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# A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

8 September 2011

Q. I believe blackjack analysts sell progressive betting short. Consider a recent scenario I experienced on a \$5 minimum / \$500 maximum table that progressive betting produced a net win of \$2,733, whereas flat betting would only have returned \$70.

The progression started with a \$5 bet, then \$5 after the first win. Then it progressed to \$10, \$20, \$30, \$45, \$65, \$100, \$150, \$225, \$335. By hand No. 12 I was betting the table maximum of \$500. With blackjacks paying 3-2 on my \$150 and \$335 bets, I'd won \$3,233 before a \$500 loss on Hand No. 16.

Granted, this was an unusual run of 15 winning hands in a row, uninterrupted by a loss or a push. But these streaks do occur, usually at something less than 15, such as 6 or 7 wins in a row. The point is, if I flat bet the minimum the same as another person, I miss out capitalizing on the win streaks when they do occur. With the loss streaks that are also part of the game, I'm only betting the table minimum, same as the flat bettor.

One thing that progressive betting does not change is the odds of the game. But it does offer the return for higher winning balances over flat betting when winning streaks occur. And it minimizes losses to the table minimum during losing streaks.

A. Congratulations on your big win. Betting progressions can produce some spectacular wins far in excess of anything you could do by flat betting the minimum.

But as you acknowledge, progressive betting cannot change the odds of the game. When you bet with a progression, there will be times that you have your largest bets on the table in negative counts, when the house has its biggest edge.

The spectacular wins require long winning streaks. Those are rare and precious. Far, far, far more common are short sequences such as two wins, a loss, a win, a loss, two wins, three losses. In those situations a progression bettor actually does worse than a flat bettor. In the progression you describe, two \$5 wins followed by a \$10 loss would leave you even for that short sequence, while someone flat betting \$5 would have a \$5 profit. That happens A LOT.

The spectacular wins are balanced off by the long grind of the short streaks.

Some points to consider:

• If you're an average player facing a 2% house edge, then in the long run, you'll lose \$20 per \$1,000 wagered if you bet flat, and \$20 per \$1,000 wagered if you use a progression. If you're a basic strategy player facing a half-percent house edge, you'll lose \$5 per \$1,000 wagered if you bet flat, and \$5 per \$1,000 wagered if you use a progression.
• If you start a betting progression with \$5 bets, you wind up wagering more money than someone with \$5 flat bets, and your average session losses will be higher than the \$5 flat bettor's.
• If you don't put a cap on the progression, and just keep increasing your bet until you lose, then you are pretty much guaranteed to lose your largest bet.

I'm not trying to dissuade you from using a progression. They're fun and can lead to some awfully big wins. But in really common circumstances, they can undermine you, too, and in the long run, the house edge remains the same.

Q. I divide my play between two casinos. One gives same-day free play through its rewards program, and occasionally sends vouchers in the mail. The other only mails vouchers, but they're worth more than the cash back and vouchers put together from the other place.

Where would you play?

A. I'm going to assume an equal play experience, with equivalent games and comment just on the difference in the clubs.

Do you go to the casinos often enough that expiration dates on the direct mail vouchers are not a problem? If you do, then more money is always a good thing. But if you find vouchers expiring and rewards earned going to waste, then the same-day program is for you.

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John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.