People have been coming up with clever ways to win at games of chance for as long as gambling has existed. Countless betting strategies have emerged over the years as a result of these efforts, some better known than others. Systems like the Martingale, Labouchere, and Fibonacci attract the most attention, and no wonder. They have been around for decades, even centuries.
In today’s article, we are going to discuss a less popular system known as the 2-1-2. It borrows its name from one of the area codes for Manhattan, New York City’s most densely populated borough, and is intended for gamblers who seek to exploit streaks of successive wins. Without further ado, let us get straight into how the 2-1-2 system works.
Bet Sizing with the 2-1-2 System
The 2-1-2 is a positive progressive betting system which means it requires players to increase their wagers after winning rounds. Its milder progression and lower volatility render it suitable for more risk-averse players looking to extract greater value from their winning streaks.
The 2-1-2 Betting System in Action
In this section, we provide an example of the 2-1-2 betting system in action to demonstrate how it works in the real casino environment. European roulette played on a single-zero wheel is our game of choice for this example. It offers several outside bets with even-money payouts on number properties like red-black, odd-even, and high-low.
For simplicity purposes, we have selected a base betting unit of $10 to start our hypothetical session with. Examine the table below before we proceed with the explanation.
|Example of the 2-1-2 Betting System in Action with Base Bet Unit of $10|
|Round Number||Amount Staked||Outcome||Total Return|
|Spin #1||$20 on Red||16 Red, Win||$40 ($20 + $20)|
|Spin #2||$10 on Black||15 Black, Win||$60 ($40 + $20)|
|Spin #3||$20 on Odd||21 Red, Win||$100 ($60 + $40)|
|Spin #4||$30 on High||33 Black, Win||$160 ($100 + $60)|
|Spin #5||$40 on Even||10 Black, Win||$240 ($160 + $80)|
|Spin #6||$50 on Red||24 Black, Loss||$190 ($240 – $50)|
As you can see, the hypothetical player in this example was lucky enough to experience a hot streak of five winning rounds in a row, gradually increasing their wager by one unit after the second consecutive win. After winning the first round with a $20 bet (2 x $10 base units), the player reverted to a single base unit for the second round.
This spin produced a second win, earning him $20 in total profits on top of the $40 they collected during the first successful round. Keep in mind the original wagers are also included in the calculations. The second successive win called for a bet increase to two units so the player pushed out $20 on the third round.
A streak of winning rounds ensued, causing the player to continue raising by one unit (or $10), going all the way up to $50 on the sixth spin. This is where the winning streak unfortunately ended and so did the betting session. The player generated $190 in total returns during the first five spins.
Variation of the 2-1-2 Betting System
We previously mentioned in brief about a variation of the 2-1-2 betting system where you start over after a loss rather than quitting so let’s elaborate on that. With this variant of the strategy, you can continue playing after a loss but you must drop down to one base unit for the next round.
|Round Number||Amount Staked||Outcome||Total Return|
|Spin #1||$20 on Red||32 Red, Win||$40 ($20 + $20)|
|Spin #2||$10 on Red||13 Black, Loss||$30 ($40 – $10)|
|Spin #3||$10 on Odd||7 Red, Win||$50 ($30 + $20)|
|Spin #4||$20 on Low||15 Black, Win||$90 ($50 + $40)|
|Spin $5||$30 on Even||26 Black, Win||$150 ($90 + $60)|
|Spin #6||$40 on Black||25 Red, Loss||$110 ($150 – $40)|
|Spin #7||$20 on Red||9 Red, Win||$150 ($110 + $40)|
|Spin #8||$10 on Odd||34 Red, Loss||$140 ($150 – $10)|
|Spin #9||$10 on Black||26 Black, Win||$160 ($140 + $10)|
As the table above indicates, the main difference in this variation of the system is that the player sticks to one unit after losing a single-unit wager. In our case, a single-unit loss first occurred on the second spin so the player wagered one unit on the third round.
A streak of three consecutive wins came next, followed by a loss on the sixth spin, at which point the player reverted to their original two-unit bet. The seventh round was successful and called for a reduction to one unit. The player lost again and wagered a single unit on the ninth spin when things again began to turn around in his favor.
With this variant of the 2-1-2 system, the player drops down to two units after an unsuccessful round unless they have lost one unit on the previous spin, in which case they must bet one unit next. Another variation of the strategy requires you to raise your bet from one to three units after a second winning round.
