For centuries, the strategic potential of blackjack has defied the chances and reduced the house edge to the point of complete elimination. The advanced card counting strategies were fought off by the casino operators through a gradual increase of the card decks inside the shoe.
Nowadays, it is next to impossible to find a live blackjack variant played with 1, 2, or even 4 decks; instead, 6 and 8-deck blackjack games are dominating the market, thwarting the beginner-level card counters. This, along with the RNG (Random Number Generator) blackjack, has created the need for alternative solutions, and a number of players resorted to blackjack betting strategies that exploit the winning and losing streaks, focusing on money management rather than trying to predict the next card. At the same time, these are much easier to master than some of the advanced blackjack techniques, such as Shuffle Tracking, Zen, or Omega 2.
Where to Start – The Most Popular Blackjack Betting Strategies
The complexity and dedication are not the only reasons people shy away from card counting techniques. Casino operators frown upon any skill that will give you an unfair advantage over other players (and the house), which is why advanced budget management methods are your safest resorts. They can also be arranged according to the difficulty level, starting with the simplest form of betting (flat) and gradually advancing to the complex patterns used by experienced players (Labouchere):
Apart from the complexity level, each of the systems can also be classified according to the risk degree and the type of progression it entails – negative or positive.
Flat betting is somewhat of an exception, and many do not even consider it a strategy at all. The only requirement of this “system” is to remain in the game by constantly submitting the same size bet. Ideally, the player needs to establish a budget and divide it into equal portions of up to 5% of the total balance. Clearly, flat betting will not make you rich, but the strategy is deemed successful if you manage to generate around 10-20% profit.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Flat Betting
Apart from the extreme simplicity, the strongest suit of flat betting is the damage control it delivers. The fixed stakes will prevent you from suffering a sudden, substantial loss that some of the other methods are prone to.
On the other hand, the results that flat betting can produce are modest and rest on the assumption that you will win more than 50% of the time. This is why most players outgrow this strategy fairly quickly. The monotony makes it quite easy to abandon this process and move onto potentially more profitable (and riskier) blackjack betting strategies described below.
Risk Rate: Low
Positive Progressive Betting Systems – Definition and Popular Variants
Positive progressive betting systems are designed to get the most of the players’ winning streak, commanding a bet increase every time you score a winning blackjack hand. The stakes are raised systematically and lowered after the first losing hand. The most popular representatives of positive progressive strategies are Paroli and Oscar’s Grind.
Paroli is often defined as a reversed Martingale system, prompting the players to top the stake after every winning hand. Every next bet should be doubled and re-set after three consecutive winning rounds. For example, if we are to start our betting session with a $1 stake, the next two stakes should be increased by 2:
$1 > $2 > $4
For the sake of illustration, let us assume that you have placed a $10 bet and your hand trumped the dealer’s, resulting in an even money payout. Your next bet should, therefore, be $20, which is your base bet + $10 that you have won in the previous round. If you manage to win that hand as well, the follow-up stake should amount to $40 – again, the $10 base stake, plus the winnings from the previous rounds. The third win will result in an $80 bet, after which you will need to go back to the initial $10 bet, regardless of the outcome. Looking at the starting point, we can easily deduce that a $10 starting bet generated a total of $160.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Introducing Paroli Betting System to Your Gameplay
As you can see, the Reversed Martingale is very easy to use, as it requires the player to press the bet only 3 times and revert to the original wager in two cases – after a loss or when a series of three winning hands in a row is completed.
An added value of Paroli is that you do not need to have a substantial budget to implement this strategy, which is the main drawback of some other progressive betting patterns.
On the downside, three linked winning hands are not that easy to land, and the players may find themselves operating at a loss before long.
Risk Rate: Medium
A medium complexity system with a low-risk rate, Oscars Grind (aka Hoyle’s Press) starts off with a single unit bet and aims at generating an equivalent profit amount. The losing hands will follow the flat betting pattern whereas the winning hands will be followed by the bet increase – but only if it will result in the desired profit of one unit. Otherwise, the bet size is decreased to assure that the accurate amount is acquired, as shown in the table below:
|Bet||Outcome||Return||Your next move|
|$1||Loss||-1||No change in bet|
|$1||Loss||-2||No change in bet|
|$1||Loss||-3||No change in bet|
|$1||Loss||-4||No change in bet|
|$1||Loss||-5||No change in bet|
|$1||Win||-4||Next bet increases by 1 unit|
|$2||Loss||-6||Bet remains the same (2 units)|
|$2||Win||-4||Next bet increased to 3 units|
|$3||Win||-1||Next bet adjusted to 2 units needed for a single unit profit|
The desired result is a single unit win on every session as well as the increased damage control during the losing streaks.
Pros and Cons of Oscars Grind
The method is not aggressive which means that you will be able to sustain longer losing streaks without suffering irreparable damage to your finances. The proceeds, although modest, will gradually accumulate, recuperating the losses incurred across ten rounds in no more than 4 wins.
At the same time, you may find the system frustrating as it requires a lot of self-discipline and restraint.
Risk Rate: Low
What Are Negative Progressive Betting Systems?
As opposed to the progressive betting methods, the negative strategies demand that the bets are increased during the losing streaks; the idea is to recover all that you have previously lost and to gain a profit. By default, negative progressions are more aggressive than their counterparts and they carry a somewhat higher risk rate. The representatives of this methodology are Martingale, D’Alembert, and Laboucher systems.
