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Best of Alan Krigman
Playing It Smart: How big of a bankroll do you need to play blackjack?14 July 2008
The bankroll needed for reasonable confidence in lasting through a blackjack session of desired duration depends on many factors. The strategy followed in deciding to hit, stand, split, or double on each hand is a factor, but it has less impact than most think.
More important are wagering tactics. These include the average amount up for grabs at the start of each round. They also involve the extent and criteria by which bets are raised or lowered during the game. And, they entail how many hands an individual plays simultaneously.
More, the number of coups executed rather than time is relevant. This is a function of game speed, which depends on the number of positions to which cards are dealt. So, budgeting is influenced by how many of your other fellow solid citizens are at the table.
No one simple rule can therefore tell you the bankroll you need. But a set of examples may give you perspective on the question.
As a simple case, assume you play perfect basic strategy (house advantage is 0.5 percent). You bet a uniform $10 per round at a single spot, on a table with three operative spots. You want 80 percent chance of being in action for at least three hours. You should have a stake of about $260. Were you to flout "the book" and play by your hunches, giving the casino 1 percent edge, your monetary desideratum for otherwise equal conditions would be $280. Betting $10 flat on a single spot and following Basic Strategy with six positions active, the figure drops to $200.
Add a pinch of pizzazz to your punting. Stick with one spot but half the time bet $5, a quarter bet $10, and an eighth each bet $15 and $25. You follow Basic Strategy and are at a table with two other single-spot players. The average wager is still $10. But varying bet size has increased the volatility of the game. The skewness induced by specific criteria for pressing or regressing for instance, raise after a win and lower after a loss, or the converse, or succumb to premonitions would affect capital considerations in the short span of a particular session. But, averaged over many strategies, $230 would suffice for 80 percent confidence the cash would last at least three hours.
You could also change the number of hands you have in action while keeping your total exposure at the start of each round at $10. Say by betting $10 on one spot and $5 on each of two spots in about 50-50 proportions. With two tablemates, $230 would yield 80 percent likelihood of three hours' action. The decrease in available funds needed results from the lower volatility caused by spreading out the money. Rather than winning or losing $10 each round ignoring splits, doubles, and pushes you expect to earn $10 just under a quarter of the time, drop $10 slightly over a quarter of the time, and break even the remaining half.
Resource requirements rise if betting strategies pump up the total exposure per round. Suppose you play one spot half the time at $10, a quarter of the time at $20, and an eighth each at $25 and $50. Your average bet is $19.38. And couple this with the volatility induced by the variations. For 80 percent confidence of being in the fray for three hours, you'd need $610 or $475 at tables with three or six total spots in action, respectively.
Make believe you bet $10 on one spot half the time and $10 on each of two spots the rest. Your average bet is $15 per round. Adhering to Basic strategy gives you 80 percent prospects of outriding the downswings of a normal session with $350; $15 on a single spot under the same circumstances would take $400.
Some aficionados visit casinos to take a shot at a pot of gold. Others would like a profit but also prize the recreational value of gambling, as opposed to moping about pretending they're having fun "people watching." Such folks would be prudent to ponder pecuniary prerequisites and betting tactics for the games they play. As the muse, Sumner A Ingmark, memorably muttered:
In a casino a gambler who runs out of dough,
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