Odds on Insurance

Insurance is a common debate in blackjack regardless of whether you play online blackjack or blackjack in a brick and mortar casino. There are some that say insurance is a sure thing and to take it when offered. Then there are those who say insurance is the devil, that it will hurt your odds and to avoid taking it. Then there are so who are uncertain because they are not really sure what insurance truly is.

So we will start there. Insurance is offered when the dealer is showing an Ace, one of the cards that is key to having a natural blackjack and beating all other hands. Players can take insurance for half the cost of their original wager. If the dealer’s hole card creates a blackjack for the dealer, the player receives a 2-1 payout on their insurance wager, which is equal to their original wager which they just lost to that natural blackjack.

Insurance is really a side wager on whether or not the dealer’s hole card is a 10. If it is you lose your original wager but are paid insurance for a total negative net. Because the player is putting himself in a position to lose more money, it increases the house’s edge and lowers the players blackjack odds.

But really the odds on the dealer having a 10 are small. There are thirteen cards that the hole card could be. Of those thirteen, only four are worth 10. So there is only a 30% chance that the hole card is worth 10. The other 70% of the odds are on it not being worth 10.

Knowing that that odds are against the hole card being worth 10 and knowing that insurance decreases your blackjack odds because of the opportunity to lose money faster should be enough to keep you away from insurance.

Silver Dollar Blackjack Tournament

There is nothing that boosts the excitement of online blackjack more than playing in a blackjack tournament. Well, winning with a natural off of a good sized wager is great high too. But it is not the same as the unknown thrill of tournament play—will you win or lose?

Thankfully there are some fun online blackjack tournaments to play in. And while I do enjoy the little $0.99 tournaments that Go Casino hosts, it is not the same as a full-fledged big money blackjack tournament. The $0.99 tournaments are good as practice for the experienced player, and good for the novice tournament player to begin getting their feet wet with.

But sometimes experienced online blackjack players want more.

And Silver Dollar is certainly offering more.

Every Friday Silver Dollar hosts their Weekend Blackjack Classic. As you can well guess, this online blackjack tournament spans the course of a whole weekend, starting on a Friday and ending on a Sunday.

Now when I was talking about a full-fledged big money online blackjack tournament I was referring to tournaments that do not offer the winning player a portion of the pot, but a cash prize instead. And that is exactly what Silver Dollar is offering their players.

The Weekend Blackjack Classic has a prize pool of $5,000. Yes, the winning player will get the biggest chunk of that $5,000 cash prize. And that is a lot more than what a player could win from a low-key Play for the Pot type of online blackjack tournament.

Silver Dollar is using the US Blackjack created by Vegas Technology variation of the game for these tournaments. This means that there are no side bets—other than insurance—and that the dealer does not check for blackjack at the beginning of the round.

For players who are interested the entry fee for the Weekend Blackjack Classic tournament at Silver Dollar is only $10. Think about it–$10 for a chance to win a piece of that $5,000 prize pool.

Blackjack Odds: Another Reason to Cut Insurance from Your Blackjack Strategy

Some players are die hard about insurance and blackjack. They insist on insurance remaining a part of their blackjack strategy.

It has been explained numerous times why insurance is bad for your blackjack odds.

For one thing it is a side bet. Side bets were created with the purpose of squeezing even more money out of players. The best you can do with insurance is break even. In other words you wager an additional $5 on a $10 wager just to hang on to your $10. It is still more money on the line, which is another opportunity for you to lose money. Losing money is bad for your blackjack odds and will lower them.

For another thing the only way to win an insurance bet is for the dealer to have that 10 for a hole card and to therefore have a natural blackjack. Hoping to win an insurance wager is hoping for the dealer to win the round. And there is something just wrong about hoping for the dealer to win.

Finally there are the blackjack odds of the dealer having a 10 card and the money involved in those odds.

A dealer only has a 31% chance of having a 10 card for a hole card. That is only four times out of thirteen: 10, Jack, Queen, King. The other nine out of thirteen, or 69%, of the time the hole card will be any other card.

