Blackjack Betting Systems

Blackjack Betting SystemsThere is no mystery to the success of casinos. The bottom line is they have an edge. The house, as the saying goes, always wins. They don't care about gamblers' individual wins and losses, they just make sure you keep betting.

21We've all seen that Kevin Spacey film with the MIT geniuses counting cards and breaking banks. They make betting systems appear logical and even easy to master. You want to beat the house, right? There has to be some technical, mechanical kind of way of doing this, right? Whether or not betting systems work has been debated elsewhere on the internet. We're here to give you an overview.

Betting Systems - what they are and how they work

Blackjack Betting Systems

A betting system is basically a way of managing your money in order to maximise your gambling profits. This is always the bottom line. It doesn't matter what technique or system you use at the blackjack tables. if you don't manage your money properly, you're never going to win. Here's a quick look at three of the top betting systems and how they work:

Card Counting

Card CountingCard Counting is probably the betting system that non-gamblers are most familiar with, thanks to that Hollywood movie we mentioned. Contrary to popular belief, and just like chess, card counting doesn't require you to be some kind of super genius, and it's not illegal either. For obvious reasons though, it's highly frowned upon by casinos and online gambling sites. With card counting you need to do three things - be stealthy, be patient, and practice.

The general strategy used in card counting is called the Hi-lo strategy. The High-Low was first introduced in 1963 by Harvey Dubner, and it's simple to get your head around.

  • High cards are given a specific value (-1). That's 10, Jacks, Queens, Kings, Aces
  • Low cards are given a specific value (+1). These include 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
  • Middle cards are 0. That includes 7, 8, 9.
  • When added up, they total the running count
  • That's it.
High Cards Value: -1
High Cards: 10, Jacks,  Queens, Kings, Aces

Low Cards Value: +1
Low Cards: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Middle Cards Value: 0
Middle Cards: 7, 8, 9

That's the how. Here's the why:

Card counting works because high cards improve a player's chances of hitting a blackjack, which pays out at 3:2. Low cards, on the other hand, are bad for the player but good for the dealer (they prevent them from busting on 16 or lower).

The higher the running count, the more the gambler should bet. She just has to keep the numbers in her head.

Is Card Counting legal?

Is Card Counting legal?

Yep, card counting's legal but the casinos don't like it, which is a good sign for gamblers! Casinos have invested a good deal of money and effort trying to put off card counters. Blackjack card counting controls include:

  1. If a person is a suspected card counter, casino staff will engage them in conversation during a game, just to break their train of thought. Sometimes the percentage of cards in a deck is lowered before a shuffle happens. This thwarts the chances of a card counter in taking advantage of a high running count. Dealers can also shuffle after high wagers. It's simple but effective.
  2. High speed dealers is a favourite method of casinos. The faster a blackjack game is running, the faster the counter needs to be in their heads, and the more obvious they might become to the casino staff who are monitoring the game.
  3. While wild west style wanted posters aren't used, books of photos and even facial recognition systems are. This effectively blacklists known card counters from the tables.
  4. Anyone who's seen Ocean's 11 will know that computer systems are used for casino surveillance staff to use in earmark suspiciously-behaving players and to measure their threat to the house.
  5. Changing a table's stakes.
  6. Setting the table so that gamblers can't change the amount they bet during a shoe.

Does Card Counting work online?

Card Counting OnlineAny online card game worth its salt is going to shoe in a brand new deck on every deal, every time. It's a cinch to do that in online games and pretty impossible in land-based games. Online casinos also use an 'infinite shoe', which would rule out any card counting, as they draw arbitrary cards with a permanent probability.

This is done both for straightforwardness of developing the game (fixed probabilities are easier to code) and to prevent card counting (which you can't foil online in the ways we ran through earlier). Check out How We Learned to Cheat at Online Poker: A Study in Software Security to marvel at the sheer lengths people go to mentally dismantle the completely random algorithm that online gambling sites use. For this reason, other betting systems like the ones we look at below aren't very effective online either.

The Martingale System

The Martingale SystemThe Martingale comes from 18th century France, and in theory, it's easy. The player doubles his bet each time he loses. The assumption is that they'll eventually win with a profit to show for it from the original bet.

For example, your original bet is $5.00. You lose that bet. You enter the game again on $10. You lose again. You enter in again with $20 and this time you win. You're up at least $15, except you've actually spent $35 on the game, not $5.

Land-based casinos have ways and means of cutting this system short for the gamblers. Some ways include table limits. For example, after a long, gruelling winning streak, you'll hit the table maximum losses and you're out.

Progressive Betting System

Progressive Betting SystemThis is a very easy and effective betting system. First you need to choose a minimum and maximum bet and stick to your decisions. Then you bet the smaller amount when you lose, and the larger amount when you win (that's why it's a progressive system, because you raise your bets on your wins instead of your losses). For example, say you set your minimum bet at $5 and your maximum at $15. Start with the lower amount. You win that hand and then you bet $15 your next wager. You then continue to bet $15 until you lose. After any loss you return to your minimum bet of $5.

Ready to put some of the betting systems to the test? Try an online blackjack sites that we recommend and start playing your favourite casino game now.