Blackjack Bankroll Management Guide

Blackjack is one of the most strategically oriented casino games, but players often ignore the bankroll management side of it. Different blackjack games have different requirements because of the varying sets of rules, and the ability to double or even quadruple your bet in play at times makes the bet sizing decisions much more complicated.

Getting Started With Blackjack Bet Sizing

Some games found in casinos have really straightforward and pretty simple guidelines that you can follow regarding how you choose your bet sizes as part of an overall bankroll management strategy. However, things are much more complicated for blackjack games.

This level of complication primarily comes from the fact that three key factors are actually variable in these games: the house advantage, the overall volatility and the bet sizing during play.

The volatility is variable because of your ability to choose from different games. For example, a standard multi-deck blackjack game will have a lower variance than something like Caribbean 21. You can change bet sizing in your play with doubling and splitting options, and the house advantage will depend on the game you choose and your own skill in that particular title.

As you can see, there’s a lot to get into, which is why it’s so difficult to create general guidelines that apply to all blackjack players in all games, all of the time.

First Principles: Defining the Variables

There are four key variables that we have to decide on when coming up with bet sizing guidelines as a part of an overall blackjack bankroll management strategy.

  1. The house edge of the game in question (dependent on game selection and player skill)
  2. The average size of the true amount wagered per play (dependent on the game’s rules)
  3. The volatility of the game (also dependent on the game’s rules)
  4. The player’s tolerance for risk/length of time between deposits as a part of an overall strategy

These four variables will increase or decrease the size of bet that you need to use to maintain a certain level of comfort, and we’re going to look at each of them individually in what follows.

Blackjack House Advantage Issues

There are some games in blackjack that allow you to get an extremely small house advantage with correct play (0.5 percent or less in several cases). However, to benefit from this fact, you have to actually choose those games, and you have to work on the strategies involved to actually get the house edge down to something really low.

The effects can be much larger than what people anticipate. If you have a game with a 99.5 percent payout rate with the strategies you’re using, it might not seem like such a big deal if you play another blackjack game where your payout is 98.75 percent.

However, you aren’t really comparing the payout rates of 98.75 to 99.5. Instead, you should compare the relative house advantages of each game, which are 1.25 and 0.5.

As you can see, the house edge of the one game is two and a half times that of the other, and this will make a huge impact on your bet size selection. The smaller the house advantage, the larger the bet size you can make and maintain the same level of comfort.

True Amount Wagered Per Play

Most blackjack games allow some form of doubling or splitting that can increase the average size of your effective wager. Surrendering as an option can decrease it very slightly, but you use the surrender option so little in most games that it’s not really a significant factor.

What’s critical to realize is that some games have a lot more splitting and doubling than others. Caribbean 21 is an extreme example that allows you to split any two starting cards and to double the same hand multiple times, so you’re effectively wagering much more than your starting bet size on average. Other games are much the opposite.

The more splitting and doubling you’ll be doing, the lower the starting bet size will need to be.

Game Volatility

Volatility stays fairly constant in most blackjack games because you can really only win or lose amounts that are in a pretty small and straightforward range in most games. If you’re wagering €1 per hand, for example, the most you can lose in most games might be something like €6 in the extreme case that you split twice and double all three resulting hands.

An increase in volatility that’s large enough to actually impact your bet sizing and bankroll management will normally come from bonus payouts or progressive jackpots.

There are blackjack games with big prizes available for getting 21 in certain ways and other combinations of cards, and those are the types of things that will drive the volatility up enough that you’ll want to lower your bet size to compensate.

Risk Tolerance and Choosing a Specific Strategy

The three items we have listed above are mixed in with your own personal risk tolerance to determine a specific bankroll management strategy for blackjack.

This strategy will be represented as a number of individual bets of the same size. For example, with bankroll management for blackjack, a strategy of 500x would mean that you have 500 bets of equal size. You’ll then divide your bankroll by 500 to determine your approximate actual bet size. For example, a 500x BR management strategy with a bankroll of €250 would give you a bet size of €0.50 per hand.

Starting Numbers and Making Adjustments

A very general guideline for blackjack that most people use successfully is to have about 200x for a high risk tolerance, about 350x for a medium risk tolerance and about 500x for a low risk tolerance.

For a starting bankroll of €700, a high risk tolerance would lead to a starting bet of about €3.50 per hand, a medium risk tolerance would be about €2 per hand, and a low risk tolerance would be in the ballpark of €1.25 to €1.50 per hand.

These numbers have to be adjusted according to the game volatility, any issues with house advantage and the average actual amounts being wagered per hand.

For example, if you have a high volatility, a lot of chances to double and split and a lower house advantage than average, then those are three things that would all indicate that you be more conservative with your strategy. This might lead to an adjustment to something like 350x for a high risk tolerance, 500x for a medium risk tolerance and something like 750x for a low risk tolerance.

The way that you make these adjustments is a bit subjective, and you’ll also need to make small adjustments according to the denominations you can wager (eg: €1.14 per hand isn’t an available bet size with most games, but €1.25 is).

Putting It All Together

For players who are really into online blackjack strategy, bankroll management might not be the most attractive part of the whole thing. However, you can’t press an edge against the casino if you don’t have the funds to stay in the game, and that’s what this type of money management will do for you.

By taking into consideration the things that we have discussed here and putting them together with your own personal tolerance for risk based on your overall money management strategy and resulting depositing habits, you’ll be able to customize how you handle your funds instead of relying on broad strokes rules and guidelines that don’t take into account your specific temperament or money management needs.