Columnist

Forget money management gambling systems

 
 
Published: 8/22/2008 12:08 AM

I just met another blackjack player who thinks he can beat the game with a money management system. Some of these systems are based on a clever betting progression, and others are based on win-goals with stop-losses.

Well, here's the grim truth about that. Every born loser thinks the key to winning at gambling is money management. Now hear this. Come up to the blackjack table armed with a betting progression and/or a quit-point strategy and the casino will love you - and eventually bankrupt you!

Why can't these strategies work? It's because they do nothing to change the mathematical properties of the gambling proposition you've entered into. Let's take the "quit while you're ahead" strategy as an example.

Suppose you were flipping a coin with your buddy every day for a dollar per flip. He'd play forever, but you could quit any time you wanted to. So you decide you'll play until you get one dollar ahead, then quit for that day, and come back tomorrow. Playing like that, what percentage of your days do you think would be winners? The answer is, a little over 80%.

Now, 80 percent may sound like an impressive session win rate - but - it's not good enough to make you an overall winner at the game if that's your sole strategy! Why not? Because you're still going to end up winning 50% of all your flips!

The fact that you've hand-picked the points where you'll step back (quit) and admire your progress has done nothing to cause you to win more flips overall. All you're going to do is have a whole bunch of $1 winning days, and a few scattered days where you lose $3, or $5 or $10. Overall though, the pluses and minuses will still add up to zero.

You see, gambling is a long run journey landscaped with many hills and valleys. When you quit simply because you're ahead, you're merely choosing to park on a hill rather than in a valley - but - the road is still taking you to the same place! And that place is determined solely by the percentages of your gambling proposition.

The same would be true if you always quit for the day after losing say, five flips in a row. All quitting here would do is put time in between your last flip and your next. You've got the same chance to win your first flip tomorrow as your next flip right now! Your coin flip odds remain 50-50 and that's still going to be your final result.

What about applying a betting progression to your coin flip game? Say your buddy agreed to letting you "bump up" your bet after every winning flip with a $1-$3-$5 progression to take advantage of your streaks. But after each loss, you'll always bet just $1. Would you have the best of him then? Absolutely not and the reason can be confusing, but if you want to understand why progressions don't work, you should read this.

For any three coin flips, there are eight ways they can come out - no more, no less. You can go W-W-W, W-W-L, W-L-W, L-W-W, W-L-L, L-W-L, L-L-W and L-L-L. Furthermore, every sequence will come up as often as any other.

It's easy to see that going W-W-W with your progression wins $9. Yet, going L-L-L loses only $3. That may look enticing and I won't bore you with the rest of the math, but after you go through all the sequences, you'll have $12 won and $12 lost! This progression and any other, will cancel itself out perfectly, whether it's over the course of three averaged bets or 3000.

To win at blackjack takes a legitimate winning strategy designed for blackjack.

For a signed copy of Fred's book, send $16 to "Blackjack Bluebook II", P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL 60009.