Card Counting

by Howard Moon (Professional Card Counter)

This is a four part article. This first section is an introduction to blackjack and card counting. The next section teaches blackjack players how to use the Hi/Lo Card Counting System. The third section has an in-depth look into betting amount, unit size and bankroll information. The last section has recommendations on books and other online resources to help solidify your card counting technique.

Card Counting Introduction

Blackjack is beatable. Not just beatable, but beatable by the average human being who is willing to set aside some time for practice. The method that can be used to give you an advantage over the house – card counting – has been around for decades now and in its simplest form involves remembering a single number and having the capability to add or subtract 1 to, or from, this number. Despite the fact that card counting is considered illegal by the vast majority of the population – it is NOT. Casino owners do little to dispel this myth and many actually encourage it – DO NOT BE FOOLED! In fact it has been ruled in courts all over the world to be a perfectly legitimate and legal strategy for play as long as the player is using their brain rather than a computer to keep track of the cards. This article will explore the most basic elements of card counting and hopefully it will pique your interest enough to encourage you to do more research on the topic and eventually start winning at blackjack yourself.

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Why is Blackjack different then other casino games?

Before undertaking any type of analysis regarding the probabilities of table games in casinos it must first be noted that there are 2 distinctly different types of game. The first type of game falls under the category of independent trial. This means that each result is entirely independent of any other and is hence unaffected by previous results. When I flip a coin and it comes up heads, the next time I flip the coin it is just as likely to come up heads, even though that result has occurred moments before. The previous occurrence has no effect what-so-ever on future results. Games like craps and roulette are independent trials. There is no possible way to predict what the future outcomes of the games are going to be based on past results.

Blackjack differs from these games in one very important aspect – when a round of blackjack has been dealt, issued cards are put in a discard pile – essentially they can then be considered out of play. This type of game is termed as a dependent trial, i.e. what happened in the previous rounds does effect what will happen in the next round. For example, if I’m playing in a single deck game and 4 Aces are dealt in the first round, this means that when the second round comes to be dealt, as all 4 Aces are in the discard pile, there is no possibility of me being dealt an Ace and as Aces are very good for the player the game has just got worse for me.

Basic Blackjack Strategy

Before card counting will be of any use to you what-so-ever, you need to know how to minimize the advantage that the house has over you. This is actually relatively easy when implementing a standard system of correct plays referred to as basic strategy (BS). For every combination of player hand and dealer up-card there is only one correct way to play the hand. This is not to say that if you play the hand this way you will win every time you play, but what using BS will do is minimize the amount you will lose in the long run. On average most players who play blackjack without BS will be playing at a 1.5-3% disadvantage. A player who plays perfect BS will only be playing at a 0.5% disadvantage. A 1.5-3% disadvantage is impossible to overcome with card counting whereas a 0.5% deficit is easily overcome.

To be a successful card counter you must play perfect BS at all times. There is no room for hunches, superstitions or supposed hot/cold streaks. You play by the rules of the BS table at all times. The advantage that card counting gives you is small but can become substantial when successive bets are placed over a long enough period of time. However, your slim advantage will be easily eaten away by poor play and bad decisions. Each time you break BS – regardless of whether you win or lose – you decrease the strength of your game and make yourself less likely to come out ahead in the long run. This is a difficult concept for many beginners to grasp, but if you want to win at blackjack, playing perfect BS is a principle I suggest you never waver from.

BS does change in several minor ways depending on the number of decks and the rules of the particular game you are playing against. I would strongly recommend that before you play any game you make sure that you know the correct BS for the rules and decks you are playing against. To begin with I would suggest that you learn a generic chart and make the few alterations where and when they are needed.

You can find a generic BS chart at http://wizardofodds.com/blackjack/strategy/4deck.html. To read the BS chart look down the column on the left to find your hand and along the numbers at the top to find the dealer’s up-card. This chart combined with the rules listed below will tell you the correct play for every possible hand you may be dealt against every possible dealer up card. The rules to add to these charts are:

  • NEVER take Insurance
  • Always stand a player hand of A,8 or higher
  • Always stand a player hand of hard 17 or higher (i.e. 17 without an Ace or with an Ace that can only be counted as 1)
  • Always hit a player hand of 8 or less.

Online Blackjack

Before I get into the meat of this subject, I feel that I should make it very clear that card counting online is not possible and will not benefit the player in any way against any online casino. It does not matter how powerful the counting system you use, you will not gain any advantage. Online casinos use random number generators to reshuffle the cards if not every round, then every couple of rounds. There is no discard tray and not enough cards are removed from play at any one time to generate any advantage from knowledge of the remaining cards. The only way to beat online casinos is to take advantage of the sign-up bonuses they offer – this is a discussion for another time.

How to Card Count in Blackjack

Now that the basics are covered find out how to play blackjack while using the most popular card counting system: Hi/Lo Card Counting in Blackjack.

Translations: Kaarten Tellen

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