Basic Blackjack Systems
Basic Blackjack Systems are battle plans for winning money when playing real money blackjack. They set a course of action for turning the tables, giving the player the advantage, and defeating the house at its own game. Some of these systems work extremely well over the short term, but fail badly if used too long. Others have proven to be slow and steady profit accumulators, successful in the long run, but requiring patience, concentration, and undeviating devotion to a very specific set of principles. Most are relatively easy to learn and master. All of them have their benefits and flaws.
Learning and applying more than one system is advisable when, so that the player can vary his/her approach according to different circumstances. Like having a professional toolkit, knowing numerous systems allows the right one to be employed at the right time. Following is a summary of a dozen of the most popular Basic Blackjack Systems in use today.
Martingale – This so-called “negative progression” requires the player to double up the wager after every loss until a win is achieved. Following a win, the player goes back to the original wager. The idea is that one win will pay for all of the preceding losses and yield a profit. It works well over the short term, but when long losing streaks occur, it can become very expensive and risky.
Paroli (Anti-Martingale) – As the name implies, this is a so-called “positive progression” that requires the player to double up the wager after every win until a pre-determined goal is achieved. The goal is to win a series of consecutive bets, usually three or four, in order to yield a large net profit. If sufficient profit is gained from short winning streaks, it will more than cover any losses that occur.
d’Alembert – This system relies upon the “Law of Equilibrium,” assuming that the number of hands a player wins and loses will, over the long term, be very close to 50-50. Following a loss, the player increases the wager by one unit. Following a win, the wager is reduced by one unit. The progression ends when the required bet is zero, and then it begins again.
Contra d’Alembert – This is the opposite of the d’Alembert system. Instead of requiring you increasing the wager after a loss and decreasing it after a win, the wager is increased by one unit following a win and returns to the initial wager after a loss. The goal is to win as much as possible during winning steaks, while limiting losses on losing ones. The player must determine at what point a series of wins is sufficient to restart the progression.
Fibonacci – This negative progression has the player wager the amount of the last two losses, crossing them off from the series when a win occurs and adding any newly lost amount to the end. The strategy is to cross off numbers twice as fast as they are added. Eventually, when all of the numbers in the series have been crossed off, the progression begins again.
Labouchere – Also known as the “cancellation system,” this is another negative progression that requires wagers to be increased when losses occur. However, it begins with a series of numbers, such as 1+2+3+4. The player wagers the first and last numbers. If the hand wins, those two numbers are crossed off and the remaining two numbers are bet. Upon a loss, the amount of the loss is added to the end of the series and the first and last numbers are bet. This continues until all numbers have been crossed off.
One Half Up or 50% Betting System – After winning a hand, the wager is increased by half of the original bet. After a loss, wagering returns to whatever was bet initially. A variation on this is to increase the wager only after two consecutive wins.
Insurance Betting System – This is similar to the One Half Up system, but going the opposite direction—One Half Down. It requires the player to decrease the bet by half following each loss and return to the original bet after a win.
Parlay Betting System – In this positive progression, the player is required to “let it ride” on a win, reinvesting the original wager and all winnings until a series of consecutive wins (usually three or four) has been achieved. Upon success, or after any loss, betting returns to the original wagering level.
1-3-2-6 Betting System – The goal is to win four hands in a row, betting one unit until it wins, and then three units. If it wins, then two units are wagered, followed by six units after a third win. Any loss resets the progression to one unit.
Quarter Wagering – This system has the player divide his/her bankroll by four and wager that amount each time. The theory is that wagering will increase to take advantage of streaks when the player is winning and decrease to limit losses when the player is losing frequently. It is not a particularly sophisticated approach to wagering, but may be useful when only a short time is available to play. Profits can be made quickly; losses occur just as fast.
Hail Mary Bankroll – The name derives from American football, where a quarterback with say a prayer (“Hail Mary”) as he risks everything to throw the ball to the end zone in the hopes that one of his receivers will catch it and win the game. It is a “last chance” type of play. In Blackjack, this is not equivalent to “going all in.” Instead, it refers to making occasional large wagers relative to the size of the bankroll—typically 40~50%. Timing is everything, of course. The attempt should be made only when the deck is favorable. And the reason a Blackjack player does not “bet it all” is to hold a reserve for a possible double down or split opportunity.
* Note – In this discussion, “System” refers a way of managing wagers to gain profits. It should not be confused with “Basic Blackjack Strategy,” which refers to techniques for playing the actual cards that are dealt.