Ace is less populated in the deck, hence why insurance is offered when the dealer shows an Ace rather than a 10 value card.

Most blackjack players think that insurance is offered because the dealer stands a shot of having blackjack and that the player needs to protect—or insure—their wager so as not to lose it. Casinos want players to feel threatened and to take insurance.

But think for a moment what insurance is. Insurance is offered when the dealer has an Ace, meaning he has a shot at blackjack. That means that insurance is really a side bet on whether or not that hole card is worth 10 or not. If it does turn out to be a 10 the player collects on the insurance wager. But if it is not a 10 the player loses the insurance wager.

So keep in mind that insurance in blackjack is only a side bet on whether the dealer has 10 value card for a hole card or not. Now that we have that straight about insurance, next time we will discuss when those small number of times to take insurance are, and why you can.

Bad Beat Blackjack Progressive is Sneaky too

And I thought that insurance was being sneaky. It has nothing on Bad Beat Blackjack Progressive by DEQ Systems Corp. DEQ has spent the last five years creating and designing a new electronic side bet that can be built into blackjack tables.

Shall we compare the two and see just how sneaky Bad Beat Blackjack Progressive is.

First we will look at insurance. Insurance is offered when the dealer has an Ace showing, and essentially is a side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is worth 10 or not. If the hole card is worth 10 the dealer has a natural blackjack, you would lose your original wager, but you would collect 2-1 on your insurance side bet so that you were paid an amount that is equal to the wager you lost.

There are only four Aces per deck. Let’s say that you are at a table that is using four decks, like a Vegas Strip Blackjack table. That means there are sixteen Aces out of 208 cards. On average there is a 7% chance that an Ace will show as the up card. So you only have the opportunity to take insurance sixteen times.

Now we will look at Bad Beat Blackjack Progressive.

This is a side bet that will pay the player if they have a final hand total of 20 and are beaten by the dealer with 21. The more cards that make up the dealer’s 21, the more the player receives on their side bet; but a dealer 21 made up of seven cards will payout the progressive jackpot.

Bad Beat Blackjack Progressive plays on the notion that the player will always receive something if his strong hand is beaten. Which on the surface sounds like a good idea. But there are several problems:

– It only covers a player 20, not a player who hits to 21.
– It does not cover if the dealer beats you with a natural blackjack.
– It does not cover pushes.

And perhaps the biggest problem of all is that the side bet can be made every single round. This is very bad. At least with insurance there are only certain times it is offered. But Bad Beat Blackjack Progressive puts players in the position to lose even more money every single round. The probability of you having a hand total of 20 and the dealer beating you with a multi-card hand of 21 is actually very slim.

This is one type of side bet that should be high on your list of things to avoid since you stand a better chance of losing more money each round than you do of winning a payout off of it. And it is just horrible to prey upon player feelings in order to extract more money. Sure, it is a blow when our 20’s are beaten, but that is a part of the game.

And this company, this DEQ Systems Inc., has created a way for casinos to cash in on that feeling. Because of the increased opportunity for players to lose money Bad Beat Blackjack Progressive should be avoided. There is no sense to throwing money away on almost every hand to collect on a hand here and hand there—the financial cost does not balance out unless the dealer has a seven card 21.

Good Blackjack Variations vs. Bad Blackjack Variations

I hear now and again that some players want to know what a good blackjack variation is and what are bad ones. There are some rules of thumb in helping players discern which variations are bad and which ones are not.

The primary indicator of a good blackjack variation is one that does not use side bets as the center point of the game. Yes, I know, that knocks the majority of blackjack variations out of consideration.

But think about it a moment—we know that insurance is a bad idea since it causes the player to lose more money over time than if the player had not taken insurance. And we also know that insurance is a cleverly named and present side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is worth 10 or not. So if that side bet is a bad idea, then why are all of the rest okay?

Because they are not okay. Side bets are never okay. Remember that.

So a good blackjack variation does not have side bets, which means that bad variations do have side bets. We will compare two blackjack variations so that you can see.

