When anyone mentions the casino, lots of people immediately turn to games such as blackjack. At some point in time, most people will have played an iteration of the game, be it in a brick and mortar casino, online or even at home.
It’s a relatively simple game to play; beat the dealers score without going over 21. You don’t need a lot of apparatus and the games can be extremely lucrative.
Even though all this is true, the main reason why many professional gamblers target blackjack is that it’s one of the few casino games where your actions can affect the process of the game.
For example, if you play slots, you spin the wheel and your fate is decided by the slot machine and its algorithm. With blackjack, the choice you make whether to hit, hold, split, double down or to take insurance can have a dramatic effect on your chances of winning (long term) and the house edge that the game then represents.
Throughout this article, we want to look at several blackjack betting systems and try to break down why some of them work and also why some do not. There are processes for each that can be used for all forms of blackjack and this will, in turn, affect the edge that you then have within the game.
Just before we dive in, we wanted to highlight the importance of playing a “perfect game”. By this, we mean that you make the correct decision every time you play.
This may sound tough to do, but there are countless hand charts that you can use to follow that will allow you to do this. This process must be one that is undertaken with each game as you then keep the house edge to an absolute minimum and increase your chances of winnings.
Positive and Negative Blackjack Betting Progression
Before we jump into how both positive and negative betting works in blackjack, we quickly want to brush over flat betting.
Flat betting is where you place the same wager for each hand. So, if you wanted your stake to be £10, then you would bet £10 each hand regardless of if you have won or lost.
There are merits to this strategy and there will be times that flat betting is a superior choice over positive and negative betting. It’s generally seen to be a little more risk-averse and is a process that a lot of blackjack players stick to for ease.
As you’ve probably worked out by now, positive and negative betting are both linked to the amount you stake and at what point you change this amount. Positive is where you look to increase stakes on winning streaks and negative is where you increase stakes on losing streaks.
They both have plus and minus points, so let’s jump in and work through both.
We will start with positive blackjack betting system. For this, we are looking to increase our bets as we go on a winning run. The more we win, the more we can increase our stake. If we lose, then we simply drop back down to our original stake.
The concept behind this is that we are trying to ride the wave of our good luck and maximise the amount we can win for the hand that we are playing. The increase in stake will depend on which strategy you use and there is a number to choose from.
Two popular ones are that of the Parlay system and the 1326 system. With the Parlay system, you are looking to leave your winnings on the table for each bet. If your first bet was £10 and you won £10, then your second bet would be £20. This continues until you lose and then you drop back to your starting stake of £10.
The Parlay system may seem pretty simple but it’s very aggressive. You only need one loss to wipe out all profits and you are back to square one.
The 1326 System is where you move your stake about based on your streak. Bet 1 would be £10, then bet two £30, bet three £20 and bet four £60. This spreads your risk somewhat as it means that you aren’t risking all your profits with each bet.
We talk more about both of these strategies later in the article.
In terms of positive betting as a concept, this is going to be the one that we would advise most players to take up, especially if you are new to the game. You need to be disciplined for this and you need to be prepared to lose all your profits in one go, but it’s easier to follow and as long as you’ve got a stop-loss in terms of your bankroll, it means that you can win big with a bit of luck.
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Negative betting is the exact opposite and for this, we are going to be looking to increase our bets based on the amount that we lose. If we win, we want to keep the same stake and we’re only adjusting once we lose.
Again, you have a couple of different strategies that you can implement for this, which includes the Martingale and the Fibonacci Strategy.
The Martingale concept is one that is very straightforward. For this, you are looking to double your bet every time you lose. For example, you bet £10 and your bet loses, then for the next bet, you bet £20. If that bet were to lose, then you increase to £40 and so on.
Given that a standard European Blackjack game can have a house edge of just 0.5% with the “perfect” strategy implemented, the chances are that it won’t take too long before you win, and you are back to breakeven. Once you win, you then you revert to your starting stack.
