The House Edge
  • I know the Positive Progressive Betting System with Quit Points works because i use it and win $$$ with it all the time. My question is this: they say the house has a one half of one percent edge over the Basic Strategy Player-does anyone know if that edge is down to zero when i play using the Positive Progressive Betting System with Quit Points?

    I wouldn't be at all surprised if the house edge were brought down to zero but i don't know how to "prove it scientifically."

    Anyone got any thoughts on this? Thanks.
  • The only way to reduce the house advantage is the application of science.
    Generally, this is card counting and/or shuffle tracking,etc. Betting sys's,
    of all types, no matter how lucky you may be, are not science.
  • I'm going to jump in where I probably shouldn't, because I certainly don't have the knowledge that some folk here do, but...I would think the only method that would alter the house's edge, would be counting. I think of counting as a method of play, while progression play is a wagering system, which means it couldn't affect the outcome of actual play, just monetary results. Just my .02, and correct me if I'm wrong guys.

  • jm2552 said:
    I'm going to jump in where I probably shouldn't, because I certainly don't have the knowledge that some folk here do, but...I would think the only method that would alter the house's edge, would be counting. I think of counting as a method of play, while progression play is a wagering system, which means it couldn't affect the outcome of actual play, just monetary results. Just my .02, and correct me if I'm wrong guys.


    Yep, I think that's an important distinction. Progressions will not alter the number of hands you win or lose. But they certainly can affect the number we all care about - the bottom line. I don't know if there's any quantifiable way to measure how it changes, though.
  • "House edge" is a somewhat confusing term. In general, house edge is determined by the number of decks, blackjack payoff, splitting and doubling rules, etc., and NOT by the amount of money wagered on each hand. Since both progressions and card counting are betting systems, they don't, by themselves, alter the house edge. The house ege is slightly altered by changes in Basic Strategy as a result of the count, but win/loss rates for counters and progressionists are about the same.
    What IS altered is the amount won or lost as a result of the betting system employed... counters gain a financial advantage over the house because large bets are won and winning hands occur more often when the count is positive, but a progressive bettor would have won the same hands (without knowledge of the count.) By the same token, progressionists often win a series of hands with larger bets placed at times when the counter is making his minimum bet or not playing at all.
    Apples and oranges...
  • Walter – Let’s agree to disagree because IMHO your last post is misleading folks just a tad.

    1. There is absolutely nothing confusing about the term “House Advantage” (or EV). That is the benchmark of all casino games. For blackjack, given “x” number of decks and “y” set of rules, that is the number you are playing against when you walk into a casino.

    2. Apples and Oranges?.....Not really. Let’s just make them both “Peaches” real easily so people can see the difference between counting and progressions.
    - Walter and Grifter walk into a casino to play a six deck game with “x” rules, and the ‘house advantage’ is 0.50%. Walter will play his progression and Grifter will use a moderate count (just enough to have an ER of +0.50%).
    - Let’s define ER (for this post) as “Expected Results”, or in other words “Expected Win or Loss divided by turn”……Here is what happens when the two players sit down at the table and play:

    - Walter’s Expected Result = Lose 50 cents for every 100 dollars bet.
    - Grifter’s Expected Result = Win 50 cents for every 100 dollars bet.

    That’s it….it is that simple….there are no apples and oranges…...that is the expected return of a progression player vs a counter at the same table.

    Hope this helps.

  • GOING FIRST: If you understand the impact of player going first, what
    "Grif" has explained is better understood. If the house did not give us a
    few favorable rules, then our disadvantage due to going first is much
    grater than the .5 described. Doubles,spits and blackjacks reduce the
    HA down to the level(.5) where the B/S player has a fighting chance,
    and we don't want to forget insurance and in some cases surrender.

