The house edge at blackjack runs about 0.5%, which is extremely low compared to other casino games, but an experienced card counter can gain a 1% edge over the casino. Card counting is not illegal, but casinos may refuse to allow card counters to gamble at their tables. In the online casinos the cards are “shuffled” by the software after every hand, so the advantage card counting offers can only be used at land-based casinos. In spite of these two drawbacks many professional and amateur gamblers develop card counting skill and profit from it.
The object of card counting is to determine if the shoe is loaded with high cards (ten-value cards and aces) or loaded with low cards (2 through 6). This information helps the player size his bets because a shoe rich in high cards favors the player, while a shoe rich in low cards favors the dealer. When a lot of high cards have been played, the remaining deck contains an excess of low cards, which will help the dealer turn stiffs (12, 13, 14, 15, or 16) into winning hands. The opposite is also true: a deck rich in high cards will cause the dealer to bust as he draws to his stiffs. The rules require the dealer to hit his stiffs even if the deck is rich in high cards that will bust him; of course the player may draw to his stiffs or not as he sees fit.
On the surface card counting appears to be difficult to master but with a few simple exercises and a lot of practice you can become quite good at it. The first thing you must decide is what counting system you will use. A simple system counts plus 1 as cards favorable to the player (the five low cards – 2 through 6) are played and counts minus 1 as ten-value cards and aces appear. Keep a running count, and if the count grows higher and the remaining cards become favorable, the size of your bets increases.
Here are five exercises to get you started on the road to becoming an expert card counter. Master each exercise thoroughly before going on to the next one.
Exercise 1: Start with a standard deck of 52 cards. Turn the cards over one at a time and say the individual values out loud. As you build up your speed remember accuracy is more important than speed. Repeat this exercise until you can go through the deck in under twenty seconds.
Exercise 2: Remove any three cards from the deck so you can check your final number and now keep a running count as you turn over the cards. Say the running count out loud. Check your final count number against the three cards you pulled out. Set your goal again at twenty seconds.
Exercise 3: Put the cards away and practice counting forward and backward by twos out loud. Concentrate especially on the odd numbers: 11, 9, 7, 5, 3; and don’t forget the minus numbers: -5, -3, -1, +1, +3.
Exercise 4: Repeat exercise 1 but turn over two cards at a time saying the total out loud.
Exercise 5: Repeat exercise 2 but turn over two cards at a time.
Couple card counting with money management and you will have a system for winning at blackjack at the brick-and-mortar casinos.
While there are many reputable card-counting systems available, see my website to get an idea of other aids to help you learn to win at blackjack.
Joseph Starr (pen name) completed his formal education when he earned a Ph.D. in Finance and Accounting. He taught business, economics, and computer subjects at the college level for thirty years and is now retired. Visit his website to read about popular gambler’s aids to help you win at the casinos.
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