The more skilled Blackjack player may opt to learn a strategy called card counting.  Counting cards in Blackjack is legal, just not very welcome at casinos. Contrary to popular belief, card counting in blackjack is not about memorizing the cards which have already been played.  Most legitimate card counting strategies involved tracking the ratio of tens remaining to be played to smaller cards in the deck. The reason tens are the focus is because this card is very helpful to players, and not very helpful to the dealer.  A deck with a lot of tens left to be played will likely bust the dealer more than it does the player.  Players generally with a high tens ratio and loose more when the smaller cards dominate the deck. A skilled card counter simply bets more when there are still a lot of tens left to be played, and either bets less or leaves the table the tens have all been played.

Blackjack Card Counting Systems

There are multiple counting systems, with the easiest and most popular being the Hi-Lo System.  Cards are assigned a value as follows: cards with a rank of 2 – 6 are counted a a +1; Cards ranking 7 – 9 receive a count of zero; and tens and aces are assigned a count of -1.  The results of adding the numbers during play turns out to be an exact measure that revelas the number of tens and aces remaining in the deck as compared to the smaller cards.  This method allows the player to accurately assess ratio and therefor his or her risk.  When the count goes into the negative range, then the cards are favoring the dealer.  However, if the count is in the positive range, then you can expect some tens to show up at some point.  So players counting cards typically increase their bets when the count is positive.  The higher the count moves into the positive realm, the higher player advantage is present.

Since it isn’t very common for there to be only a single or even a double deck in play, players must learn to adjust their count for multiple decks in the shoe, which is done with some simple division calculations.  To adjust accurately, the player must divide the running count by the number of decks yet to be played, which results in the true count.  Lets look at an example.  Lets say your current running count is a +3.  This would be the true count if there was only one deck in play.  However if there are two decks, the true count would be reduced to +1.5, and if there were 6 decks still in the shoe (which is standard in many casino properties), the true count would be reduced to only +0.5.  If you were in the middle of a six deck, then a +3 running count is knocked town to a +1 (3 (count) divided by 3 decks left in shoe =  1.  Highly skilled counters may even calculate it down to half deck portions using fractions, which can yield some very helpful results.

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Counting Fast: Developing Your Speed

Blackjack games can be very fast paced, and it is likely that a request to the dealer to slow down so you can count the cards would be rejected.  Hence, practice makes perfect and speeding up your skills is a very helpful talent to develop.  You have to count quickly and place your wager in a reasonable amount of time so that you don’t ‘look like a counter’.  One way that counters learn to speed up the process of card counting is to count in pairs and learn predictable patterns. This is a little easier if the cards are dealt face up, but for games dealt face down, you really need to be able to quickly observe all the cards and wager in time or you will definitely give yourself away.  It takes practice.

Blackjack Card Counting: Casino Take

While its not illegal and they cannot call the cops on you, casinos has a vested interest in spotting and removing card counters.  A card counter who spends 40 hours a week with only a 1% advantage can earn an average of $600,000 per year.  1% not only adds up, but is the amount of the casino’s profit, and they are all about their bottom dollar.  We do not recommend you try your skills at a high profile casino for the first time.  Try some small scale games with friends or at small operations as you learn to use it.  If you are planning to count cards at a casinos who takes counting seriously, you had better know what you’re doing.  Casinos in Vegas and Atlantic City invest in high-tech equipment and software and highly trained staff to spot counters, and it works.  If noticed, you may just be asked to select a different game to play, or you might be kicked out of the casino (and hotel if you’re staying there) without your bankroll.

The topic itself is controversial.  Casinos consider counting cards in Blackjack close to cheating.  Players consider it just a high-thinking style of playing.  When it boils down to it, card counting really is just how you think through the game.  Should someone be able to tell you how to think?  That’s the question, and is probably why it is frowned upon instead of illegal.  If you are going the adventurous rout to engage in card counting, the information above can help you jump in with both feet.