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Best of John Grochowski
Some Betting Systems Win and Lose14 February 2002
A few months ago, I wrote that it's easy to design betting systems that win more often than they lose, but that designing systems that actually make money was another matter entirely.
Last week, a reader phoned to challenge me.
"I play blackjack," he said. "Show me how I can win more hands than I lose."
That I can't do. No matter what strategy or system you use at blackjack, you'll lose more hands than you win. But I didn't say it was easy to design a system that wins more HANDS than you lose, just one that wins more OFTEN than you lose.
"OK, so how do you win more OFTEN than you lose?"
The best way is to learn to count cards. By betting more money in situations where the composition of the deck favors the player and less when the deck favors the dealer, the player can actually gain a small mathematical edge over the house. Card counting is a rare system that not only wins more often than it loses, but makes money.
"Yeah, but how many players can count cards?"
Not many. It takes a lot of effort. Few players have the knowledge, skill and bankroll to make counting cards work.
"That's what I thought. Isn't there a way average players can win more often than they lose? Money management or something?"
There are ways, but I hesitate to mention them because they're hazardous to your bankroll.
"What do you mean?"
They'll win more often than they lose, but when they lose, they'll give back all your wins and then some.
The old Martingale system, in which you double bets after losses, is one of them. Lose a $5 bet, then bet $10. Lose that, then bet $20, and so on. When you finally win a hand, you have a profit equal to the original bet. But losing streaks are inevitable, and you quickly find yourself up against betting limits. After seven losses, your eighth bet would have to be $640. If you're playing with $5 minimums and $500 maximums, you can't make a bet large enough to recoup losses. Anyway, would you want to have $640 on the line for a chance to win $5?
"Sounds dangerous. I lost my first nine hands the other day. Let's see, my 10th bet would have to be--"
"Ouch. I'm beginning to see what you mean about systems winning more often than they lose but still losing money."
You've actually chosen a game, blackjack, that's less suited for systems play than other games because it has only one bet. In craps and roulette, players try to cover up the weaknesses of one bet by adding others. It doesn't really work. The result can be systems that win more often than they lose, but they're still losing systems.
"Can you tell me a couple?"
Sure, let's try a couple of easy ones.
In craps, you start with a $5 bet on the field. You win if the roll is 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 or 12. There's one way to roll 2, two to roll 3, three to roll 4, four to roll 9, three to roll 10, two to roll 11 and one to roll 12, so right away that's 16 winning rolls. Add a $2 bet on any 7, and now you win on another six rolls. Twenty-two of the 36 possible rolls of the dice are winners.
If the roll is 3, 4, 9, 10 or 11, you win $5 on the field and lose $2 on any 7, for a profit of $3. If the roll is 2, you're paid 2-1 for a $10 win on the field, and the loss on 7 makes for an overall profit of $8. If the roll is 12, you're paid either 2-1 or 3-1, depending on house rules, so you have either a $10 or $15 win, meaning an $8 or $13 profit for the win. If the roll is 7, you win $8 for the 4-1 payoff on your $2 bet. The loss on the field takes your profit on the roll to $3.
Your total profits on those 22 rolls are either $68 or $73, depending on whether 12 pays 2-1 or 3-1. Problem is, on the other rolls, you lose both bets for a total of $7 per roll. The 14 losses total $98, so the system is losing you $25 or $30 even while it wins 22 of 36 rolls.
Just as in craps, there are many ways to win more often than you lose. One way would be to bet $10 on red or black, either of which gives you 18 ways to win, then split a $5 bet across 0 and 00. If you bet on red and a red number turns up, your payoff is $10 and your profit, after losing the 0-00 bet, is $5. If the roll is 0 or 00, the payoff is 17-1, and you win $85 while losing your $10 on red for a profit of $75.
Your 20 winning spins bring $240 in winnings, but your 18 losses of $15 each total $270.
"So what do you recommend?"
For a blackjack player such as yourself who doesn't want to count cards--and that's the large majority--learn basic strategy and stick with it. It won't win more often than it loses, but it'll cut the house edge to the bone and give you a fighting chance.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of John Grochowski