When it comes to blackjack, it’s not just how you play your hands but how you make educated bets. Even if you’re playing free bet blackjack, it’s important that you place wagers wisely. Otherwise, the false sense of security will eat up your whole bankroll.
To be honest, we receive more queries about playing than betting. This is normal, so to speak, since winning the hands will control the money flow. However, if you’re not putting your money on the best hands, you’re not getting as much cash as you can from the casino.
So do you high roll right away? Do you follow the one-time-big-time mantra? No, never, nah.
In previous posts, we’ve discussed betting deviations and how it should be employed in harmony with optimal playing deviations and the basic strategy.
If you’re more of an explorer when it comes to betting, I want to give you some advice: stop haphazard betting! Although you’re winning right now, a few bad hands can start the nightmare every gambler is dreading about – going broke.
So in this post, we will take a look at different betting strategies, how it affects your income, and if it’s advisable to win big.
What is negative and positive progression?
A quick research on the blackjack betting strategy will lead you to the words positive and negative progressions. This is the concept of progressive betting systems where you increase or decrease your bets depending on the result of your game. And in case you’re wondering, progressive betting systems are all suckers. You’re going to lose more either way.
Positive progression is when you double the bet after winning. When you lose, you stick to your minimum bet amount. Usually, players following a positive progression of betting will stop doubling their bets after 3 consecutive wins. Why? Remember, when you double after every win, the wager’s amount become exponential. The likelihood of winning a 4th and succeeding hands is nil. And if you lose, the large bet will hit your bankroll really hard.
As much as positive progression can possibly overcome a dozen losing hands, the volatility is unforgiving.
On the other hand, we have negative progression. If we are to compare it to the positive progression, negative progression is the evil one. Here, you’re going to be in defensive mode. Every time you lose, you double your bet with the hopes of ending the slump and regaining your cash back.
Like the positive progression, there’s a point limit here, much likely around 3 losing hands and you stick back to your minimum bets. And this is where the bigger problem arises.
Doubling your bets after every loss will expose you to reaching the betting limit. After that, you’re out of the table and you’ll be left with limited options – mostly high-roller tables. There’s no way this method can negate the house. It’s purely suicidal for those who want to make real money in blackjack.
Beware of the gambler’s fallacy
Before we dive into the betting systems (and before you explore), I want you to know about gambler’s fallacy. This is the feeling that an event that hasn’t happened for a quite a long time is overdue to take place anytime soon – for example, winning after a losing streak. This is where most of the crazy and risky betting systems branched from, even the free bet blackjack idea.
A lot of gamblers exploit the gambling fallacy myth with various betting techniques that yields little to no good result. And much to experts’ dismay, casinos encourage the use of such betting systems. And why not, the more the players lose, the fatter the house’s pocket becomes.
Based on what it’s called, flat betting is simply betting with the same amount over and over again. This is the usual move of beginners who are too afraid to plunge into the risk of the card game. To be fair, there are upsides and downsides to this betting system.
Let’s say you’re betting $1 per hand. If you lose, you lose a dollar the same way that you’ll win another. In short, you don’t lose a lot, but you don’t earn big either. If the house edge is 0.5%, you’re bound to lose 0.5% of your wager, meaning a 50-50 chance for everything.
Here’s the basic concept of flat betting:
And from a standpoint of a veteran blackjack player, this is a sucker strategy. Nevertheless, it’s a safe strategy, but very limiting if you want to make a living out of your games. Here are the pros and cons in a nutshell:
If we’re going to think about it, flat betting isn’t really a system, but rather a fixed and boring manner of placing wagers. For those planning to use this method, never high-roll or you’ll lose more than what you planned for. It’s a no-no to play on $25 or $50 with this betting system unless you can afford to lose big time.
Oscar’s grind system
The Oscar’s betting system is a positive progressive type where the players should win one unit per cycle. So with these small winnings, the player has to grind hundreds of hours of play to have substantial earnings.
For example, you’re betting $1 per unit. You play and lose five hands consecutively which is equal to $5 already. But on the sixth hand, you won. On the seventh hand, you’re supposed to bet $2 (2 units) continuously regardless if you win or lose. If you win another hand, you’ll add another dollar which makes it $3 (3 units). Your betting amount will remain at $3 until you win another hand so you can add more units.
With that, you only win one unit profit in one cycle. This blackjack betting strategy isn’t for the faint of heart as the player needs to punch in more hours.
Among positive progressive betting systems, I can say that the Oscar’s Grind is the least evil. Still, it’s not advisable if you’re serious about growing your bankroll and bringing the house down. Another thing is that you shouldn’t practice the Oscar’s Grind if you’re on a budget. It takes time to make profits which is something cash-strapped players can’t afford.
Martingale betting system
One of the infamous betting systems to date is the Martingale method. The concept is to double your bets each time you lose. As a negative progressive betting system, the Martingale has drawn negative opinions from blackjack experts due to the fact that a player can easily run out of money.
Martingale practitioners believe that even if you’re losing, winning one hand will be enough to regain the losses. This is possible if your losing streak will end in 3 or 4 hands. But if we’re talking about 10 or 12 consecutive hands with a base wager of $10, you’re doomed.
If you’re just planning to play for fun, the Martingale system would spice things up. However, this can never be a good way to make money.
Never fall prey on this betting system that’s another product of gambling fallacies. Even if you break even or earn a little after losing a large chunk of your bankroll, the risk isn’t worth it.
