It’s possible for a blackjack player to gain the long-term advantage over the casino. This means you will win more money than lose over time. To do so, you must bet more when the odds of winning a hand are in your favor and less when the odds shift to the dealer. In order to know when the odds shift from dealer to player you must keep track of the cards as they are played. This technique, known as card counting, does not require a photographic memory (that’s a misconception).
First off, you must understand that the probability of winning a hand in blackjack is very dependent upon the mix of cards remaining to be played. If this mix happens to contain an abundance of large cards like 10’s, picture cards and aces, then your chances of winning improve. On the other hand, if the mix of unplayed cards contain an abundance of small cards like 2 though 6’s, then the odds shift in favor of the dealer.
Here are some of the reasons why large cards favor the player and small cards the dealer. When you have a mix of unplayed cards that contain an abundance of large cards there will be more blackjacks dealt. Yes the dealer has just as much chance of getting a blackjack as a player but the player gets paid a bonus on a blackjack hand (3 to 2 payoff). Also, when the dealer has a stiff hand (like 12 to 16) he must draw. If the deck is rich in large cards, the dealer will most likely bust. Unlike the dealer, the player does not have to draw on a stiff hand.from a deck rich in large cards. Also players will profit more when doubling down in a mix rich in large cards. Likewise if a player has a pair, he can split the pair into two hands, a sometimes lucrative play when the dealer shows a weak face card. The dealer on the other hand will usually make good when he holds a stiff hand and draws from a mix of cards containing an abundance of small cards.
How does a player know when the unplayed cards are either rich in large or small cards? You must keep track of the cards as they are played because with this information you can deduce whether the unplayed cards are rich in small or large cards.
In order to keep track of the cards you must assign a tag to each card for card counting purposes. The dealer favorable small cards – 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 – have a tag of +1 (plus one). The player favorable large cards – 10, J, Q, K Ace- have a tag of -1 (minus one). The remaining cards – 7, 8, 9 – have a tag of 0.
Card counting is simply adding of the tags for each card that is played. For example after the shuffle, your starting count is 0 (this indicates an equal number of large and small cards). As the first round of play begins and cards are faced, you must add the tags of each card. If player #1 shows a 4 and 6 your count is +2 (sum of +1 tag for the 4 and +1 tag for the 6). Continue to add the card tags for every card that you see. If it’s a small card you increase you count by 1. If it’s a large card you decrease your count by 1. At the end of the first round your count will be either a plus or negative number. If your count is positive it means that there were a lot more small cards than large cards played in the previous round. That means the reverse must be true for the unplayed cards – namely the unplayed cards contain a slight excess of large cards over small cards. This is precisely the point at which the edge swings to the player on the next hand and therefore the player should make a larger bet. Likewise when the count is negative, the edge is with the
dealer and the player should bet the minimum.
To learn how to count, get a deck of cards, shuffle them, and then turn one card over and recite the tag for that card. For example if your first card is a 6, recite “plus 1”. If the next card is a queen recite “minus 1”. Continue to do this for the entire deck of cards to help you associate the tag for each card.
Next take the same deck of cards and flip the cards over one-at-time and keep the running count. For example if the first card is 5, you count is “plus 1”. If the next card is a 3, your running count is “plus 2”. Assume the next card is a 7. Your running count is still “plus 2”. Continue to flip each card and add the tags. When you are finished counting a deck of cards your running count should be 0 (this is how you can check the accuracy of your counting).
Now you are ready to cancel the tags of a group of cards to make counting even easier. Instead of flipping over one card at a time, flip 2 or 3 cards at one time. Glance at the cards and cancel every high card and low card. When you learn this technique you won’t have to count every single card that you see on the layout.
Keep practicing card counting with your deck of cards until you can count down a deck accurately in 30 seconds or less.
In part 2 of this series on Advanced Blackjack Strategies I’ll show you how to bet based on your running count.
Continue on “Advanced Blackjack Strategies Part II”