Now we are going to say that you are wagering $10 per hand, which makes insurance $5 each time. In terms of money this means that you could expect to win $40: four times $5. So if there is a nine in thirteen odds that the card is anything other than a 10 card it means that you will lose $45.

So you see, by taking insurance you are hurting your own blackjack odds and losing more money that you would not have to. Insurance makes for bad blackjack strategy.

Blackjack Strategy: Winning and Losing with Insurance

Over the weekend a question related to blackjack strategy and insurance came in. I was asked if it was possible to work insurance into one’s blackjack strategy and win with it.

I had to sigh. Here we go again with insurance and blackjack strategy.

Insurance should not have any place in a player’s blackjack strategy.

Insurance is not the protective play that the casinos would like for players to believe it is. Insurance is only a side bet on whether the dealer has a card worth 10 as a hole card. In other words, a side bet on whether the dealer has a natural blackjack or not. Players only win their insurance wagers when the dealer does have blackjack.

So first you are rooting for the house to win if you want to collect on that insurance bet. And there is something just wrong about rooting for the house to win.

Second, if you do win your insurance wager, you are not anymore ahead. Sure you might think you are because you have won the side bet. Whoopie! You won the side bet! But since the dealer has won with a natural blackjack, you have lost the round.

In money-speak: yes, you won $10 from your insurance wager, but you lost your original $10 wager. Pat yourself on the back and order a drink from the nice waitress to celebrate.

In a round winning an insurance side bet causes you to break even. You are no further ahead money-wise. And since you gave money to the house you did not have to you actually hurt your own blackjack odds.

Side bets hurt your blackjack odds because they put you in a position to lose more money faster. Imagine if you lost both the insurance side bet and lost the round—you would then be out more money than if you had only lost the round.

And, yes, it is possible to lose both the insurance bet and the round. Say the dealer actually has a 9 for a hole card, giving him a soft 20 that he stands on; and you only have a 19. You lost your insurance bet and the round.

The reason insurance should not be factored into your blackjack strategy is because it hurts your odds by putting you in a position to lose more money. Opportunities to make money increase your odds, and opportunities to lose money decrease your odds. So. No insurance in your blackjack strategy.

Blackjack and Insurance—How Does it Work Again?

I am going to call the basic rules and plays of blackjack Blackjack 101. This includes the objective, hitting and standing. Double downs and splitting pairs goes into Blackjack 102. Then there is the leap into Blackjack 103, better known as ‘first discovering basic strategy.’

But once a new player gets Blackjack 103 under their belts they begin to move into the murkier waters. Bring on Blackjack 104: Casino Tricks and Insurance.

When a novice blackjack player first encounters insurance they are usually a bit confused. Here they are trying to bet the house and the house is offering them a way to save their bet in case the dealer has a natural blackjack. Is that not oh so considerate of them?

But even then the little warning bells go off in the player’s mind: Why is the house trying to help me when they want me to lose?

The truth is quite simple. The house is helping you. They are helping you to turn your money over to them faster.

And really that is all it is. Think first about what insurance is. The dealer has an Ace showing, the less common of the two cards necessary for a natural blackjack. He then offers you insurance just in case he does have a natural blackjack, which means that hole card needs to be a 10. In all reality you are placing a side wager on whether that hole card is a 10 or not.

Insurance is a side bet made for half the amount of your original wager. If you have bet $10 on the round, insurance would be $5 for you. You are wagering more money on a round than is ordinary.

So rather than standing to lose $10 in a round, you could lose $15. And it is possible to lose both bets. Let’s say that you have a hard 19 and the dealer has an Ace. You take insurance and the hole card is a 9, giving the dealer a soft 20 that he can stand on. His 20 beats your 19, and since the hole card was not a 10, you lose the insurance bet too.

What novice blackjack players have to understand is that insurance does not offer them any true benefits, and that it is best not to take insurance when playing blackjack.

Blackjack Strategy: Can Insurance Help Me?

Recently I was asked a question in regards to blackjack strategy and insurance. The young man in question plays blackjack online, and had heard that insurance can sometimes be advantageous for the player. He wanted to know if this were true or not.

In a way, yes, it is true. But! But it cannot be used for online blackjack.

