Which Blackjack Strategies DON'T Work?

It's easy to find pages filled with advice about how to play blackjack and how to reduce the house edge and the odds, but you don't find many pages explaining what not to do. I aim to correct this oversight here.

Below you'll find a list of strategies to avoid while playing blackjack. A quick way to spot something that doesn't work in the long run while playing 21 is of it's called a system it probably doesn't work.

Progression Systems Don't Work

While there've been a number of progressive betting systems derived over the years, none of these work and none will guarantee wins at the blackjack table over time. Many can create short term profits, but the odds catch up to them eventually and wipe out all of your prior profits.

All progressive systems do are provide ways to lose 100% of your bankroll.

Smart players know that there's no way to make easy money when playing blackjack. The best thing to do is always adhere to basic blackjack strategy and avoid progressive betting systems. These systems may promise a way to recoup losses, but it is quite possible to lose your entire bankroll before that one large win comes through.

The Martingale System

This is one of the better known betting systems and it offers a very basic premise. If I place a bet for $5 at the table and lose, my next bet is doubled to $10. If this bet is lost, the amount is doubled again, landing me with a $20 bet.

Once again, a loss will require a double bet of $40. It's obvious that this is a fast way to eat through any bankroll, especially if there's a losing streak in the process. Losing streaks are not uncommon when playing blackjack and when using the Martingale System.

The Martingale system may seem appealing as it can offer multiple small payouts, but the chances of it actually creating steady profits are nonexistent.

The Fibonacci System

Like the Martingale system, this system can be just as devastating to your bankroll. This betting system is a bit more complex than the Martingale. With this, there's a series of numbers and each is the sum of the two prior to it. For example, a Fibonacci system is 1 1 2 3 5 8 13 and so on. These are the bet amounts that are placed if each bet is lost. If a bet is won, the last bet placed should be repeated. If the $8 bet is won, the next bet would be $5. If that hand is won, the system should be restarted, but if it's lost, the system will continue on.

Labouchere Betting System

The Labouchere system is also called the cancellation system. It starts by selecting a series of numbers like 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. The first bet placed on the table is the total of the two end numbers. In this case, the bet amount would be $6. If this bet is lost, the 1 and 5 is cancelled and 6 would be added to the end of the series, for a bet of 6 and 2, or $8. Losing this hand results in adding 8 to the end of the string, making the following bet $11. This progresses for the length of the series.

You cross out any numbers that you win, hoping to cross all of the numbers off your series before you run out of money.

This betting system is quite confusing and it's also one that will never be profitable in the long run.. It should be avoided just like any other betting system. Since there is no guarantee, this is just one more way to eliminate your bankroll.

Reverse Martingale

This is another progression system, but it's based on winning hands instead of losing. With every win, the bet amount is doubled. The downfall is that a losing bet will wipe out everything that you've won. This betting system is used when on a winning streak, but it is still a poor choice.

Always Take Insurance

Insurance is a wager that the dealer has a ten valued card in the hole. If she does you get paid 2 to 1, creating an even money situation. This sounds good at first, but when the dealer doesn't have a blackjack you lose your insurance wager.

The dealer only has a blackjack four out of every 13 hands, so nine times they don't and four times they do. This makes the odds worse than the 2 to 1 insurance pas so it's a bad strategy.

Take Insurance When You Have a Good Hand

Some players can't stand the thought of the dealer beating their good hand with a blackjack so they always take even money insurance when they have a good hand. This is a bad idea for the same reason as the always take insurance strategy listed in the last section.

Never Bust

I've seen players play blackjack in a way that they never bust. If they have a hard 12 or higher they never hit. It doesn't matter what the dealer has or what the proper play is based on basic strategy, they play so they don't bust.

This is a bad idea when you consider the statistics and odds, but it's even a bad idea from a common sense standpoint.

Here's an example:

If you have a seven and a five and the dealer has an ace showing, if you stand the only way you can win is if the dealer busts. In a game where the dealer stands on a soft 17 they beat you by drawing any card valued six through king. This only leaves aces through fives, and even when they draw one of those cards they still have a chance to win depending on the next card they draw.

So any of eight cards win the hand instantly, and the other five cards still give them a chance to win. With your total of 12, any card from an ace through a nine helps you, and the only ones that hurt you are the tens through kings. Nine cards help you and only four hurt you.

The never bust strategy can only be described as a bust.

Mimic the Dealer

Some players follow the same rules as the dealer. If the dealer hits on everything up to an including a soft 17, the player does the same. When the dealer stands on a soft 17 and hits everything less than 17 the player does so as well.

While this is a simple strategy to follow, it gives the casino a much larger house edge than playing basic strategy. This is basically as bad as the no bust strategy listed above. With the availability of strategy cards there's no reason to ever use the never bust strategy or the mimic he dealer strategy.

Using a strategy chart or card is just as easy and takes your hand and the dealer's card into account to help you make the play that has the best chance of winning based on math, odds, and statistics.


At the end of the day the only blackjack strategies that work are the ones based on real mathematical calculations. This starts with using basic strategy and can advance to card counting, ace tracking, shuffle tracking, and hole carding.

But any type of progression system, or other hair brained idea you run across is sure to do nothing but help you lose money, no matter how good it sounds.