How to Double Your Way to a Million in the Casino

by Jeff Harris
on February 13, 2018

Take any casino game out there, search it on Amazon, and you’ll be presented with books promising a million-dollar payday.

There’s “Million Dollar Slots” by Peter Liston, “Million Dollar Blackjack” by Ken Uston, and “Million Dollar Video Poker” by Bob Dancer. In each case, the premise is simple; follow the author’s advice and you might just become a millionaire too.

Of course, winning even one dollar while gambling is difficult enough, what with the negative expectation nature of the games and wagers. In order to win a million, you’d need to overcome the odds against you over and over again, defying probability to string together an improbable winning streak.

For that reason, among many others, I don’t recommend any of the million-dollar books mentioned above. The only people making millions from casino gambling instructional books are the authors.

As a player, it can be fun to fantasize about doubling your small stake, over and over again, until you walk away as a newly minted millionaire. It’s surely not very likely, but with a little help from lady luck, anything can happen — right?

That fantasy provides the pull that attracts so many gamblers to the casino floor. Everybody wants to get rich quick, and casino games seem to offer an easy path to that promised land.

I’m not a fabulist though, and I’ll tell you straight away that winning a million dollars gambling is a rare feat indeed. A few folks out there have made that elusive dream come true, don’t get me wrong, but they’re definitely the exception rather than the rule.

I’ve been playing casino games throughout my adult life, and during that time, I’ve heard countless conversations about what it would take to win that sweet seven-figure score. Most players dream about landing a progressive slot machine jackpot, while others hope to go on a torrid run in the table game pit. The sportsbook is another fan favorite for million-dollar fantasies, because bettors tend to believe they have an edge (almost all of them are wrong).

For fun, I like to chart out what it would take to double through to a million bucks, running through the math to see just how likely (or unlikely) a streak like that would be. I’m not selling books mind you, so this page isn’t meant to be taken at face value. Instead, consider the following to be a hypothetical of sorts, an exercise used to illustrate the sheer difficulty involved in doubling your way to a million-dollar casino win.

The Details of a Million-Dollar Double

First things first… if you started with a single $1 chip and attempted to double it into a million more, you’d need twenty consecutive wins to meet your mark ($1,048,576 to be exact)

I don’t need to tell you just how hard it is to win twenty straight hands of blackjack, rolls on the craps table, or deals on video poker. If you’ve ever played these negative expectation games, you know full well that the odds are squarely against you winning just once.

But what about increasing the starting stake? By betting more to begin with, surely your quest for a million-dollar double would be much easier.

Well, not so fast. Even if you multiply the starting bet by 100, firing a black $100 chip for the first bet, you’d still need fourteen double ups in a row. You could multiply the first bet by ten once more, and even with $1,000 on the line to start off, it would take ten straight doubles.

Take a look at the numbers below to see various betting increments work within the same doubling scheme:

  • $1 x 2 (20x) = $1,048,576
  • $125 x 2 (13x) = $1,024,000
  • $500 x 2 (11x) = $1,024,000
  • $1,000 x 2 (10x) = $1,024,000
  • $5,000 x 2 (8x) = $1,280,000

Sufficed to say, even with big bucks on the line right from the start, you’ll be hard pressed to put together a streak of those proportions.

One of my favorite mathematical resources within the gambling world is the Wizard of Odds. Game theory analyst and table game inventor Michael Shackleford is the best in the business when it comes to laying out the facts and figures that form every gamble you can imagine. The site has perfect visual representation of the odds behind various winning streaks, and as you can see, the odds are tilted heavily against you in this regard.

Now that you know how many consecutive double ups you’d need using different starting stakes, let’s examine a few casino games that offer straight doubles.

Blackjack

The classic card game pitting players against the house, blackjack appears to be the perfect venue for a million-dollar double.

It’s a skill game, first and foremost, so you’ll be able to apply basic strategy to shave the house edge down to 0.46 percent. If you’re unfamiliar with the precepts of proper blackjack strategy, take some time to study up and memorize the chart. After all, if you’re going to turn a few bucks into a million more at the blackjack tables, you’ll need to play as perfectly as possible.

Using this handy streak calculator tool, you can plug in the 0.46 percent probability of winning any random blackjack hand to find the odds for certain streaks.

The likelihood of landing twenty straight winners — the baseline streak needed to double $1 into $1 million — is so low that it’s practically irrelevant. With that in mind, I’ll limit the analysis to the second lowest betting increment on the table shown above, which is $125 on a thirteen-win streak.

According to the calculator’s wisdom, the probability of winning thirteen straight hands of blackjack stands at 0.005 percent. That equates to a 1 in 21,884 chance of making your million-dollar dream come true.

Those odds aren’t great by any means, but take a look at what happens when you increase the first bet to $1,000.

Now needing ten wins in a row, the probability increases to 0.05 percent – good for a 1 in 2,181 shot.

And if you can muster up $5,000 for a starting stake, the probability of winning eight straight in blackjack increases to 0.2 percent – or just a 1 in 469 gamble.

