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Betting strategy for blackjack

Money management is always a hot topic especially for blackjack players, who are always striving to find a way to maximize their profits when the cards are going well and lose as little as possible when they aren’t.

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The two optimum wagering techniques for this kind of player are the use of winning progressions and proportional betting.

When you play blackjack, you can make bets in any one of the following manners: Always make the same bet; increase your bet when you feel you are going to win a hand; or increase your bet based on previous wins or losses.

Technically speaking, the safest way to bet in blackjack is to always bet the same amount on every hand. The problem with this is that it isn’t a very exciting way to gamble for most players. After all, most blackjack players are after a big win, and in order to accomplish this, they must vary the size of the bet.

Increasing your bets based upon the feeling that you are due to win is foolish gambling. Unless you are card counting, you have no idea whether or not your chances of winning the next hand are good or bad. It is better to bet objectively based upon a predetermined pattern of bets (i.e. progressions) than bet subjectively based upon feelings.

Such predetermined betting is called betting progressions. You progress your bet to a higher level depending upon whether you won or lost the previous hand.

Let’s eliminate once and for all those progressions that have you increase your bet size following a loss. These so-called Martingale progressions are guaranteed to doom the player. So, never increase your bet size following a loss in the hopes of catching up.

This leaves us with the following recommended money management scheme for the recreational player, namely the win progression. Here, bets are increased only after a hand is won. Once a losing hand occurs, the bet size is reduced to the minimum bet.

There are several win progressions that are worth trying. The simplest is a two-level betting progression where the smaller bet is made following a loss and the larger bet is made following a win.

For example, the small bet could be $5, and if you win the hand, make your next bet $15.

Continue to bet $15 until you lose. When a loss occurs, make your next bet $5. This method of betting was popularized by Charles Einstein in his book, Basic Blackjack Betting.

Progressive betting

Another system is a simple one, two, three, five, back to one progression.

For a $5 player, the betting levels are $5, $10, and $25.

Here, a player starts with a $5 bet and progresses to the next bet level when a hand is won. As soon as a hand loses, the next bet is the basic $5 minimum bet. If the player is fortunate enough to win four hands in a row, I recommend that the profits be locked up and the progression restarted at the minimum $5 level.

How does a win progression maximize wins and minimize losses? Suppose, as an extreme case, you sit down at the blackjack table and lose five hands in a row followed by a streak of five wins.

If a player bets the same amount on every hand, he would be even. If instead the player used the one, two, three, five back to one progression with a minimum bet of $5, he would be behind $25 after the five losses, but when the streak of five wins occurs, he would win $60. The $25 loss from the $60 win leaves a net win of $35 even though the player won as many hands as he lost.

In technical terms, a win progression increases the variance a player can expect during any particular playing session. This means a player can win a lot more and likewise lose a lot more than the player who makes only the same bet size.

You can see how a win progression generates more profits than straight one-unit betting. Where the win progression falls apart is when hands are alternately winning and losing.

If you use the one, two, three, five win progression and the sequence of winning and losing is win, lose, win, lose, win, lose, the win progression will have you losing more than just straight one-unit betting. Again, this is the risk you take in an attempt to maximize profits on streaks of wins of three hands or more.

A win progression has some scientific validity, especially for blackjack. The favorability or unfavorability of a particular shoe is predetermined based upon the nature of the cards situated behind the cut card (i.e. the unplayed cards). If these cards which are not put into play are rich in 10-value cards, then the probability of consecutive dealer wins increases for this shoe.

Likewise, if the mix of cards situated behind the cut card contains many low-value cards, then the probability of your experiencing streaks increases. Thus, when the shoe favors the dealer, you will be losing the minimum bet on dealer streaks of wins. However, during a favorable shoe, you will experience more win streaks and consequently will be making larger bets.

Your average bet will be somewhat larger in a favorable shoe compared to an unfavorable shoe. And this is what allows you to win more in winning streaks and lose less in losing streaks.

Keep in mind that, if the dealer gets 19s and 20s on every hand, you’ll end up a loser no matter what kind of betting scheme you use. But in the long run, you’ll fare better with a simple win progression and the discipline to quit the table after winning a modest 10-20 percent of your starting bankroll.

Be satisfied with modest profits because, in the long term, they will add up to sizeable profits which will more than balance the occasional losing sessions.