High Limit Blackjack
The Good, the Bad, and a Few Tips
High limit means a different amount to different players. Some players feel like they’re playing over their head at $25 a hand and others don’t get the adrenaline pumping unless $500 a hand is at risk.
If a number popped into your mind when you read high limit in the title then stick with that amount. On the other hand, if you want a number to separate low and high limits I always go with $100. If you bet black chips at the blackjack table you’ve entered high limit play. I admit this is subjective. That’s why I said you could go with your number first.
Advantages of High Limit Play
The bottom line is if you play high limit blackjack the casino needs to offer you special treatment and benefits that you don’t get at lower limits.
Casinos thrive on high rollers so if you fit the description they need to pay to get your play.
If you aren’t being treated well you need to start looking for another casino that wants your play.
Keep track of your play, including length of sessions, average wager, wins, and losses. This way you know exactly what you offer in the way of play to a casino and you can compare your value as a player to the casinos against the benefits you receive for your play.
A good thing for smart blackjack players is most casinos rate their expected return based on an edge higher than what you can actually play. The casino may rate comps based on a 2% house edge even if you can play at less than 1% based on basic strategy and finding decent table rules.
If a casino is willing to give you back 25% of your expected losses in comps and they base your expected loss at 2% if you can play with a .5% house edge you’ll break even with the comps.
(I pulled this number out of the air. I don’t know how much casino comp programs pays back and it differs from casino to casino.)
The more you know and understand about your actual loss percentage and expected loss rate the better you can understand just how good or bad the benefits you’re receiving are.
Disadvantages of High Limit Play
The main disadvantage of high limit blackjack play is you lose more money per hour than playing lower limits if everything else is the same.
Here’s an example. If you play a combination of favorable rules and basic strategy that reduces the house edge to a half percent and you’re betting $100 a hand at 100 hands per hour your expected loss is $50 per hour.
Playing $25 per hand makes your expected hourly loss only $12.50. But if you play at $500 a hand the expected loss is $250 per hour.
The reason I bothered bringing up something as simple as this as a disadvantage is to make a point about finding a way to beat the house without learning how to count.
If you can get the casino to rate your play at a higher average amount than you actually play, you have a chance to get enough additional comps to erase the true house edge.
The key is to understand how much more your expected loss is at the higher limits and compare that to the additional comps you receive.
It’s getting harder and harder to fool the casinos about your average wager, but you can try by always betting higher when the pit is watching.
You can also place bets with two chips of different denominations and place the larger chip on top. This can make you look like you’re trying to do something bad, so you may or may not want to try it. If you try it and the dealer pays you off based on both chips being the higher denomination you’ve probably crossed the line from looking for an advantage to cheating in the eyes of the casino, and possibly the law.
One other possible disadvantage of high limit play is the security of your money. In land based casinos some unsavory people watch for high rollers who may have a great deal of cash on them.
You may be targeted because of your high limit play.
If you play high limits online you need to make sure you’re playing where it’s safe. Find an online casino with a strong track record of customer service and fast pay outs.
Counter vs Non Counter Considerations
If you’re not a card counter you want the casino to see how much you wager, how much you play, and you want credit for everything you do in the casino so you can receive as many comps as possible.
Make sure you present your player card before playing a single hand and that whoever is responsible for rating your play is aware of it soon after you start playing.
When you play for high stakes online only play where they offer a player’s club and make sure you’re receiving credit for your play.
Even if you play perfect basic strategy and find the best rules you’re still giving the house an edge on your play unless you start counting cards. The best way to reduce the edge further is getting as many comps and freebies as possible.
On the other hand, if you’re a successful card counter playing at the highest limits you want to be ignored by the casino. You don’t want to bring any attention to yourself and you don’t want the pit knowing anything about you.
The issue most card counters run into is they have to play at fairly high limits to maximize their profit potential enough to make counting beneficial, but the heat is highest in bigger games.
Sometimes you can count and vary your bets widely at low limits but get noticed quickly once you move up to higher stakes.
Basically it’s impossible to play at high stakes and be ignored by the casino. As a card counter your best bet is playing short sessions, spread over different shifts, and at as many casinos as possible.
As a high limit blackjack player don’t hesitate to ask for better rules. For example, if the dealer hits on soft 17 ask if you can play with them standing on soft 17. If they don’t usually allow double after split, ask if you can have the table rules changed. If you don’t ask they’ll never help you.
Ask for a loss rebate deal on your play. If you can structure it in certain ways you can use it to eliminate the house edge. For example, if you can negotiate a rebate on your losses that settles every day you get to keep your winnings on good days and get your losses reduced on losing days.
If you play blackjack for high stakes use the tips listed above to help improve your odds and make sure the casino is showing their appreciation for your play. Track your play to learn if you can eliminate the house edge and to shop your play for a better return.