In order to make insurance work for you in terms of blackjack strategy you need to be a card counter. And I do not just mean that you have just started counting cards in the casino. You need to be a strong card counter.

Real quick let’s take a moment to review what insurance really is. Insurance is offered when the dealer has an Ace showing. The player can then make a second wager for half the amount of his original wager so that if the hole card is a 10 he will receive a payout that is equivalent to his original wager, but he will lose his original wager.

It sounds like this in not a bad idea, but players who take insurance will lose more money in the long run simply because they are wagering more money when they take insurance. Because insurance is really a side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is worth 10 or not.

So if the player stands to lose more money in the long run, how can there ever be a time when taking insurance is advantageous to the player?

There are only two occasions when taking insurance could be advantageous: when you are holding a 20 or a natural blackjack AND you have been counting the cards and know that the deck is rich in high cards.

True the dealer could wind up with blackjack, but the net gain is the same. Take a look.

You are making $10 wagers. You have a natural blackjack and take insurance. If the dealer does have a natural blackjack too, then you push and hang on to your $10, but you also collect on the $5 insurance wager, picking up $10.

If the dealer does not have a natural blackjack, you lose the $5 insurance wager, but win $15 from having a natural blackjack. Subtract the lost $5 from the $15 you won, and your net gain is still the same: $10.

But taking insurance under these conditions can only happen when the deck is rich in high cards, and the only way to tell that is to be skilled at card counting. And because this little blackjack strategy trick requires card counting it means that it cannot be used for online blackjack since card counting cannot be down in online blackjack.

But this insurance trick is still a fun additive to your blackjack strategy—a bit of a sneaky way to take a play meant to take a player’s money and turn it around.

Insurance and Blackjack Strategy—Some Things Do Not Mix

Have you ever tried to combine oil and water in the same container? It does not work so well does it? Sure, you can shake the container up again and again, but the oil and water will always separate. This is nature’s way of telling you that those two do not go together.

The same can be said about mixing insurance with blackjack strategy.

You might try mixing your blackjack strategy up a bit to take insurance, but the two will always separate. Insurance just does not feel right when playing blackjack. And so the two should always be separate.

The reason for this is you know that insurance is not your friend. It does not help your blackjack odds. For one thing you are putting out money to guard your money. Just say that out loud: Insurance is putting out money to guard your money. Does not sound right does it? That is because it is not right.

More often than not casinos and online casinos will collect either your original wager or your insurance wager. So you are losing money no matter what. If you won the round but lost your insurance wager, you lost money you did not have to.

Oh, and insurance and a natural blackjack—that is a big mistake. See, when you have a natural blackjack and the dealer has an Ace showing he will not offer you insurance. Instead he will offer you even money—which is just another way of losing money. Only this time you are losing it in your payout.

Insurance even money payouts are 1-1 payouts rather than the standard 3-2 payouts. And that hits your blackjack odds for 2.27%.

The point here is that if insurance is so bad for your blackjack odds, why mix it in to your blackjack strategy—which is supposed to increase your odds. Why do something to decrease your odds when you are trying to increase them? Insurance just seems so counterproductive to a strong blackjack strategy.

True Odds in Insurance

When it comes to odds in casino games, many are actually quite accurate, or true. I know, surprising considering how the casino like to take money. However, at least in most games the odds are true. One of the exceptions though is an insurance bet in blackjack.

First off, what are true odds?

True odds are quite simple. Odds are true when they are even with the payout. Meaning the payout has to be the same as the odds of landing that payout. Take roulette for example. In a game of roulette there are thirty six numbers. If you were to make a wager on one of those numbers and won that round you would receive a 36-1 payout. And that matches the odds of landing one number, which is naturally thirty six to one.

Now let’s take a look at insurance in blackjack.

If you were to win an insurance wager you would receive a 2-1 payout. However true odds on insurance are not two to one.

As an example we are going to assume that you are not holding any ten value cards; obviously the dealer has an Ace and you do not know what his other card is. We are going to look a single deck game to make the math easier to see.

In a single deck game there are sixteen ten value cards, which means that there are thirty three cards that have other values. This means that there is a 33-16 chance of the dealer having a card worth 10 for his hole card. Reduce 33-16 and you have 2.0625 to 1.

