BlackJack – Money Management Systems
Categories: Strategies
We have listed four of the most popular wagering schemes devised.
Consistent Wager System
This is the most popular money-management system used. Players bet a fixed amount on every hand, irrespective of the results of the previous hands. By doing this, the player will, in the long term, lose no more that the house advantage against the player, if the player is following our basic strategy this is less than one percent.
In the short term, for one 90-hand period (45 hands per hour for two hours), the player is mathematically likely to lose one more hand than he wins and as a result finish “down” a single unit for the total session. However, because statistics don’t bear out in the short term, the player will more often be “up” or “down” a modest amount differing on the order in which the cards happen to come out of the shoe.
In the long run however, these slight wins and losses will total out. Across the course of thousands of hands, the mathematical probability of losing less than one percent of all hands played shows.
Another benefit of the constant wager method is that it does not involve a large bankroll which some of the other money management system do. Because the amount bet only rises when the player elects to split or double down, a player can begin the session with 20 betting units (20 times the amount of his consistent wager) and anticipate lasting the whole session. However, improbable “losing streaks” do happen, this is why lasting the entire session can be believed, but is not certain.
Lastly, some people argue that the consistent wagering method is not a “method” at all. A player either wages analytically (following to a defined method) or at random. While the amount bet does not differ, as in other methods, it is still planned and implemented according to a strategy.
Martingale System
The Martingale system arose in eighteenth-century France as a technique for making money at red/black, even/odd, or high/low wagers on roulette but it is also used on Blackjack.
The Martingale system is very straightforward; it is one of the easiest systems to learn, aside from the constant wagering scheme. The player begins at a single betting unit, and then doubles the amount following each loss, once the player has one they return to the original betting unit. For example, if a player loses one hand, they then place two units on the next hand, should he win, he wins back the previous loss and stands one unit ahead. This is shown in the table below.
HAND: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | … |
WAGER: | 1 | 2 | 4 | 8 | 16 | 32 | 64 | 128 | 256 | 512 | … |
Straightaway, you can see the downside of using this system – it requires a large bankroll. Following a player’s sixth loss, they must wager 32 betting units, and after two more losses, 128 units. This is made even worse if a hand is doubled or split. This sum can be daunting to players. In order for it to be successful in the long run, players have to have a large bankroll and buy in at a low-limit table.
Despite this, this method is effective, so much so that the rules of the game were changed in an attempt to defeat it. Table limits were brought in to defeat players who used followed this method with huge sums of money. The table limit is usually 1,000 times the table minimum, this means that a player using the Martingale system will not be able to recover his losses after the tenth loss, at which point he would be required to wager 1,028 units.
However, this does not make the system invalid. Not only can the player upgrade to a high-limit table if a streak of ten losses does occur, there is less than a 0.01% chance of such a streak taking place.
Nonetheless, there still few players with the bankroll or the strength to closely follow the Martingale as losses increase. This is why numerous different systems were developed from Martingale, these include systems where the amount the player increases the wager are decreased. Two of these offshoot systems (Oscar’s Grind and Labouchere) are shown below.
Oscar’s Grind
Oscar’s Grind is based around playing hands as a series, with the aim of finishing each series with a net win of at least one betting unit. It’s much more conservative than Martingale because the multiplication in wagers is not as striking and does not occur as often. Like Martingale, the player can finish ahead if he has the firmness and bankroll to play each series to its eventual successful end.
The player begins with a single unit, if the first hand is won, the player earns a one-unit profit, and that series ends.
If the player loses the hand, the wager remains the same up until another hand is won, at which point the wager increases by one unit. This continues until the player wins enough hands to recover all previous losses, and come out one unit ahead. At this point the next hand is considered the beginning of a new series.
Below is an example of a series which endures for a dozen hands:
# | BET | RESULT | BALANCE |
1 | 1 | LOSS | -1 |
2 | 1 | LOSS | -2 |
3 | 1 | LOSS | -3 |
4 | 1 | WIN | -2 |
5 | 2 | WIN | 0 |
6 | 3 | LOSS | -3 |
7 | 3 | LOSS | -6 |
8 | 3 | WIN | -3 |
9 | 4 | LOSS | -4 |
10 | 4 | LOSS | -8 |
11 | 4 | WIN | -4 |
12 | 5 | WIN | +1 |
In this sequence, the player wins 5 out of 12 hands this is slightly less than the expected number but finishes with a one-unit gain. If the player had been using the consistent-wager, they would have emerged with a net loss of two units; the Martingale player would have finished with a net gain of five, however they would have needed to bet eight units on a single hand.
There are, however, two disadvantages to Oscar’s Grind. First, it is possible for a player to become “locked” into a very long grind. Whereas Martingale provides an instant recovery at the first win, this system may require a loser to win a number of hands before recovering all previous losses—and not to stop playing until the recovery has been made. Second, keeping track of the net balance over a long series of hands requires considerable concentration. The wagering system may become a distraction from playing basic strategy, and will almost certainly conflict with the ongoing math the player must concentrate upon to implement advanced strategies.
Labouchere
The Labouchere system directs the player to alter their bet based on the result of the previous hand, escalating after losses and lowering after wins, but following a rather more complex equation.
Firstly a sequence of numbers is chosen (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), the wager is decided by the sum of the first and last digit (in this case, 1+6 = 7). Should the hand be won, the first and last numbers are taken off (2,3,4,5) and the following wager is once again the sum of the first and last (2+5 = 7). If the hand is lost, the total wager lost is added to the end of the series (so the new sequence would change from 2,3,4,5 to 2,3,4,5,7—so the next wager is 2+7 = 9). Once all the numbers have been exhausted, the series is ended.
SERIES | WAGER | RESULT | |
(1,2,3,4,5,6) | 7 | L | -7 |
(1,2,3,4,5,6,7) | 8 | W | +1 |
(2,3,4,5,6) | 8 | L | -7 |
(2,3,4,5,6,8) | 10 | L | -17 |
(2,3,4,5,6,8,10) | 12 | W | -5 |
(3,4,5,6,8) | 11 | L | -16 |
(3,4,5,6,8,11) | 14 | L | -30 |
(3,4,5,6,8,11,14) | 17 | W | -13 |
(4,5,6,8,11) | 15 | W | +2 |
(5,6,8) | 13 | W | +15 |
(6) | – | END |
As with Oscar’s Grind, the player should see each series through to its end, and may become “locked” in a very lengthy series in which large losses are endured before its eventual (profitable) finish.