The game of blackjack is often called “21”, with the presumed goal to get as close to 21, the highest possible score, as possible. Wrong! Blackjack is about individual hands, and the player or players beating the dealer’s hand! The highest possible score is not always the most beneficial score. Strategies abound to “count cards” or alter the odds in the player’s favor. The truth is, the odds of blackjack don’t change in the long-run, but betting strategy can maximize the ability of a player to (1) ensure they play enough hands to use a betting strategy and (2) capitalize on individual instances when the player has the advantage. Betting strategy should be a foundational element of any player’s knowledge of the game. Sit down at the blackjack table with a purpose and a plan; execute your plan.
The most widely used system of betting is flat-betting. Flat-betting is the division of a players gambling funds, or “bankroll”, into equal increments. The player then bets each hand equally, 1 increment. For a player walking in to the casino with $1000, splitting their funds into 50 equal increments would yield $20 increments. Each hand the player bets 1 increment. Flat-betting provides the player with a simple method for staying in the game, in this case around 50 hands, plenty of time to engage the playing strategy of the player. Playing through a six or eight deck shoe requires playing many hands, and a “hot streak” can develop at any time. Conversely, bad luck or bad odds can similarly develop at any time. A player who can weather the downturn, losing 5 hands in rapid succession, stays competitive and focused. Players have to play the hands in order to win them, and flat-betting provides a straightforward, responsible mode of betting that first time players can follow, and more expert players can exploit to their advantage.
Flat-betting requires the division of a player’s bankroll into increments. This is valuable not only for strategy, but as a means of psychological resilience. One of the reasons the casino gives the player chips is that players more readily bet and lose chips than if they played with cash; players disassociate their money and their chips, making it easier to lose a few colored tokens than some crisp $100 bills. Betting increments work the same way. By removing the money amount from betting decisions the player is partially insulated from the loss or gain. Instead of losing $40, a player loses 2 increments. Increments make understanding the math behind blackjack odds easier as well. Doubling bets, and calculating winning potential in terms of increments is simpler when dealing with 1 and 2, rather than amounts of $75 or $55 being paid 6:5 or 3:2. Flat-betting keeps the player at the table engaged with strategy rather than financial concerns, focusing on playing each hand.
Blackjack betting strategy encompasses more than just flat-betting and increments. In future articles we’ll take a look at the many systems that have been used by players, professionals and amateurs, the mathematics to support these betting systems, and considerations like win/loss limits, different blackjack rules, other players, and card counting. Blackjack is a game, and playing should be fun. But the dedicated player who sits down at the table with a purpose and a plan wants to stand up from the table with more chips than when they sat down. We’re all looking to win, and betting strategy is a key component in winning consistently at the tables. In that vein, a blackjack player’s education is never finished. Mastering the fundamentals enables the execution of advanced techniques and getting a better read on where to play and when. Here are some pictures with explanations to add clarity, best of luck!