The Fibonacci System is similar to the 1326 System for positive betting in that have set amounts you stake for each hand. In this case it would be 1,1,2,3,5,8,13. The process simply adds the last two numbers together to give your stake for the next hand.
The major downside for both of these strategies is that you are going to need a big bankroll in case you hit a losing run. For example, if you were betting £10 as your stake, in the Martingale System, if you lost 6 bets in a row, which can easily happen, it would cost £320 in total money staked. To get back to even, your next bet would need to be £640 and it spirals from here.
Which is better: Positive or Negative?
It’s tough to say which is a better strategy here as both have positive and negatives to them. If you’ve got the bankroll for it, we would suggest that the negative method would be better as, so long as you can keep going, your chances of winning are good.
However, if you're new to the game or if you’ve got a limited bankroll, we would say that the positive progression would be the better choice. It limits the amount you need to stake to stay in the game which means a smaller bankroll will work best here. That being said, one loss can wipe out your profits.
Two things that you must take away from this are that you need to practice proper bankroll management. Work out how much you’re OK with losing and then adjust your strategy accordingly.
Then you need to work out when to walk away. If you’re able to do this at the top of your streak, then you will make the most money from this. In fact, you could argue that the longer you play with either a positive or negative betting pattern, the more likely it will be that you break even and miss out on the more profitable sessions.
Card Counting in Blackjack – Learn the Knockout (KO) System
Card counting in blackjack is often something that many people relate to higher-level playing strategies. If you were to count each card and keep a running score for the deck, then this would be something that takes years of practice.
The Knockout System has been derived to offer a slightly less accurate, but still player-favourable process to counting cards. It’s much easier to learn and it’s much easier to keep track of.
In terms of basic principles, with the KO System, you still need to assign scores to the cards. However, instead of taking individual scores, you’re going to group cards and then take a score from that.
There are three score groups that we want to focus on:
- Cards 2 through 9 = +1
- 8 and 9 = 0
- 10, J, Q, K and A = -1
From the cards that are dealt, we are then able to assign a score. As the game progresses the score is going to start to favour one side of the deck. In this case, it would be a positive or negative number.
The higher the number the more higher value face cards there are in the deck. The lower the number more lower value cards are in the deck.
We then need to take the score and adjust our bet sizing accordingly. As a general rule, the higher the score, the more beneficial it is to use, so the more we want to bet. The lower the score the less we want to bet given that the deck is currently “cold”.
An obvious question right now would be, why?
Well, if the number is high, a higher number of low cards are already out, and a higher number of higher value cards are still in the shoe. If there are a greater number of high-value cards left then it means the chances of our hold cards being higher value is increased. This means we have a higher chance of hitting blackjack, thus, we want to bet more as a result.
The skill is knowing how much to bet and the timing of when to place these bets. You can adjust bet sizes based on your count.
An easy way to do this is to use a betting pattern which is based per count unit. Say you had a bankroll of 100 units for that game, you could bet 1 unit per positive number. If the count was 4 for example, you would then bet 4 units. If the count was a negative number, then you might not want to bet at all or at least keep your bets small.
There is a key point to take into account here, and that is the number of decks that are in use. You see, the KO System is what is known as an “unbalanced system”. This means that the way it's set up results in 24 points total for numbers 2 through 7 and then 20 points for numbers Ten through Ace.
If you were to run the numbers over and over, you would always get a +4 count for each deck.
To combat this a little and level things out, you need to note the number of decks that are in play. The more decks in play, the lower the starting count. This works as follows:
- 1 deck = Starting count of 0
- 2 decks = Starting count of -4
- 6 decks = Starting count of -20
- 8 decks = Starting count of -28
Let’s run through a quick example of how this might work. Assume a 1 deck game and we are betting 1 unit per point.
The first hand is dealt with 3 players at the table.
- Player 1 = 6 and 8, hits for Ten. Bust.
- Player 2 = Ten and Jack. Stand.