Bottom Line

  • Probability of Winning One Hand = 46.36 percent
  • Probability of Winning Thirteen Straight Hands = 0.005 percent
  • Odds of Winning Thirteen Straight Hands = 1 in 21,884
  • Probability of Winning Ten Straight Hands = 0.05 percent
  • Odds of Winning Ten Straight Hands = 1 in 2,181
  • Probability of Winning Eight Straight Hands = 0.2 percent
  • Odds of Winning Eight Straight Hands = 1 in 469

Baccarat

Now that you’ve seen the sausage get made, so to speak, I’ll simply plug the same figures into the streak calculator for each game on the list.

In the case of baccarat, you’d want to back the Banker bet and its 1.06 percent house edge every time out. That’s because the competing Player bet offers a slightly worse house edge at 1.24 percent.

Assuming you’re betting on the Banker, the probability of winning any single hand of baccarat is 45.9 percent. Let’s see how those odds factor into the streak equation:

Bottom Line

  • Probability of Winning One Hand = 45.9 percent
  • Probability of Winning Thirteen Straight Hands = 0.004 percent
  • Odds of Winning Thirteen Straight Hands = 1 in 24,914
  • Probability of Winning Ten Straight Hands = 0.04 percent
  • Odds of Winning Ten Straight Hands = 1 in 2,409
  • Probability of Winning Eight Straight Hands = 0.2 percent
  • Odds of Winning Eight Straight Hands = 1 in 508

Because the games are structured along the same lines, with even-money payouts and binary results, the numbers for baccarat and blackjack are closely aligned. Even so, when compared to blackjack, baccarat offers a slightly worse chance of securing a million-dollar double streak.

Craps

The craps table contains dozens of different bets to choose from, but aside from the basic Pass Line or Don’t Pass line wagers, most are losing longshots in the long run.

Similar in structure to baccarat, the pair of primary bets in craps appear to be the same, but one is slightly more favorable to players than the other. In this case, the Pass Line bet favored by most recreational players offers a house edge of 1.41 percent, while the less popular Don’t Pass Line options is actually better at 1.36 percent.

I usually bet the “right way,” but for the sake of this exercise I’ll try to squeeze every bit of equity that I can, so we’ll opt for the “wrong way” and bet the Don’t Pass Line.

To double up with this wager, you’ll need to see a two or three show up on the come out roll, or land a seven before the point number is hit again. There’s a lot of moving parts there, making the math a bit more difficult than it was for blackjack and baccarat, but the geniuses at Wizard of Odds tell me the probability of winning a Don’t Pass Line bet is 49.29 percent.

Let’s plug that bad boy into the streak calculator and see how likely a million-dollar craps run really is:

Bottom Line

  • Probability of Winning One Roll = 49.29 percent
  • Probability of Winning Thirteen Straight Hands = 0.01 percent
  • Odds of Winning Thirteen Straight Hands = 1 in 9,866
  • Probability of Winning Ten Straight Hands = 0.08 percent
  • Odds of Winning Ten Straight Hands = 1 in 1,181
  • Probability of Winning Eight Straight Hands = 0.3 percent
  • Odds of Winning Eight Straight Hands = 1 in 287

As you can see, craps is clearly the best venue for a million-dollar double streak — at least among the three games covered thus far.

Poker

Within the poker world, you’ll hear plenty of stories about a short-stacked player who doubled up, then did the deed many times over to claim every last chip on the table.

This “chip and a chair” mantra is part of what makes poker so fun, because it only takes a few doubles to turn rags into riches. Limiting this discussion to cash games, rather than tournament play, I’ll attempt to sort through the math behind poker winning streaks.

In a cash game, players are forced to pay blinds as the dealer button rotates around the table. Thus, even if you’ve doubled $100 into $200 while playing $1/$2 Texas hold’em, you’ll wind up at $197 after paying the $1 small blind and $2 big blind. Those “leaks” from your stack aren’t sizable enough to affect the streak math though, so let’s forget about the blinds for the sake of this exercise.

Another factor that makes poker tougher to analyze is the way in which win probabilities are measured.

On any given hand, your odds to win will fluctuate wildly based on how your two-card starting hand combines with the community board cards. Finally, your own hand strength is relative to the hand, or hands, held by your opponent(s).

Get it all in with a flush draw on the flop against your foe’s pocket Aces, and you’ll have just under twenty percent odds to hit a winner on the turn. With another eighteen percent or so worth of equity going into the river, your odds of winning this particular showdown stand at right around 38.6 percent.

Change your hand to pocket Jacks, however, and your opponent’s Aces in the hole have you crushed down to less than twenty percent equity preflop.

All in all, poker win probabilities can shift like the wind, so we’ll make use of a classic scenario known as the “coin flip” to make things easier. In poker, a coin flip refers to any showdown between a pocket pair and two unpaired over cards. That would be pocket 6’s against A K, pocket 10’s against K J, or any other pocket pair faced with two higher cards. Whenever a pair faces off with over cards, the pair holds slightly better than 50/50 odds, which is why these showdowns are called coin flips.

Because most people tend to play these strong hands more often, you’ll see pairs run into over cards all the time. I’ll go ahead and use two of the most commonly played hands in poker: pocket Jacks versus Ace King suited.

