We have written previously about the best blackjack strategies that will help you make those key decisions that, on the face of it, are difficult to unravel – whether to hit or stand on 16 and 17, for example, and when to double down versus when to play your cards as dealt.
That is only one piece of the puzzle as far as successful blackjack play is concerned though, because we also need to know about the various betting systems that we can deploy to our advantage.
As we know, the house has the edge in all variants of the game, and so bankroll management is key if we wish to be a successful blackjack player both in the short and long term. If we are reckless with our chips, then we simply have no future in the game.
Let’s consider three betting systems that can help us to minimise the damage caused by losing streaks, and maximise our position when we are onto a good thing.
There are what are known as “regressive” betting systems, which are a conservative approach to managing your chip stack.
However, for the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on the progressive betting systems that live by the motto of “fortune favouring the brave”.
There are two types of general progressive betting system.
The idea here is that you wager more each time a bet wins. This is a system predicated on the notion of streaks, and looks to maximise winnings when you are on a roll – you are essentially betting with the house’s money.
Crucially, there are no increases after a losing bet, so your position is protected during losing runs too.
The polar opposite of positive progression, negative progression systems predicate on increasing your stake amount after a bet loses. The concept here is to recoup losses as quickly as possible, with one win effectively wiping out your downturn, and you can even turn a profit from a gaming session in scenarios where you have lost more hands than you have won.
However, the opposite danger here is that a lengthy losing streak can wreak havoc on your bankroll.
There are lots of systems that can be considered positive, negative or a mix of the two, and while some are created on a whim by frustrated blackjack players seeking an edge, others have been tried and tested on the tables for many years.
Here’s a trio of the best.
Don’t be alarmed: you don’t need to learn string theory to work out how much to wager here.
Quite simply, wagers are placed after a winning bet with the magic sequence – 1-3-2-6 – in mind. As soon as you lose, the sequence should be restarted again.
Sound confusing? Here’s an example, with a £100 per hand stake as our starting point.
Let’s start with a negative:
· You lose four bets in a row.
In this scenario, you’ve lost £400. Not great, but there’s nothing that can be done.
· You win four bets in a row.
At this point, your stakes for those wins would have been £100, £300, £200 and £600. Those are some tidy returns, and don’t forget on your fifth bet that your stake would go back to £100.
· You win two bets, but lose the next.
Your wins would come at stakes of £100 and £300, with £200 lost according to the sequence. We return to £100 per turn, and go again.
Clearly, the object here is to minimise our losses and the risk of our bankroll being decimated by a losing streak or tilt-related decision-making.
Our opening stake is a nominal amount that we prefer to play, with any winnings made from bets one and two protected from an overall loss by the decrease in stake on bet three.
It’s a nice way to add some discipline to your play, and the excitement of making four wins in a row is matched by the financial rewards that the progressive staking plan brings.
Now, there’s the million-dollar question! The 1-3-2-6 system protects against losing streaks by keeping stakes the same, and also helps you to tuck into winning streaks with relish.
But really, your belief in its effectiveness will depend on whether you believe in streaks and the hot hand.
The major flaw is the fourth bet of six units, which if it doesn’t land for you can undo much of the good work of your previous three victories – that’s as frustrating as it gets when you see the house’s cash disappearing from your bankroll.
We would class 1-3-2-6 as a fun strategy designed to break up the monotony of level stakes play – in the long run, it offers no major advantages to the player.
This unusually named strategy is actually linked to its title: the aim is to grind out a series of one-unit profit wins.
Designed in 1965 by a craps player looking to accumulate wins, rather than take the house down, it has since been developed for a number of casino games.
Oscar’s Grind is progressive in the sense that losing streaks are neutralised, to some extent, and wins are accompanied by a clearly defined increase in profit.
It’s simple enough to explain when laid out on the page, so let’s go through some examples with that £100 stake per hand:
· Bet 1 loses.
Okay, no problem. We’ve lost our £100 stake, and now the progressive aspect kicks in.
· Bet 2 – £100.
If we win our bet, then our £100 loss incurred in bet 1 is recouped, and we double our stakes. If we lose again….
· Bet 3 – £200.
Now, if we win, our £200 in lost stakes is recouped, and so on until our original loss is covered.
The other difference is how we manage wins. Every successive winning hand sees our stake doubled. Why? Because we are theoretically playing with the house’s money, with the aim of securing that one unit of profit.
Once we are one unit up, the staking system starts from scratch again.
It can be quite complex, and you will need to be disciplined in how you note down your wins and losses. Just remember:
· If you lose a bet, your next stake is one unit.
· If you win a bet, your next stake is one unit more.
· Once the unit profit is secured, restart the process.
Clearly, there is a logic to this betting strategy, and yes, theoretically it works – however, like any staking plan, understanding the damage caused by a losing streak is key.
However, by keeping stakes level after a loss, there is mitigation, and the only real change to normal play is the increased stakes after a win.
Here’s the thing though: winning one unit of profit per cycle might not be enough for those dreaming of blackjack-based riches!
This is one of the oldest and most widely used betting systems, and like most things in life, it has its fervent fans and its detractors.
It is not for the faint of heart or those short of bankroll, but it does work nicely for players who want a simple system to follow without any major calculations.
There are, in essence, only two tenets to the Martingale system:
1. If your bet wins, your next stake is your normal one-unit amount.
2. If your bet loses, you double your stake.
If you think about it hypothetically, with the Martingale system, you can’t lose – that is, if you have an infinite amount of time and an infinite bankroll!
Eventually, you will recoup your losses thanks to the double-up staking plan, but the bigger question here is how much will you have spent prior to winning?
However, you won’t need a calculator, an Excel spreadsheet or an abacus to work out your stake for your next hand, and that is perhaps why it appeals to so many.
Again, if you want to be hypothetical about it, then yes, the Martingale system works.
However, think about the maths in play here for the standard blackjack player with a normal sized-budget.
You might normally wager £5 per hand, but look at the sequence if you experience five straight losses and increase your stake accordingly:
Suddenly, you’re wagering £160 per hand in the blink of an eye just to recoup an initial £5 loss!
Does the Martingale system work? Yes, but it might prove rather expensive. As such, it is recommended more for sports bettors – many of whom have an angle – rather than casino players, who can never remove the house’s edge no matter how hard they try.
With our sensible hat on, we remind you that blackjack is a game of chance, and so losing streaks – as well as winning ones – are common.
There are betting systems that help you to structure your play and recoup losses while protecting against bankroll demolition.
But remember, you can never overturn the house edge – no matter how clever the system.
You can try a huge range of blackjack games, including our selection of bitcoin blackjack titles, for free in demo mode, without having to risk your bankroll – what a fantastic way to test out your betting systems. Register today to get started.
Words: Sean McNulty
Images: Shutterstock and Bitcasino