You get it all-in with the better hand and get offered insurance. (Either by your opponent or by a third party)

How would you determine if the value in insurance is worth the -EV?

I pay for private health insurance as I feel it's worth the value, knowing that it's -EV. Same applies to poker somewhat. But when and for how much? That is my question.

What is insurance? Example:

You have 9h9s, your opponent has 8h8s you go all-in pre-flop for $50 each and you have 82% chance to win. Some other guy tells you: "pay me $20 and i'll pay you the $100 in the pot if you lose". That's insurance.

In this deal, juice (The -EV part of the deal for you) would be about $2. Which is 2% of the pot.

  • 1
    Private health insurance is only -EV until you need it. Just sayin'. Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 19:10
  • That's the same with all insurance types. They price it so that average person spends more than what they will need when they do get sick
    – Emre K.
    Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 10:15
  • A good article on insurance betting.betfair.com/poker/poker-strategy/live-poker/…
    – Jon
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 23:01

2 Answers 2


Someone who never took insurance would do better in the long run than somebody who took insurance.

Ultimately it's a subjective question since you are losing EV. Only you can answer if the juice is worth it to you to reduce variance. It's easy to construct hypothetical situations in which I would take insurance in real life, given a large enough pot. That being said I have never taken it or wanted to take it at the table.

Clearly there are cases in real life where taking insurance is rational, typically to insure against losses that are too difficult to replace. You shouldn't run into those cases playing poker. IMO wanting to take insurance is a sign that you're playing above your bankroll.

  • 1
    Well what if I'm properly skilled but under bankrolled for that game? What about the psychology side of it? I mean tilt prevention? Also variance reduction? That is always a good thing.
    – Emre K.
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 20:18
  • Barring a stake or money you have specifically set aside as funds you are happy to lose, you should never play games you are under bankrolled for. Part of the reason for that is to avoid losing EV to situations that you shouldn't be in. Commented Feb 4, 2012 at 22:02
  • @JeffreyBlake And this is why I'm stuck playing for play money...
    – user1934
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 20:24

I'm not completely satisfied with the answer so I'll go ahead and try to answer as I would have:

Using insurance can have 3 benefits:

Protecting your bankroll: It is true, you should never play above your bankroll requirements but NOBODY can say they never played a game above their bankroll. If a certain level is more profitable for you than a lower level and if you know you can find insurance deals on that higher stake, then I think you should take the insurance and play at that higher level. This can also apply to transition periods from lower to higher stakes.

Emotional control or tilt control: Unless you have nerves of steel, a bad beat can cause even more losses due to bad play after a bad beat. Maybe you can avoid this if you take an insurance deal for a big pot.

Variance: Variance can be a bitch, the mentality is bad, even worse is that it may force you to lower the stakes you are playing in. -EV for less variance is something that can be considered IMHO.

This is all hypothetical of course as you cannot find someone that will constantly offer you a deal for all-in pots. Even if you did, the price would matter a lot. How much -EV I would be giving away can be a determining factor but I have no idea what the optimum price wold be for insurance.

  • Insurance (also called a 'save' in poker) is a negotiation. The deal you make can effect your EV positively or negatively. Like any deal if someone wants the deal more then you do, you should leverage that deal into a positive EV.
    – Jon
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 22:54

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