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Another "Magic Number" for Blackjack Players

19 May 2004

Last week's column was an analysis and game plan for keeping track of the 10-value cards and aces during a blackjack game for basic strategy players who wish to ascend to the next level.

It was concluded that the tens, faces and aces are the most powerful cards for players, and that knowing when there are an abundance of them during the middle game of a 6-deck shoe can be advantageous for players in the know.

Today, allow me to present an alternative simplified method of keeping track. This time our concentration will be focused on the cards that as a collective group constitute a powerhouse for the dealer: the four, five and six value cards.

It has been mathematically established that the fours, fives and sixes create big hands for the dealer, who must adhere to rigid rules of play. Dealers MUST hit two-card totals of 14, 15 and 16. Today's target cards can therefore allow the dealer to draw to unbeatable hands.

The players, on the other hand, have flexibility. Depending on the particular basic strategy decision in question, a player can stand on a 14, 15 or 16 in the hopes that the dealer will "bust".

There are a total of 12 four, five and six value cards in each 52-card deck. In a 6-deck shoe there are 72 of them, constituting roughly 23 percent of the total of 312 cards.

Today's "magic number", therefore, is 23. If you chose to keep track of the fours, fives and sixes, about 23 of them should have been dealt after two decks have been played to keep the game on an even keel. Any less means that the middle game of the shoe could be in favor of the house. Any more means that the middle game could be advantageous for the players.

Continuing to keep mental track as the middle game progresses can give you an even greater advantage.

Once again, I must emphasize that the two simplified methods of card tracking I have outlined require you to stop being a passive player. You must pay attention to the hands of all the players at your table.

Furthermore, many times your count will have yielded no advantage either way. But for those occasions when your count does reveal a swing, you'll have knowledge that very few players possess.

The card-tracking knowledge you possess is most powerful in games where the minimum bet is \$5. When you detect the game has tilted in favor of the house, you can drop your bet to the minimum. When you detect the game has swung in favor of the players, it may be time to risk more.

The "high minimum" games at a majority of Chicago-area casino destinations strip away this perk. When you are playing \$10 and \$15 hands to begin with, increasing your bet during "player advantage" situations is beyond the realm of many average recreational players.

Finally, if you are inclined to do nothing else, or you wish to introduce yourself to card tracking the easiest way possible, try keeping track of only the fives. Computer studies reveal that the fives are THE most powerful dealer cards.

In a 6-deck shoe there are 24 fives. The more fives that are dealt during the opening game means that the middle game may be a "player's game".

It is my hope that you'll experiment with the card-tracking strategies that I have outlined the last two weeks. They are designed to make you more successful at the one casino game where the odds continually fluctuate. Knowledge is power.

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Best of John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insiderâ€™s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insiderâ€™s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.