The moment you place a wager, you’re already risking an asset. When you play blackjack online for real money, it’s not just about winning every single opportunity that you have. It’s also about betting properly to maximize these wins to earn more. Otherwise, your risk of ruin will be higher and you won’t walk out of the casino alive.
Bankroll is the amount of money you allot for playing blackjack. But as much as you have the money to fund your gambling, you also need the right strategy to keep it in your pocket – and possibly make more out of your plays.
Blackjack high-rollers would put a million dollars at stake without batting an eye. However, for many small-time players like us, this isn’t always a convenient choice.
The good news is this: you can start at $800 and win the same money as a million-dollar bettor. You know what’s the difference? The brains.
What you need to understand is that bankrolling requires a lot of patience. If you place all your money in a single wager, you’re likely to lose everything in a snap. If you want to make lots of money, play as many hands as you can per hour and master a strategy.
How much bankroll should I have?
I’d like to remind you of this adage I learned from veteran players: never risk what you can’t afford losing. If you’re planning to invest your entire retirement fund to gambling without a safety net, you’re doomed. Given that you have the best strategy in town, you can probably make a fortune out of it. Still, it’s not the case for most of us.
Your betting spread should be based on units. This is the amount of money you’re going to play on. For example, if you are placing your bets by $10, you’ll have a $10 betting unit. In short, units are the sets of bets.
So how many units do you need to play without losing your entire bankroll? Regardless if you play blackjack online for money or in a casino, here’s a quick rundown together with the risk of ruin percentage:
It’s estimated that 4 out of 10 card counters will lose their entire bankroll if they play with this betting unit. Unless the cards are in your favor, it’s never wise to play blackjack this way.
Risk of ruin: 40%
I must say, 400 units are way better than 200 units. Still, playing at this level for so long will expose you to the risk of losing your bankroll or walking out of the casino in disbelief. Expert and veteran card counters have tried this but they never recommend it as a long-term betting system.
Risk of ruin: 20%
If there’s one betting range we can consider a safe zone, it would be the 500-unit mark. It’s not the lowest but definitely safer than the first two options. You can play blackjack online for real money with this range.
Risk of ruin: 10%
Afraid to lose all of your riches? Many blackjack players attest to the 1,000-unit betting range if you plan to make a living out of the card game. You have very little to lose here given that you employ the right strategy. Again, brains matter!
Risk of ruin: 1%
You can always go lower than 1% if you want to be safe. Still, no matter how optimal your bankroll is the right strategy matters. I know I sound like a broken record but it’s very important to highlight this part. Many newbie card counters tend to skip the part of practicing a strategy only to lose their whole bankroll in a single night.
What is the expected value (EV)?
EV is the expected worth of every single hand you play. Do you know how veteran blackjack players make a consistent income out of it? They never fly blind on their betting. Each player will have a specific EV. And although this won’t always be met, the final result shouldn’t be a far cry from the mathematical computation done before the game.
When you play blackjack online for money, it would be challenging since you can’t count cards.
Expected value is also referred to as the advantage or expected return. This is calculated based on the dealer’s up-card and the value/composition of the player’s hand. Always aim for a higher EV to make more money. Whenever EV becomes negative in value, you’re not gaining – but losing – profit.
If you want to know the full chart of EV, Michael Shackleford of Wizard of Odds has computed it for you in this post.
Therefore, how much money should I bring into a casino?
Well, this depends on how much you can actually shell out. But if the cost is out of the discussion, a minimum of 100 betting units is the gold standard. If I’ll to stick to a $10 betting unit, I’ll have $1,000 in my pocket. If I’m a bit of a high-roller and spending a $100 betting unit, I’ll risk $10,000.
This number of units should last you up to 4 hours on the table. Just remember that going under-funded in a positive and rich shoe is a nightmare. I’m not saying that you should bring all the money that you have. The point here is that you should know when you plan to leave and that you have a strategy to make your bankroll last until the shoe is on your side.
If you plan to bankroll your blackjack pursuit with $10,000, you don’t necessarily have to bring all of it in one session. Bring the amount that will last the session. Otherwise, you wouldn’t know when to walk away, thus losing money. The same goes when you play blackjack online for real money.
As much as I gave a specific betting unit sample, always consider how long you plan to play. If you don’t want to bring a whole fortune, don’t force yourself to do so. Identify first if you’re going to play for fun or more profit.
