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Best of Walter Thomason

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The Same Shoe Does Not Fit All: Progressive Betting vs. Card Counting

23 July 2000

I recently returned from a three-day trip to Las Vegas, and while playing blackjack at Treasure Island I experienced an unusual "run" of hands.

I was playing a single-hand $20 to $50 progression, increasing my initial $20 bet by $10 each time I won money on a hand, and capping off my bet at $50 until I lost a hand, then reverting back to my initial $20 bet. I won the first three hands out of the shoe and reached my $50 cap point. For the next eight hands, I was dealt two face cards on every hand! The dealer also showed face cards on some of these hands, but had a stiff in the hole and busted. No pushes. No losses. I won 11 consecutive hands!

For a progressive bettor, this is a great run - only about six minutes in duration (I was playing head-to-head with the dealer), but those six minutes helped to cover my entire losses from a previous day of play.

How would a good card counter have responded to the same scenario? Here's my opinion:

The count was neutral when the shoe began, and nothing dramatic happened while I was winning the first three hands. Face cards began to appear with increasing frequency on the fourth hand. By the conclusion of the fifth hand, the card counter would have been in a negative count situation and would have reduced his bet to the minimum allowed. As additional high cards were exposed, the negative count would have encouraged the card counter to leave the table or take a "restroom" break. The count was in the cellar and the counter would have had no reason to stay at the table, since his theory of play is based on the count. He would not have benefited from this extreme "positive fluctuation" in results.

Both players, the progressive bettor and the card counter, play the game in the same manner. They use proper basic strategy, look for good rules -- the card counter also looks for good penetration and will change his strategy from time to time with the count. Yet, in the above scenario, their reaction to the exact same hands would have been just the opposite. The card counter would have left fearing the depletion of 10-valued cards, the progressive bettor would have enjoyed the run.

Progressive bettors relish those few occasions when they win a higher than normal number of consecutive hands. I loved this particular flow of cards!

Card counters, on the other hand, relish those few occasions when the count becomes very positive and they feel comfortable with a major increase in the amount wagered. Any counter that had been at that table would have reduced his bet to the minimum, or would have discontinued play by the time the sixth or seventh hand was played out. Every card counter would have hated this flow of cards -- despite the fact that they were winning each and every hand!

The difference in philosophy and the difference in perspective illustrated in the preceding example explains why card counters and progressive bettors will never see eye-to-eye. They are, as I have said in the past, apples and oranges.

Incidentally, I did wind up losing money on this visit to my favorite town. In spite of a 90-minute upswing in wins on the first night of the trip, and the extraordinary few minutes described above, the overall outcome for me was negative -- very negative. Well, you win some and you lose some.


For more information about blackjack, we recommend:

Twenty-First 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.

Books by Walter Thomason:

> More Books By Walter Thomason

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.

Books by Walter Thomason:

> More Books By Walter Thomason