Blackjack Betting Systems

Published: 08/04/2012

Most visitors to the world’s Blackjack tables play just for fun. They see the game as a form of recreation or a social event, where they can drink and chat, perhaps win a little and not lose too much. They view losses as the cost of enjoying time at the table. Playing hunches and relying on luck, they have little use for Blackjack systems. Casinos love them and the money they spend.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the professionals who view Blackjack as a business. Long hours are spent at the tables using advanced hand play techniques, such as card counting, in order to gain an advantage over the House. Such players analyze charts and tables and keep extensive records of their play. They steer clear of tables full of partiers. For the pros, using a system is central to their play. Casinos are wary of them and ban the very best from play.

For everyone between these two extremes, a mixture of seeking enjoyment and desire for profit motivates their trips to the tables. Their version of having fun is finding ways to improve their game and win more often, making money rather than spending it. For them, learning a Blackjack system or two is the way forward. Casinos would prefer they remain “system-less,” of course, or else use a system that fails with consistency.

One of the most widely used “ineffective” betting systems is something called “flat betting.” The flat bettor will wager the same amount on every hand, never more and never less. Casino management would love for all players to use this system. They would be guaranteed of a profit margin of 0.4%~1.5% from every bet placed on the table, because the House always wins in the long term against flat betting.

The only effective way to challenge the game’s built-in House edge is to vary the size of bets according to the likelihood of winning—more when the cards are favourable and less when the deck is running against the player. A number of systems purporting to do just that have been developed over the years. Although no Blackjack betting system can guarantee that a player will never lose, a good system can absolutely remove some of the element of “luck” from the game.

One popular category of such systems is known as “progressive betting.” The object is to help a player manage a bankroll, limit losses and take advantage of favourable situations by making a predetermined sequence of bets. Among the many progressions that can be applied are those known as Martingale, Labouchere, Paroli and others, which can be very effective over the short term.

One excellent example is the betting progression called the “1-3-2-6 betting system.” Its strategy is to win four wagers in a row, betting one chip on the first hand, three chips on the second if the first hand wins, then two chips and six chips following wins on hands two and three, respectively.

If the 1-3-2-6 progression concludes on the first or second hand, a small net loss is incurred. If it ends on the third or fourth hand, there is either a net gain or the progression breaks even. The object is to collect sufficient winnings on the longer series of hands to make up any losses on the short ones and thus generate a profit over the long term.

A much more complex and even more effective approach to betting is to use something called “advantage play.” It involves combining knowledge of what cards have been played already with calculations for how much to bet in order to gain a mathematical advantage over the House.

One example of advantage play is plus/minus card counting. Every revealed low card (2, 3, 4, 5, and 6) is given a value of +1. Every revealed high card (10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace) is counted as -1. The other cards in the deck (7, 8, and 9) have no value. The player keeps in mind a running total of the plus/minus count and wagers one unit if the count is +1 or lower and two units if it is +2 or higher. For multiple decks, the procedure is adjusted accordingly to +4 or lower and +5 or higher for four decks, and +6 or lower and +7 or higher for six decks, etc.

Card counting is not illegal, although casinos reserve the right to exclude players caught using it. Typically, they employ countermeasures, such as frequently shuffling or changing dealers, fast-playing or slow-playing hands, and changing table minimum. They do this because Blackjack systems really do work and eat into their profits. Any system that accurately tells players how much to bet will reduce the number of losses and enable bigger wins. Not using a system at all is nothing less than paying the casino a tariff for the opportunity to play.

Published on: 08/04/2012

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