- Player 3 = 2 and 4, hits for 7, hits again for 5. Stands.
- Dealer = King and 4, hits for 3. Stands
Let’s take a look at the numbers and the scores.
- +1 numbers = 6, 2, 4, 5, 4, 3. Total = +6
- Zero numbers = 8.
- -1 numbers = Ten, Ten, Jack, King. Total = -4
As you can see, we have +6 from the low numbers and -4 from the high, giving us a total count for this hand of +2. We know that this now means the deck is favourable for us and we can bet accordingly increasing our stake to 2 units.
There’s not a lot of strategies when it comes to what to do with the numbers other than to increase or decrease your bets sizes appropriately. We would recommend that you go into your game with a set bankroll limit and then an amount you want to bet per point. This way it makes it very easy to know how much you should be betting and on what points.
2-1-2 (Manhattan) Blackjack System
The 2-1-2 blackjack strategy is often referred to as the blackjack Manhattan Strategy. The idea is that the stakes move up and down, a little like the Manhattan skyline.
This is a blackjack system that is designed for low variance and to take advantage of hot streaks. It’s fairly simple in terms of a process and one that most beginner players would find relatively easy to pick up.
2-1-2 is about the bets that you’re going to make or at least, the stakes that you use. These represent units, so if you were betting £1 per unit, you would start with a £2 bet, then move to a £1 bet and then back to a £2 bet and increase in 1 unit from there onwards.
All of these pretences are based on the fact that you win. The more you win, the more your bet increases and the more you are then able to win. The idea is that by using small increments you still bag some of your winnings whilst reinvesting the rest. This is in contrast to those that stake you should double each bet, which will mean at one time you have all your profits on the line.
The process is often referred to as a “slow burner” and is designed for longevity rather than any get-rich-quick plays.
For this to work, you need to drop back to your initial stake each time you lose. Because we have jumped from the initial bet of 2 units to a single unit for the second bet, it means that we take a small profit from each winning bet as we move through the gears.
Like all casino games, the best know when to quit whilst they are ahead. If you manage to string several winning bets in a row, then your stake should be considerably higher than when you initially set out. Knowing when to walk away is as much a skill as any strategy that we’ve spoken about today.
Flat Betting in Blackjack
Flat betting as a blackjack strategy is about as basic as you can get. It’s for that reason that a lot of people tend to adopt it, but it’s not always the most exciting way to play the game.
All that you need to do for the game is set a stake and then stick to this amount for every hand that you play. So, regardless if you win or lose, you bet the same amount each time.
The theory behind this is that you can then leave your game up to either running good or running bad. If you play long enough then the losses will be low, but at the same time, the wins will also be limited.
What you need to bear in mind here is that in most blackjack games is that the casinos only have a small house edge. It can be less than 1% for certain bets in certain games, which is one of the reasons why many like blackjack.
However, what a lot of people fail to understand is that this house edge is only this low providing the player is playing a perfect strategy for that format. This means you need to make the right call (stand, hit, double down etc.) at the right time, every time. If they get it wrong, the house takes a bigger edge over their play.
Assuming that you do play a perfect strategy, flat betting then leaves it up to variance based on the volume of your play. This is on the pretences that the more you play, the lower the variance, meaning that the closer you get to that house edge.
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By flat betting and placing the same bet each time, you can plan out a session and work out exactly how much you could potentially win and lose for each session. Online you play a lot more hands per hour than live and assuming you play 100 hands per hour and you stake £1 per hand, the most you can lose per hour is £100.
Realistically, you aren’t going to lose all 100 hands and you could even win all 100 hands. But either way, you can create a game where you are comfortable at the table making the same bets and the same plays for each hand.
We see lots of people shying away from this strategy citing that you can’t maximise winnings and to some extent, this is correct. However, not all players are looking to win big each time they play. Flat betting offers control whilst still be able to enjoy the game. You know exactly what you are risking then any profits from that are a bonus.
