Hail Mary Bankroll System

What do religion and football have to do with Blackjack betting? Those who have heard of the Hail Mary Bankroll System may have an inkling, but for those less widely read, a bit of context is required to understand the thinking behind this novel approach to wagering.

Background of Hail Mary Bankroll System

“Hail Mary,” of course, refers to “Ave Maria,” the so-called “Angelic Salutation” spoken at the beginning of a traditional Christian prayer. It is a way of asking for assistance from the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is also the title of one of Christianity’s most used prayers, which can be found in the Gospel of Luke.

One memorable day in the 1975-76 NFL football season, Dallas quarterback Roger Staubach heaved a desperation pass toward the end zone in the final seconds of a playoff game. The ball was miraculously caught by Cowboys’ wide receiver Drew Pearson for the game-winning touchdown. Afterwards, Staubach was asked how he could possibly make such a risky throw. He replied, “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.”

Ever since then, “Hail Mary” has been used to refer to a go-for-broke pass thrown in the closing moments of a game or, more broadly, any attempt to clinch victory with a single dramatic play. From this, one might imagine that a Blackjack betting system called “Hail Mary” involves some high risk. And sure enough, it does.

Basics of Hail Mary Bankroll System

A “bankroll,” of course, is the total amount of money a player is willing to risk in any given session of Blackjack. Typically, individual wagers are kept to 1%~2% of the bankroll, so a player with $500 at his/her disposal might bet $5 or $10 a hand as a basic unit, increasing it only when the deck is rich in desired cards.

Dealers who see a player suddenly wager a quarter to half of the bankroll on a single hand call it a “Hail Mary” bet. It is most common among players on a losing streak, who are trying to get back to even quickly, or by drunken players that have an inspirational hunch. More often than not, it fails.

However, there are a small number of players who have incorporated the make-or-break wager into their betting strategy.  They will bet big for the size of their bankrolls when a strict set of conditions are met, such as the deck being especially rich in 10s and Aces or poor in 5s. If the ploy is successful, they will return to betting prudently, seeking to protect the big gain for the long haul. If the bet fails, they will immediately quit playing and return only when they have saved up another bankroll to try the Hail Mary again.

Using the Hail Mary Bankroll System

This approach is obviously not for everyone. Those who are most likely to benefit from it are players who have limited opportunities to get to the Blackjack table and want to win (or lose) rather quickly, such as vacationers. A quick win is the desired outcome, of course, but a quick loss can also be beneficial if it prevents the player from gambling on and losing the entire bankroll.

In practice, a Blackjack player should never bet more than 40% to 50% of the bankroll on a single hand. That’s because opportunities for splitting, doubling down, and taking insurance might be comprised otherwise.

Some strategists advise taking time limits into account. A vacationer might save the Hail Mary until an hour or so before it is time to leave for home—equivalent to the closing seconds of a big game. The opposite can also work, making the all-or-nothing bet in the first hour of a trip to get it out of the way and enjoy the rest of the stay with more money or the relief of knowing it’s over.

In either case, there are two keys to the successful Hail Mary Bankroll bet. Timing it to take advantage of the best possible conditions and not out of desperation is one. The other is to remember to say a prayer. As one dealer put it, “The only difference between praying in a church and praying in a casino is that here the players really mean it.”