Blackjack Switch is played with two pairs per play in which the players can switch their second cards in order to increase the strength of their hands.

Perfect Pairs Blackjack is played with a normal hand but has players placing a wager on whether or not their first two cards will be a pair or not.

Based on the simple method of determining a good blackjack variation above, it is easy to see that Blackjack Switch is the variation of choice between the two. Players have no control on whether they will be dealt a pair or not. Whereas in Switch players still have an impact on the outcome of the round after taking into consideration the hook that makes Switch what it is.

So what have we learned? We have learned that side bets are bad and that whether or not a blackjack variation has one is how we should determine if a blackjack variation is good or bad.

Things I Do Not Like About Blackjack

I love the game of blackjack. The one on one feeling that you get from playing only against the table, even if you are at a full table. The smooth feeling you get when you know your blackjack strategy is doing its thing against the house edge. The feeling of knowing that I am playing the one game in the entire casino or online casino that has the best odds for me to win and make a profit.

But it is true that there are some things that I just do not like about blackjack.

For one thing I do not like insurance.

I do not like the sneaky way the casinos present this playing option as something that benefits the player when in fact it is designed purely to try to take more money from the player—sure, get them to put more money on the table in wagers, more money on the line means more opportunity for the house to take it which means lower odds for the player.

It is just a sneaky way, deceptive yet entirely game-legal way of lowering a player’s blackjack odds. And that sneakiness is what I do not like. Come on, just be up front and tell players, ‘Hey, this can maybe kind of help you, but it is likely to cause you to lose some money.’

Another thing? Side bets.

Side bets are found in blackjack variations. And variations came about in two ways. One way is that some are cultural variations, such as Pontoon and Spanish 21. But other variations are creations meant to take more player money—no surprise—through side bets.

The problem was that players were getting bored with blackjack and rather than give themselves and their bankrolls a break (which is smart), they wanted a variation of blackjack…kind of like the best of both worlds: a different game that is still the same.

Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it, and it just might cost you more. Which is exactly what blackjack variations with their side bets do.

Insurance and side bets are two of my biggest pet peeves with a game that I otherwise thoroughly love. And I will continue to warn players to avoid both insurance and side bets—which insurance is actually a side bet in its own right—so that players can hang on to their blackjack bankroll.

Sneaky, Sneaky Blackjack Insurance

Imagine that there is a way to protect your blackjack wager. A sort of insurance that will cover your wager so that you do not lose it in case the dealer turns up that natural blackjack.

Such a thing exists. And it is called insurance in blackjack. But it is not as rosy of a picture as casinos would like for you to believe.

Insurance is offered when the dealer has an Ace for an up card. It is offered because an Ace is required for a natural blackjack, and is the less common of the two cards needed. So the feeling is that if the less common required card is present, there is a good chance that the hole card will have a value of 10.

This is what casinos would like for you to think. But let’s look at the statistics of that hole card being worth 10.

In blackjack there are only four cards worth 10: the 10 itself, the Jack, the Queen and the King. There are thirteen cards per suit and four suits per deck, so there are sixteen cards in a single deck that are worth 10. Of the possibilities that the hole card is worth 10, only sixteen out of the theoretical fifty one remaining cards will be worth 10. That means that there is only a 31% chance that the dealer’s whole card will be worth 10, giving him a natural blackjack. Therefore there is a 69% chance that the dealer will not have a natural blackjack.

Insurance is a side bet in which you wager half the amount of your original bet. If the dealer’s hole card is in fact worth 10 and he has a natural blackjack, you would lose your original wager, but collect on the side bet.

But you are a smart blackjack player, so why would you place a side bet for an outcome that the odds do not favor?

That is the case with the insurance side bet. You are wagering that the dealer’s hole card will be worth 10 when there is only a 31% chance of that happening.

The casino is glossing insurance over as something that will help you, when the odds of insurance actually helping you are a little less than a third of a reality. This is why experienced blackjack players will tell novices to decline insurance in blackjack—the odds truly are against the outcome favoring the player.