"Shallow men believe in luck."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Never Take Insurance


One error I see made repeatedly is the taking of insurance. Let me see if I can't help to clear up why you should never take this.

The term "insurance" is actual a misnomer... you are not actually "insuring" anything. All insurance is, is a side bet, at 2 to 1 odds, on whether the dealer has a 10 in the hole or not. It is nothing more than that. Insurance is offered each time the dealer has an Ace as his upcard. If you decide to "take insurance" you are betting one half of your original bet that the dealer has an 10 in the hole. If he has this 10, he will have a blackjack and you will lose your original bet (unless you too have a blackjack) but you will win 2 times your insurance bet, so you will in effect break even for that hand. If the dealer does not have a 10 in the hole, you simply lose your insurance side bet and play continues.

Mathematically, it is simply a bad bet both in single deck and multiple deck games. The chances the dealer has that 10 in the hole are almost always greater than 2 to 1. And because you are offered only 2 to 1, you're not getting the "proper value."

Note: If you are keeping track of the number of 10's that are left in the deck, as well as the total number of non-10's that remain in the deck, and if this ratio falls below 2 to 1, then taking insurance is indeed a good bet.

Consider a single deck game, on the very first hand. You're dealt a 10, 10 against an Ace. Insurance is offered. At this point there are 14 tens and 33 non-tens left in the deck. This ratio is greater (although close) than 2 to 1. Insurance should not be taken.

This may help clear it up. Suppose you are keeping track of the cards that remain in the deck. At some point insurance is offered and you realize no tens remain in the deck. You certainly wouldn't take insurance here, would you? Of course not. The dealer can't possibly have a 10 in the hole if there are none left. On the other hand, suppose the unlikely scenario occurred where there were nothing but 10's left in the deck. Here you have that rarity of all bets... a 100% cinch, since the dealer must have a blackjack.

Now how about a scenario like this: There are 20 cards left in the deck and only two of them are 10's. Even the people who are not mathematically inclined should be able to realize, without stopping to figure it out, this too would simply be a bad bet. The dealer probably does not have one of those two remaining 10's in the hole.

Once again, mathematically speaking, if the odds are going to be greater than 2 to 1 that the dealer has a 10 in the hole and if the insurance bet pays only 2 to 1, it is "not fair." You will lose money in the long run taking insurance.

One of the most common misconceptions in the game is you should always insure a blackjack. The argument goes, "You will win money on the hand regardless of what the dealer has." (And this is true. If the dealer has a blackjack you tie your regular bet and win money on your insurance bet. If the dealer does not have a blackjack you lose your insurance bet but win 1.5 times your regular bet. In either case you gain one unit.)

Yes, that is all true. However if you do not insure your blackjack, like you're supposed to, you will win more than one unit per hand in the long run!! If you can't understand and implement this simple concept, you will lose money playing blackjack and there is no point in you reading any further - it is simply not your game. Thanks for visiting my site.

If you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe one of the seventy different books I own on blackjack... they will all tell you the same thing.

Another misconception is you should "insure" your good hands and not your bad ones. As I've already mentioned, insurance is a side bet... it doesn't have a darn thing to do with the cards you have.

Have I ever taken insurance? Of course I have, on several occasions! But then again, I keep track of the ratio of 10's to non 10's and therefore I know when it is correct to do so.