And that means that you should be paid $2.06 for every $1 of your insurance bet. On a $10 insurance bet you should be paid a total of $20.63. Instead you receive $20. Since you do not receive $20.63 the odds on an insurance bet are not fair, which further makes insurance a bad bet in blackjack.

Oh, and the amount that you should be paid goes up the larger your insurance wager is. So the larger your insurance bet is in blackjack, the more unbalanced the odds are.

Another Name for Insurance

Insurance has an alias, did you know that?

I am willing to bet that you are a smart blackjack player, be you an online blackjack player or one who plays in a brick and mortar casino. You most likely know what the alias of Insurance is.

Well this deceptive little choice that gives edge to the house also goes by the name of Even Money. And you will only be offered a shot at even money when you have been dealt a natural blackjack and the dealer has an Ace showing.

And that is exactly how the dealer will put it to you, making even money sound like something special that you have earned for being dealt a blackjack.

The truth of the matter is that even money does not earn you anything since you are actually giving part of your odds over to the house if you accept.

You know you are offered insurance when the dealer has an Ace showing, but with a natural blackjack you really do not need to insure it. So the casinos thought they would be smart and offer players the same thing with a different name. Hence even money.

Even money is when you receive a 1-1 payout. And that is exactly what you get if you accept even money. They want to scare you into taking a 1-1 payout so that there will be no risk to the house to pay you a 3-2 payout should the dealer not have a natural blackjack.

And that is the trouble with even money—players accept a lower payout and reduce their own blackjack odds when the dealer may not even have a blackjack. He is showing an Ace while you have one of the ten value cards he needs in his hand. That is already one shot at a blackjack that he does not have.

Just because the dealer is showing an Ace does not mean he has a blackjack. That is what you have to remember. Being scared and accepting even money only hurts you in the long run. Remember your blackjack odds increase as your opportunities to make money increase; and they decrease when your opportunities decrease.

So if you accept a payout that reduces your chance of making money, you are reducing you blackjack odds as well.

The point is to know what even money is and what it does to your odds so that you know why to decline even money. Even if the dealer has blackjack too you will only have to push, which is not as bad for you odds. Do not be afraid of a dealer’s Ace. Just decline even money and hold out—you just might get that 3-2 payout.

Blackjack Myth—Always Insure a Blackjack or 20

The only time that this myth would come up is when you are dealt a natural blackjack or a 20 and the dealer has an Ace showing. In fact, the only time you are offered insurance in blackjack is when the dealer has an Ace showing.

The belief on this blackjack myth might sound reasonable, but it is in fact not practical. Here are the reasons these myth-believing blackjack players will insure their blackjacks and 20s:

– If you insure your blackjack you will get an even money payout no matter what even if the dealer has a blackjack.

– If you insure your 20 and the dealer does have blackjack you will wind up with the equivalent of an even money payout because you will lose that round’s wager, but will collect on the insurance bet.

The belief in this myth is that you are protecting your hand. The problem is that when you are protecting it you are costing yourself more money.

When you insure your blackjack you are losing out on your potential profits. By ensuring a blackjack you are taking a payout of 1-1 and giving up your 3-2 payout. Breaking that 3-2 down looks like this: 1.04-1. And 1.04 is greater than 1-1. Taking insurance, ergo even money, on a blackjack is costing you 4% of your potential profit. So while insurance might feel safer, it is more expensive in the long run to your profit.

As for insuring your 20, that is just not practical. What is a hard twenty made of? It is made up of two 10s. It is one of those pairs that you do not split. Think of this: you are holding two of the cards the dealer needs. This lessens the dealer’s chances of having a blackjack, and it lessens your chances of collecting on your insurance bet because you need him to have a 10. So put all of your chances on yourself and do not take insurance.

Part of your blackjack strategy is playing smart. Not all the tips you hear on the casino floor and in online blackjack forums are good ones. Take some time and think about the blackjack tips you find, maybe even do a little bit of research one them, before putting all your belief behind them. You might even try them out in a free-play mode of an online casino to see how they work.