Martingale Betting System
When you first come across to Martingale, it may seem like a heaven-sent system that simply cannot fail. You will soon discover that not all share your initial enthusiasm; there will be those who might urge you to avoid this strategy, especially if your gambling budget is limited.
As a negative progression system, Martingale mandates that you double the stake after every losing hand and go back to flat betting after a win. In the perfect world, this should generate a series of cumulative winnings and recuperate the losses in a course of a single losing streak.
But what happens if the streak prolongs and you budget dries out? Even if you start wagering with the betting minimum, you are running a risk of leaving the table empty-handed. To illustrate, let us assume that you begin the session with a $5 wager and start losing. To get back on the track, you will now need to double every next wager, which means that it will take no more than 8 consecutive losses to find yourself short of $1,275:
|Bet||Outcome||Total in Losses|
If the trend keeps up, you can soon end up with a considerable debt, which is probably not what you have signed up for when joining the blackjack table and introducing a betting structure to your game. High rollers will, of course, be able to disregard the elevated risk rate of the Martingale system, but average online or land-based casino visitors will probably need to adjust their strategy to the amount of money they can afford to lose. For most of them, this means that Martingale is off the limits.
The benefit of using Martingale is that it can produce excellent results in a relatively short time span.
- Can be effective in short-term sessions
- Simple to use
- Uncomfortably risky
- More suitable for high rollers
- Possibility of the stake amount exceeding the payout rate
- Table limits can easily stop the progression
As you can see, the cons, in this case, outweigh the pros, which means that you may want to leave the strategy to those with more money to waste.
Risk Rate: Extremely High
D’Alembert is a great alternative to Martingale, since it offers a reduced risk rate but has the same complexity level, which makes it suitable for beginners. The system has an alternating pattern, urging the players to increase the stakes by a single unit after a loss or deduct one unit from the follow-up wager after a win. So, if you should happen to lose $5 bet, the next amount that you need to wager is $10 and the one after that $15 (as $5 is considered a single unit). Should the $15 result in a win, the subsequent bet should be re-set to $10. Example:
|Bet||Outcome||The follow-up bet||Total Balance|
Pros of D’Alembert Betting System
The entire scheme is very easy to follow through – all you need to do is remember your previous bet and act accordingly. Also, since the increase is moderate, you will not risk losing a large portion of your budget. Last but not least, thanks to the controlled variations in bet size, you are less likely to hit the table limits.
Cons of D’Alembert
The main defect of this system is that it’ll take forever to recover the lost bets, not to mention the perils of the long losing streaks that are likely to severely affect your balance.
Risk Rate: Medium High
Labouchere Betting System
In Laboucher, the players start with any sequence of numbers, where the first and the last number in the chain determine the bet total. Let’s say that you select the following string:
2 – 3 – 4 – 6 – 9
When you add up the first and the last number, you will get a total of 11, which should be the initial bet. If you happen to win, the relevant numbers should be eliminated from the sequence, leaving you with 3 – 4 – 6.
Assuming that you win again, the remaining number (4) should be doubled.
If, on the other hand, you lose the initial bet, the total must be added to the chain:
2 – 3 – 4 – 6 – 9 – 11
The bet will now amount to $13 (2 + 11), adding the number $13 to the string if the player loses again, or removing both 2 and 11 if the outcome is favorable.
The sequence total will depend on the target amount, which means that the players whose objective is to make a profit of $20 will create any sequence that can add up to that sum.
Pros of Laboucher
The increased control of both the budget and the progression of your bets is the main perk of Laboucher, but the players should make sure to use it at high limit tables.
Cons of Laboucher
Just like Martingale, this system threatens to hit the table limits, although, not as fast.
Risk Rate: Medium
The “In-Between” Split System: 1-3-2-6 Blackjack Betting System
Seemingly complicated, the 1-3-2-6 blackjack betting strategy is actually much simpler than it looks at first glance. After deciding on the betting unit, the players will just need to make sure that the system is executed correctly, in accordance with the 1-3-2-6 sequence. On a $5 unit bet, the process would look like this:
- Step 1: bet the single $5 unit. If you lose, repeat. If you win, proceed to Step 2.
- Step 2: bet 3 units ($15). If you lose, start over. If you win, proceed to Step 3
- Step 3: bet 2 units ($10). If you lose, start over. If you win, proceed to Step 4
- Step 4: bet 6 units ($30)
Pros of 1-3-2-6 System
The upside of this betting pattern is that you will have no difficulties mastering it – the formula is in the name itself, so it does not get any easier than that. The losses will not be severe, and you will be quite happy with the results this system provides in the short-run.
Cons of 1-3-2-6 System
You might not need a huge bankroll to execute the 1-3-2-6 betting scheme but bear in mind that the system’s “expiration date” is just around the corner. While the maneuver is efficient enough to be included in the list of the best blackjack betting strategies, it will not eliminate the house edge and provide lasting results.
Risk Rate: Low to Medium
Conclusion on the most successful Blackjack betting strategies
Adding some structure and limitation to your gambling routine might be just what you need to handle your money more efficiently. Still, you will need to remember that these systems are flawed, especially in the long run. As they have zero effect on the house edge, the end results they produce will be modest, but some of the low-risk systems mentioned above will prove quite handy in cutting down the unwanted losses.