Proper betting techniques are crucial at single-deck Blackjack, primarily because it’s the primary way which casino supervisory personnel will detect you as a counter. Of course, it’s also important from a money management point of view, but in my experience we really just shove out as much money as we think we can get away with (in ‘positive’ count situations) as long as that amount doesn’t exceed our maximum bet guidelines. For practical purpose, a 1 to 4 betting spread will get the $$$ and will, at most casinos, keep the welcome mat out, if you don’t play too long at each session.
Let’s review a few ‘camouflage’ techniques which were covered in my lesson on ‘Casino Playing Tactics’ as modified for the single-deck game.
First and foremost, if you play with $25 chips at a single-deck game, you’re going to draw attention, regardless of whether you win OR lose. Move up to $100 and you’re likely to have a pit critter camped at your elbow the whole time you’re playing. But, just because you’re being observed, it doesn’t mean they’re about to throw you out, especially if you look like a ‘lucky’ gambler and not like a card-counter. The trick here is to bet like gamblers bet; rather haphazardly and without a lot of thought. If you win a hand and the count went up, ‘parlay’ the winnings; that is, add them to your original bet. If you ‘push’ a hand, let the bet stand, even if the count went down, or it’s the last hand of that deck.
-Casino personnel know they usually have the edge on the first hand after a shuffle, so they believe card-counters will bet only the minimum on that hand. So, make sure you don’t always start a new deck with a minimum bet out there. Start with 2 or 3 units bet every once in a while, especially when a supervisor is watching. But don’t get into a pattern of doing it ONLY when a supervisor is watching, since you could be under observation from the ‘eye-in-the-sky’. Don’t overdo it, but start at least a third of all decks with a larger bet.
-Show them the ‘rainbow’. Dealers hate this, but judicious tipping will cover you there. The rainbow is the mixing of different denominations of chips when it’s to your advantage to do so. For example, at a $10 minimum game, you’re always putting two chips out as a bet. If the count goes up, a $30 bet can still be two chips a $25 and a $5. Keeping your supply of chips in disarray, as opposed to neat stacks, helps with this maneuver. This technique is my primary way of getting a big spread in single-deck games. Remember, counters think about their bet, but play the hand without hesitation, but gamblers don’t hesitate about betting, yet they think about how to play the hand. A careless attitude about money makes you look much more like a gambler.
-I like to play two hands at single-deck games when I’m at the table with one other player. Whether the count is positive or not, I play two hands, because it gives me several advantages. The first is that I look like a desperate gambler, trying to make back my losses. Secondly, it allows me to see more cards each round, though you must remember that special rules usually apply here. What I mean is that when you are playing two hands at a single-deck game, you must finish the play of the first hand before you can even look at the cards for your second hand. The one (very important) exception is when the dealer is showing an Ace. When that happens, you may look at both hands to see if you want to insure either or both. In case you’ve forgotten, insurance is the most important basic strategy variation you can make, so having the opportunity to see more cards will help you to make a good decision.
-Another very important aspect to winning at single-deck is how often the casino personnel see you. If you live near several casinos which offer the game, spread your play around as much as possible and limit your sessions to 45 minutes or so. If, on the other hand, you’re in town for just a week or so, play for a day (up to 3-4 hours per shift) at one casino, then go to a different one the next day and don’t go back to the first one if possible. It’s okay for the casino personnel to get a look at your game, if you won’t be back for quite some time.
Most single-deck games are beatable with a 1-4 betting spread. For example, at a $25 table, a spread of $25 to $100 will permit you to play at a long term advantage. If you can stretch that to 1-5, you’ll do quite well and a 1-6 spread will kill all but the worst games. Like the multi-deck games, penetration is the key to winning at single-deck. If the casino deals one round and shuffles, it’s almost impossible to win. (I say ‘almost’, because there is a way to beat that game, but it’s an article for another time.) The general rule is the fewer players, the better. Head-to-head games are very beatable, especially if the dealer shuffles whenever you raise your bet. How can that be, you ask? Well, it’s one of the best tricks in the book. Start each deck with 2 units bet and when the count goes DOWN, raise your bet. The dealer will shuffle and Voila!, the bad deck is gone. Of course, if the count goes up, you keep the 2-unit bet out there. Pretty, isn’t it?
Recommended Betting Schedule
(Single-deck, double 10, 11 only, no double after split)
|True Count||Bet Size (units)|
|0 or lower||1|
|4 or higher||4 (or 5, if possible)|