    The card counter can extend the value of some of these favorable rules
    and further reduce the HA thru zero and up to about .78 in favor of the
    player. How does he do that? By far, the best rule that the player has is
    the double option and just a few extra doubles here and there can be the
    difference between a good or bad session. Knowing the weight of the deck
    will identify times when you should double or spit and double on hands
    that are not generally available to the non-counter. Playing stiff hands
    more accurately goes back to overcoming the problem of having to go first
    that is the core of the HA to start with. Later on in the shoe when and if
    there is a positive count and blackjacks, doubles and 20's are more likely,
    then the counter will increase his bet to take advantage of these situations.

    There are other bits of knowledge available to the counter, but for the
    most part, betting and playing efficiency is the main advantage.

  • Ray - Thanks for filling in the blanks. As you guessed, I was trying to keep it "bare bones" as possible for clarity......Grif'
  • Grifter, As you might guess; "No thanks is required" ....I just got back
    from our best Riverboat and of all things; we now have double deck pitch
    games. I couldn't believe it and with good rules. I was expecting H17 and
    some form of surrender, but thats not the case and I wonder how long
    that will last. I may need to pick your brain on double deck after I do a
    little research. (mostly about counting at the table)

  • Ray, let me say, nice game!

    My advice is to keep the spread 1 to 4 whatever you decide upon. Maybe 1 to 5 for a $5 game. Check out the site, I put a doubledecker in there yesterday.

    Good Cards

  • Grif: In response to your progressionist Vs. counter comparison, I feel that your prognosis might be "misleading folks just a tad", for several reasons:
    The positive (.5%) win rate for your counter is based upon simulations with a fixed set of hypothetical conditions (assuming that Wong's data was applied to this analogy.) For instance, for a counter to average a profit of $16 an hour, he'd have to use a $10 to $100 spread in a six deck game with 5 decks dealt. And two-thirds of the time (based upon 100 hand samples) the per hour win rate could vary between plus or minus $415.00. The $16 rate is based upon 600 million hands of play.
    I know of no casinos that deal 5 of 6 decks, or that would tolerate a 1-10 bet spread for very long, much less the 600 millions hands required to be assured of this win rate.
    I found it interesting that Wong didn't list "House edge" in his glossary (Professional Blackjack) and defined Expected Win as "the average result if you were able to make a bet over and over again in the same apparent situation." It appears to me that the situations which allow Expected Win to be positive for the card counter almost never exist in today's casinos.
    PS: Maybe I should have said "rotton apples and oranges."
  • Walter,Grifter: Somehow I feel responsible for this little disagreement and
    it may help if I explain. A few months back GH21, Walter and myself had
    a few post going on regarding the player win rate(47.5) and how it chngs
    with the count. Well, after some time I realized that the sim I was looking
    at did not give a true picture of what is really going on with win/loss rates.
    It seems that the player at different positive counts has a much greater
    advantage than I thought. For example: at +4 the house still has a small
    advantage, but at +5 and up the player has the advantage for no other
    reason other than the positive count. The counter bets more in these
    situations as you well know. Now add to this percentage advantage the
    playing efficiency percentage and you have a better picture of why the
    counter will win money and it want take him a billion hands to do so.
    Backcounting and Wonging also come in to play; here the counter is
    the "Advantage Engineer"...

    You can view a better sim on this subject at

    - on the left, select tables

    * 6 deck 75% pen
    * High/Low
    * no sort
    * no cover
    * S17,DAS
    * Table = win,loss & tied percent by TC

    From the left look at col 6,7,8 to see the changes as the count increases.
    Also, notice that the Ties/pushs increase with the positive count more than
    I would have thought.

    I hope this clears up the question as to why a counter wins without having
    to play a billion hands. To some extent it may also explain why a B/S
    progression player may have a better chance to win when the count is
    high, even if he is unaware of the situation.

  • Ray: I referenced the chart you mentioned, and note that the win rate for a count of "0" was 47.48%, and 47.76% at a count of +14 to +21, which seems like a net gain of .28% to go from a neutral count to the highest positive count. I also note that a player would have had to wager 819,433,562 units in order to show a net profit of 3,760,945 units.
    I also note that this chart was based upon the results of 500 million rounds of play.
    In other words, I don't see how this chart shows how a counter doesn't have to play a billion hands to be a winner.
    I guess it's a matter of interpretation...
  • Walt – I simply posted facts, and I don’t see anything misleading…….Let me try it again, and let me know what part you do not understand, or is misleading.

