Blackjack Betting Systems: The Cancellation System
FROM ET FAN:
The Cancellation System: Structured SteamingBy Arnold Snyder
(From Card Player, June 1991)
© 1991 Arnold Snyder
Question from a Reader: Have you ever tested a “cancellation” type betting system for blackjack? I’ve been counting cards for about six months and every time I really get into a hole, I use this cancellation system that I once learned for roulette.
More often than not, I dig myself out. I gave up on trying to beat roulette with this system, due to some unbelievable runs of bad luck, but the house edge at roulette is very high compared to blackjack. Have you ever heard of any professional blackjack players trying a cancellation type betting system?
Answer: I’ve heard of professional blackjack players trying most everything at one time or another, most often for temporary camouflage. But I do not know of any pro who uses any progressive betting scheme seriously.
A “cancellation” system usually requires paper and pencil to keep track of the bets. You start by writing down a series of numbers. You bet the sum of the first number and the last number in the series. If you win, you cross off both numbers. If you lose, you write the total of the two numbers down as your new last number. You continue playing until you’ve crossed off all numbers, then you start a new series.
Here’s the “logic” behind a cancellation system: Every time you win, you cross off two numbers (the first and last). Every time you lose, you add only one number (the sum of the first and last numbers that you had just bet and lost). Therefore, you can lose almost twice as often as you win, and still win your series. If you win your series, you will have profited by the sum of the numbers you originally wrote down.
With a cancellation betting progression, good luck wins quickly, and bad luck usually wins slowly. How wonderful! We should all be rich tomorrow. . . .
The problem, however, is that sometimes “bad luck” means losing more than twice as often as you win. When this happens, as I’m sure you discovered at the roulette tables, the series of bets you need to win your series becomes continually longer and the size of the next required bet keeps getting bigger.
You end up walking away from the table with empty pockets and a long list of numbers that may look “unbelievable” to you, but that is assuredly within the scope of normal fluctuation from the statistician’s perspective. Believe me, you will experience the same “bad runs” at blackjack that you experienced at roulette.
Cancellation betting progressions tend to appeal to compulsive gamblers. “Steaming” is a common term gamblers use that means chasing money you’ve already lost with money you can’t afford to lose. If you’ve already lost the $500 you told yourself was your “loss limit,” and you start chasing it with your grocery money, you’re steaming. When you lose your grocery money, you’ll have to start chasing that with your car payment.
Compulsive gamblers think their bad luck can’t last forever, so if they just hang in there, the tide will turn and they’ll recoup their losses. A cancellation system feeds this fantasy, since you don’t really need “good luck” to win—you just need luck that’s not abysmal.
Unfortunately, gamblers never seem to learn how atrocious luck can be and still be considered normal fluctuation to a mathematician. Although you may have “dug out” from a few of your card counting losses so far, I assure you in the long run, you’ll find yourself holding that long list of numbers, shaking your head.
Look at what you’re doing. You experience negative fluctuations using your counting system — so you stop counting and start using a worthless betting progression. Now you’re no longer placing large bets because you have the advantage (according to your count); you’re placing large bets because two numbers on a slip of paper tell you that this is how much you have to win to start recouping what you’ve already lost.
You’re steaming. With a cancellation system, the more you lose, the bigger your bets will get. They don’t get bigger because the count is going up. They don’t get bigger because the advantage has swung to you, based on the cards remaining to be dealt. They get bigger because you’ve already lost a bundle, so you’ve got to bet more to recoup.
The fact that there’s a strict pattern to a cancellation system — a betting structure that you don’t violate — does not make it an intelligent way to bet your money. This is simply structured steaming. Every time you lose, you raise your betting level. Any betting progression requiring you to bet more as you lose is not only stupid, it’s dangerous.
Valid card counting systems require bets based on both your advantage and the size of your bankroll. If your bankroll diminishes due to negative fluctuations, your bets should decrease proportionately. It has been shown mathematically, and by computer simulation, that not only is this the fastest way to maximize your bankroll with minimum risk, but to bet contrary to this is the road to ruin
You are on the road to ruin. If you’re just playing for fun, with money that is inconsequential to your way of life, then go ahead and fool around with betting progressions if you enjoy betting that way. But understand that you will assuredly lose more than you’ll win.
And don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re a card counter following an intelligent strategy. On the other hand, if you’re really serious about attempting to make money at the blackjack tables, forget all about cancellation systems or any other betting progressions.
If you continually find yourself steaming, and playing with money you can’t afford to lose, then you should seriously consider calling Gamblers Anonymous. You have a problem. ♠
For more information on blackjack betting systems, see the Professional Gambling Library
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