Betting Progressions and Blackjack

When playing blackjack you always want to go into playing with a playing strategy and a betting strategy. And while basic strategy is an easy to use playing strategy, not all pieces and parts of blackjack strategy are that simple. But some players think all parts of blackjack strategy should be easy. These would be the players who fall into using betting progressions, calling it a betting strategy.

Let’s get one thing straight from the start: betting progressions are not betting strategies for blackjack.

Think of this phrase: “Progression to depression.”

That phrase is exactly where a betting progression will leave you, not only in blackjack but in any casino game.

An example of a commonly used betting progression is a positive betting progression. In this progression the player doubles the amount of their wager each time they win, only returning their starting amount when they lose. Let’s say that you start out with a $10 wager. Here is what it would look like:

Round 1: $10, win, Round 2: $20, win, Round 3: $40 win, Round 4: $80, lose, Round 5: $10

The problem and the reason why players should stay away from any betting progression, positive or otherwise, is because you stand to lose in the long run. This is because the house has the edge. In the above example, the player won three times in a row. This is not a likely scenario. Yes, it can happen, but you are then betting on chance rather than the statistics of the game. Betting on chance is how you lose money.

In blackjack, your odds of winning are only 48% each round. This means that the likelihood of getting on a winning streak that is long enough to make a profit off of any progression is slim. A more realistic example looks like this:

Round 1: $10, win, Round 2: $20, lose, Round 3: $10

You would have won $20 in Round 1 and then lost that $20 in Round 2. Over time you will lose more hands than you win. Yes, basic strategy will help you to win more hands than you would if you played without it, but the house edge is still against you.

The real trick to winning in blackjack is taking advantage of money making opportunities, such as double downs. Betting progressions in blackjack are the sure way to lose money over time.

Two Hands in Blackjack, the Upside

This morning I talked about why playing two hands at the same time was bad for your blackjack strategy and for your bankroll.

This is because you are simply wagering twice as much per round. No, it is not like doubling down. Doubling down is done when it is advantageous to do so—not every single hand. So, no, nothing like doubling down.

But there is a way to play two hands at once in blackjack. It is quite simple actually. Split your wager between your two hands. If you are wagering $10 per round and want to play two hands, wager $5 on each hand. This way you are not putting your bankroll anymore at risk than you would if you were playing a single hand.

The trick here is that both hands can take advantage of a dealer’s hand that gives the player a good chance of winning, making it possible to win with two hands rather than just one.

There is also the added benefit that if the dealer has a hand that favors him and he wins, you are not losing twice the amount.

The upside to this style of playing is that it can extend the time that you can play, or how long your bankroll will last. This is because the fluctuation in your bankroll is lessened. Say for example you win with one hand and lose the other. In this situation, you will have broken even in terms of money. The only time you really lose money is if you lose both hands.

Because of this fluctuation your can make your bankroll last longer at the blackjack table. It gives you an 86% chance that you can make your bankroll hang in there simply because you have more opportunities to lose less thanks to the possibility of breaking even in some rounds.

While I do not recommend playing two hands in this manner all of the time, it can be useful if you are looking to make your bankroll last and intend to just enjoy playing some blackjack. In other words, this is not a good blackjack strategy to make money, but it is good for bankroll playing.

Betting Systems for Blackjack

I saw a posting from one of those article-generating sites that pertained to what the author was calling blackjack betting strategies; he was talking about the Labouchere and Paroli methods.

I am going to say this right now. The Labouchere and Paroli methods are not blackjack betting strategies—they are only betting systems. And those systems can cost you more money in the long run than what they claim you could win.

And I will show this.

First up, the Labouchere. The Labouchere is a negative progression betting system. The way it works is that the player will make his wager and double it every time in the next round if he lost the previous round; he will keep doing this until he wins. The Labouchere’s claim is to beat a losing streak.

Look at a sample of a few rounds of Labouchere: you start out wagering $20 and lose; the next round has you wagering $40 and you lose; the next round is $80 and you lose; the next is $160 and another loss and you are up to $320 in five rounds.

The Labouchere’s claim to fame is to beat a losing streak by winning back all the money you lost in previous rounds and then some extra. It plays on the fact that for the majority of players, the house has the edge and the player’s blackjack odds are 52% for losing. Logically this betting system makes sense.

Does it sound too good to be true? Yes? That is because it is.

First off the Labouchere requires an infinite betting limit, meaning there is no limit on how high you could bet. Unfortunately casinos do not allow this and tables have betting maxes on them to protect themselves from paying out too much in one payout to high rollers.

The other downside to this betting system is that it implies that the player will eventually win. There is no guarantee in blackjack that a player will win. So you could go rounds and keep doubling your wager until you have lost almost if not all of your bankroll.

So there are your reasons for not using the Labouchere betting system as a blackjack betting strategy. It is not a strategy. It is based on a principle of blackjack that is not true, and it can wipe out your bankroll.

How Card Counting Works

Card counting is a skill used by blackjack players as a part of their blackjack strategy, more specifically their betting strategy. The purpose of card counting is to give the player an idea of how the cards are flowing in order to manage their betting.