    1. Definition: “Expectation”…… What a player or the house can statistically expect to win or lose on a given game. (the game we are discussing has an expectation of +0.50% for the house, or the “house advantage”. Since you are questioning the term “house advantage”, use “vig” or “vigorish”. It means the same thing)

    2. Counter’s Expectation For Said Game: Win 50 cents for every 100 dollars bet. That statement is a mathematical fact based on the counter playing to an expectancy of +0.50%. And I honestly think this is where you are starting to get confused. What you did with that diatribe above is pick one sample of Wong’s and tried to make an all inclusive example of it. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. The counter’s expectancy will vary dependent on penetration, amount of spread used, where you start spread, etc., etc. (e.g. Snyder has a book that lists about 500 different “expectancies” based on these variables).

    3. Progressionist’s Expectation For Said Game: Lose 50 cents for every 100 dollars bet. That is a fact until someone can mathematically prove otherwise, and people have been trying for years to do so with no success. Since you used Wong for your example, here is a statement shown on the front page of his webstite: “Card counting can give you an edge. Progressions are fun, but do not give you an edge.”

    Finally, what you are not understanding, or not admitting, is the expectancies listed above are there the minute you walk through those casino doors. They do not take 600 million hands to manifest themselves!!

    That said, that is the end of my discussion on this matter. (1) I do not want this site to become a “battleground” between counters and progressionists like the other bj site., and (2) all I have done above is state facts that “players” have known for 30+ years…..everything I said is available from numerous sources.

  • Ray, The 47.5% win rate on hands (with very small variations) remains true and, in my opinion from the posts above, is not relevant to the Walter/Grifter discussion. Take a look at the sim on

    I sent an e-mail to Norm Wattenberger to get clarification on his tables, specifically the one above, on the bjstats website. He didn't give me as specific a response as I would have liked, but simply said that only in an extremely positive count can you possibly expect to win more hands. An extremely positive count is far more than +5 mentioned above.

    The fact remains that 99.99999% of the time when a counter is expecting a positive financial outcome, he's also expecting to lose more hands than he's going to win. Also keep in mind that ER (expected return) is different than EV when counting and adjusting bet sizes or "wonging".

    It is true that situations for counters to make money are more dificult than they probably were years ago, but that doesn't mean they're aren't money making opportunities for counters, because they're certainly are and they're not just hypothetical or take a million hands to be realized. But unless you are the best of the best at it, you just shouldn't make plans to quit your day job!
  • GH21 said:
    ...It is true that situations for counters to make money are more dificult than they probably were years ago, but that doesn't mean they're aren't money making opportunities for counters, because they're certainly are and they're not just hypothetical or take a million hands to be realized. But unless you are the best of the best at it, you just shouldn't make plans to quit your day job!

    GH21....Great post. You just "said it all" in one paragraph....Grif'
  • Grif: I have no plans to belabor this point, but in your opinion, how many hands DOES it take to insure that a card counter will show a net profit from play?
    I realize that the theoretical edge that counters possess is based upon indisputable mathematical research, but I also believe that many novice counters expect to enter the casino and immediatly make money as a result of their counting skills, and the likelyhood of this happening isn't as great as many card-counting advocates would lead you to believe. I believe that every blackjack player should have a clear understanding of the risks inherent in the game, and gaining that understanding requires knowledge of the fundamental research that is the basis of the recommended playing style.
    To say that you have an advantage the minute you enter the casino is OK if you follow up with a reasonable explanation of how many million minutes might have to be invested in order to realize this advantage. I have three good friends who are card counters, and they are collectively losing over $50,000 this year, so it's not as easy as it sounds to be a winner!
    In regard to my question to you, I've heard that a counter can " reasonably expect" to show a profit after 80,000 hands of play, but do you know of any published data that gives a more difinitive answer to this question?
  • GH21,Walter,Grifter...What am I not seeing about the charts? There is not
    a good description of how to read them that I can find. It looks to me like
    in the chart referenced that the win rate increases with the count, but on
    another, like we discussed in earlier post, the win rate stays about the same. What am I not seeing?

