Blackjack Card Counting

All casino games have an edge in favor of the casino, which makes them impossible to beat in the long run. The one exception to this is Blackjack, where it is possible to tip the odds in your favor and beat the house consistently by using a technique called “card counting”. This is the reason that casinos look out for players who practice the technique and ban them when found.

Card CountingBlackjack card counting is a simple technique to learn but to do it well takes practice. It involves observing the dealt cards, ideally without making it obvious that this is what you are doing, and then keeping track of a running total as they are dealt.

This running total provides a simple approximation to the probability of winning future hands and you can therefore bet more on hands where the count shows the odds are more in your favor.

Techniques of Blackjack Card Counting

There are a number of different counting systems. We reviewed most of them and will add reviews of any new discovered ones. Check the review of particular systems to see how does the system work along with history, recommendations and rating.

One of the simplest counting systems is called the High-Low system. Lets look how do these systems work on this one. This system works as follows:

Card Values

Each systems assigns card values that are counted. If a card is six or less then it is given a value of +1. If it is a seven, eight or nine then it assumes a value of zero and all other cards are valued at -1. You can see that as the cards are dealt, the running total changes according to the value given to each dealt card.

Running TotalBlackjack Running Count

It’s easy to see how this works. If the running total becomes significantly positive then the dealt cards must have been predominantly low. This means that there must be a relatively high proportion of high cards, which are still left in the deck to be dealt.

Adjusting Bets

One system of staking is to bet one unit plus the current count. Let’s see how it works with an example.

You observe each hand as it is played, noting the value of each dealt card. The starting count is always zero.

The first card is a five, which is attributed a value of +1. The deal continues and the running total quickly becomes +7. Your first stake is therefore 8 units (1 plus the running count of 7).

This should continue and you keep the running total updated as the cards are dealt. If at any time the count goes to -1 then the running total is (-1 +1) or zero and you should either sit out the round, if you can do it without arousing suspicion or bet the lowest unit possible.

Behavior of Blackjack Card Counter

Obviously if you keep sitting out games and appear to be choosing the games in which to be involved then you will certainly arouse suspicion amongst the pit bosses and be asked to leave. The best card counters keep the count with the slightest glance at the deal and act like a normal player, occasionally moving games and cursing their luck when the game appears to go against them.

If you are serious about taking on the casinos using this technique then you must develop the right behaviors as well as the mechanical counting skills. They are equally important.

Card CounterSome typical signs of a card counter are:

  • Moving the lips as the cards are dealt, even subconsciously
  • Constantly sitting out games and then suddenly joining specific games
  • Varying staking levels significantly
  • Avoiding taking the free alcohol on offer, preferring soft drinks
  • Showing little or no emotion

All the above are typical signs of card counters and only the best are able to avoid detection by the dealers and security consultants employed by the house to find them and eject them.

Recommended Betting Actions

The probabilities of winning for each sequence of cards and running totals has been examined in detail and many studies over the years have produced recommended strategies and actions for any given event. You can find these strategies in each of our reviews. For example:

If the count is +5 or more:Casino Blackjack

Stand on 15 or 16 against a 10

Double 8 or 9 against a 5 or 6

If the count is +10 or higher:

Stand a 14, 15 or 16 against anything

Double 8 or 9 against a 4

There are a number of professional card counters who are good enough to make a living at the game. Their dedication and attention to detail shows just what is required to make it.

One example is Kevin Blackwood, who practiced talking while counting until he could keep the running count in a standard deck of fifty-two cards in less than 14 seconds. If you think this is easy then try it for yourself while chatting to your partner!

Kevin estimates that he has played over half a million games of Blackjack all over the world in his professional career. Despite his obvious high skills at the game, he has also been ejected over two hundred times. He views this as an occupational hazard!

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