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Blackjack Card Counting

•   Standard HI LO
•   Simple Card Counting
•   Shuffle Tracking

The mystical spell of Blackjack has one concrete parameter. When we think of blackjack, and all of the dealers over the years who have smiled slyly as they watch the casino take your money, there is a trump card we know exists, a way to win we've all heard about. Contrary to popular belief, card counters do not memorize every card they have seen dealt out of a deck or shoe. Card counting also does not allow a player to magically know what card will be dealt out the deck or shoe next. If you see someone take a hit on a hard 18 against the dealers 10 and he receives a three for a total of 21, it doesn't mean that he is an expert card counter, it means he doesn't know much about the game actually. A card counter knows the game, understands the importance of basic strategy, and would never do such a reckless thing. Yes, if the cards were dealt down to the last few in the deck, a good card counter would probably know what card is likely to come next. But in the real world of casino blackjack you will never be involved in a game where the cards are dealt down to the last remaining cards. The reason for this is simple; it would give a huge advantage to even the novice card counter.

So can card counting be done? Yes of course it can. Can it be done successfully? That depends on the where's, when's, and how's involved. Just to keep everyone on the same page here, I'm not going to lead you down a road just to strand you. In fact, before I even begin discussing card-counting techniques, I need to tell you exactly why, when and where they don't work. Lets take Vegas for example. The last time I was in Vegas I played a couple of casinos blackjack games, and took note of the current practices employed. At the Bellagio for example, the game was either six or eight deck, it mattered little, as about half way through the shoe, the dealer places all of the dead cards back into the top of the automatic card shuffler's stack, and the whole stack was reshuffled. No hope for counting cards in this situation. A Sam's town the situation was a little brighter, they play a six deck shoe close enough to its toes, but as a standard measure they burn the first card after every reshuffle.

So whats to be learned from this? If your planning on counting cards in Vegas (not to likely on the strip) then the Bellagio isn't your best bet. Try Sam's town, but don't tell them I sent you.

I will go over two methods of counting cards on this page: The first being a truer system, but one which takes a lot of time to master, the second I call 'informal' card counting and it takes much less effort. The basic premise of card counting is that any given deck is 'rich' in face cards (a higher instance of these cards means that on any given new card to be drawn, chances are it will be worth 10) favors the player over the dealer. This is true for several reasons.

A player receiving a 'natural' blackjack, an ace and a ten-point card, is paid 3-2 on his original bet, whereas the dealer only wins the wager if he or she has blackjack. If the dealer receives a poor hand as the original two cards (IE: a point count of 12 to 16), they must draw another card and they are more likely to bust if the deck or shoe is rich in face cards. Remember, you don't have to hit these hands if you don't want to; the dealer however must. This situation is called 'the dealers showing busting cards' and may account for many instances where you've watched someone play blackjack and not take a hit on a 14 or 15 total. If you were wondering why, its probably because the dealer was showing busting cards. With a two card hand totaling 9, 10, 11, the dealer can't double in a high card rich deck, but you can. Take advantage.

When the number of low value cards far outnumber the face cards and aces, a blackjack player can choose to modify his or her split and double down decisions, since the chances of winning these hands are reduced when a low card is dealt to the player after a split or double down. To sum up, card counters use a betting system, or strategy, of betting their smallest wagers when the deck or shoe is rich in low points cards, since their chances of winning in this case are reduced. When the deck or shoe is rich in high cards the card counter will increase their original bet since their chances of winning are now increased. So how does a blackjack player actually count cards? How do we know when a deck is rich or poor? Well, there are many different techniques that have been researched and invented to keep track of the cards played from a shoe. Some of these techniques are difficult to master, while some are easy to learn. Here again, computer simulations of the many different methods of card counting have shown that some of the easiest card counting systems to learn are just as effective as the more traditional and complicated methods.