Bet sizing during streaks
Card counters should try to be somewhat consistent with what casino employees expect them to bet. For example, if you have been betting $100 per hand for several hands and losing hand after hand, you probably should stick with $100 on the next hand even if the count justifies a higher bet. But if you can give the impression you are “steaming,” then you might jump to $300 or more. If you do increase your bet after a series of losses, give the impression that you are emotional and the bet is impulsive.
All blackjack players will have losing streaks and winning streaks. Do not get overconfident after a big win, and do not get discouraged after a big loss. You will continue to have big wins and big losses, and you cannot predict which will be next. If you play long enough, you will be rich. The long-run odds are with you, even though you will occasionally lose in the short run. Advantage-play skills can turn you into a big winner if you play long enough.
There will be times when everything turns out wrong. You may get so discouraged that you feel like doing the opposite of what the math recommends. The times will also come when the dealer or other players will try to dissuade you from doing something that they think is foolish. Chin up. Have confidence. The math works. Let others think that you are playing foolishly and throwing your money away. You know better.
I should mention that there is no support for the notion that streaks tend to perpetuate themselves. Just because you have won a couple of hands in a row does not make you any more likely to win the next hand, and losing a couple of hands does not make you any more likely to lose the next one. But there is a lot of superstition connected with gambling, and the casino employees who are watching are among the most superstitious. If you can use their superstitions to justify an action you would like to take, then do it. And if you do something that is contrary to their superstitions, you must realize that you will arouse suspicions.
For example, suppose you have been losing hand after hand. This happens, and frequently. The people who are watching, including the dealer, are probably expecting you to cut back on your bet size or perhaps even leave the table. All of a sudden the count goes high, and you want to make a big bet. Go ahead and increase your bet size, but with the realization that your big bet looks irrational to superstitious people watching you. If the count stays high and you continue to bet big and you continue to lose, you should leave the casino as soon as the positive count disappears. The reason is you will have aroused suspicions by betting high while losing; casino employees think that is unusual behavior. There is nothing you can do to get your “ploppy credibility” back. But suspicions not confirmed seem to be forgotten. You can come back the next day and everyone will act as if nothing unusual has happened.
The best situation to be in is to be winning hand after hand and have a high count. When you are winning hand after hand, everyone who is watching is expecting you to bet bigger. To them, no bet seems too large after you win five in a row. One thing you should try to avoid doing is cutting your bet by a small amount after winning several hands in a row. For example, if you have been betting $400 and winning and the count justifies only a $300 bet, do not cut back to $300 because that would look unusual to anyone watching. If you still have an edge, you probably should stick with $400.
If the count went negative, it might be a good time for a restroom break or to end the session.
Excerpted with permission from the e-book version of Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong, edited for this format.
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