Do Blackjack Progression Systems Work?
A few words about progressions strategies. They don't work. That should
be enough words:) Actually it is good that progression systems don't work.
If a trivial method of beating Blackjack existed, then the casinos would
no longer offer Blackjack. Beating the casinos has to remain just hard
enough that most people won't bother to learn. Instead, they will learn
Blackjack betting systems that don't work reaping huge profits for the
casino industry. Let's take a simple case study.
Betting System Test
Blackjack systems are tested with Blackjack simulators. An enormous number
of hands are dealt following the rules of a system to see the results.
For this test, I simulated four players as follows:
- Player 1: Flat bettor. All bets are the same.
- Player 2: Flat bettor that stops after four consecutive losses. This
tests the belief that stop losses can affect the game.
- Player 3: This player uses a popular strategy found in the book 21st
Century Blackjack by Walter Thomason. Without going into details,
this is basically a 2-3-4-5 positive progression, reset on shuffle,
stop after four consecutive losses.
- Player 4: Hi-Lo card counter spreading 1-8. I call this a lazy counter
because only very simple card counting betting is utilized. No indexes
- All players play exactly the same basic strategy except that the card
counter bets Insurance according to the count.
- Total amount bet is measured including splits, insurance and double
- One billion hands were run.
- Quit Point
per $100 Bet
There are only tiny differences between the flat bettor, flat bettor
with quit point, and Thomason strategy from 21st Century Blackjack.
The Thomason strategy is a bit worse than flat betting as predicted by
Theory of Blackjack. Of course, the counter fares far better. The
counter's profit is small because playing indexes were not used. In other
words, progression betting and stop losses had almost no effect on results
and loses. Card counting wins.
It is oft asked what does running one billion hands matter when I won't
play that many. The point is to increase the accuracy of the estimate
of what will happen in the short-term. The above numbers show that a flat
bettor making 1,000 ten dollar bets will, on average, lose 60 cents less
than a Thomason bettor risking the same dollars. Progression books often
look at a very small number of hands, say 10,000. Well, for any 10,000
hands it is easy to come up with a system that will win. but, it will
only win for that particular 10,000 hands. That doesn't mean it will win
for the next 10,000 hands.
Note: Many Blackjack progression system peddlers claim that simulators
are not accurate because they don't shuffle like casinos. But, the CVData
Blackjack Simulator can simulate any Blackjack shuffle in excruciating
A few words on empirical evidence. Progression books are always based
on empirical evidence. The author won so the system must work. Many others
have also claimed some sort of evidence based on what they or others have
seen. If I won, I must have done something right. I would like to talk
about the value of empirical evidence from three viewpoints - Example,
Meaning and Quotes:
Empirical evidence means evidence gleaned from experience only. Say
that you go to George Burns' doctor. George Burns lived a century and
smoked cigars constantly. Should his Doctor advise you to smoke for
long life? Empirical evidence would say yes.
What does empirical mean? Well, let's look at its roots. Obviously it
comes from empiric. The Oxford English Dictionary defines an empiric
- A member of the sect of ancient physicians called empirici who drew
their rules of practice entirely from experience, to the exclusion
of philosophical theory
An untrained practitioner in physic or
surgery; a quack. A pretender, imposter, charlatan.
- That practices physic or surgery without scientific knowledge: That
is of the nature of a quack nostrum.
- That is guided by mere experience, without scientific knowledge;
also of methods, expedients, etc.
- Ignorantly presumptive, resembling, or characteristic of a charlatan.
- Empiracally - After the manner of an empiric or quack-doctor.
- Empiricism - Practice founded upon experiment and observation; ignorant
and unscientific practice; quackery.
(Sorry, I'm just copying these out of the dictionary.)
Not always of value, but telling. A few of the early quotes that tend
to define a word. Warning, I'm going back to the earliest uses - so
some of the spelling is in Middle English
- A pedlar of medicines and tinker empirical to the body of man -
- The great majority of accidents are..the results of empirical management
- Yeats 1872
- By an empirical formula is meant one that is conceived or invented
without any analysis or demonstration. - Nat. Philos., 1872
- The chymistry of the galanical tribe is a ridiculous and dangerous
empiricism. - Starkey, 1657
Card Counting Magical?
A few words on card counting. It has been stated that before Thorp no
one counted. So perhaps we're just waiting for the genius of progression
systems. Well, most people know that the fact that progressions fail has
been known for centuries. But, card tracking has also existed for centuries.
It dates back to the earliest days of Whist. Anyone that aspires to play
Bridge, Poker, Rummy, Gin, Pinochle, Hearts, Spades - even GoFish knows
that you must keep track of the played cards. In fact, primitive variations
of shuffle-tracking have been used by Poker and Bridge players for as
long as I've played. This is the way that cards have been played by experts
for centuries. Not to take anything away from Thorp. He was the first
to codify an easy process for card counting. But, the general concept
of taking into account seen cards has a long history.
"With no obstacles, and no fear Liberates herself, from illusion"
-Donovan Leitch, 1996