In this case, you have the pocket Jacks on your side, providing a 54 percent probability of defeating the “big slick” (A K). That’s the first positive winning percentage offered up, so let’s see how it affects the odds of reeling off a winning streak:

Bottom Line

  • Probability of Winning One Roll = 54.00 percent
  • Probability of Winning Thirteen Straight Hands = 0.03 percent
  • Odds of Winning Thirteen Straight Hands = 1 in 3,012
  • Probability of Winning Ten Straight Hands = 0.2 percent
  • Odds of Winning Ten Straight Hands = 1 in 474
  • Probability of Winning Eight Straight Hands = 0.7 percent
  • Odds of Winning Eight Straight Hands = 1 in 138

Lo and behold, taking a pocket pair up against over cards in a cash poker game offers the best chances so far. At just 1 in 138 odds for an eight-hand winning jag, starting off with $5,000, and exclusively playing coin flips actually creates a decent shot at building to $1 million.

And even with only $1,000 to work with, your odds of 1 in 474 for a ten-win streak are right on par with the eight hander in blackjack.

Roulette

Along with the famous long shot known as single number betting, the roulette table offers several wagers that are akin to coin flips.

Using the numbers 1 through 36, you can bet on Red or Black, Odd or Even, or groups between 1-18 and 19-36. In each case, you’ll have eighteen winning spaces on the wheel to work with, along with twenty losing spaces – the opposite of what you bet on combined with the green “0” and “00” house spaces.

That’s a formula anybody can crack, as odds of 18/38 equate to a 47.36 percent win probability for any given even-money roulette wager.

Bottom Line

  • Probability of Winning One Roll = 47.36 percent
  • Probability of Winning Thirteen Straight Hands = 0.006 percent
  • Odds of Winning Thirteen Straight Hands = 1 in 16,582
  • Probability of Winning Ten Straight Hands = 0.6 percent
  • Odds of Winning Ten Straight Hands = 1 in 1,762
  • Probability of Winning Eight Straight Hands = 0.3 percent
  • Odds of Winning Eight Straight Hands = 1 in 395

Surprisingly enough, roulette provides players with a better shot at the million than a skill game like blackjack. As of now, roulette is the third best option on the casino floor, trailing only craps and poker.

Sports Betting

Finally, many gamblers never touch a playing card or chips, choosing to bet on sports or racing instead.

Their quest to beat the bookies is one of the most difficult in the industry, however, despite the fact that sports betting is ostensibly a skill-based affair. They say even the “wise guys” — or the professional bettors who lay huge bets on the line — only generate a win rate of 55 percent. And that’s for the best of the best, as most sports bettors struggle to reach even the 50 percent threshold.

Obviously, moneyline wagers that offer fixed odds don’t always produce a pure double ($10 on a +500 shot pays back $50, for example). With that in mind, I’ll go with a point spread bet, which uses the line to level the playing field between two sides.

And as for the “vig” or “juice” charged by the casino on each wager, those fees aren’t enough to change the streak formula.

Assuming you’re a run of the mill bettor, I’ll use a flat 50 percent win rate to see how you’d fare trying to double your way to a million dollars:

Bottom Line

  • Probability of Winning One Roll = 50.00 percent
  • Probability of Winning Thirteen Straight Hands = 0.01 percent
  • Odds of Winning Thirteen Straight Hands = 1 in 8,192
  • Probability of Winning Ten Straight Hands = 0.1 percent
  • Odds of Winning Ten Straight Hands = 1 in 1,024
  • Probability of Winning Eight Straight Hands = 0.4 percent
  • Odds of Winning Eight Straight Hands = 1 in 256

Once again, I’m surprised to see sports betting has beaten out blackjack when it comes to this million-dollar double up challenge. As it turns out, the only game offering a higher likelihood of success is poker, and that’s only when you can find pocket pairs against over cards every time out.

Conclusion

Using the bottom line facts and figures revealed throughout this page, you can get a much better idea on the reality behind those million-dollar gambling books.

Your best odds come at the poker table (1 in 138 when betting $5,000), followed by sports betting (1 in 256), craps (1 in 287), roulette (1 in 395), blackjack (1 in 469), and finally baccarat (1 in 508). When you factor in the artificial nature of the poker setup – you won’t be assured of a coin flip scenario on every hand in a real game – sports betting emerges as the most likely route to a million-dollar winning streak.

As proof, check out this amazing story about an anonymous Las Vegas sports bettor who went on just such a streak last year. Betting on the baseball playoffs, the man turned his starting stake into an incredible $14 million payday. All he needed to do was land six straight winners (he started out with much more than $5,000 I’d imagine).

Streaks like this are certainly rare, but they are possible, and that possibility provides millions of gamblers with hope. I won’t make any claims about your own chances, but having run through the win streak exercises shown above, at least we both know the score when it comes to classic casino games. Steer clear of the baccarat and blackjack tables, and bring your bankroll to the poker room or sportsbook instead.

From there, it’s all up to lady luck and her infamously fickle nature.
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