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17 September 2016
By Henry Tamburin
One of the most often asked questions from blackjack players is "How should I bet?" You've got several options, and I'll discuss them in this article and offer my recommendation.
This means betting the same amount all the time. Most players don't like to bet this way because they figure if the dealer wins more hands then them they'll never win any money. Also players feel flat betting is boring. They prefer the thrill of sometimes betting more in the hopes that when they do so, they will win the hand and make a nice profit.
If you flat bet $10 on every hand in a standard multiple-deck game, the house will have an edge of 0.5% against you. If you average 80 hands per hour, you will have made a total of $800 worth of bets. The casino expects to earn 0.5% of the $800, or $4.00. Of course, the more likely result is that you'll win or lose much more than $4 after an hour of play. But on average you can expect over time to lose at the rate of $4 per hour if you flat bet $10 per hand.
Flat betting is a conservative betting strategy that leads to a relatively low theoretical loss rate. The fluctuation in a player's bankroll will be low which means the likelihood you’ll have a big winning or losing session is not great.
This is where things get interesting. Progressive betting means varying your bets in some way from one hand to the next rather than always betting the same amount on every hand. There are all different types of betting progressions but they all have one common denominator. You either decrease or increase your next bet depending upon whether the hand you just played won or lose.
Win progressions encourage you to increase your bet size after a winning hand. For example you make a minimum bet of $10 and if you win, you raise your next stakes on next hand to $20, and so on.
There are also betting progressions in which you increase your bet following a losing hand. These Martingale-type betting progression are dangerous and you never consider using them. There is also hybrid betting progressions, which have you increase your bets following a win, but after two or three success wins you lock up some profit and gradually regress your bets. The creativity of progressive bettors is never ending.
The important point to remember about betting progressions is that they do not change the 0.5% house edge one iota. There has never been a correlation between the hand just won (or lost) and you chance of winning the next hand. In other words, using the criteria of the result of one hand (W/L) to base how you bet on the next hand has no scientific validity. So, betting progressions in the long run don't work in the sense that won't improve your long-term chances of winning.
Betting progressions will also increase the fluctuation in your session bankroll compared to flat betting. This means you can win more using a betting progression compared to flat betting, but you can also lose more. Also, betting progressions will increase the amount of money you wager per hour compared to flat betting. If a $10 bettor uses a 1-2-3-5 betting progression, his average bet will be $20 not $10 so he stands to lose twice as much per hour on average compared to a player who flat bets $10 on every hand.
Here's a tip to save you some money in the long run if you insist on using a betting progression. Instead of starting your progression at $10, start at a lower amount (e.g., $5). This will reduce your average bet to $10 per hour and cut your hourly theoretical loss rate in half.
But in the long run, flat betting and betting progressions don't change the house edge against you and you will lose money in the long run. So what betting system works? That, my friends, is card counting. Before you stop reading because I mention the C word, listen to what I have to say.
With card counting, you know when you have the edge based on the change in the composition of the decks of cards and therefore you'll know when it's the right time to bet more. So unlike betting progressions that are based on whether you win or lose the previous hands, card counting is based on the mix of cards that were played on previous hands. If more small value cards were played in previous rounds, there are more big value cards left in the unplayed cards, and the edge shifts from dealer to player. This would be the best time to bet more.
But I'm a realist. Card counting has been around since 1962, when Ed Thorp's classic book "Beat The Dealer" first revealed card counting to the masses. Yet the numbers of players who can successfully win money at blackjack using a traditional counting system are few and far between. The reason: card counting requires a fair amount of concentration when you play because you have to track 10 or so cards, mentally add and subtract positive and negative integers, and sometimes do mental division. A few mistakes and you wipe out the small edge you had.
So how’s an average player supposed to bet? Another option – and it’s a good one – is to consider learning Speed Count, a new counting system developed by Dan Pronovost. Speed Count is easier to learn than basic strategy (no, I’m not kidding) and it requires much less concentration than traditional counting systems. Its simplicity is remarkable, yet it’s powerful enough to allow the average player to have the edge over the house. It bridges the gap from basic strategy to a full blown counting system. [Editor's note: Frank Scoblete's book "Beat Blackjack Now!" has all the information you'll need to learn Speed Count.]
THE BOTTOM LINE
Here’s the bottom line when it comes to betting at blackjack. If you are a basic strategy player, flat betting will minimize your loss rate. Using a progressive betting system might be fun, but you’ll still lose money in the long run. The absolute best way to bet at blackjack is to only increase your bet when your chance of winning the next hand is better than the dealer’s chances, and the only way you’ll know that is to learn card counting.
Henry Tamburin, Ph.D. is host of smartgaming.com.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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