Blackjack card counting

The reason behind people counting cards on Blackjack is simply that card counting gives the player a positive advantage over the casino’s usual house advantage.

Counting cards provides players with a slight edge when faced with difficult decisions like a player’s hand of 16 against the Dealers face card (10). Does one Stand or Hit? Most players would want to Stand. Bearing in mind that there are only 5 cards – the Ace, 2, 3, 4 and 5 that could possibly improve your hand without busting. Basic Blackjack Strategy rules state that you should Hit when faced with this scenario, however if you are Counting Cards could make the mathematically correct decision thereby increasing your odds of winning the hand. If for instance you knew that there are more 10 value cards than low cards remaining to be dealt in the shoe, it may at times be a better decision to stand on 16.

The odds advantage when playing perfect basic strategy gained by drawing on 16 against a Dealers 10 is only around 4% i.e. the player will win 4 more hands out of every 100 hands played. This is rather small advantage but one that in the long run makes a sizable difference to your bankroll. If you determined by card counting that there were substantially more ten value cards in the deck which would increase your likelihood of busting you may alter your decision to hit as per basic strategy and rather stay when faced with these border line Blackjack decisions.

Blackjack Basic Strategy is based on the concept that each hand is independent of the preceding and following hands, the best odds are determined by simulating each possible play millions of times on a computer to find the best result. Blackjack is one of the few casino games that are card dependent each card dealt affects the game itself by altering the odds. Take the game of roulette as an example, each spin is independent of the previous spin or the next spin, the wheel has no preference, craps too is roll independent. The roll on the preceding round has no influence on the current or future rolls. Blackjack Card-counting allows the player to gain a slight advantage by tracking the previous cards that have already been played and using the knowledge gained to assist in future decisions.

Card counting is not about remembering the cards that have been displayed as in the movie “Rain Man Card counting is based on the assumption that 10s are more beneficial for the player. Lower value cards, particularly the 5 and 6 cards, are more beneficial to the Dealer or house. In general the middle cards, 7 thru 9, have no advantage for the player or the Dealer. By keeping track of the proportion between lower and higher value cards, a player is able to determine when he has an advantage over the Dealer/casino. This proportion, or otherwise known as the “Running Count”, is kept by assigning a positive value to the lower cards ( 2 through 6 ) and negative value to the higher cards ( Aces and ten value cards ).

The reason why high value cards are advantageous to the player is that the casino has to follow a strict set of rules. The Dealer must draw to 17. Therefore the richer the shoe is in 10 value cards, the higher the probability of the Dealer busting. Conversely, if there are lower valued cards, remaining in the shoe, the better chance the Dealer has of not busting and achieving a good hand.

Card Counters gain the most advantage from counting when faced with the following plays:

  • 15 or 16 against the Dealer’s 10 up-card
  • Making Insurance decisions
  • Making Side bet decisions (e.g. Over / Under)
  • Playing on 12 against the Dealer’s 2 and 3 up-card

Many Casino’s now have automatic shufflers otherwise known as continuous shuffles like the popular one2six shufflers, these machines render card counting obsolete as obviously if the cards are constantly shuffled your card counting skills would be rendered somewhat useless.

The blackjack card counting systems mentioned are similar if not exactly the same as those so flamboyantly shown in the movie 21 where 5 MIT students count cards and make lots of money, 4 of the MIT card counting team were playing the table’s minimum while counting cards when there was a favorable count they would signal to the bigger player who would then join their table and make big bets exploiting the odds of the Casino to their favor. While the card counting theory behind the movie 21 may be correct to an extent the movie exploits the wins as being the norm, this is not the case, card counters do not win every session and loose often it’s the overall win percentage they are chasing after.

Card Counting Systems
Count System
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
T
A
Hi-Lo
0
1
1
1
1
0
0
0
-1
0
High-Low
1
1
1
1
1
0
0
0
-1
-1
Hi-OptI
0
1
1
1
1
0
0
0
-1
0
Hi-OptII
1
1
2
2
1
1
0
0
-2
0
Silver Fox
1
1
1
1
1
1
0
-1
-1
-1
K-O
1
1
1
1
1
1
0
0
-1
-1
Omega II
1
1
2
2
2
1
0
-1
-2
0
Revere Point
1
2
2
2
2
1
0
-1
-2
-2
Uston APC
1
2
2
3
2
2
1
-1
-3
0
Zen Count
1
1
2
2
2
1
0
0
-2
-1

Blue + Black neutral 0 Red –

Blackjack Card Counting systems that have a maximum step size or increment of 1 are called Level 1 counting systems. Level 2 counting systems are systems with a maximum step size of 2. As a general rule, the more levels a card count system has, the more efficient and accurate the system is. Counting systems that have the Ace as a 0 value are also known as Ace neutral card counting systems.

Read more about running counts and true counts

Posted in Blackjack