I just have one rule before you pack your cash: don’t place everything on the table. It’s not a good idea to follow the go-big-or-go-home mantra.
How much will I earn when playing blackjack?
Any bankroll amount or per-session budget can earn money. However, it will never be the same depending on some factors. It could be the players’ strategy, bet amount, hands played per hour, and so on.
Remember that there are some factors you can’t control – the number of decks, lousy rules, and eagle-eyed pit bosses. If you’re a card counter, getting backed off when the shoe is positive is a big profit killer. When you play blackjack online for money, the disadvantage is you can’t count cards.
Anyway, here’s a short brief about a specific amount of bankroll and the possible income you can make out of it when playing blackjack as computed by Blackjack Apprenticeship:
I know that not all of us can afford to risk this amount of money to gambling. Still, I want to highlight the benefits of having this bankroll range. First, great rules are played on high-limit tables, thus this bankroll becomes your ticket. Also, this has a very low risk of ruin at around 1%.
If you’re going to play in the Las Vegas Strip with high-limit rules, it’s possible that you can earn up to $350+ per hour.
Let’s slash the first bankroll in half. A $50,000 budget is considered to be the starting level for pros with a risk of ruin of around 2%. However, your income also spirals to $80-$100 per hour. Still, this isn’t a bad result after all since you’re gaining something.
At an average income of $50+ per hour, you’ll have to deal with 5% risk. But if you want to earn more, you can level up to a 10% risk for $75 per hour. If you’re not a pro player, I don’t advise that you take the higher risk even if you play blackjack online for real money.
If you want a low-risk game but a decent income, you can settle for $16 per hour. Still, you have the option to take a higher risk to increase your EV to up to $33. If you’re patient and consistent, you can double your bankroll in about 300 hours of play.
With only 2% risk of ruin, you can earn $10 per hour with this bankroll. You can achieve a $16 income if you’re willing to take 10% risk. For card counters, this is already a scalable bankroll.
If you don’t have the means to become a high-roller, $1,000 would be just fine for a start. You earn $10 per hour but with a staggering 45% risk of ruin. If you really can’t stretch your budget to one grand, anything lower than $500 or $800 will still work if you have the right strategy.
Should I high-roll when the running count is great?
As much as it’s tempting to push all the chips on the table, putting a large chunk of your money in one bet isn’t a good idea for two reasons. First, you have lots of opportunities to make more money and second, the pit boss may discover that you’re card counting. Even if you’re not, such erratic betting will raise suspicion.
The rule of thumb is this: always have 6 betting units as back up for every betting unit you’ll place. Why? Because what if you’re given the chance to double down or split in succeeding hands? You can’t be under-funded in these precious money-making moments. Again, patience and treading lightly is important here.
You simply can’t risk running out of funds during a nice game. Also, it’s never a good idea to stay too long just because you have the money. Going in too deep might make it hard to walk away.
Just a tip: don’t brag about the amount of money you got. If you do so, other gamblers will have a hunch that you’re counting cards. In no time, the pit boss will be asking the dealer to push you off the table.
How to make the most out of your bankroll
Aside from using cold cash on playing blackjack, there are other ways to have a bankroll and control it. You can make the following moves:
🔖Utilize match play coupons
Brick-and-mortar casinos run special promos and freebies every now and then. One of these is the match play coupon. Some casinos would give it out on the house or print it in newspapers. If you have a $10 coupon, you can bet $10 together with and get $20 when you hand wins. Take note that these coupons come in different denominations and usually limited to even money.
This is when you join the table only if the shoe is already positive. This is advisable for those who have small bankrolls and who want to avoid negative EVs. It takes patience but worth it if you don’t want to lose your money.
Although this will put your patience and skill to the test, blackjack tournaments is a great way to earn money without being backed off. There are free-entry events where card counters can utilize their gambling prowess. If you’re good enough, you can win the prize, possibly $15,000 or more.
I know that tipping is a common practice, but if you really want to earn money, don’t do it. For example, you’re earning $10 per hour, but if you’re going to give it away to the waiter who serves your drinks or to the dealer, you’re just breaking even or losing money in the long run.
🔖Team up with a pro
There’s nothing wrong with flying solo, but if you’re not yet confident that you can beat the game, you might as well tag along with an expert card counter on your gambling sessions. This way, you and the card counter can train together. However, beware of bad actors who claim to know it all.
Regardless if you play blackjack online for real money or in a casino, there are risks to mitigate. Always have a strategy and plan how you will place bets.