Blackjack is one of the most popular table games in the world and it offers attractive odds for players that understand the key rules. If you keep the house edge in mind, say no to insurance, always split aces and eights, and always stand 17 and up, you have a good chance of success. However, there are some deeper strategies that you can pursue, and these are five of the most exciting:
The Paroli Strategy
When playing blackjack, you can choose to stand, hit, double, split or surrender. Often your decisions will be guided by basic logic – you would not want to hit on 20 or stand on 5, for instance. Slightly more advanced strategy tells you to always hit a hard 12 against a dealer’s 2, always double down on 10 when the dealer’s up-card is 9 or less, or always hit a soft 18 when the dealer’s up-card is 9 or greater. Despite mastering these key tenets, you may come unstuck if you lack a strategy for determining the size of bet you make on each hand.
The Paroli Strategy is a popular positive progression method that encourages you to increase the size of your bet every time you win a hand. When you win your first bet, it instructs you to use all of your profit on top of the original stake for your next hand. It amounts to doubling your money on every win as the size of your bet continually increases, regardless of which blackjack version you play.
Another progressive strategy is the Parlay system. This teaches you to bet more every time you win, but you might only increase your stake by 50% each time. The Paroli strategy is more aggressive, as you continually double your stake in pursuit of riches. If you have a small initial bankroll, the Paroli strategy can help you make a significant profit quickly. However, you need to be disciplined about when you walk away from the table, as your profit can be wiped out with a single loss.
The Martingale Strategy
The Martingale is an extremely aggressive negative progression betting strategy that many blackjack players swear by. It involves increasing your stake every time you lose. If you win a hand, you simply lay down an identical stake for the next hand. However, if you lose, you double your stake. This should help you recuperate any losses when you eventually win a hand, but it is a risky strategy.
For example, you might lose $20 on your first hand, then $40 on your second hand, then $80 and $160, and you could be down thousands of dollars after just seven hands. You should only consider this strategy if you have a large bankroll to start out with. If you are applying basic strategy, it is unlikely that you will lose more than seven hands in a row, so you should be able to maintain your bankroll in the long haul.
However, it can prove difficult to rack up large profits using this system, as you only increase your stake when you lose. You must also bear in mind that many casinos impose a limit on the maximum bet you can place on a single hand. This can quickly scupper your ability to keep doubling your stake when you lose. You therefore need a large bankroll and a blackjack table with high limits if you want to try the Martingale system. Check out the exciting blackjack variations at a leading site, and give it a whirl, but bear in mind the table limits when choosing your initial stake.
The 1-3-2-6 Strategy
This positive progression strategy is popular among blackjack players as it is easy to learn, relatively safe and potentially very lucrative. You start of by betting one unit, then three units, then two units and then six. For example, your initial wager might be $10. If you win, bet $30 on the next hand. If you win again, bet $20 on your third hand and then $60 on your fourth hand. Then you would go back to $10 and start the cycle again.
If you lose a hand, simply start the cycle again, with a one unit bet. This system ensures that you never lose more than a single unit per cycle. It also keeps streaks to just four bets, ensuring you do not run the risk of blowing all your profits in one hand. That makes it a far safer and more restrained blackjack strategy than the Paroli system. However, it does not permit you to quickly earn large profits and walk away. It focuses on sensible bankroll management and relative prudence, so it can ensure you stay at the table longer and enjoy the game.
The Labouchere Strategy
This is a more complicated system than the Paroli, Martingale or Reverse Martingale methods, but it is common in blackjack. It is lumped into the same category as the Martingale system, as it is also a negative progression approach, but it is not as risky. It is also used when playing baccarat, or when betting on red/black on roulette.
You start by choosing a sequence of numbers, such as 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. You then make a bet equal to the sum of the first and last numbers. In this example, you would add 8 and 1 to make 9. If a unit of your bankroll is $10, this would be a $90 bet. If a unit of your bankroll is $1,000, this would be a $9,000 bet. If the hand wins, you cancel out the 1 and the 8 from the sequence and add the two numbers that are now on the outside, add them together to calculate your stake, and keep playing until the series ends.
If the hand loses, the whole lost bet is added to the outside of the sequence. You then add the first and last numbers together again and play until the series ends. It results in a slow but continuous increase in your stake. The idea is that it will ultimately leave the player ahead when the series reaches its conclusion. However, you must finish the series, so you may be locked at the table for a long time, incurring heavy losses before finally reaching the ultimate profit. It requires considerable concentration.
The Kelly Criterion
This is a mathematical formula designed for blackjack card counting. It is essentially a money-management formula that allows you to calculate the optimal amount you should bet when there is a difference between the true odds and the given odds. It is used for asset allocation, money management and sports betting, as well as blackjack. A mathematician called John Kelly Jr. developed it while working at AT&T’s Bell Laboratories in Texas.
The formula is f* = (bp – q) / b. The f is the fraction of your bankroll that you should bet, b is the decimal odds, p is the probability of winning and q is the probability of losing. It only works if you build up your card counting skills, allowing you to figure out the probability of winning and losing, so it is an advanced strategy. Legendary Blackjack Hall of Famer James Grosjean is one of many pros to use the Kelly Criterion to beat the casinos.