If you talk to anyone who plays blackjack (or any casino game) on a regular basis, you are more than likely to hear about their betting system. A betting system increases your odds of winning by varying your bet sizes and adjusting your timing to increase the odds of winning.
When hearing the words ‘betting system’, most people think of the blackjack team comprised of students from MIT. Not only was it the subject of the best-selling book Bringing Down The House by Ben Mezrich, but it was also made into a movie starring Kevin Spacey called 21.
While the movies glamorized the MIT blackjack team, let’s be clear they operated against casino rules. Most betting systems are meant to be used by a single person; the MIT Blackjack Team went a few steps further. The team used a shared bank and consisted of spotters and big players to try and thwart the watchful eye of casino security.
They took basic blackjack strategy, applied their mathematical brains, and developed these skills into a team strategy where the goal was to win at blackjack at all costs. This included card counting and team members playing various roles, all to circumvent being noticed in order to score a profit. While technically not illegal, they did break several well-known casino rules. Rumor has it team members are still banned from playing blackjack in many casinos.
This was an operation and a business, and is not likely to be replicated with today's technological advances in security making it more likely to be spotted.
It is never advisable to take a line that goes against house rules. Even so, there are systems for the recreational casino game player to help them get ahead and which don’t include card counting or flirting between the line of ethical and unethical play.
Before we talk about the famous betting systems you can incorporate into your casino betting strategy, it's important to know all of the systems are based on three basic methods:
1. Positive Progression
Positive progression is designed to take advantage of the cyclical nature of cards. You start with your base bet and increase your bet size with each win, returning to the base bet after a losing hand. Positive progression lets you take advantage of winning streaks and requires less capital.
2. Negative Progression
Negative progression assumes that, even when on a losing streak, you should start to win eventually. Simply, then, you increase the bet after losing a hand to recoup the loss. It requires more capital and carries more risk than the positive progression method.
The insurance method is a compromise between the positive and negative progression methods. Your base bet is higher than a positive progression bet, and the goal is to decrease your betting amounts with each win. It is designed to protect your winnings and to set you up to play with house money.
Knowing the basic methods will help you to understand the nuances of specific betting systems.
The 5 Most Famous Betting Systems
1. The Martingale System
Thought to be the oldest-known betting system, the Martingale system uses the negative progression method and is based on the probability that you will eventually win.
You start with a base of one bet. If you win, you return to the base bet, and if you lose, you double your bet. With each loss, you double the amount of your last bet. When you eventually win, you will recover all of the bets you lost and end up with a one bet profit.
2. The Paroli System
The Paroli system uses positive progression and requires you to increase your bets when you win instead of when you lose. You start with one base bet and return to this base bet after losing a hand.
To increase your bet, you must win two hands in a row. The amount of the increase and how many times you will increase your bet before pulling money back should be decided before play. Most people tend to increase their wager by one base bet and will begin to pull back after five consecutive wins.
3. The 1-3-2-6 System
Similar to The Paroli system, the 1-3-2-6 system uses the positive progression method based on the idea you can win four times in a row.
You start with your base bet. Regardless of whether you win or lose, your second bet is three base bets; the third is two base bets, and the fourth is six base bets. After your fourth bet, you begin the series of bets again.
4. The D'Alembert System
The D'Alembert system is a combination of the negative progression and insurance methods. It simply states that you increase your wager one base bet after a loss and decrease your wager one base bet after a win.
5. The Labouchere System
The Labouchere system is a negative progression method betting system also known as the 'Cancellation' system. You start by writing down a series of numbers. The series can be as long or as short as you want and do not need to be sequential.
Each number in the series represents one base bet. Let's say you chose the numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9. Your first bet is the total of the first and last number. In this example, your bet is ten base bets.
If you win, cross out the numbers and bet the total of the next two outside numbers, which would be three and seven. If you lose the hand, add the amount wagered to the end of the series. Staying with this example, the series is now 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10. Your next bet is again the outside numbers.
As you can see, there are a variety of betting systems that can help you secure a more profitable casino visit. But remember, it's important to determine your bankroll, pick one system and stick with it. Make the rules before you play to increase your odds of leaving with a profit.