Blackjack Betting Systems
Playing blackjack well requires a combination of mathematics and strategy. It’s not surprising that over the years, a number of different systems have been devised for how to bet hands in blackjack.
Some of the most common blackjack betting systems are described here. Most of these are what’s known as “progressive” systems in which bets increase as play goes on.
The Martingale System
One of the oldest and simplest types of betting systems, Martingale is a negative progression betting system, based on the probability of losing. It works like this:
Say you start by betting $1. You lose, so next you bet $2. You lose again, so your next bet would be $4. Lose again, and the bet becomes $8. Then you win, gaining $8, or a $1 profit over your combined bet of $7. Next hand, you start over by betting $1, doubling the bet again each time you lose.
Typically the Martingale system isn’t recommended for blackjack for several reasons.
For starters, a player needs a very large bankroll for the system to work successfully, since it’s predicated on losing an infinite number of bets. It’s common for players to lose 7 to 8 hands in a row in blackjack, at tables where the minimum betting unit is $5.
Do the math: Suddenly you’re betting large amounts for a potential gain of one betting unit ($5). You’ll run out of your bankroll before the Martingale system brings any benefit.
The Paroli System
The Paroli betting system is considered a strategy that’s opposite the Martingale system, meaning that Paroli is a positive progression tactic. With Paroli the starting wager is also one unit, but if you win the first then next bet increases instead of decreasing as with Martingale.
An overall betting plan works best if a player wants to use the Paroli system. For example, players using Paroli should set a top limit to the amount they’ll increase their bets before starting over. This strategy also depends on what game is played and what the odds are.
Let’s imagine that you’re playing online blackjack with a $100 bankroll. Using Paroli strategy, you’ve decided to start betting at $2 each. You bet $2 and win $2, so you make your second bet $4. You win the second bet, so you double the bet again to $8. Lucky you, the third bet is another winner. Given the size of your bankroll, you decide that $8 is your maximum bet with the Paroli system. Next bet you’re back to $2.
Paroli is a pretty stable betting system compared to others, which makes it a possible strategy for blackjack.
The Parlay Betting System (“Let It Ride”)
Parlay, or “Let It Ride,” resembles Paroli because it’s also a positive progression betting system. In reality, Parlay is actually one of the oldest wagering forms, derived originally from the ways that the first banks computed compound interest on loans (remember, playing the stock market is one of the most common forms of gambling there is).
Should the word “parlay” sounds familiar, it’s because it’s most commonly used in betting for horse racing. In fact, some think that Parlay fixes the flaws in the Martingale system. If Martingale and Paroli could be considered “stair-step” systems, Parlay works like a pyramid to maximize profit. This system takes the original bet plus original winnings and uses them for future bets.
With Parlay a player starts simply by making any size bet. Win that bet, and combine that bet plus winnings (or a portion thereof) as the next wager. Win the second wager, and continue the same practice.
Here’s an example in blackjack. Let’s say you’re playing at a casino blackjack table where the limit is $5 – $100. Suppose you’re flush and decide to bet the max. Lo and behold, Lady Luck drops a blackjack on you and you win $150 at 3:2 odds. With Parlay strategy, your next bet would be your $150 winnings plus your $100 original bet, or $250. So let’s hope Dame Fortune keeps grinning, eh?
While large amounts can make it seem risky, Parlay actually works better in blackjack than other systems, and works well with other betting and game strategies. This makes Parlay a useful tool for blackjack players.
The 1-3-2-6 Betting System
The name says it all. The system is a pattern: bet 1 unit, then 3 units, then 2 units and then 6 units. The system is based on the premise that a player can win 4 hands in a row. It’s another positive progression system, meaning that the bets increase upon a win.
Let’s assume that each unit $5 (the typically minimum bet at a casino blackjack table), with even money odds (1:1). The first bet would be $5. Winning the first bet, a player would add $5 to the $10 on the table. Win the second bet, and there’s $30 total. Take back $20, so the third bet is $10. Win the third bet, there’s $20 on the table. Add back the $10, making a total of $30. Win the fourth bet and the total is $60, all net profit. At this point the cycle is complete, so the next bet starts back at the beginning unit of $5.
Should a player lose at any point before the cycle ends, the cycle starts over.
For all its intrigue, and the possibility of winning a large amount while risking only a small amount, this betting system isn’t recommended for blackjack. The requirement to win 4 hands in a row to complete the betting cycle runs counter to the reality of blackjack play.
The Labouchere Betting System
Labouchere is another venerable betting system that’s been around long enough to get a slew of nicknames: “Cancellation,” “Crossout,” “Labby,” and “Split Martingale.” A negative progression system, Labouchere has many variations (possibly the source of its many names). Here it is in the simplest form.
Write down a set of numbers. The numbers don’t have to be in sequence, and the string can be short or long. The choice of the numbers in the series, and the length of the series, depends on the game being played and the odds.
Each number in the series represents an amount in units to bet. Add up the first and last numbers in the series and bet this amount. Win that bet, and then cross out those numbers and add up the new last and first numbers in the series.
Complete all the numbers and that’s one cycle, so start over from the beginning. The bet is lost, write the number wagered (the first and last numbers added together) at the end of the series of numbers. This adds a new number to betting series for every bet lost.
For an example, say use the series 1 2 3 4 5 6. Your first bet will be 7 units (1 plus 6, the first and last numbers). Thus when playing at a blackjack table with a minimum $5 bet, the first bet would equal 7 units times $5 per unit, or $35.
Win the first bet with 7 units, and the new series becomes 2 3 4 5 because the first numbers are cross out. The next bet would also be 7 units (2 plus 5) times the $5 minimum bet, or $35. However, if the first bet had been lost, a player would ad that number (7) to the series, making it 1 2 3 4 5 6 7. Thus the next bet would be 8 units, or $40.
The Labouchere betting system can work in blackjack, since it always results in profits when a player cycles through his or her series of numbers by winning all bets.