    Would anyone in their right mind play a game that took 80,000 hands to
    determine status? I think not... I keep records of every session that I play
    and I know at any time for any period my status. I want play a game that
    takes a lifetime to evaluate....all that kind of talk is just BS.

  • Walter: I think I found the table that you are looking at via the numbers
    you quoted. That's not the same one that I am looking at. As you know
    from our past discussions this is a subject that I would like to understand
    because it runs counter to what one would think should happen to the win
    rate as the count improves. Right now, I have no idea how to evaluate the
    data correctly. When you select the table selection, make sure it's the very first tie,win,loss by TC that is listed and it will get you to table that I
    am looking at.
  • 1) I don't think anyone here is saying winning money by counting is easy, There are other aspects to playing a winning game than just the counting and playing the cards. You must also know that the game you're playing (rules, penetration, bet spread, etc.) amount to a "beatable" or "winnable" game. Some games simply cannot be beaten (e.g. 8-deck, 70% pen, no surrender, no DAS, without backcounting or wonging in, etc.). Walter, if your friends truly are good counters then it sounds like they may need a refresher course in evaluating games.

    2) I can have an advantage the second I walk into a casino by knowing at what specific counts an advantage is gained and by how much, and understanding the house edge of the game.
    Example: let's say the house edge on a particular 6-deck game is .50%. Now I stand there and back-count for 3 shoes and my count goes up to +3, and for each positive one point count I gain .50% in advantage. So I've now gained 1.5% (3 x .50%) from my starting point of -.50%. This puts me at a 1% advantage over the house. At this exact moment if I drop a $100 bet on the table, my expected return is $1. And so I can expect to show a profit, and have realized an advantage, on the very first hand I play. Simple as that.

    3) The reason you don't always win (or lose for that matter) the money you expect is because of a little thing called standard deviation, which I'm assuming Grifter is going to make mention of in his next posting and can explain much better than I. Standard deviation will apply to all the table games as well as progressive betting systems, and there's nothing you can do to stop it and will cause your bankroll will fluctuate all over the place.

    Its only after you've played x amount of hands at a certain advantage, that the math (i.e. standard deviation) will say "there's absolutely, positively no way you can be behind at this point".
    But until then, even if 99 out of a 100 counters are playing brilliantly and winning money liked they're supposed to, you could be playing just as perfectly and be the one unlucky person in the group.

  • Walt……O.K……Here ya’ go. First of all, let me state what I consider obvious in your statement above. I would define “reasonably expect” to mean that point where one’s expected win exceeds standard deviation……Agree?

    1. Regarding your statement, “I've heard that a counter can "reasonably expect" to show a profit after 80,000 hands of play.” Whoever you heard that from, I commend them. As a rule of thumb, I think that is a very good number (and note that is 7,500 times less than the 600 million you were using) I can’t think of any situation where a person of reasonable skill/intelligence couldn’t “make that happen”.

    2. But the above is only a rule of thumb…..The exact amount of hands required will vary depending on penetration, spread, where you implement your spread (the ramp), etc., It will also vary tremendously on the way you decide to play, and I will list only three, (1) play all hands, (2) exit shoe at negative counts, or (3) backcount shoes and only enter when shoe is positive. In addition, it will vary depending on how much the player wants to win, coupled with the amount of variance he/she wants to accept.

    Here is the start to your answer, and it will probably surprise you…..Based on the above variables, the number of hands to “reasonably expect” a profit will be someplace between 1,000 hands (yes, that is correct) and 100,000 hands.

    3. Re your “Is there published data that gives a more definitive answer?”…. Certainly there is, but you may have to put the data together yourself to get it. Off the top of my head I know Snyder has published at least twice re this and I think the math is in Griffin’s book too, and I’m sure others (probably Schlesinger).