Playing Multiple Hands in Blackjack
Before we dive into playing multiple hands at a single table, we want to put to bed a myth. This myth is that the decisions of other players can affect your hand.
Amongst many blackjack circles and at the majority of casinos you always get someone at the table who bemoans a play that an “amateur” blackjack player makes which might not be optimal. They think it damages their chances of winning, but it does not. The only edge that changes here is the house edge over their play, not your edge.
The reason that we wanted to address that now is that many players think that my playing multiple hands at the blackjack table limits people who are “amateurs” from messing up their “strategy”. All that playing more than one hand does is increase your exposure or your edge.
One of the most common reasons that people would play multiple hands is when using the Knock-out blackjack Strategy above. If the shoe turns favourable, then it makes sense to invest as much money as possible whilst you get an edge over the casino.
By doing this you maximise the amount of money that you can win when the cards are in your favour. This would be a great time to play multiple hands.
For all of the other strategies that we talk about on this page, we would say that multiple hands just complicates things, especially if you are new. Yes, you can carve out small edges from these when the cards fall in your favour, but you’d be better off adjusting your stake, rather than playing more than one hand.
If you get to a point where you are incredibly comfortable with your game and even more than one of the strategies that we talk about, it could be feasible to execute a different strategy to each hand.
For example, on one hand, you could have a flat betting strategy that you know is going to be pretty consistent, then on the other, you can include either a positive or negative progression strategy. This means that you’ve got a pretty consistent seat in the flat bet and then the chance to win big from the progressive seat.
Other Blackjack Betting Systems
We’ve outlined the majority of what we consider to be the best blackjack betting systems above, but there’s still more out there. Below we’ve got the best of the rest and little overview about how they work.
1-3-2-6 Betting System
We spoke about this briefly earlier in this article and the 1326 betting system is one that allows you to change your stake for each bet based over four consecutive bets. It’s been designed to allow you bank some money, whilst also being able to move through the stakes for the big win at the end.
The idea is that if you got winning hands in a row, you would bet 12 units based on your initial bet. The first three bets are used to bank some cash and if you get to the fourth you then risk your profit from these bets.
It’s not the most user-friendly betting system simply based on the fact that you need to win four in a row to make any money from it. It’s plausible that you will do so at some point, but multiple wins of 4 winnings hands in a row per session are rare.
Oscar’s Grind Betting System
The name is very apt for this betting system with Oscar’s Grind being just that; a grind. The idea here is that you keep betting and increasing your stake until you are in profit. Once you make it into profit you then lower your bet to protect your win.
In terms of the numbers, the process for this strategy works. However, this is based on an infinite amount to wager and also time. In the real world, this is not the case for the majority of players.
To start with you bet a single unit and then if that bet loses, repeat the bet until it wins. Once it wins, you then use the stake and your winnings for your next bet. If it loses, the stake remains the same until you win and then again, increase by 1 unit. You keep going until you are back in profit where the session ends.
As you can see, you can risk a lot here to make a small profit. It can get into a deep hole before you get back out, meaning that you need to have deep pockets to make this work.
The Martingale Betting System
The Martingale system is one that is very common and very easy to follow. In terms of the process, all it requires you to do is double your bet when you lose. If you win, you simply keep your stake at the same level.
Concept wise the idea is that if you keep doubling your bets when you lose, it will cover the loss from the last bet given that blackjack pays even money for most bets. Should you hit blackjack doing this you will make a small profit.
The downside to this system is that you need a huge bankroll to cover any big losing runs. If you were betting with a £100 bankroll, this would be wiped out in just 4 consecutive losing hands assuming the first bet of £10. If your bankroll was £1,000, this number would be just 7 consecutive losing hands.
Fibonacci Betting System
The Fibonacci Betting System is one of the oldest. We spoke briefly about it earlier in the article, but it’s essentially a positive progression bet that increases bet sizes the more that you win.
Bet sizes will depend on how many successful hands you have in a row. Stakes follow this sequence: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 and so on. As you may have noticed, to get the next bet size you simply take the last bet and add it to the one previous.
Advantage of using this method is that you can increase stakes the more that you win. Thus, increasing profits.
In terms of disadvantages, well, you need to win a good number of hands in a row to make a decent profit here. Once the streak comes to an end you go back to the start. A losing streak can then take a long time to overturn.
Paroli Betting System
The Paroli Betting System is another positive progression bet where all we are doing is simply doubling our stake once we win. For each win that we have, we double into the next hand.
It’s a very simple method and needs to be used along with some sort of win limit. This can be a run of hands or a monetary number. The reason we need to include this is that at some point you will lose, so it’s important to cash out and then restart from your lowest stake again.
Downsides to this include the realisation that long losing streaks will take a long time to get into profit. You can also wipe out a profit if you are not able to hit a sufficient winning streak. Many people gamble too long on this and in turn, find it hard to turn a profit.
Labouchere Betting System
The Labouchere method is one of the more complex blackjack betting systems that we cover here. However, what it does offer is a huge amount of flexibility in that you’re able to use this as both a positive and negative betting progression.
For this to work, you need to create a string of numbers that will allow you to make a profit that is pre-determined before you play. Something like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 would be fine, but you can change these up as you wish.
The numbers represent your stake and with it, you need to take the first and last two numbers of the sequence to combine them and this becomes your unit bet. If you win, you mark them both off and then move into the next two numbers. If you lose, you add on the combined unit stake for that bet to the end of the sequence and start again.
Parlay Betting System
Parlay betting is an aggressive positive progression system that is used in blackjack. For this, the player will use their profit and their previous stake if they win for the next bet. So, if they bet £10 and win £10, then the next stake will be £20.
It’s worth mentioning that if they were to hit blackjack, they would take the full amount here as well. So, a 3/2 win with a £10 stake would be £25 and this would be the next bet.
When a player loses, they drop down to their original stake.
The idea of this system is to take advantage of hot streaks and then bank big wins. A player needs to have a plan of when to cash out, as winning multiple hands in a row is never easy.
D’Alembert Betting System
The D’Alembert Betting System is often referred to as one of the most flawed betting systems for blackjack. It has a negative progression and the idea is that you keep your stake as is when you win and only increase when you lose.
For example, if you bet £10 and your bet wins, your next bet would remain at £10. If your £10 bet loses, then your next bet would be £20. If this bet loses, then it increases by your original stake each time, so in this case, it would be £10 making for a £30 bet.
The issue with this is system is that most blackjack tables have a maximum bet, meaning that a long losing streak would hit this and therefore you were unable to win your money back to breakeven.
Like all casino games, blackjack is set up around different probabilities that a certain scenario or in this case, range of hands, will occur. One thing that many people get wrong is that the casino offers their odds on the probability of something happening. They don’t, they alter the odds ever so slightly so that the games are in their favour.
This is what is known as the house edge.
Even though we are talking about blackjack here, roulette is an easy example to explain how this works. A simple bet such as red or black in roulette pays even money, which would be a 50% probability. However, with the inclusion of the green zero, it makes the probability just 47.4%.
When it comes to blackjack, there are two key probabilities that we want to be looking out for.
The first is that of the probability of the dealer going bust based on their exposed card. Certain cards will have a stronger chance of going bust than others, meaning you’ve got an increased chance of winning just by staying in the game.
As an example, an Ace card would offer just an 11.65% chance of going bust. Compare this to a 5 card which increases to a massive 42.89% and is the best card in the deck for the player to see their dealer have.
The second probability is the chance of hitting blackjack. This ties into card counting blackjack as mentioned earlier, but if you can know the range of cards that are left in the deck, then you can work out your probability of hitting blackjack or at least making a strong hand.
What this all comes to down is then forming a common link regarding how much you bet. When probabilities start to tilt in your favour, bet more. When they are against you, reduce your bets.