Card counting Blackjack

Card Counting, 101

When a player decides he wants to beat a casino fair and square, the first attempt is almost always ordinary blackjack card counting. There are many reasons for this obsessive misdirection, not least of which is the sheer bulk of movies, books and websites devoted to the topic. Conversely, there is very little information available to show the would-be AP that he is completely misguided. Blackjack card counting is tough. The profit potential is small. The bankroll needed for even a modest win-rate is enormous. The swings can be brutal. If the card counter manages to get over these hurdles, then he must get away with it against casino staff who are very well-trained at spotting guys just like him.

In the world of serious table game advantage play, blackjack card counting occupies a position at the very bottom, with most professional APs considering it somewhere between death and taxes. Were it not for the large table maximums and high-roller perks that some casinos offer, there would be no pure professional blackjack card counters at all. However, this does not mean that card counting is a dying art. Indeed, it is an extremely powerful arrow in the advantage player’s quiver. With the right game-target, card counting can be an extraordinarily lucrative endeavor.

Card counting works for those games where multiple rounds are dealt between shuffles. The AP is looking for a proprietary game or side bet where there are cards that are good for the house and cards that are good for the player. Right after the shuffle these cards are in balance, giving the baseline house edge. However, as cards are dealt, the relative balance of good cards and bad cards changes, altering the house edge with each new round. Sometimes this change is enough to throw the edge toward the player side. That’s when the card counter strikes. His counting system allows him to identify these advantageous situations. Armed with this knowledge, he can choose to play a side bet or he can choose to raise his wager in the main game.

To understand how card counting works I am going to review its use against blackjack. In this case, the cards that are good for the house are 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 (the low cards) and the cards that are good for the player are the high cards (T, J, Q, K, A). When there is an abundance of high cards, the player will get more blackjacks, will get better cards on his double downs, and the dealer will bust more often when drawing to a stiff hand. When there is an abundance of low cards, the player will get fewer blackjacks, will get worse cards on his double downs, and the dealer will make more of his stiff hands. The secret of blackjack card counting is knowing whether the remainder of the deck is rich in high cards (good for the player) or low cards (good for the house).

To keep track of this ratio of high and low cards, a card counting system is used. The most commonly used counting system for blackjack is called “High-Low.” In this system, each of the low cards 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are assigned the tag +1. Each of the high cards T, J, Q, K, and A are assigned the tag -1. Finally, the neutral cards are 7, 8, and 9. Each of these is given the tag 0. Note that the suit of the card does not matter. I collectively refer to any of the cards T, J, Q, or K by the letter “T”. The following table gives a summary of the High-Low card counting system.

I will use the notation (-1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 0, 0, 0, -1) to describe the tags for this counting system. Whenever I use this type of notation, the cards are always listed in the order A, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, T. One feature of this system is that the tags add up to zero (recall, each of T, J, Q and K have the value -1). This makes High-Low a “balanced” card counting system. Balanced systems are most frequently used for card counting, but un-balanced systems can be useful as well.

To “count cards” in blackjack, the counter starts with a running count of 0 with a newly shuffled deck. As each card in the deck is dealt or exposed, he takes its value, 0, +1, or -1, and adds that to the running total he is keeping. This gives the current running count (RC).

For example, assume that the first few cards dealt out are: 2, 7, 9, T, T, A, 3, 5, 8, T. The following table shows the card tags and the running count after each card is dealt:

The card counter usually goes one step further and computes the “true count.” He obtains the true count (TC) by dividing the RC by the number of decks (ND) remaining to be dealt. Thus,

TC = RC / ND

Here are some examples.

In a six-deck game where two decks have been dealt out to the players, and the running count is RC = +12, then the number of decks remaining to be dealt is ND = 4. In this case,

TC = 12 / 4 = 3.

If the fraction doesn’t come out even, the convention is to round down to the lower number. Thus, if RC = 11 and ND = 2 then

TC = 11 / 2 = 5.

With a negative RC, the convention is also to round down to the lower number. Thus, if RC = -11 and ND = 2, then

TC = -11 / 2 = -6.

Any time the TC is larger than 1, the blackjack card counter has the edge over the casino. The higher the true count, the greater the counter’s edge. If the counter raises his wagers with a positive count and lowers his wagers with a negative count, he will beat the house. It’s that simple. Unfortunately for the AP, in blackjack, the win rate is extremely low (see ). A $10, 000 bankroll will likely earn the counter under $20 per hour in expected profit.

The same principles that create the opportunity to beat blackjack apply to every other game or side bet where multiple rounds occur between shuffles. No game is immune. Every multiple-round game can be counted. But for each game, a new card counting system must be developed, one that relies on the good and bad cards specific to the game. Here are some examples.

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card counting blackjack with 8 decks? | Yahoo Answers

The number of decks does not matter, you always start with ZERO.
The most common blackjack card counting system is the Hi-Lo count. Start a new shoe with a count of Zero. Assign a value of +1 to 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, and -1 to tens and aces. Everything else is 0, or neutral. As the cards are played, add or subtract these counts to get the running count. A positive total indicates the deck is rich in tens and aces. Calculate the true count by dividing the running count by the number of decks left to be played. The higher the number the better the deck for the player.
Then you need to adju…

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