Overbetting at blackjack

Perhaps your attitude toward risk of ruin is that you are willing to wager more than the optimal amount on each blackjack hand. For example, maybe your capital is only $1,000 but you are willing to use $25 as your big bet.

If you bet more than the optimal bet size, you are overbetting. Overbetting will cause you to win more when you are lucky and to lose more when you are unlucky. To avoid going broke, you would have to cut your bet size after a series of losses. The disadvantage of overbetting is that the extra win when you are lucky is outweighed by the accelerated bet cuts dictated by the bigger losses when you are unlucky. You can overbet for a while and get away with it, but the person who bet the optimal amount consistently will make more money over the long haul than the person who overbets consistently.

Overbetting can be financially fatal

If you continually overbet you will go broke even though you have an advantage. Do not overbet. If you do not understand why overbetting is bad, deal 100 hands to yourself and pretend bet, say, one-fourth of your capital on each round. You must recalculate your capital after each round. Your capital goes down fast, even if you win more hands than you lose.

Stopping Rules

A cousin problem of overbetting is what to do when you are losing and running out of pocket cash. Always keep enough money to split a pair or to double down. For example, if you are down to your last $200 and the pack is very profitable, the most you should bet is $100, or $50 for each of two hands. Save the other $100 in case you must double down or split a pair. Try to carry enough cash so that you do not get into this position. Never make a bet that you would be unwilling or unable to match if you should have to split a pair or double down. You have an advantage over the dealer only if you are willing and able to play the hands correctly.

Although a time comes during a losing streak when you should stop, namely, when you run out of pocket cash, no rule for stopping governs a winning streak. The probability of your winning the next hand from an honest dealer is the same whether you have been losing or winning. Quitting offers no advantage when you are a certain number of dollars ahead. True, it is disappointing to make only $6,500 on a trip when you were $12,000 ahead at one time, and you may tend to blame yourself for being greedy; you tell yourself that you should have quit with the $12,000. Cheer up — you did the right thing in continuing to play. No optimal stopping rules exist. You never know whether you are right now at a high point or whether you will continue to win in the hours ahead. If you are playing correctly, the chances of your winning another thousand dollars always exceed the chances of your losing another thousand dollars.

Never become apprehensive, and never become satisfied. If you think you are being cheated, then of course stop betting. Your chance of being cheated by a dealer in a legal casino in Nevada or other well-regulated jurisdictions is close to zero.

Excerpted with permission from the e-book version of Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong.


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