Thursday, June 15, 2017

Should You Take Insurance?

Biy Carl Van Eton

Image courtesy of Big Game Blackjack
Having played and taught blackjack for many years, it never ceases to amaze me how much money is
lost by players due to casino misinformation.  Whether we're talking about the ever popular fallacy concerning luck (which does not exist), or the equally influential dream of hitting the big jackpot that keeps suckers coming back to lose more money, casino fairy tales are nothing if not persistent. Having said that, there is one piece of misinformation concerning blackjack that is so pervasive that even the dealers don't understand wjat's what.  I'm talking about the Insurance Wager.

Any time the dealer shows an ace, he or she will ask the players if they want to take insurance.  The wager permits the player to wager up to half their bet. The highest paying of all wagers on the table at 2 to 1, it pays off to equal the amount of the original wager.  It is also the least understood of all blackjack bets.

The very term "INSURANCE" conjures visions of protection, though of what, I know not. The house wants you to believe that this side bet is tied to your original wager. It isn't. Whether the cards you possess total twenty one or a stone cold sixteen, the insurance bet has absolutely nothing to do with protecting it.  In fact, it has nothing at all to do with your hand.  The only time the insurance wager pays off is when the dealer has a ten in the hole.  If the dealer has anything else under the ace up, then the wager loses.  

This means that the odds of winning the insurance bet is 9 to 4 against, since there are 9 cards in the deck that will cause you to lose the insurance wager and only 4 tens that will make the bet a winner. Therefore, it is slightly more than 2 to 1 against the player.  The sooner you recognize this fact, the sooner you can turn the Guess-the-Ten-in-the-Hole Game to your advantage.

When is Even Not Even?

Image courtesy of Big Game Blackjack
Even worse are those players who insist on "taking even money" when they have blackjack and the dealer is showing an ace. What they don't realize is how much money they are in fact throwing away. The greatest advantage of having blackjack is that you get paid 3 to 2. In 104 uninsured tries with a $10 bet, you would win 72 x $15 for a grand total of $1,080.00. By insuring your $10 bet, you will be correct only 32 times in 104 tries, grossing $320 on insurance since you can only take insurance up to half your bet. Add to that $720 in "even money" payoffs that occur when the dealer doesn't have a ten in the hole and you will wind up grossing $1,040.00. Your "even money" bet just cost you $40. And that's at a dime table.

Does that mean the insurance wager is always a sucker bet?  That depends on the level of your playing ability.  What I mean by that is if you are a basic strategy player, then the bet is a Hail Mary at best, so don't do it.  However, if you are a card counter, then your ability to track the tens can turn this sucker bet on its head.  

Card counters assign values to various cards then add or subtract to determine when there are more big cards remaining to be played, or when there are an overabundance of small cards remaing which favors the house.  This means when a card counter has a significant plus count, there is an abundance of tens remaining, which is why counters raise their bet.  It also means it is statistically more likely that the dealer has a ten in the hole whenever the counter has a big bet.  So taking insurance in such a case is no longer a shot in the dark. Provided the ratio of tens to non-tens remaining to be played exceeds 2 to 1, betting the Insurance wager can be extremely profitable.

In our Blackjack Express card counting system, we teach what is known as a ten count.  One of the greatest advantages you have in utilizing a ten count is that it is the only counting system in the world that provides perfect insurance indices. Since the house pays 2 to 1 on this wager and strike  number where the player is authorized to make a big bet equals +4 per deck, this means that anytime the running count is greater than the strike number, it is high time to play the Guess-the-Ten-in-the-Hole Game. And when one realizes you will have a maximum wager out there, it could prove to be the best bet in the house.

Want to learn more?  Carl Van Eton has more than 20 years of professional playing experience.  If you want to stop visiting your money every time you go to the casinos, check out his website at

1 comment:

  1. So, insurance is not insurance, at least not in the normal since, right?