Realistic Blackjack Goals

If you have not reached the point in your life where you can retire, have been let go from your job, or don’t have to work to make a living, then you are occupied during the day or night working for “The Man”. Assuming you can play perfect Basic Strategy, can use a count to count a deck down in about 25 seconds, and know a dozen or more Advanced Strategy plays to give you an even greater edge over the house, you COULD be playing Blackjack for a living. Or maybe even online keno? Why don’t you? There are a lot of reasons, and I agree with every one of them.I won’t go for online baccarat or online poker, they aren’t my cup of gambling-tea.

If you can say “yes”, “yes”, and “yes” to the above about your playing ability, then you are a Professional Blackjack Player now. Some people reserve this definition for people who have made the leap to full time play, I do not. The three most important factors that keep excellent players from going full time are family, bankroll, and security. Not every family wants to live in Las Vegas or New Jersey. Not every wife will believe you can beat Blackjack. Your family has to come first and be behind you, otherwise you may lose more important things than money. Not everyone can set aside a large enough bankroll to allow for making large enough bets to make a profit, or protect them from a string of bad loses. Blackjack also does not come with a dental plan or unemployment insurance. You could also find that you do not enjoy the lifestyle of a full time gambler. Like every other occupation out there, it can become boring or worse.

What kind of realistic goals can we set during this period where we are fortunate enough to have full time jobs, families, security, and some money to play with short of a proper bankroll? It would be a shame to have this skill to play Blackjack and not make it work for you. Let me share an approach I have used with great success.

At my day job I was making just under $100 a day. I have always kept records of my play at the tables and have a win to loss ratio of about 5:1, or 5 wins out of 6 times at the table. I win on average about 6 units of my smallest bet per hour. In other words, if the table minimum is $5 and I am placing bets between $5 and $25, I normally win about $30 an hour. I have won much more than this on occasion, and lost up to $300 as well, all a part of the game. From all of this well known information, I wanted to form a simple plan to stick to when I played. Here is what I came up with.

I wanted to average a win of $100 per playing session, an amount equal to my daily after tax income. Using my win to loss ratio, and a stop-loss set at $100, this means I had to win $120 five times to make up for a loss of $100 on the sixth session. I set my stop-loss at $100 because this is the amount I make daily at work. I would treat each playing session as if it was a day at work, with the comfort of knowing that on my off days I would simply be breaking even between my two jobs, a psychological bonus in my mind. Though this loss is wiped out by the other wins and you can effectively double your income per day, it’s nice to know for that day you didn’t lose any ground.

Here is what happened: It worked. I think any good player that keeps records of his/her play would be able to come up with a similar plan and make it work. If you make $50 a day at your job and win 2 out of 3 times at the table, set a stop loss of $50 and aim for a win of $75 each time out.

Part of the reason I designed my session goals the way I did is to see if it would be possible to continue to earn the same income I have been after I no longer work for “The Man”. I proved I could, and this had quite an effect on me. I became restless and much more willing to leave my day job, especially when things got difficult there. Knowing what you are capable of can change your life, but don’t give something up when you can have the best of both worlds.

Now, something I had pointed out to me which is true, is that Professional Blackjack play is a long term game, and I was looking at it in a short term fashion. I had to agree, but the basic principles of play are still very much the same: bet small under a True Count of +1 and more above it. Not the optimum Kelly betting strategy that makes most Counters their money (% advantage x size of bankroll), but still the same principle. Some people have no bankroll, just their table stake to start with, and that is it. I use a more conservative approach that takes many of the wild swings out of the game.

Another observant Counter asked me if I was using Jerry Patterson’s “Takedown” strategy, and tried to explain it to me. I wasn’t, but promptly went out to read his book to learn what I could about it. Jerry has long been the Father of “Alternative Blackjack” with his mentions of biases and strings of small and large cards due to shuffling and card pick-up routines. Many excellent Counters have been pounded by betting large amounts as the count rises and he explains why and how to avoid doing so, and some of the things he says in his book “Blackjack, a Winner’s Handbook” were being done by myself at the tables while I accomplished my short term playing goals. “Takedown” is a method of betting for non-counters, but most interesting to me was the chapter “Strategies and Tactics for Card Counters”.

Jerry explains that a player should be betting as the count drops, not as it rises, since this is the time the 10 cards are coming out. This fits right into what I often refrained from doing, more for the simple reason I was being conservative with my winnings, or being careful as I was down a ways. IF I had won I would increase my bets, and this often caught the cards coming out as expected by the positive count. In short, I was being careful with my money and using the count to decide when to increase bet size, as well as hit split stand or double.

As stated above, the most successful Counters will use a bankroll and multiply their advantage at the time of placing each bet based on the count and ultimately earn much more money in the long run and suffer the swings of the game. One of these swings can cause a player to quit Blackjack play all together, usually when they are down a large amount of money. 6 and 8 deck games have proven to be harder to beat, possibly because of biases from shuffling, much of which is very hard to prove mathematically. Traditional Kelly betting strategies will prove more effective against 1 and 2 deck games, which are still easy to find in Las Vegas and even at an online casino today. The way I look at what I am doing is that if my bankroll is $20,000 and I try to make $100 a day which is .5% of my bankroll, and my playing skills afford me an advantage over the game of 1 ?%, then I am being realistic expecting to win only 1/3 of what I could be by placing smaller bets against erratic games and reserve my True Count betting for 1 and 2 deck games when I travel.

One of the things I do practice that is similar to Jerry’s “Takedown” is that I will lock up my winning of $120 and play on to other limits. I would set a goal of say $150, but if I need to bet out of my $120 win I wouldn’t. If I got to $150, same deal. Jerry explains a unique way of creating this “winlock” by dividing your winnings into 3 piles. Using the above example, I pocket my $120 and place my $30 win in 3 piles, 2 $5 chips each. I place bets from one pile only, lets say the left one. This means for the next hand I place a 1 chip bet from pile #3. If I lose, I bet the last chip from pile #3. If I lose, I am done for the day. If I get on a winning streak I replenish pile #3 back to 2 units. Then I place the next win on pile #1, then pile #2, and finally to pile #3, the betting pile. As you can see I might get these 3 piles up to 8 units each, then hit a losing streak and lose pile #3, then I quit. This is an excellent way to maximize your winnings and minimize your play loses.

To close, I want you to think about your online gambling playing abilities, and forming goals that are realistic, relative to your daily routines right now. I have to thank the friends that pointed Jerry’s book out to me, it has helped seeing a Pro like Jerry saying what he does in his book in that it has helped me trust things I found myself doing before seeing it in print. If you are interested in buying Jerry’s book, I have provided a link to it on this page.