Impact on Expected Return in Common Casino Games
The main idea behind the 2-1-2 system is supposedly to help you win more money during solid winning streaks and cut down your losses during choppier sessions. But does this strategy help you win more at gambling and can it improve your odds of beating the casino?
Gambling expert Michael Shackleford addressed these questions by analyzing the implementation of the system in several popular casino games like baccarat, roulette, and craps.
The analysis involves a hypothetical (and highly unlikely) winning streak capped at twenty one successful rounds. The probability of this occurring in baccarat is 1 in 2.8 million with wagers on the Player side.
Mr. Shackleford first calculated the average losses per session a system player can anticipate, along with the average number of wagers made per session. He then determined the theoretical expected return each casino game yielded with the 2-1-2 strategy in place.
1Expected Return of Various Casino Games with the 2-1-2 System
To give you an example, a person systematically betting on the Player side in baccarat with this strategy can anticipate losing 0.053506 units during a single session, with the average number of wagers made standing at 4.332144. This would result in a negative expected return of -0.053506 / 4.332144 = -0.012350. Here are the figures for the other casino games and bets that were analyzed.
|Expected Return of Casino Games Played with the 2-1-2 System|
|Casino Game||Bet Type||Expected Return||House Edge of Bet|
|Baccarat with 5% Commission on Winning Banker Bets||Banker||-0.010579||1.06%|
|Single-Zero Roulette||Red/Black, Odd/Even, High/Low||-0.027027||2.70%|
|Double-Zero Roulette||Red/Black, Odd/Even, High/Low||-0.052632||5.26%|
|Triple-Zero Roulette||Red/Black, Odd/Even, High/Low||-0.076923||7.69%|
|Craps||Don’t Pass Bet||-0.013636||1.36%|
2The 2-1-2 System = Negative Expected Value
If you look at the last two columns in the table, you will surely notice two things. First, the average theoretical return (or the ratio of money won to money wagered) is negative, which is to say you will end up in the red and lose rather than win when consistently implementing the 2-1-2 system.
Second, your expected return coincides with the exact house edge each of the analyzed wagers produces over the long run. In other words, the figures in the last column reflect what percentages the casino gets to keep per every dollar wagered at the tables in the long term.
If you perform several quick calculations, you will notice what we mean. The house receives 0.0136 cents (1.36%) per every dollar wagered on Don’t Pass bets, 0.0270 (2.70%) per dollar wagered on single-zero roulette, and so on.
3So Is the System Efficient?
The short answer is no. Looking at the figures above, a reasonable person can arrive at one logical conclusion and it is that the 2-1-2 system does not help you win more at gambling. What is worse, it does not help you win at all. Your expected value will remain negative with or without this system.
4Issues with the 2-1-2 System
The main flaw of the 2-1-2 system is that it is powerless when it comes to overcoming the casino advantage built into games like roulette, baccarat, and craps. As you previously saw, using this strategy does not even dent the house edge. Like all progressive systems, the 2-1-2 relies on bet sizing which has no effect on your winning odds whatsoever.
The casino games the system is applicable to are all based on chance. Each dice roll or spin of the roulette wheel is an independent event. As such, it remains unaffected by previous results and does not impact future outcomes. Switching from smaller to larger bets or vice versa does nothing to improve your odds of winning in the long run.
Like all positive betting progressions, the 2-1-2 system might yield some results and help you generate more profits in the short term. However, gamblers are doomed to lose money due to the house edge the longer they play, whether or not they are using the 2-1-2 system or another similar betting strategy.
Are There Any Benefits to Using the 2-1-2 System?
Using the 2-1-2 betting system is pointless when it comes to generating positive long-term expected value as readers already saw. All wagers in gambling games based on chance have negative expectation.
No person in their right mind would assume that adding negative numbers (or negative-EV wagers in this case) could produce a positive number. So are there any benefits to implementing this betting system? Why use it in the first place? The answer to this question largely depends on what your personal goals are as a player.
To put the lid on this publication, casual players who gamble occasionally for recreation should feel free to implement the 2-1-2 system if they so please. While it does not overcome the house edge, this system can help them rack up more profits during winning streaks, at least in the short term.
We finish off with a word of caution. You should always opt for free betting systems like this one rather than buying them from someone on the internet. The people who sell them are usually charlatans looking to profit off of the naivety of hapless players. No betting system works over the long haul, so why waste your money on one?