Even Money: Is Insurance a Sure Thing?

As the dealer lays down your second card, a smile grows across your face. You just got blackjack. A moment later your smile fades. The dealer has an ace showing. She calls out for insurance bets. Before the dealer checks the hole card, she makes eye contact with you, awaiting your decision. The player next to you advises, “I would take it. Even money is the smart move. ” The dealer agrees. “Always take insurance when you have blackjack. It’s a sure thing.”

To take insurance or not take insurance. It’s a decision that becomes tougher for players when they have a good hand, particularly blackjack. The more money on the line, the more likely players are to take insurance. This is where players go wrong. Insurance is not a wager you should take to “protect” your original bet. It is striclty a side bet on whether or not the dealer has a ten or face card in the hole. Players can insure their bets by placing an amount up to half their wager in the insurance area on the table. If the dealer does have a ten or face card in the hole, the bet pays off 2 to 1.

Let’s break down the expected win of insurance for a 6-deck shoe. When the dealer shows an ace, the odds she will have blackjack are 96/311. There are 96 ten-value cards in a 6-deck shoe and there are 312 total cards in a 6-deck shoe (52 x 6). Not counting the ace showing there are 311 cards remaining. There is a 96/311 chance that the dealer will flip over a ten or face card and pay off insurance bets 2 to 1. There is a 215/311 chance that the dealer will not have blackjack and all insurance bets will lose.

Based on a $100 bet, here is how the expected win works out.

(96/311) x ($200) + (215/311) x (-$100) = $(19200/311) –

$(21500/311)

$(19200/311) – $(21500/311) = -$(2300/311)

= -$7.395

Over the long run, for every $100 you wager on insurance you can expect to lose $7.395 . The insurance bet has a 7.395% house edge. To put this in perspective, the house edge on insurance is more than 14 times the edge versus a basic strategy player, playing at a .5% disadvantage. This is why one of the cardinal rules of basic strategy is never take insurance. So the next time someone tells you to take even money, remember, the only sure thing about insurance is that it will cost you a pretty penny over the long run.

Blackjack: What are the Odds?

Comments

  1. It seems to me that the never take insurance rule is certainly valid if you are flat betting. If however, you have an oversize bet out, (such as in some form of progressive wagering) it seems to be counter intuitive to decline even mony when you and the dealer both have a blackjack. If, for example, your normal (or default) wager is ten dollars and you have 100 hundred dollars out as a result of some form of progression, it seems unlikely that you will have the opportunity to recoup the 100 you forgo because of. the “law of averages”.

  2. If your goal is to win over the long run, you should never take insurance, including even money. It is a negative expectation bet, regardless of whether you have a wager of ten dollars or 100 dollars. No matter the amount, the insurance bet favors the house significantly. Ideally you should never bet a large wager based on a betting progression. You may win with a betting progression in the short run but sooner you will get wiped out, which is why casinos love progression players. Over the long run the only thing that determines whether you will win or lose is the expected value of your playing and betting decisions. If you’re not getting the best of the odds, the house will always win in the end.

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