Parlay betting system
This is similar to the typical parlay bets on any sporting event. You get to bet two units or in two teams. Although it exposes you to higher risk and volatility, the result is rewarding if you happen to win.
Applied in blackjack terms, a parlay bet is also known as the ‘let-it-ride’ or ‘pyramiding’ bet. When a player wins, s/he will add the winnings to the original bet. For example, the player bets $10 for the hand. If s/he wins a blackjack, s/he gets additional $15 (if the payout is 3:2). He will then add this to the original bet of $10 which makes the bet for the next hand a total of $25.
This isn’t just doubling the bet whenever you’re winning. All the winnings from splits, double downs, and side bets will all be added to the next wager as per the player’s discretion.
If the player loses, he goes back to his or her original bet of $10 and builds the parlay again from there.
For those who want to level up the challenge while playing blackjack, a parlay bet would be fun. However, this will take a lot of guts to do, especially during long sessions.
D’Alembert betting system
Jean le Rond D’Alembert’s eponymous betting system is similar to the progressive betting system of increasing your wager after a loss. However, this is a bit different as the players will decrease their bets after winning and increase after losing. Let’s take this diagram from Big Fish Games:
As you see, from the original $5, the player will deduct $1 on the second round wager if he wins and add another $1 if he loses. The same process goes on and on for the entire game.
The Alembert blackjack betting strategy is very easy to use and deemed safer than other progressive betting systems. But like any bookish betting system, it can’t negate the house edge in any way.
The goal of the Alembert system is to balance the losses and winnings of the game. Although it looks attractive, it’s only slightly better than other progressive betting methods. If you just want to have fun, break even, and bring home a small profit, you can follow this system.
1-3-2-6 betting system
An intimidating number sequence, right? But in reality, the 1-3-2-6 is just a simple system where the player bets 1 unit, 3 units, 2 units, and 6 units in succession. The player should repeat the pattern on a winning streak.
But what happened if you lose? You go back to the 1 unit bet and place the same wager until you win to restart the 1-3-2-6 pattern. This is best employed for blackjack games that pay even money. Still, the system isn’t ideal if you want to win big time.
Take note that the amount per betting unit will depend on your budget. Since this is another progressive system, I don’t recommend putting a large stake unless you can afford losing it.
There’s a chance that you can break even with this system but the chances of making large profits are nil.
The Paroli method is also referred to as the Reverse Martingale system and deemed “safe” by man gamblers. This is already an old system, dating back about 100 years ago.
In this system, the players double their bet once s/he wins. The player will do this for 3 consecutive winnings hands. On the fourth hand, the player will go back to the original wager which will start another 3 possible winning hands.
If the player loses a hand, s/he automatically goes back to the base wager and flat bets until a winning hand emerges.
For example, your first bet is $10, when your hand wins, you double it to $20 on the next hand. When you win again, the third hand will have a total bet of $30. Regardless if you win or lose on the third hand, you have to go back to the $10 wager on the fourth round. But what if you lose the second hand? You flat bet the $10 as the Paroli system says.
Doing this is said to limit losses by exploiting a winning streak. Although not all players will stick to the 3-hand rule, many gamblers advise this to control impulsive betting.
We reserved the hardest negative progression method for last. This is usually used in roulette but has penetrated the blackjack community over the years.
The concept is this: you’ll decide a specific profit you want to earn by the end of the game. After that, you will write a string of betting sequence that adds up to the profit you want to earn. Here’s a good example:
You want to earn $20. Therefore, you decided to write this betting sequence:
$4, $2, $2, $1, $1, $2, $4, $4. Total betting amount: $20
This sequence can be different based on what you like.
Now, to make the first bet, you’ll add the first and last bets on the sequence. In our example, it’s $4 and $4 which means you have an $8 bet for your first hand. If the first hand wins, you do the same by moving inward, this time with $2 and $4; $2 and $2; and $1 and 1. This is if you win all the hands consecutively.
If you lose, you’re going to add the lost amount at the end of the sequence. Let’s say you lost the first hand of $8 as described earlier. You sequence before the second hand will be like this:
$4, $2, $2, $1, $1, $2, $4, $4, and $8.
From there, you’ll start betting by adding the first and last bets in an inward manner.
As you see, this is complicated and really risky. It takes time to master this method together with an optimal playing strategy.
What is the ideal blackjack betting strategy?
Definitely, it’s not a progressive type. The optimal betting strategy for any blackjack variant – be it free bet blackjack or not – is deviations based on card counting. You based your betting on the situation on the table, composition of the cards, the richness of the shoe, and your likelihood of winning. And how can you do this? By using the basic strategy and card counting.
There’s no single, bookish betting system that will bring the house down. Any progressive betting systems are blind of your playing hands. You apply the same, dysfunctional strategy on whatever playing hand you have. Basically, you just consider if you’re losing or winning then you’ll double or slash your bet. This isn’t supposed to be the case.
But why did I spend my time discussing all the sucker betting systems above? So you’ll know how ugly those are! We’ve exposed the truth behind these popular betting systems so you’ll know that you’re losing or earning too little than what you’ll get by playing with educated deviations.
Yes, betting deviations are quite difficult to master, but it pays if you really want to make money on blackjack.
In this video, expert card counter Colin Jones teaches us the right way to bet without ‘”just winging” the wager: