The Art of Blackjack Betting
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.
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 Blackjack.
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.