Getting Started With Blackjack Bankroll Management

Written by: Joe Falchetti , Expert in Online Casinos, Sports Betting, and Poker

Every gambling enthusiast can master bankroll management for blackjack. It may take some patience and practice, but trust me, it’s worth it.

I’ve asked some of the most experienced casino critics and editors on the team for their tips and tricks, and I’ll share some of them here.

By the end of this article, you will learn how much money you should bring to the blackjack table to continue playing through bad beats and minimize losses.

I’m sure the techniques here will help most casual gamblers win some money and avoid quickly losing funds.

Table of Contents

Guide to Estimate Your Blackjack Budget

What Is the Recommended Bankroll for Blackjack?

I know it’s boring, but let’s start with the basics. The first principle of bankroll management remains the same for blackjack. Only bet with what you’re comfortable losing.

The second principle is to keep blackjack funds separate from your other expenses. This is the only way to track all your playing sessions, expenses, winnings, and losses in detail.

If you can have it in a separate account, we recommend you do so.

From there, our casino specialists suggest splitting the money into a total bankroll, a session bankroll, and a bankroll in hand.

  • Total Bankroll: It is the entire budget you set aside for playing blackjack. The pros recommend at least 300 times your average wager.
  • Session Bankroll: A portion of your total budget for each playing session. Our team suggests it should be one-third of your Total Bankroll for a 3-hour session.
  • Bankroll in Hand: Generally, you should only bet around a maximum of 1% per hand of your starting session bankroll. So, if you have $200, you should wager around $1-$2 per hand.

This amount gives you a significant chip stack and helps prevent you from going broke on a random bad streak. So, the size of your blackjack bankroll ultimately depends on the size of bets you place and how long you want to play.

Many books and systems claim you can beat online blackjack using only money management. While it is a tool to help you play through downswings, bankroll management alone is not enough to win every time.

How to Calculate a Blackjack Bankroll

Let me say this upfront before we go into details. The main goal of playing blackjack for real money is having fun. If you just want to sit down and try to win a few hands, you don’t need a huge sum of money.

You could find a $5 table, sit down with $50, and play until you double up or lose it all. That’s absolutely fine as long as you gamble responsibly.

My point here is, yes, you should still try to find the best games and use a strategy chart, but you don’t need to worry too much about your total bankroll.

Card counters use blackjack bankroll management techniques to weather long-losing streaks. Calculating the low house edge they want takes thousands of hands with perfect decisions.

That said, below are 3 simple ways to calculate the optimal budget for a session.

Based on Betting Units

A betting unit is an amount you plan to wager per hand. For example, if you play $5 hands, then 100 units would be $500.

The rule is that you should play with no less than 100 betting units over a 3-4 hour period. So, if you plan to be at the blackjack table and bet $5 a hand, you should have at least a $500 session bankroll.

Remember, that doesn’t mean you can play only 100 hands. There will be wins, losses, and additional wagers to make along the way.

Bet SizeMinimum Bankroll

Based on Risk of Ruin

The risk of ruin is defined as your chance of losing your entire bankroll.

Think about it this way. If you start with $500 in your blackjack session, you can bet $1 all day, but if you start by betting $100, regardless of your luck, you could quickly run out of chips in just a few minutes.

The table rules, bet size, and your skills all affect this outcome.

Bet UnitsRisk of Ruin

Calculating Per Day Bankroll

When you plan to play for a week or a trip to Vegas, you also need to split up your blackjack bankroll so you don’t run out of money on day one.

A good rule of thumb often suggested when traveling is to simply divide your total bankroll into daily sessions.

For example, if you have $1,000 for the week and want to sit at the table for five days, you should set aside $200 a day.

Based on a $200 daily bankroll, you should play at a table with $1-$2 wagers.

Blackjack Money Management

Mobile Live Blackjack Online Casinos with Chips

Managing your funds while playing blackjack for real money goes beyond dividing your week into equal parts so you don’t run out of cash. It also incorporates what to do with your winnings and knowing when to stop playing.

Each player handles their bankroll in different ways. Some gamblers re-total the amount and divide it again after each day of gaming. Others pocket the winnings from each day to balance out losses.