Card counting allows a blackjack player to keep track of whether more low cards have passed out of play, leaving the remainder of the deck rich in high cards and vice versa. Blackjack players know that low cards favor the dealer while high cards favor them.

Knowing which type has mostly been played and what still remains is what helps a blackjack player determine when to raise and lower his wager. For example, if the remaining cards are rich in high cards, the player knows to raise his bet. When the count changes and reveals that the high cards have been played and the remaining deck is rich in low cards, he knows to lower the amount of his wager.

The most basic card counting system, Hi-Lo, assigns low cards a +1 value while high cards have an assigned value of -1.

During the course a game if a lot of low cards have been played the count will become positive. This is because for every low card played the player adds a +1. The more low cards that are played, the higher the count goes in the positive range. A positive count of +3 or higher is a good indicator that the remaining deck is rich in high cards. At this point blackjack players that are card counters will begin raising their bets.

Conversely, when more high cards have been played, adding in -1 for every high card played will bring the count lower and lower until it slips into a negative count. This means that more high cards have been played and that the remaining deck is rich in low cards. This is when blackjack players will lower their bets.

You can see how blackjack players who have practiced this skill can use it to control their betting. This is why card counting factors into the betting strategy portion of a blackjack strategy.

Card counting also influences your blackjack odds. The more money you win from the house, the more you are taking off the house edge because it puts them at a disadvantage and causes them to lose more money.

How to Manage Your Betting in Online Blackjack

It’s pretty well known that as awesome as card counting is, it can’t be used in online blackjack. Very unfortunate. Especially when you stop to consider the benefits that playing blackjack online has.

But the point remains that card counting can’t be used online. Oh basic strategy can be used online, that works like it would at an online casino. But for those who use card counting to manage their betting and bankrolls, well what do they do now?

I’ll be honest. Unfortunately there really isn’t anything you can do.

Some blackjack players will use a betting strategy, usually a progressive one, to try to fill in the whole left by card counting. But this isn’t the wisest thing to do. The problem with using a progressive betting strategy is that each hand of blackjack is independent of the next.

This means that there is not magic law of the cards that says that if you lose X number of hands you will win the next. The hand that you are dealt is not connected in any way to the one before it or any of the hands after it.

A progressive betting strategy usually works by doubling your wager each time you lose or win a hand, depending on which type of betting strategy you’re using. If you’re doubling each time you lose a hand, you keep doubling until you win; if you’re doubling each time you win, you keep doubling until you lose.

You can see how these progressive betting strategies are dependent on previous hands. And that’s the problem. Say you’re using the progressive system in which you double every time you lose. At a starting wager of $10, if you lose seven rounds in a row you will be wagering $1,280 on your eighth round. As you can see it quickly adds up and you have the potential to lose a lot. And there is nothing that says you will win back any of that money.

So what can you use to manage your bankroll in online blackjack?

Choose an amount to wager and wager that on each hand. Don’t deviate from that amount. And follow basic strategy on every single hand. Sticking to basic strategy will give you your best shot at bringing down the house edge. Thankfully online blackjack and online casinos, overall, have a higher payout percentage; that helps to even out the inability to use card counting online.

Insurance Used More and More in Blackjack

It seems that insurance is being used more and more often in blackjack. No matter how often a blackjack player hears that insurance is bad, they will use it anyway. But the kicker is that they don’t seem to really want to take insurance! Just look at their faces—they’re regretting taking insurance as they are putting the chips down.

And I actually have a theory on why this is happening.

I’m going to blame the casinos leaning on the bad economy. No, wait, let me explain.

Those who enjoy casino games—yes, there are people who play blackjack because they like the game, not for a need to gamble—are finding that they have less money to play with of late.

The economy has hit most of us harder than we would like. We don’t have as much extra money to play with. So even though we love the game and have made peace putting some money on the line for fun, we tend to be more cautious about how we play and how much we wager.

Casinos are starting to bank on this extra caution through insurance.

Insurance implies the creation of a safety net for your wager. And this is exactly what casinos want you to think. They want you to think that by spending more money you are saving your money.

Yes, you read that right—the casinos are hoping that with players being more cautious that they can bank on that caution by urging insurance.

But when you take insurance you are in fact putting more money on the line.

But you’re spending more when you take insurance. On a $50 wager insurance is $25. If the dealer doesn’t have blackjack but still wins the round, you’ve lost $75 instead of only $50. That’s how they get you.

Remember, insurance is a side bet on whether the dealer has a 10 in the hole or not. Keeping that in mind it will help you to avoid taking insurance.

Casinos want blackjack to be afraid that they’ll lose their money when the dealer is showing an Ace. With money being dearer of late, casinos like to see blackjack players taking insurance, encouraging players with the idea that their money is at risk and money is harder to come by, so make sure that you’re protecting your wager against that Ace. That’s exactly what they want you to think.

But all gambling—blackjack included—is a risk. As a blackjack player you know you have money on the line and you’re doing so willingly. It doesn’t make sense to be afraid of what the dealer has and take insurance all in the name of saving money. Be fearless and go head to head with that Ace without insurance!