Blackjack Series: Betting Strategies

I’ve been a little busy with work and life lately, so I haven’t played as much blackjack as I normally do, but here are my results since my last blackjack update.

May 10th (in Vegas)
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $50
Time played: 20 minutes
Result: Lost $400

May 11th (in Vegas)
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 18 minutes
Result: Won $40

May 12th (in Vegas)
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 9 minutes
Result: Won $100

May 12th, 2nd time (in Vegas)
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 15 minutes
Result: Won $50

May 12th, 3rd time (in Vegas)
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 4 minutes
Result: Won $125

May 13th (in Vegas)
Starting Pot: $500
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 17 minutes
Result: Won $205

July 6th
Starting Pot: $440
Base Bet: $25
Time played: 11 minutes
Result: Won $137

August 3rd
Starting Pot: $1000
Base Bet: $50
Time played: 16 minutes
Result: Won $450

August 4th
Starting Pot: $1000
Base Bet: $50
Time played: 24 minutes
Result: Won $150

If you’ve been following these blackjack updates and do the math, I’ve made $2182 net profit this year playing blackjack since February, for an average income of around $363 per month. Not too shabby.

You’ll also notice that I’ve recently bumped up my starting pot and betting amounts. Notice that I keep the pot and bet ratios the same. I do this on purpose, and this leads us into the next aspect of playing effective blackjack: betting strategies.

The vast, VAST majority of people who play blackjack usually do something like this. They plop down $40, bet $15 a hand, quickly get wiped out, say “Ah dammit!”, then reach into their wallets and throw the dealer even more money. On this second round, they keep betting the same, and usually end up either wiped out again, slightly down, or slightly up before they stop playing.

If they have access to more money, they do the same except with larger numbers. Maybe they slap down $100 and start betting $25 a hand, and end up with the same results.

This is why casinos make so much money, and why I’d love to own one. Blackjack players have no idea how to bet. (Don’t even get me started on all the other games in the casino, like roulette and craps, where an edge over the house isn’t even possible).

I do something very differently. Modeling my betting system after what professional, full-time blackjack players use, I always use a pot and bet amount based on a minimum 20-unit measure.

In other words, when I want to bet $20 per hand, I make sure my pot as 20X that, or $500. If I only have $200 to play with, my max bet is $10 per hand, period. (This does not include when I double down, nor does it include some other exceptions I’ll discuss in a future post). If I want to bet more than $20 a hand, I need a bigger pot to maintain that 20X. $50 bets require a starting pot of $1000. $100 bets require $2000, and so on.

If you’re a beginner, you should start with a low bet, like $5 per hand, with a starting pot of $100. This is exactly how I got started years ago.

This means I’m always starting with a huge pot, way more than I ever expect I’ll need. This does two very positive things that help put the narrow odds in my favor, listed here in order of importance:

1. It tremendously helps my emotional control while I play. By betting 1/20th of my pot, I’ll never lose a lot and never win a lot. Both of these things are good, since that means I won’t get pissed or or scared when I’m losing, and start breaking the rules by playing more conservatively. It also means I won’t get cocky and risky when I’m winning. At all times, I’m able to make the correct plays regardless of my current balance.

2. If I start losing, i.e. going below my starting balance, I have plenty of time to get my balance back up to a positive so I can quickly bail out as soon as I’m winning.

This happens most of the time I play. The vast majority of the time, I’ll start with a pot of $500, $20 per bet, and immediately start losing. My pot will go to $480, then $460, then $440, then $420, then maybe $440 again, then up and down. I’ll just calmly keep playing, making the right move on every hand, and eventually and invariably, my pot balance will grow, albeit slowly. Soon my balance will be at $500, then $520, then $540, and BOOM, I’m done playing and leave. I walk out of the casino with $40 profit in my pocket, even though I was as much as $80 negative just a few minutes prior.

That really is the most common occurrence when I play. On the August 4th game I played above, where I won $150, I was down $250 at one point. No worries. My pot was still a huge $750, and I just kept playing until I was three units up ($150) then stopped and left, $150 richer.

Compare this to the typical player. If you bet $15 a hand when starting with $50 (for example) you can only suffer three consecutive lost hands before you’re completely wiped out and have lost all your money. I can suffer twenty consecutive lost hands before I’m wiped out, which has never happened. I have plenty of time to recover my original starting pot.

True, sometimes I get low and never recover. See above on May 10th; I lost $400, my biggest single loss this year. So yeah, sometimes you will lose. But as you can see with my records on this and prior blackjack posts, I win more than I lose using the systems I’ve outlined, and one of the biggest reasons is that A) I’m betting so little I don’t ever lose much when I do lose, and more importantly B) I have time to recover from a down balance.

I also have stop-loss. I usually stop playing when my pot gets to around -50% to -70%. It’s rare it gets that low, but it happens. (I have a stop-win also, but I’ve already discussed that in the linked post above.)

Just remember that you must have enough in your pot equal to 20X your desired bet, or else lower your bet (or don’t play).

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  • Clinton
    Posted at 11:52 am, 26th August 2015

    I very much enjoyed the blackjack series you have written. I have a couple questions. What is your betting progression, or is it just flat betting? Do you prefer heads up play or a full table? And what about side bets (lucky lady)

  • Caleb Jones
    Posted at 01:43 pm, 26th August 2015

    What is your betting progression, or is it just flat betting?

    Pure flat betting about 85-90% of the time. This prevents me from getting kicked out of casinos.

    The only time I increase my bet is when I’m counting cards or I’m on a huge winning streak and I’m way above my starting pot. (My next blackjack post will describe that.)

    Do you prefer heads up play or a full table?

    I don’t really care. These days I bet $100 a hand so the dealers often offer to raise the minimum bets to discourage other players, but I’ve never taken them up on this. I have not seen any conclusive real-world analysis that full tables or playing alone as having any significant effect on the odds.

    One thing I do know is that if you’re in the middle of a “streak” (a bad one or a fantastic one), a new player suddenly being introduced into the current shoe can disrupt this. But this is so rare I don’t worry about it. I only play double or single deck, so most new players wait until the end of the shoe anyway (which they should if they’re smart).

    And what about side bets (lucky lady)

    Never. Never, ever. The odds aren’t conducive (unless you’re some kind of card-counting super-genius). Again, side bets are a thing you do if you’re playing for “fun.”

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