When you think of insurance, you’ll probably immediately jump to the topic of protecting your valuable assets or even your life — gambling and casino games are probably the last things to pop into your mind. However, in the game of blackjack and all its variations, insurance is a common (and often controversial) topic among players.
While new players think it’s a safer bet, more experienced players know it’s never a good one. If you’re still practicing your blackjack strategy and you’re torn between the two sides, keep reading. You’ll discover what blackjack insurance bets are, how they work, and if you should avoid them in live dealer games.
What Is Insurance in Blackjack?
Insurance, sometimes referred to as even money in blackjack, refers to a side bet offered to a player when the dealer’s up card is an ace. Now that the dealer has a higher chance of getting blackjack or 21, a player can make an insurance side bet to protect themselves and break even. This means that aside from your main bet against the dealer, with this side bet, you are betting that the dealer does have blackjack to break even if you lose the main bet. Blackjack insurance usually pays out +200 odds.
Suppose you bet $10 on a round, but the blackjack dealer’s up card was an ace. Now, you take out an insurance side bet for $5. If the dealer has a natural blackjack, you lose your main bet. The insurance will pay you $10 back on top of your $5 wager and make you break even. With this bet, in the worst-case scenario, you won’t lose any money at the end of the round.
Dealers often advise players who have blackjack to place an insurance bet. In the event of a tie, no money is won or lost, but the insurance bet can give you a profit. Your $10 bet will be returned with a $10 profit from your side bet. Take a look at the numbers to see if this infamous bet is ever worth it.
How Does Blackjack Insurance Work?
Breaking even to protect your bankroll sounds like a reasonable choice, right? Once you learn how side bets work, you’ll see the pros and cons of the bet and understand the blackjack math behind insurance wagers.
If you’re learning blackjack basics, a crucial thing to understand is that the house edge in blackjack is not fixed. It changes depending on the bets you make and your strategy. The insurance bet significantly increases the house edge in your game.
Insurance pays out +200 odds, which implies a one in three, or 33.3%, chance of the dealer getting blackjack from the ace-up card. But in a total of 13 cards, only four cards can complete the dealer’s hand, making the odds +225, or 30.8%. This is very different from the assumed 33.3% chance. It also means you’ll probably lose more money with this bet than you will win.
Suppose you placed 100 insurance bets worth $25 every month. With these odds, you would likely win 30 bets and lose 70. This would bring you a total profit of $1,500 from the wins, but you would lose $1,750 from the lost side bets. Even if you felt like you were winning money during the month, you would have lost $250. Blackjack is seen as a low house-edge game compared to games like roulette. Interestingly, when you use bet insurance, the game has a higher house edge than a bet on a roulette wheel.
Blackjack Insurance Rules and Guidelines
There’s a reason insurance is called the sucker’s bet — but you don’t have to feel like a sucker. Here are some tips to show you when it’s wise to place this side bet and why you should avoid it at other times.
Insurance Side Bet Rules
- The maximum bet for insurance is usually half of the main bet.
- The blackjack table has a separate section for side bets where players must place their side bet before the insurance is closed.
- If the player has blackjack and also wins the insurance, the payout odds are +150.
- A player has the option to take even money and forfeit the +150 blackjack bonus odds if they want to win their original wager.
- In online blackjack games, a pop-up notification will appear asking players if they want to place an insurance bet.
When Should You Place an Insurance Side Bet?
There are a few situations where insurance wagers might be a good idea. Some players place insurance when they already have blackjack and want to ensure they profit from it in the event of a tie. If a tie does happen, which is rare, they’ll be paid out +150 odds instead of winning nothing.
Another time when insurance is beneficial is when you’ve placed a large bet to hit your profit goals and you plan to take even money if the side bet fails. Advanced card counters playing live games can also use the side bet because their strategy and predictions are more precise. However, even in these seemingly ideal scenarios, side bets are still not a profitable option in the long run.
Why You Should Avoid Insurance Bets
The primary reason insurance is discouraged in blackjack games is because of the odds of success. The dealer’s chances of having blackjack are only 30%, which means you have a much higher chance of losing than winning. While this bet may work in your favor in special circumstances, it’s a terrible strategy to use continuously for multiple bets.
Insurance also wreaks havoc on your house edge. If you’re playing blackjack because of its enticingly low house edge, this bet may be a problem for you. Insurance betting in blackjack, especially in games with more than six decks, increases the house edge from 2% to at least 7%. If you play blackjack online, almost every game will have between six and eight decks.
Even though insurance can minimize your losses if your dealer has a strong hand, the odds are almost always against you. If you’re playing strategically and paying attention to the numbers, then it’s best to make insurance side bets a rare blackjack move.
Blackjack Side Bets You Should Actually Try
Side bets can add an extra level of complexity and entertainment to your blackjack games, on top of the possibility that you could boost your winnings. So, while avoiding blackjack insurance is usually a good idea, there are a few side bets in blackjack that could be worth your while.
Keep in mind, however, whether or not these side bets are actually worth it is largely down to personal preference. You should learn a bit more about blackjack side bets and practice them in a casual game setting before jumping straight in and risking your bankroll without all the knowledge you need.
Here are a few side bets you could try out in blackjack:
The 21+3 Side Bet
The 21+3 side bet in blackjack is probably one of the most common side bets you’ll encounter in blackjack games. Inspired by poker hand rankings, the basic premise of this side bet is that you will be betting on the possibility of the dealer’s up card and the first two cards that you are dealt forming a popular 3-card poker hand. The highest possible payout odds stand at an impressive +10,000 for suited 3 of a kind.
The Royal Match Blackjack Side Bet
The goal of this side bet is to get two suited cards, with a K-Q pairing usually being the best outcome. The highest payout possible from this side bet is +2,500 odds, but, just like with the 21+3 side bet, it needs to be placed before the round begins.
Over/ Under 13 Side Bet
The Over/Under 13 side bet lets you wager on whether the total of your 2 cards will exceed 13 or stay under it. You need to be careful, however, because if your total is exactly 13, you will lose the bet. The maximum possible payout for this side bet is +100.
Super 7 Side Bet
With the super 7 side bet, you want to obtain one or two 7s of the same color or suit. Payout odds range from +300 for one 7, +5,000 for two 7s, and a remarkable +10,000 if both 7s are of the same suit.
Lucky Ladies Side Bet
The Lucky Ladies side bet is placed based on the expectation that the sum of your two cards will be exactly 20. This side bet also has varying payout odds:
- +2,000 for unsuited 20.
- +2,500 for suited 20.
- +10,000 if you get 2 Q♥ along with the dealer’s blackjack hand.
Test Your Strategy With the Borgata Online Live Dealer Casino
You can bring the authentic casino table experience to your home with Borgata Online, where the live dealer casino has a wide variety of table games like online poker, baccarat, blackjack and more. Register with Borgata Online to play at tables with friendly, professional dealers and place your first bet.