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What is a suitable blackjack bankroll?


23 Nov 2017

For anybody seriously considering making the switch from occasional recreational punter to regular full-time gambler, regardless of what their game or sport of choice is, the million-dollar question they will initially ask themselves is whether their bankroll is large enough.

There is no outright answer to the minimum or maximum you will need for a betting bankroll, as the figure hinges on many individual factors.

Ultimately, the answer is not dissimilar to the question of what you would need to earn as a salary to live a comfortable life.

Living in a moderately wealthy area, a couple could arguably live contentedly earning £50,000 a year. They could pay their mortgage or rent, they could sneak a few treats into their weekly shopping, eat out occasionally and enjoy the odd holiday abroad.

However, there is a strong possibility that a couple earning £70,000 a year would end each month with the same amount left in their bank account.

They would arguably live in a more desirable property, socialise more frequently with friends, run a more attractive vehicle and book more regular and lavish holidays.

People live to their means. The same rules can also exist in gambling.

Have a bankroll of £1,000 and a professional blackjack player can start with the tables offering the lowest minimum bets.

Up this figure to £10,000 and the same player is sure to set their sights higher, either remaining at the same table but betting more per hand or moving elsewhere to a table with higher minimums.

Obviously, it is better to have a bigger bankroll. More money means more flexibility in terms of the number of tables available for you to play at. Meanwhile, playing at more expensive tables also increases the likelihood of comps and the opportunity to agree to more favourable playing conditions.

Betting units

Rather than base a bankroll solely on a financial sum, it makes more sense to convert this into betting units.

So, should you sit down with £100 to spend and decide to bet £10 a hand, you have 10 betting units.

The general consensus is that a player should never sit down for a session with less than 50 betting units.
This may seem on the excessive side, but runs of losing hands are inevitable, where every hit on 12 causes a bust and every hit from a dealer 16 brings hand improvement.

It’s important that you have enough betting units to ride any negative streaks, before taking advantage of any positive runs of cards that could follow.

According to casino maths guru The Wizard of Odds, the probability of losing 19 hands of blackjack in a row is one in 1,459,921. Getting dealt a royal flush in video poker is considered 2.25 times more likely than this.

House edge

For those players able to follow perfect blackjack strategy, the house edge is reduced to approximately 0.5% (depending on the exact rules of the table). It is generally considered that the standard house edge in blackjack is closer to seven per cent.

However, this clearly means that even those perfecting the optimum strategy will eventually end up losing.

If you are playing £10 a hand and play continuously for four hours, completing an average of 40 hands every hour, that’s a guaranteed £1,600 outlay in a session, even before the addition of any splitting of pairs or doubling down in seemingly advantageous positions.

It’s not unreasonable to assume this outlay would increase to £2,000.

Playing at a 0.5% disadvantage, should you never adjust your betting unit, you would end this four-hour session down £10.

Strategy and adjusting bet size

It isn’t only any frequent double downs or splitting of pairs that have the potential to cause a bankroll to diminish at a faster pace.

Another is to adjust betting stakes from one unit at times when the situation dictates.

Anyone going to the lengths to memorise perfect strategy and knowing how to play every hand in the book will be counting cards in some fashion. This means keeping a running count to know if a greater number of cards remaining in the deck are of a low value from 2-6 or a higher value from 7-10.

Whether the shoe is valuable to you or not largely relates to how many higher-valued cards remain unseen in the deck, particularly the number of cards with a value of 10.

To have a chance of overcoming the house edge and ending a session in profit, you will raise your stake when a deck is hot.

Meanwhile, you must have a sufficient bankroll to withstand when the cards tip in the house’s favour.

Where the difference between perfect-strategy players lies is how aggressive they are when a deck runs hot, particularly if it is warming, simmering or boiling in terms of the positive count.

It goes without saying that most will be betting maximums, which could be 20 units, when the count is at +15, but some may be betting the same at +8, while others will rein it back a bit to 10 units in these situations.

Obviously, a +15 deck doesn’t guarantee a winning hand and it is still possible for you to lose four in succession. Doing so would have a major negative effect on a bankroll.

So, 50 betting units is considered the minimum you would need for each betting session and from there much hinges on how aggressive you intend to be when the cards are seemingly in your favour.