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Best of John Grochowski

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Experiences with betting progressions

10 August 2010

Every now and again, a column seems to raise as many questions as it answers. That's fine by me. I'll do the best I can with the follow-ups and clarifications.

So it went when I wrote about betting progressions a few weeks ago. Several readers contacted me, offering their own experiences with progressions. One gentleman sent along a chart of a 15-win run that had taken him from a $5 initial wager to an amazing $2,733 profit.

That is the upside of a betting progression. Increasing wagers as you win enables winning sessions far beyond anything possible than betting the same amount each hand. If my e-mail friend had bet a flat $5 a hand, 15 wins followed by a loss would have left a profit of 70 bucks.

A 15-win streak like the one my reader detailed is rare and precious. If we won half our blackjack hands, and the results were like flipping a coin, we could expect a 15-win streak an average of once per 81,290 trials. That's a LOT of blackjack. And we don't win half our hands. Depending on strategy, we win closer to 47% of decisions, ties not included. That makes a 15-win streak even more precious and rare.

Granted, you don't need 15 wins in a row to show a nice profit. In the system I watched a fellow player use a few weeks ago, in which he added $5 to his bet after each win, a modest streak like four wins in a row would bring profits of $5, $10, $15 and $20, for $50 in winnings when a flat bettor would have won only $20.

Still, the downside is that when the results are choppy, when you win a couple of hands leading you to increase your bet only to lose with more money on the table, progressive bettors leave with smaller wins or larger losses than flat bettors. And streaks like two wins, loss, win, three losses, two wins, two losses happen A LOT more often than the bankroll padding winning streaks.

The progression used by my e-mail correspondent in his $2,733 win started out on the conservative side, then became increasingly aggressive with bigger wins. A $5 win was followed by another $5 bet, before wagers increased to $10, $20, $30, $45, $65, $100, $150, $225, $335, and finally maxing out at $500, where it stayed until a loss on hand number 16.

The idea of using a second bet equal to the first win is not unusual among progression players. It's a way to avoid coming up on the losing end in a win-loss sequence. Using a $5 starting point, a win and a loss leaves a player using this progression even, just as it would a flat bettor. If the player was more aggressive, adding $5 after the first win, a $5 win would be followed by a $10 loss, for a net $5 loss.

Once the progression kicks in, even this conservative start is vulnerable to choppy results. A progression player who wins $5, wins $5 and loses $10 just breaks even, while a flat bettor who wins $5, wins $5 and loses $5 has a $5 profit. Streaks like that happen in virtually every blackjack session; the long, spectacular profit-making streaks don't.

Over the long haul, the spectacular wins and the more frequent small losses balance out. They have to. The amount you bet doesn't change the house edge on the game.

A few points I raised via e-mail with those who wrote with additional questions:

  • If you start a betting progression with $5 bets, you wind up wagering more money than someone with $5 flat bets, so in the long run losses will be much larger with the progression. If your progression leads to an average bet of $15 a hand, for instance, your results will mirror those of someone flat betting $15 a hand.


  • Some progressive bettors put a cap on the largest bet. If you don't put a cap on the progression, and just keep increasing your bet until you lose, then you are pretty much guaranteed to lose your largest bet.


  • If you're an average player facing a 2% house edge, then in the long run, you'll lose $20 per $1,000 wagered if you bet flat, and $20 per $1,000 wagered if you use a progression. If you're a basic strategy player facing a half-percent house edge, you'll lose $5 per $1,000 wagered if you bet flat, and $5 per $1,000 wagered if you use a progression. The difference is how you get there. The progression will lead to larger wins, but more frequent losses.


  • If your progression could change the math, the house would run you out, just like they do card counters. But the pros who run the joints know the math is the math is the math.
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski