Blackjack Betting sizes & Risk of Ruin

When reading any articles on budget management or betting sizes in blackjack you’ve probably come across the concept of Risk of Ruin. Put simply, Risk of Ruin is synonymous with risking your entire bankroll over a series of bets at the casino and the larger the ratio of your wager to your bankroll, the higher the risk.

If you have only enough money to flip a coin once, your risk of ruin will be 50% as there is a 50% chance that the coin will land on heads and 50% chance that it will land on tails.

The average casino player is usually more interested in the house edge or odds on a particular game or simply just having fun at the casino. It is common that players who enjoy a specific game will accept the higher house advantage, simply because the entertainment element outweighs the odds.

How you play and what is important to you as a blackjack player will largely depend on your personality type. If you’re a more conservative gambler, lowering the house edge and risk will be important to you, but if you’re someone who craves excitement and entertainment then risk will be par for the course.

But let’s consider that you want to enjoy a two hour blackjack session without going broke – how much should you be risking per bet?

In a game of blackjack you’ll have a number of opportunities to place bets within a two hour period. If you’re playing at a land based casino, depending on the number of players at the table and the speed at which the dealer deals you could be seeing anything from upwards of 200 hands during the period.

When playing blackjack you should always be familiar with basic blackjack strategy in order to lower the house edge as far as possible, find a basic blackjack strategy card to assist you here. Let’s consider an example wherein you’re adept at strategic blackjack play and are playing a variant where the dealer hits on soft 17, you are permitted to double down on two cards and split up to three hands and are also allowed to double down after a split with no re-splitting of aces and no surrendered offered in the game.

In this game variant the house will have a 0.67% edge. If you’re wagering $10 per hand the following Risk of Ruin (busting out) will apply over the 200 hands you play:

Blackjack Risk of Ruin table

From the table you can see that if you have $40 you stand a high chance of busting quickly. The higher your bankroll, the more chance you stand of staying in the game and making some money.

While calculating your risk of ruin won’t tell you exactly how much your 2 hour gaming session will cost you, if can give you an idea of how long your bankroll will last for a particular session and how much you’ll need to stay in it for the long haul.

In the above example, the house edge is 0.67% per hand. So if you play 200 hands this should equate to less than $15 in a 2 hour period, which is not a lot considering the entertainment value over the long term. What is the long term? Playing far more than just a 2 hour session or 200 hands of blackjack.

It is important to be mindful of the fact that the higher the house advantage, the higher your risk of ruin assuming you stick to the same number of wagers based on your bankroll. This means that you should always look for a blackjack game with the lowest possible edge and play according to strategy to lower this as far as possible.