If you plan to play for five days and have a total bankroll of $1,000, you have $200 a day. However, if you still have $100 at the end of the first day, your total remaining bankroll for the week is $900.

Starting with more betting units is beneficial, so you could divide $900 by the four remaining days for a new daily bankroll of $225. Alternatively, you could pocket the $100 from day one and just stick to the plan with $200 a day.

Table Limits Matter

Deciding which table bet limits to play is also part of money management. Many casinos offer different table rules at the low limits than they offer at the high limits. Do you have enough money to play at the $20 minimum tables if the $5 or $10 tables don’t have good rules?

Some low minimum bet tables have a much higher house edge based on their rules and payouts. For example, if a blackjack only pays 6:5, your expected loss per hour is much more significant. That means you might need more bankroll than you initially anticipated.

Blackjack Bankroll Management Tips

If you plan to play more often, it’s beneficial to be aware of your money and how many bets you can place. Once again, during a trip to Vegas, you should have a session bankroll and total bankroll.

Use these rules when managing your money, and you should be able to handle any situation.

  1. Don’t Play With Less Than 100 Betting Units

    You want to make sure you have enough money to deal with a downswing.
  2. Spread Your Money Out

    If you need your bankroll to last all week, don’t take it all to the table on day one.
  3. Use a Hit/Stand Chart

    You get much better odds with optimal gameplay. Make sure you use a strategy chart
  4. Keep Your Mind Sharp

    It can be tiring to play blackjack all day. Limit yourself to a few hours at a time.
  5. Always Bet One Unit

    Avoid progressive betting models and only bet a single unit to keep your pace.
  6. Look for Rules That Help You Win

    Avoid blackjack variations that increase the house’s edge.

    Based on our experience, you should play at tables that pay 3-2 where the dealer stands on a soft 17.

Blackjack Bankroll Management Lessons

Now let’s put it all together by determining your blackjack bankroll needs depending on the house edge and how you play. We’ll do this through a couple of examples.

We’ll show you the math and why you might need different blackjack bankrolls based on the estimated house edge. You’ll notice the player’s money management needs vary greatly.

Example #1: Playing With No Strategy

A casual player who sits at a blackjack table with no plan gives the house an edge of around 3%.

That assumes you know the basic rules but didn’t look for a table with good payouts.

Expected Loss Rate

Let’s look at the math for a 3% house edge if your average bet is $10 and you play 50 hands per hour. If you play a different average wager, you can plug your amount into the formula.

0.03 x $10 x 50 Hands per hour = $15 loss per hour

So, with no strategy, you’ll lose around $15 per hour playing this game. If you want to play 4 hours a day for five days, that’s a total of 20 hours. That makes your expected loss $300 for the week.

Example #2: Playing With the Basic Strategy

If you use a basic blackjack strategy and find a table with rules and payouts in your favor, you can expect a house edge of around 0.5%.

That’s a pretty big jump from 3% in the last example.

Expected Value

Assuming you’re still betting the same $10 per hand and playing 50 hands per hour, we can rerun the math with the new house edge in mind.

0.005 x $10 x 50 Hands per hour = $2.50 loss per hour

Now you only lose around $2.50 per hour playing the game. Now a 20 hour week at the table has an expected loss of just $50. So, you could confidently buy-in with less money.

Manage Your Funds & Have Fun Playing Blackjack

By implementing the strategies I’ve shared in this article, you can determine your expected loss or win per hour and calculate your ideal blackjack bankroll.

The next step is to find a break-even game with a low house edge, so you don’t have to worry as much about backoffs. You still need a cushion, but if you have some reserve cash, you likely won’t go broke in the long run.

Use our odds & payouts guide to improve even more your chances of beating the dealer at the blackjack table.

Joe Falchetti

Joe Falchetti Expert in Online Casinos, Sports Betting, and Poker

Joe Falchetti, aka Smokey Joe, is a former professional poker player who has been a part of the online gambling and sports betting world for almost two decades. He's a full-time sports bettor and specialized writer featured in CBS Sports and and linked to by the New York Times.

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