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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Blackjack Insurance 101: Do You Understand It?

14 September 2007

The next time you take Insurance when playing blackjack, ask yourself, "Exactly why am I doing this?" Are you doing it to guarantee yourself a winner when you have blackjack yourself (taking even money)? That's not a good reason!

Are you doing it to avoid losing money on a good hand, like 20? That's not a good reason either!

Well then, what would be a good reason to take Insurance? There is only one. What is it? You'd have a good reason to take Insurance if there was better than 1 chance in 3 that the dealer had a 10 in the hole.

How often would that be? Not very often – about 7% of the time in a shoe game, depending upon how many 10s have come out thus far. The other 93% of the time, Insurance is a sucker bet, regardless of what hand you have. That's right – regardless of what hand you have. And since most players don't know what cards have come out, the basic strategy advice is to just ignore the Insurance bet altogether.

You see, in order to become a good blackjack player, you need to understand the Insurance bet in its correct light. No matter how you may view it, when you take Insurance you're simply making a separate, entirely new bet that the dealer has a 10 in the hole – nothing more, nothing less. It's totally disconnected from the wager you already have riding on your hand.

If the dealer has the 10 underneath, you win your Insurance bet and get paid 2-to-1 odds on it. If not, you lose your Insurance bet – that's the end of it. Then you go on to play out your hand. Moneywise, one has nothing to do with the other

"But what about protecting my hand?" you ask? What in the world makes you think you can protect your hand? That's the kind of thinking you have to get out of your head. Now read this next statement three times.

You will always win or lose the bet on your hand
just the same, whether you take Insurance or not!

This is absolutely true. If you've bet $1000 on your hand and have 20, but the dealer has a 10 in the hole for blackjack, you're going to lose that particular $1000 – nothing can change that. But if hedging by betting another $500 that the dealer's got a 10 underneath seems like a good idea, your logic is all wrong.

Why? Because each bet gets decided separately, according to its own outcome. Here's what I mean.

I'm sure you know that, generally speaking, Insurance is a bad bet because it pays only 2-to-1 odds on a bet that is usually 2.25-to-1 against winning. So if you take Insurance without knowing that there are lots of extra 10s in the hole, you'll simply lose money on all your Insurance bets combined. Got that?

Now given that Insurance is basically bad, if you had no bet riding on any hand at all, would you want to make an Insurance bet all by itself? Of course not! That would be a losing play.

But what if you have a good hand? Remember now, your hand will win or lose all by itself, with or without Insurance. However, you will indeed lose money on all your combined Insurance bets – this one included.

So let's see. When you have, say, 20 against an Ace up, you cannot help yourself win your hand, but you can give a monetary edge away by making a bad bet – the Insurance bet. This means that for all the times you take Insurance on your 20, you'll win less combined money than if you just let your 20 ride. Think about it.

So the next time you're tempted to take Insurance on a good hand, remember this ancient Chinese proverb that I just made up: "Never make a bad bet to hedge a good one." Please don't combine the results on the two bets as if they were one. They will work out in your favor only when you get unlucky on the good bet (your 20) and get lucky on the bad one (Insurance). It'll happen the other way around much more often, and you'll do better long term without the bad bet.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey