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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Pressing Up Your Bets in Blackjack Is Not a Winning Strategy

6 August 2000

There's no doubt about it. The typical blackjack player increases his bets as he starts winning hands. Some do it with a preset betting progression, others via spontaneous inspiration. There's also no doubt about this--the typical blackjack player eventually loses his money!

You'd think it might seem apparent that if so many players use a similar betting strategy and they virtually all lose, then that strategy is not a winning one. The reason is, betting more because you've just won a few bands or because you're playing with the casino's money does absolutely nothing for your chances to win the next hand. So there's nothing to be gained by betting more.

The other day I was at a $25 table with two other players sitting on my right. They both were systematically progressing their bets with each win. At one point, the dealer broke twice in a row, so they each had fairly large bets up for the next hand. As it turned out, first base won his next hand while centerfield lost. As expected, first base now placed a $250 bet and centerfield dropped back down to $50.

It was then that the peculiar psychology of betting progressions became so obvious to me. In effect, it's saying first base is more likely to win the next hand than centerfield--against the same dealer's hand! How could that possibly be so? Some streak bettors will say that, in this case, the shoe is stacked in favor of first base for the next hand. But all we really know is that the cards were indeed stacked in favor of first base for the last hand--which says absolutely nothing about the next one. That's what shuffling the cards is for.

When I saw those two drastically different-sized bets get placed, I had to wonder to myself, "What if both seats just happened to be the same player betting two spots?" Would he always bet more on the spot that just won and less on the losing spot? In fact, what about playing all seven spots and simply raising or lowering the bet on each of them according to their own previous results? Would that make sense? Actually, it wouldn't and here's why.

Gamblers tend to say that gambling runs in streaks. The truth however, is that gambling runs mostly in "chops," but it's the occasional streaks that are remembered. Chops are when you win one, lose two, win two, lose one, etc.

Streak bettors lose money through choppy cycles even when they win half their bets. Want me to prove it? Suppose you followed a $10-$20-$30-$40-$50 progression. Following is a choppy sequence of ten hands on which you'll win five and lose five:

W L W W L L W L L W

How did you do? You lost $30 winning half your bets. Furthermore, there are 252 ways you can win five and lose five. But without a streak of at least three straight wins somewhere in there, you'll lose money. The classic moneymaker would be five straight wins followed by five straight losses or vice versa. There, you'll make between $60 and $100. But those are just two combinations out of 252, yet that's what the streak bettor will remember. The problem is that they won't occur often enough to net you 10 cents, long term. And it's all because the last outcome is no predictor of the next.

There is however, something that does have a tendency to indicate how the next hand will go. It has nothing to do with the last outcome, but rather the cards that were used up in the process.

Think about it. When lots of high cards get played out, no matter who won the last hand, it's going to be hard to be dealt a blackjack, many of your double downs will backfire, and the dealer will probably get two or three shots at making his hand. In contrast, when little cards get used up, you'll be dealt more blackjacks, more pat hands, and catch more 10s to your double downs. This is where true advantage play lies.

If you want to size your bets according to something meaningful, watch for barrages of high cards and low cards. Bet bigger after seeing lots of little ones and cut back after the big ones have come out. Then you'll be playing a bit more like the pros do.


For more information about blackjack, we recommend:

Blackjack Bluebook: The Right Stuff for the Serious Player by Fred Renzey
Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey