A betting spread strategy is a necessary component of card counting at blackjack. You can think of a betting spread and card counting like peanut butter and jelly. You can try them separately, but they’re a lot better when combined.

In truth, counting cards without using a betting spread is defeating the purpose of counting. Without a betting spread you will never be able to take advantage of a positive count and therefore leave a lot of profit on the blackjack table.

What is a Betting Spread?

The key to making money as a card counter is raising your bets when the deck is hot and lowering them when the deck is cold. This variation in bet size is known as the betting spread. The range of an individual’s blackjack betting spread depends on a lot of personal factors such as comfort level and proficiency in card counting.

BETTING SPREAD
POSSIBLE RANGE
$5 (Table Minimum) – $200 (Table Maximum)

The example above illustrates the possible range at a $5 minimum table. The possible range is simply the minimum and maximum table bets. You can place a bet of any size that falls within the range on any given hand.

To successfully use a betting spread, however, you need to determine your effective range. In short, this is the least and most you are personally willing to bet. Some players are unwilling to go beyond a certain comfort level when sizing their bets. These players might have an effective range which looks like the following:

BETTING SPREAD
EFFECTIVE RANGE
$10 (Minimum) – $100 (Maximum)

Players with an effective range like this one are comfortable betting between $10 and $100 per hand.

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Using the Betting Spread

Once you have determined your own effective betting spread the next task is to apply that spread effectively while counting cards. To determine the appropriate bet size we need to start at the minimum and scale upwards in proportion to the count.

We know that most card counting methods begin the count at 0. Using the effective range example above a player will be betting the minimum– $10 – at that level. Using this starting point a player can determine an effective range for the betting spread.

The player must estimate the top end of the count. In other words, how high does he expect the count to get in a session? A simple rule of thumb, which also simplifies the betting spread, is to estimate a count of 10. In this example calculating the betting spread is very easy. The top end of the player’s effective range is $100, a multiple of 10. When we divide 100 by 10 we get 10. The betting spread in this example will consist of 10 bets which increase proportionally with the running count.

  • Count is at 0—Bet $10
  • Count is at 1—Bet $10
  • Count is at 2—Bet $20
  • Count is at 3—Bet $30

…and so on until at a count of 10 the player is making the maximum $100 bet.

The Key to a Successful Betting Spread

What makes a betting spread work is that it allows the player to bet the most money when the odds in their favor are increased. When the count is high the player needs to get the most money into play because their odds of winning are better. When the count is low the player needs to be betting the least amount of money because their odds of winning are worse. Simple, right?

Not so fast. For one thing, a player cannot sit at the blackjack table and mechanically apply a betting spread. For one thing, this will create suspicion on the part of the casino (see our article on camouflage betting). Secondly, the betting range also needs to encompass a few other factors which must be taken into consideration.

The key to winning at blackjack is to increase your positive expectation. Each time the count goes higher the house edge is reduced. Therefore, it makes sense to continue betting the minimum until the count becomes high enough to justify a significant return. In our example this would occur when the count hits 7 or 8.

The problem with this is that jumping your bet from 1 unit to 7 units suddenly will draw the casino’s scrutiny. You must gradually increase the amount of your bet, but at no time should you increase your bet out of proportion with the count. That is the key. In other words, betting less than units when the count is at 4 is okay. Betting more is not.

When it comes to betting spreads the real skill is not knowing how to use them but knowing when to use them in a way that is undetected by the casino. Using them robotically will get you banned from the blackjack table.

5 Response Comments

  • MarcusJanuary 1, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    I’ve found the #1 reason I lose money counting cards is high counts that stay high. If I’m at a table and True Count goes high, I increase my bet. I’ll win or lose that first high bet, but if the count stays high, I’ll place another high bet, and so on until the count drops, whether I win or lose those high bet hands. What invariably happens is I lose more of those high bets than I win, or at best I lose as many as I win. What should I do with a high count that stays high? Isn’t there something to be said for the unlikliness of winning multiple hands in a row? If I lose that first high bet and the count stays high, should I continue betting high? If I win that first high bet, should I drop my bet back down and keep that high bet winnings?

    • blackjackjayJanuary 2, 2015 at 5:09 am

      Yeah thats something Im also curious about. I just got into card counting but I was wonder the same thing. I think that you are doing the right thing though. If you bet when the count is high the odds are more favorable for high cards to come out because a lot of low cards are no longer in the shoe but its not guaranteed. Its only a slight advantage on the casino from 49.5% to 50% – 56% So your still going to lose on around 46%-50% of your high betting hands. In the long run you will win more big betting hands than you lose but it might be a long road filled with wins and losses until you get there. Its not like card counting in the movies where they win every night. But they do win overall if they have a large enough bankroll to withstand their losses. Its exactly how the casino wins in blackjack with their 49%- 49.5% advantage.

      • countingedgeJanuary 2, 2015 at 9:10 pm

        Great question! What we would probably advocate is some type of betting progression, such as the Up-and-Pull described here on our website http://www.countingedge.com/blackjack-money-management.html#4, which is designed to allow you to retain a portion of those winnings. Doubling up after each win is a sure fire way to lose, though. We understand completely where you are coming from and have seen it happen many times. The count goes high, you bet big, and suddenly you are faced with 8-8 and have to split only to get another 8 and split again while on the other hand you get a three and have to double down! Now you have a lot of money on the table and of course the dealer draws a five to that 16 to beat you. Here’s the thing. Variance is going to happen. There is nothing you can do about that. Even though you will lose some big bets when the count is high, we encourage our readers to stick to their guns and only bet big when they have the best chance of maximizing a profit. Predicting the outcome of each hand, whether the count is high or low, is impossible. Good luck at the tables!

        • KatieKNovember 28, 2015 at 6:52 am

          I think it depends on how many people stay at the table as well, sometimes when the count is getting high, you expect the good cards come to you, but actually it comes to someone else on the table. That’s why I usually stay little longer to see if I could be able to get good cards or not. Usually you should count how many big cards come out already and how many aces come out too, not just only base on the true count. Sometimes I have to wait on good shoes as well to spread my bet so it’s more safer. Pay attention on the dealer’s cards. If the good cards on their hand, doesn’t matter the true count is high or not, you still lose your bet.

    • barney112January 25, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      Let the count reverse before betting big . let the big cards start coming out then bet in to it …..

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