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Why blackjack card counting works

5 November 2016

Blackjack is different from other games in the casino.

Cards have a “memory.”

We know that if all the aces are removed from a single deck we know there can’t be any more blackjacks until the deck is reshuffled. In all other games it doesn’t matter what happened before, it has no bearing on the next play. Red can show up ten times in a row or not show up for the next ten spins in roulette. A player can roll a 7 five times in a row or not row another one all night.

In blackjack, when cards are removed, the composition of the remaining deck changes. That is what makes blackjack different from all the other games. Knowing what that composition of remaining deck is, that is what card counting is all about.

Counting cards in blackjack is really very easy. To follow the count, all we need to do is add or subtract one. When the dealer shuffles the deck, the count starts at zero. When ever a low card (3-6) is dealt, add one to the count, like plus 1.

Whenever a high card (T, J, Q, K) is dealt, subtract one from the count, minus 1. Most counts also include some neutral cards (2, 7, 8, 9, A) which when seen are not counted. We start at zero and keep a cumulative total as each card is seen. After 52 cards are gone, the count should return to zero, if not, we have made a mistake.

It’s that easy. This is known in the business as the running count.

Some counts give different values to each card. For example, Instead of a plus or minus one, known as a level 1 count, some authors give a plus two for the five card, and a minus two for aces, while the other cards remain as a minus or plus one. These types of counts are known as a multi-level counts. However, in almost every count, the count should return to zero after all the cards have been played and seen. This is known as a balanced count.

In addition to the running count, the player must also consider how many decks the dealer is using. This has a great effect on the odds of a low or high card appearing next. For example, if the count is plus four, in a single deck, the odds are very high that a high card will appear next. However, if four decks remain to be played we would divide by four and realize that the odds have returned to zero reducing an advantage for the player.

This new count is known as the true count. To get the true count, we divide the running count by the number of decks left to be played, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6, in a six deck game. In a single deck game we would divide by a fraction for the amount of deck to be played, 1/4, 1/2 or 3/4. This true count is the count that tells us what the balance of high or low cards remain in the deck and if we have or the house has the advantage.

Card counting can be very effective. When the count is positive, the deck is rich in high cards which are good for the player. When the count is negative, the deck is rich in low cards. Low cards favor the dealer, since he/she has a lower chance of busting when low cards come out of the deck. High cards hurt the dealer, since he/she has a higher chance of busting when holding a stiff type of hand (12-16).

When reviewing basic strategy we see that we should normally hit our 12 against the dealers 2 or 3 up card. However, if we know that the deck is rich in big cards we change our strategy and stand. We let the dealer hit with a big card causing him/her to bust. This strategy will vary throughout the game due to the numerous combinations of dealer/player cards.

Since we know we have a better chance of winning when the count is positive, we than make larger bets when the count is high. The typical strategy is to bet the table minimum when the count is 0 or minus. When the count starts up or becomes positive we start to bet bigger. When it's at +2 we bet 2 times the minimum, when at plus 3, bet 3 times the minimum and so on.

The count can also tell us when to leave a table. If the count continues to remain on the negative side we should stop playing and move to another table or pit or even another casino. We do not want to play when the count in running against us.

What makes card counting so powerful is we can do two things with it: (1) we can change our bet size and (2) change our playing strategy. These two actions on our part is what makes card counting so powerful in casino blackjack.

Numerous authors have developed counting systems which they declare are more powerful, more reliable and more effective then any other count in use against today’s modern casinos.

I’ve discovered 57 different counting systems known to be in use now or at one time or another. Some are more effective when it comes to betting, others will be more powerful in playing strategies, some work very well against insurance. My only advice is to pick a count, study it, practice it and play it. It will vastly improve your winning ability at blackjack while at the casino.


BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW

  • Baccarat game rules are the same no matter what casino offers it. That is not the same for other table games, like blackjack or craps, which can vary from casino to casino.

  • There is an old saying about helping other players at the blackjack table: “Wise men don’t need it, and fools won’t heed it.”

  • The late Australian Kerry Packer, a media tycoon preferred the game of blackjack among others. While playing blackjack, Kerry is said to have tipped one Las Vegas cocktail waitress the total mortgage on her house.

  • Televised blackjack tournaments have included Ultimate Blackjack Tour and World Series of Blackjack.

  • The odds at blackjack predict that there is only 14% chance of losing three consecutive hands.

  • It was reported in April 2011, Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City lost 5.8 million dollars to one blackjack player.
Recent Articles
Best of John Marchel
John Marchel
John Marchel is an author, speaker, teacher and player -- what John plays are casino games. He’s been a casino player for over 25 years and has played successfully in Europe, Panama, the Caribbean, Canada, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, on Indian reservations, cruise ships and in over 350 casinos throughout the US. He is also the author of six books about gambling, and has written numerous magazine articles and is currently a columnist for three gambling magazines and one internet magazine.

Since 1988 John has combined his experience as a manager, teacher and player to present seminars and lectures about gambling. In addition, John has had an Internet website since 1995 that offers books, special reports and tips about gambling. He also publishes a monthly Internet gambling newsletter. The newsletter keeps subscribers alert to trends, information and winning techniques that allows them to be more successful when visiting casinos.

John Marchel Websites:

johnmarchelgambling.com

Books by John Marchel:

101 Casino Gambling Tips: Affordable Strategies & Techniques for Maximizing Profits & Reducing Loses

> More Books By John Marchel

John Marchel
John Marchel is an author, speaker, teacher and player -- what John plays are casino games. He’s been a casino player for over 25 years and has played successfully in Europe, Panama, the Caribbean, Canada, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, on Indian reservations, cruise ships and in over 350 casinos throughout the US. He is also the author of six books about gambling, and has written numerous magazine articles and is currently a columnist for three gambling magazines and one internet magazine.

Since 1988 John has combined his experience as a manager, teacher and player to present seminars and lectures about gambling. In addition, John has had an Internet website since 1995 that offers books, special reports and tips about gambling. He also publishes a monthly Internet gambling newsletter. The newsletter keeps subscribers alert to trends, information and winning techniques that allows them to be more successful when visiting casinos.

John Marchel Websites:

johnmarchelgambling.com

Books by John Marchel:

KISS Guide to Gambling

> More Books By John Marchel