Play the hold ’em insurance game? It’s your money!

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Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was originally published (1993) in Card Player magazine under the title: “Can you play the insurance game? It’s your money!”

Once upon a time “insurance” was popular in hold’em. When someone ran out of money during a hand and there was no longer any possibility of more betting, the players would expose their cards. Observers not involved in the hand would offer protection, usually to the favorite.

For instance, suppose your only opponent is a 4-to-1 underdog. It’s a big pot in a no-limit game, and you don’t want to risk losing. An observer offers you 3-to- 1, and so you bet $1,000. This means if your hand holds up, you take the pot and pay the observer $1,000 out of it, but if you get drawn out on, you collect $3,000 from the observer. That isn’t the only way insurance works, but you get the idea. Using a better method, if the pot is $10,000, the observer might offer $7,000 to take over the favorite’s hand, or he might offer just $1,500 for the underdog’s hand.

The challenge. Pretend each pot is $10,000. You get only one minute per problem to estimate how much Judy’s hand is worth. Write it down. Go.

#1- Flop A♣ 4♣ 2♣

Judy – A♦ 3♦
Jack – 7♠ 7♣

Now, estimate the value of Judy’s next hand, shown at bottom left. And remember, you only have one minute to make your guess.

#2- Flop 8♦ 7♦ 5♠

Judy – 9 ♦ 5 ♦
Jack – 6♣ 6♥

Finally, look at Judy’s third hand.

#3- Flop 7♣ 8♥ 10♦

Judy – K♠ K♥
Jack – 7♥ 6♥

Your score. Start with $5,000. For each problem, subtract the difference between your estimate and the actual value of Judy’s hand. Here are those values: Judy’s first hand is worth $5,742; second, $4,722; and third, $6,348. If you ended up with $3,000 or more, you passed today’s challenge. But no matter what, don’t sulk. — MC

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Mike Caro

Twitter: FaceBook: Known as the "Mad Genius of Poker," Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority of poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full biography at

2 thoughts on “Play the hold ’em insurance game? It’s your money!”

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  1. Based on an insurance chart of 24 outs, and I’m a 6-1 favorite with a pot of $725. I have the best hand and the other player is all-in. He requests insurance and I accept. The river does not improve his hand and I win the hand. I win $600 and he wins $100. Who gets the $25?

    1. Ideally, it should be broken down to the nearest dollar or cent. But since that isn’t always practical, you’ll have to decide in advance who gets the odd chip or how it is awarded. I don’t know what the most common procedures are that cover this. They vary.

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