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Battle of the Blackjack Teams

28 September 2001

By Walter Thomason

I like to investigate "what if" scenarios. Many of my articles, plus much of the content of my book Twenty-First Century Blackjack are based on what happens when different types of blackjack players all play the same exact hands against the same exact dealer hands.

So here's a new one: What if a team of four Thomason 4-Step Progressive bettors, a team of four "flat" bettors, and a team of four KO card counters all played the same hands against the same dealer hands? What if they all played the same Basic Strategy (which would result in the same number of hands/bets won or lost) and then compared the net results for each team? The only difference in their play would be their betting styles.

Let's be more specific: Twelve blackjack players - four 4-Step Progressive bettors, four flat bettors, and four KO counters - went to Vegas on a three-day junket, and each team of four played 75 shoes of blackjack. The four flat bettors played four spots in a six-deck game. Each flat bettor bet $30 as his initial wager on each hand. A neutral party (more about him later) recorded the win/loss record for each player for each hand, then totaled the win/loss results for each player at the end of each shoe, then calculated the net win/loss results for the team for each shoe, and then calculated the net monetary result for the team at the conclusion of 75 shoes of play. The final dollar figure indicated the amount collectively won or lost by the team.

Enter the Four-Step Positive Progressive bettors: These four players honored the win/loss record established by the flat bettors, essentially took the same seat at each spot at the table, and played every hand played by the flat bettors. But instead of wagering $30 on each initial hand, the progressive bettors bet from $20 to $50, based on the method of play expounded in Twenty-First Century Blackjack with the "Quit Point" plan. Each player quit the shoe - dropped out of the game until the start of the next shoe - if he lost money on four consecutive hands. After completing the 75 shoes of play, they calculated their individual and net wins or losses.

Enter the KO counters: This team traded places with the progressive bettors, and played the same hands. But since the progressionists applied Quit Points, and weren't required to play every hand in each shoe, the KO counters chose to "back count" and only play those hands when the count was -4 or better (based on an initial count of -20) using a bet spread of $40 to $200, depending on the count. This allowed the counters to skip any upcoming hand when the count was not in their favor. They played the same 75 shoes and calculated their net win/loss results.

The "neutral party" that supervised this contest, the person that dealt the 75 shoes and tabulated win/loss results is not currently employed in a casino, and it's obvious that this contest did not really occur in Vegas. The 75 shoes used in this comparison are the first 75 shoes in Bob Hubby's book entitled Blackjack Tracker (Morris Publishing, May, 2000), which tracks the win/loss results of four players at one table for over 50,000 manually dealt hands of blackjack. Bob has no potential biases regarding any betting scheme, so there's no way that his published results would favor any particular betting plan. Nor was there any way that I could selectively use his data, since I started with "Hand 1" and compared the three teams using the first 75 shoes in the book.

So what happened? Anyone familiar with traditional blackjack theory would predict that the flat bettors and the progressive bettors would both lose the same amount of money, since many experts claim that progressive betting can't overcome the casino's built-in advantage (approximately 0.5 percent in this case) and subsequently would lose about the same amount as the flat bettors. The KO counters, based on long-term computer simulations conducted by these same experts, would be expected to have an advantage over the house and show a profit from play--especially since they don't have to play every negative hand.

Both of the preceding assumptions would have been incorrect on our three-day junket, as the results in the table that follows show clearly.

75 Shoes of Play: Net Gain or Loss
Player #1+$1,305+$1,505+$900
Player #2-$1,110+$540-$1,270
Player #3-$285+$530+$170
Player #4-$1,020-$1,615-$2,400
At $30 Per Unit:-37 Units+32 Units-86.66 Units

So, what are we to conclude based on these 75 shoes that were manually dealt?

  1. The Positive Progressive bettors won the battle - hands down - with a net profit of $960. It was the only team to show a profit.
  2. The flat bettors won 49.6 percent of their bets, which is slightly better than anticipated by probability, but still lost $1,110.
  3. The KO counters played only when the count was in their favor, won only about 48 percent of their wagers, and lost $2,600 - over twice as much as the team of flat bettors. Bad luck? "Negative fluctuation?" Too small a sample?
  4. Each type of player can show radically different results while playing against the same dealer. For instance, Flat Bettor #1 won $1,305 while Flat Bettor #2 lost $1,110; Progressive Bettor #1 won $1,505, while Progressive Bettor #4 lost $1,615; KO Counter #1 won $900, while KO Counter #4 lost $2,400. Even when players use the same betting systems against the same dealer hands, it appears that their win/loss results can be very dissimilar.
  5. Player #1 won consistently, regardless of the betting system employed; Player #4 lost consistently, regardless of the betting system employed. I suspect that had you been playing any one of these betting systems for the first time, you would have praised the system if you were Player #1, and damned the system if you were Player #4. Short-term losses or gains don't necessarily predict the long-term value of a betting system.
  6. For players who like to see blackjack results expressed as "units" (in this case we assign a unit a value of $30), there was a 69 unit spread between the flat bettors and the progressive bettors, and a 118.66 unit spread between the KO counters and the Four-Step progressive bettors. In other words, the flat bettors would have had to have won 69 more units, and the KO counters would have had to have won 118.66 more units in order to have tied the progressive bettors.
  7. The results of this study support my previous findings. My 4-Step Positive Progressive betting system, coupled with Quit Points, consistently shows win/loss results that are superior to flat betting, and consistently refutes the traditional opinion that progressions do not change the casino's long-term advantage. My accumulated "short runs" are beginning to add up as readers of my book and this website are no doubt realizing.

Final Note: It is not the intention of this article to discount the merits of KO counting, or card counting in general. It is the intention of this article to proclaim the merits of my 4-Step Positive Progressive betting system when compared to flat betting, and to illustrate that progressive betting is often superior to card counting in short-run situations.

For more information about blackjack, we recommend:

21st Century Blackjack: New Strategies for a New Millennium by Walter Thomason
The Ultimate Blackjack Book by Walter Thomason
Best Blackjack by Frank Scoblete
The Morons of Blackjack and Other Monsters! by Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Blackjack! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
Walter Thomason
Walter Thomason is the best-selling author of Blackjack for the Clueless and the editor of The Experts’ Guide to Casino Games and The Ultimate Blackjack Book.

A long-time casino gaming enthusiast, he is a frequent contributor to
The New Chance and Circumstance, Midwest Gaming & Travel, and Heartland Casino News.

His new book is
21st Century Blackjack: A New Strategy for a New Millenium. He can be reached
at PO Box 550068, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33355.

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