The Art of Blackjack Betting

The Art of Blackjack Betting

by Manu

Becoming a successful blackjack player isn’t just about coming to grips with strategy, or committing to a card counting system. It’s also about having a good understanding of the art of betting. There are many ways a player can place a bet (or wager) during the game, so the best way to avoid suffering losses at the casino is to know your betting options inside out. 

Note:  This article assumes that you are not a card counter.   But you should at least have memorized basic strategy which will help minimize your losses and give you a better chance to get lucky at the tables.

Blackjack Layout

Always remember to check the minimum bet at the table before you play, in order to avoid any embarrassment once the game has started. Place your wager in the betting area before the cards are dealt. Once the cards have been played and you are still in the game, you have several options. It is possible to double down on your wager by placing the same amount next to the original bet. If you are holding two of a kind, there is the option of matching the original wager, splitting the cards and playing two separate hands.

Rules:  For complete rules to the game of blackjack check out the section in The Encyclopedia of Casino Twenty-One.

Although dealers and casinos will encourage you to take out “insurance”, this is almost always a bad idea as the house edge is upwards of 7%. This is because you need to bet half of your original wager to take out the insurance. When you choose this game option, you are waging that the second card will be a ten or face card. The chances that the dealer has a ten in the hole is four times out of 13, or roughly 31% of the time. This makes it an unviable financial move for the player.

If you are relatively new to the game, you may want to consider placing flat bets, which means betting the same amount each time you play. This is not a hugely popular way of betting, however, as it lacks the thrill of placing larger bets and reduces the chances of winning big.

Varying bets from one hand to the next is known as progressive betting*. This method can be used in several different ways, but the common theme is that you increase or decrease the next bet depending on whether you won or lost your most recent hand. For example, a win progression bet would mean that you increase the size of the bet after a winning hand. The most common type of win progression is increasing bet size in multiples of 1-2-3-5, a progression that has been known to lead to larger wins if the player wins consecutive hands. However, it is worth remembering that there is no correlation between the outcome of the most recently played hand and the chances of winning the next one, so betting progressions won’t improve your chances of winning over the long term. The good thing about progression betting is that it increases your chances of winning bigger money when compared with the flat betting method.

*Warning: It is impossible to gain an advantage in this game with progressive betting and it can be very dangerous to attempt progressive betting after a loss. An example of a betting progression is the Martingale.

Skilled and experienced card counters will know when they have an edge and bet accordingly.  Card counting allows a player to know when it’s the right time to bet higher sums, because it takes into account cards played in previous hands rather than whether the last hands were won or lost. When cards of less value (low cards) have already been played, it increases the chance that cards with higher values (high cards) remain in the pack. 

Players should also keep in mind the types of bets to avoid. Casinos have been known to try and sway the odds in their favor by introducing certain moves that give them a higher edge. Keep your eyes peeled for tables that pay 6:5 for a blackjack as opposed to the standard 3:2. This reduction of the pay-out adds 1.39% to the casino’s advantage. Casinos may also allow a dealer to hit a soft 17 (“soft” hands being those that include an ace, valued as an 11 or a one) rather than standing. This gives the dealer the advantage in the long run and increases the casino’s edge by 0.2%.  It is always better to play in games where the dealer stands on soft 17. 

There is also the matter of proposition bets to consider. Proposition bets are side bets made on outcomes incidental to the game. They tend to be personal wagers made between players and are generally best avoided. Famous examples of these types of wagers are casino exile bets, each of which results in one of the players being required to live somewhere else for a specified period of time.



New Blackjack History Database Tool

Just completed a new Blackjack History Database Tool on the BJRNET site.

Did a blackjack, card counting or related gambling event happen in 1948, or in the month of January, or during April 1977?  Check the Blackjack History Database Tool. You can search by any combination of month, day and year.  Or view all of the historical events we’ve managed to find on our History of Blackjack and Card Counting page.

Also, you can search by event type.  For example, there is a listing for Blackjack Ball.  This brings up only events about Max Rubin’s annual Blackjack Ball.

I hope you will find this useful.  If you like it, please contribute an event not already listed.

Use of Rolling Chips in North America

From Bill Zender’s email discussing his upcoming activities and events.

June 6, 2017

Dear Friends and Business Associates,

I am sorry that I haven’t kept in touch with everyone.  Between closing out my house in Las Vegas and working abroad, I didn’t have much time in which to pen my usual monthly eBlasts.  Now things have settled down, and I have some much needed breathing space.  I can start catching up with my normal routine which involves keeping everyone informed of my availability (for my benefit), and to discuss some of the issues and problems I have seen in the gaming industry over the last several months (hopefully, your benefit).

The Use of Rolling Chips in North America

Attached to June’s eBlast is a link to a report I just finished.  Over the past spring, it has come to my attention that a number of North American casino operators are searching for information on the use of non-negotiable chips in conjunction with a marketing program known in other parts of the world as “rolling chip” or “dead chip” programs.  The rolling chip/dead chip program is used extensively overseas to market and track high limit VIP baccarat customers.  A number of casinos have started similar programs domestically here in the USA and Canada.  I have also realized that the motivation to enter into a rolling chip program is stemming from requests by junket representatives, and marketers who work outside the casino operations.  In some instances, this could turn out to be a costly situation for the casinos.

These junket reps have informed the different casino marketing departments that they can provide a number of high limit baccarat players if the casino offers this non-negotiable chip form of player tracking. Unfortunately, many executives in casino operations who have either started the rolling chip programs or are strongly considering starting one, are misinformed as to the mathematics behind rolling chip “theoretical win” (T-win) projections, and are relying on the outside promoters and marketers for this information.  As one can imagine, this presents a seriously dangerous situation for the casino operators.

Because of this disturbing trend, I have compiled a report, or “white paper” if you may, that discusses several issues everyone considering entering the rolling chip/dead chip program needs to know.  The link is as follows: Rolling Chip Program in North AmericaFor some reason, a very inflated T-win percentage has been “floating” around that I’m having difficulty in pinning down the mathematics.  The higher percentage might be related to the mathematical win difference between the standard 5% Banker commission game, and the 1 to 2 Banker payoff on the “Punto Banco 6” version that is used extensively in Asia.  Regardless of the way it is calculated, the higher T-win percentage projects a higher than expected game revenue potential that subsequently helps to falsely support higher commission paybacks to either the customer or the junket rep (or both).  In many cases, domestic casinos are giving back a “lions share” of the win potential to outside interests while maintaining 100% of the gaming “risk”.  It is in the best interest of anyone entering into or considering a rolling chip program to read this report.

Marking Cards in Face-up Blackjack

A week ago I received an email from a casino executive who inquired about possible marked playing cards he had recently found on a face-up game of blackjack.  This is the second time I’ve heard about this possible scam in the last several months.  I think his question and my reply needs to be read by everyone on my eBlast list.  The question he sent me will be followed by my reply to him.

I have something that came up that has me really stumped.  While sorting cards from a six deck game at the end of the shift, one of the dealers found that a number of cards had a dimple or dent in the middle of the backs of the cards.  The cards were a number of 10s through Aces but not all.  When we went back over the play on that table, we only had one player betting black chips, but he won several thousand dollars.  Surveillance ran the player down for counting but found nothing.   My question is how would only a certain group of cards get dented like that in a face up game, and do you think we might have been hit by cheaters?  I haven’t seen anything like this before.

There is a strong possibility you experienced a card marking team.  If the tens and aces were dented, the cheater were probably using a “top card” marking system.  If a card sitting on top of the shoe is marked (dented) the player sitting in first seat (before the shoe) will wager up to maximum bet, and if the card is not marked, the player will wager around their minimum bet.  Not all the cards are marked because it takes a long time to make sure all the “target” cards are marked.

Usually with this scam, the cheaters send in a team of players who “dent” the faces of the cards hours before the play actually goes down when the table has minimum action.  They dent the cards by hitting the faces of the cards with a chip or the tip of their fingers.  By denting the face of the playing card, one also creates a dent on the back of the card as well.  Cards marked in this manner must be read while in the window of the shoe when glare from overhead lighting reflects off the dent or bend.  After several shoes (and hours of play), the card marking team leaves the game.

As I mentioned previously, hours later the cheaters return with their “big player”.  They approach management and request a higher limit (sometimes).  Then they either get a private game for the big player, or have him sit in the first seat position in order to always receive the first card (top card) of the shoe.  A second cheater either stands or sits at the table around 5th/6th position to read the top card of the shoe.  When the top card is dented (marked), he signals the big player to place a maximum bet.  This gives the cheaters an approximate 20% edge on that wager.  If the team marking the cards is able to mark 70% of the tens and aces, a marked card will appear as the top card prior to the next hand about 25% of the time.

If you still have the video of the black chip customer’s play, see if there is a correlation between his increase in wager size, and the appearance of a ten or ace as his first card.  If so, then you need to go back over the entire day to see if you can spot the cheaters who marked the game.  You may be able to get enough video evidence to take it to the authorities.  If you have any other questions, please let me know.  Good luck with your review.

Unfortunately, I never heard back from this individual so I don’t know whether or not his surveillance personnel found anything suspicious.   Some executives believe that marking cards in a face-up game is impossible.  This is not true.  Although the act of hitting the face-up card in plain sight is obvious, these teams train to make the move look like a show of excitement, or pointing out a “lucky” card to their friend.  Here is more information on the scam setup:

First, the cheaters must find a table where the overhead light shines down and reflects off the top card of the shoe.

Second, the cheaters have to mark up the cards using a highly overt action of touching the face of the cards as they lay on the table.  This motion is usually done at the moment the dealer starts his/her bet settlement process.  The card markers will sit in the last two positions on the table and will usually control two to three hands.  The cheaters have to mark the cards without drawing suspicion to their intentions so they may use several different players over a several hour period.

Third, hours later they will confirm the marked cards are still on the game, and if so, have their “big player” buy-in and play the first hand positon.

I hope the information in this email, reply, and follow up comments gives you better insight into protecting your blackjack games.

Seminars and Workshop
As of today, I have no public seminars or workshops planned.  Since I do have some open time this summer and early fall, I may look to holding a Game Protection or Table Games Management class in different areas of the country outside of Las Vegas.  Please watch for future eBlast to find out what seminars, dates, and locations will be available.

On the Move
The dog days of summer are upon me.  Right now I’m almost filled for June, but have a couple of weeks in July, and the most part of August open.  If you have any questions, let me know

Washington DC
Northern California

Las Vegas BOD Meeting
Northern California

Northern California
Las Vegas BOD Meeting

Usually, I’m pretty much booked two months in advance.  As you see I have a bit of time open throughout the summer.  Please let me know if I can provide one of my services for your organization.


I’m always available to answer your questions. If you have any questions on gaming; don’t hesitate in contacting me through email.  I answer close to a half dozen email on gaming every day

Cheers and good luck.

Bill Zender
Bill Zender and Associates

Copyright © 2017 Bill Zender and Associates, All rights reserved.