    But the point is…, Walter Thomason, can calculate your answer yourself. You certainly should already know the BC of the counting method you are using and the number of hands each count will occur per 100 hands. With this and your selection of your ramp, you can then determine what one point count is worth for your counting method (I know this math is all explained in one of Snyder’s publications).

    With the above, you can now determine total units bet, total gain, average bet, gain per hand, and win rate. With your win rate and the other data, you can now determine the “bottom line”, Standard Deviation.

    Once you establish standard deviation, you can determine the “magic number” of your question……the number of hands where the standard deviation is less than your expected win.

    Hope this helps…..because I sure am tired of thinkin’ and typin’.

  • My, my, Duke and Huskies fans....What on earth will us "Wildcat" fans
    do until next yr....Go Cats...We flubed our dub against UAB...What a
    shame we could have had Duke vs Wildcat best of all games again.
  • we're still dancin. next up, the ramblin wreck. great game, lotsa drama. even calhoun looked exhausted afterwards.

    speakin of house edge, last line i heard was uconn-1 over the dukies... refund at the buzzer? no house edge there,ehh.

  • You Guys beat Duke and you have our never ending thanks down
    here in Wildcat country.........................Watch out for GT, they are
    better than you think.
  • Grifter: Been reading “Blackjack Attack: by Schlesinger
    and “BJ, Take the Money & Run” by Tamburin
    They have a formula for deriving Standard Deviation (SD).
    SD$ = 1.1 x (hands) ½ x bet $
    Session Bank Roll = 2 SD (gives 95.4% coverage)
    Three SD is 99.7% ( bit of an over kill)
    Tamburin also has a Session Win Goal of about 20% of BR or
    Session Win Goal = 40% SD (stop win) (seems low, will use 60%)
    Table Walk Loss = 4/row or 1/3 BR = (.66) SD
    Win Probability = BR/ (BR + Win)
    = 2 SD / (2 SD + .6 SD)
    = 77%
    So what does it mean??
    Take a progression player, Walter’s 20,30,40,50
    Plays for 90 minutes, 100 hands
    SD = 1.1 x 10 x 30 = $330 (average bet 2nd step)
    Bank roll = 2 SD = $660.
    Win Goal = $200
    Probability of success = 75%

    Just some interesting numbers, who said BJ isn’t math based!!
  • Sge - I remember that explanation of SD in Henry T.'s book. Probably the clearest explanation and most concise "how to" on it I have ever seen. In my post above to Walter, the SD is probably the easiest thing to figure. Determining your edge when counting gets pretty complicated.

    I agree on your 'math based' statement, and I just can't believe that some people just ignore it completely.....It totally astounds me!
  • Sage: Doesn't that sound like a long term "LOCK" to you?
    It does to me! Make all your sessions 90 minutes and quit
    each time(75%) you reach $200.

    About 4.5% of the time you lose the BR and I guess it depends on
    how you end up 25% of the time when you don't reach the $200.
    Are you going to give it a try?????
  • Ray/Sage - But nothing in the figures above changes the fact that the EV is still -0.50% (for typical 6D game) and the expected loss is $15/100 hands......Grif'
  • Grifter- Thats a nice way to tell me whats going to happen during
    that undefined 25% of the time......Seems there is always a way
    the house will get it's due.
  • The point of SD is that BJ $$ will swing from side to side (win/loss) as you play. Thus if you keep your win goal modest, you can win most of the time. I play $10 table 10, 15, 20 progression and win $100 most of the time. When I hit the $100 win I walk around and start all over again as if I just walked in the door. :lol:
    Ray, to answer your question: It seems to work!!
    The EV on 100 hands @ $10 is just .005 x 1000 or $5. So I just ignore it
    I have not hit the total BR loss yet, (but it may be coming!)
  • Grif: Thanks for taking the time to respond to my question. Your answer illustrates how difficult it is to quantify an individual player's chances of success. I guess I'd rather see a more difinitive answer, such as "A counter with X game rules and Y bet spread has better than a 50% chance of showing a profit after playing Z number of hands", or something along these lines. But thanks again for your efforts!

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