Although it is more common to play one hand at a time, you may have seen blackjack players in your local casino playing two hands at a time. You might have even tried it yourself. But have you ever considered the effects of playing two hands at a time upon your bankroll?

You might assume that adopting a strategy where you play more than one hand of blackjack at a time would make no long-term difference to your bankroll, as it has no impact on the fixed casino edge, but this opinion is flawed, as demonstrated in computer simulations run by Norm Wattenberger, a renowned blackjack software developer, theorist and commentator.

The most obvious result of playing two hands of blackjack instead of one, is that you will play more hands per hour and as such, you will be exposing more of your bankroll to the casino’s edge. By increasing the amount you bet at the blackjack tables, you are increasing the amount you are wagering per hour and therefore potentially increasing your total losses.

How about then, if you split the total wager across the two blackjack hands, so instead of playing, let’s say $10 on one hand, you opt to black two hands for $5 each? It rather depends on the exact number of hands per hour.

Choosing to play two hands of blackjack instead of one doesn’t quite double your hands per hour rate, because two hands require more cards to be dealt. If playing one hand lets you fit in 100 hands an hour, than playing two hands of blackjack at a time will see your rate change to around 160 hands per hour, not 200. So in theory, your hourly losses should actually decrease, as you are exposing less of your roll to the casino edge per hour. Splitting a wager across two spots is a perfect tactic for a blackjack player with a smaller bankroll that simply wants to make the evening last as long as possible.

Wattenberger’s simulation attempted to determine the chances of a blackjack player’s $300 bankroll lasting through a three hour session.

The results were as follows:

  • Betting $10 on a single hand: 86% chance of lasting.
  • Betting $5 on two hands: 96% chance of lasting.
  • Betting $10 on two hands: 68% chance of lasting.
  • Betting $20 on a single hand: 53% chance of lasting.

So it seems that splitting your blackjack bet across two hands really is the best way to limit your bankroll’s fluctuations, but this comes at a price. The same experiment was run to determine the chances of making $150 profit, using the same conditions and bankroll. The results were as follows:

  • Betting $10 on a single hand: 40% chance of making $150.
  • Betting $5 on two hands: 26% chance of making $150.
  • Betting $10 on two hands: 55% chance of making $150.
  • Betting $20 on a single hand: 62% chance of making $150.

So blackjack players can’t have their cake as well as eating it. If you want to preserve your blackjack bankroll, by playing two hands at a time, you must be prepared to make do with smaller winning sessions.

Best of luck at the tables!