Blackjack Betting for Card Counting Camouflage
Courtesy of ET Fan:
The "Up and Down" Betting System For Card Counting CamouflageBy Arnold Snyder
© 1995 Arnold Snyder
[From Card Player, February 1995]
Question from a Reader: What do you think of a betting strategy for card counting where you always come off the top of the shoe with a midsize bet, say $25, then cut back to smaller bets, say $20, then $10 and even $5 as the count goes down, but raise up to $50 and then $100 as the count goes positive? I call this my “Up & Down” card counting betting system.
All the books I’ve read — and I think I’ve read them all — say that you should always come off the top of the shoe with your low bet. I find I can get away with a much bigger spread with card counting if I come off the top with a midsize bet, then spread up or down with the count. I have been winning more since I started playing this way, but a card counter friend tells me I have just been lucky, and that this “Up & Down” betting strategy is unwise.
Answer: In order to do a really thorough analysis of your strategy, I’d need a few more facts — the number of decks in play, the shuffle point, the rules, the card counting system you’re using, and the exact count parameters you use to alter your bet size. With all the facts, this would be pretty easy to set up for a computer simulation.
I can give you some general guidelines, however. The books all tell you to come off the top with your minimum bet, because right off the top of the shoe the house has the advantage. Any time the house has the advantage, you’d prefer to bet nothing. This is why many card counters who play against shoes table hop. They literally bet nothing when the count is negative.
Sometimes, conditions are not favorable for table-hopping, and some players — due to factors like poor eyesight or less physical stamina — find that table-hopping is simply not a practical approach to beating the game. In this case, you do need a more substantial betting spread to beat a shoe game than you would need to beat a single or double-decker.
But, let’s say you’re playing in a very paranoid casino, where all you can get away with is a 1-to-4 spread, say $25 to $100. You know if you try to spread from $5 to $100, you’ll set off warning bells in the pit, and the heat will come down.
However, you discover that if you come off the top of the shoe with $25, you set off no warning bells if you later spread down to $5, even if you sometimes later spread up to $100. Is this a preferable betting strategy to the $25-$100 strategy?
Absolutely. In fact, a $25-$100 betting strategy would barely break even in many shoe games. The $5-$100 strategy — even if you come off the top with $25 — is a substantially more profitable method of attack for any card counter in a blackjack game.
Your “Up & Down” method of spreading from $5 to $100 is substantially less profitable than an ideal $5-$100 betting strategy, in which you would come off the top with $5, and only bet more when the advantage goes positive. So, although your up & down betting gets you a 1-to-20 spread, it’s not as powerful as a 1-to-20 spread should or could be, if applied the way the books tell you to bet.
This is the real world, however, and all card counters have to do what they can to camouflage their play. Your “up & down” betting strategy is an excellent form of camouflage, since coming off the top of a shoe with anything other than a low bet is rarely done by card counters. Hey, they’ve all read the same books! As a form of camouflage, up & down betting is not an unintelligent method of getting a profitable spread in an otherwise tough game.
One thing you could do to increase your advantage would be to come off the top with $25, but quickly spread down to $5 or $10, unless the advantage goes to your favor. I.e., don’t just bet $25 any time the count is 0, spreading down only on negatives, as you seem to indicate is your style. After coming off the top with your $25, be aware that unless the count goes up considerably, you have too much money on the table.
Incidentally, you are not the first card counter to use this type of up & down betting strategy. I’ve known many counters over the years who have used variations on this. The late Paul Keen, writing under his pen name, Suzanne Le Counte, described his variation on this style of camouflage betting in Blackjack Forum a few years ago.
Paul primarily played single-deck games in Las Vegas. He would always come off the top with a quarter, then would spread down to two nickels, or up to two quarters, according to the count. Paul played this $10-$50 spread in Las Vegas one-deckers for many years, with very little heat, while players spreading $5-$25 were getting barred all around him.
More than any other factor, card counters are given away by their betting strategies. Any betting camouflage you can pull off successfully will add longevity to your career. The problem with most betting camouflage for card counting is that it is very costly, and you will often risk completely eliminating your advantage over the house if you don’t know what you’re doing.
A less intelligent variation on “up & down” betting is simply “down” betting according to the count. I.e., you always come off the top with your high bet, and spread down if the count goes down, but leave your bet the same if the count goes up. This type of betting strategy would probably buy you untold hours of play in most any casino, but unfortunately, you’re unlikely to be able to beat most shoe games with such an approach.
Up & down betting is a more sensible and powerful method of attack. And, if you think about it, you can improve it even further.♠
For more information on blackjack betting and card counting camouflage for blackjack teams and solo players, see Arnold Snyder's Blackbelt in Blackjack and Burning the Tables in Las Vegas by Ian Andersen.
Also see the Blackjack Forum Professional Gambling Library.
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