Modern Card Counting For Winning at Blackjack

In 1962 the godfather of card counting, Dr. Edward O. Thorpe, outlined a blackjack betting and playing strategy to eliminate the casino’s advantage and actually give the player an edge. He used a computer to quickly play thousands of hands, and the results proved his basic theory, which was: if the unplayed cards contained a lot of high cards, the dealer was more likely to bust. By keeping track of what cards had been played, the gambler would increase his bets when a lot of low cards had been played, and decrease his bets when the reverse was true. When Thorpe went to the casinos to test the results under actual playing conditions, he lost at first, but gradually began to win consistently.The counting system developed by Thorpe will win at the casinos, but it’s hard to use and requires a lot of concentration and ability to do the math quickly in your head. Also the casinos have taken steps to neutralize the card counter’s edge. Newer methods, which are easier to use, and are more profitable were developed to fight back against the casinos. Among these are the plus-minus counting systems one of which is the Hi-Lo system originated by Stanford Wong. For this system cards two through six have a value of plus one, and tens through aces have a value of minus one. Sevens, eights, and nines have zero value. After the dealer has shuffled the cards and stacked the shoe, the player starts with a count of zero. As cards are exposed, the player keeps a running count. The higher the plus value goes, the more high cards are left in the deck, and the player increases his bet size.In addition to the running count, advanced card-counters will keep track of the true count, also called the count per deck. This gives an idea of how rich the deck is in high cards and will help size the bets. For example if the running count is ten and you estimate there are three decks left in the shoe, the true count (ten divided by three) is three and a third. If the running count is ten and you estimate there are two decks left, the true count is five. You would bet more in the second situation where the true count is higher. The true count can also help you determine appropriate times to modify basic blackjack strategy. For example suppose you are dealt a ten and a two, the dealer’s upcard is a two, and the true count is plus three. Basic strategy says to hit in this situation, but you know the deck is rich in high cards, and therefore the dealer has a good chance of busting, so you would stand.If you can keep track of a lot of information, Wong also recommends counting specific cards, such as aces, that have been played. Keeping multiple counts may affect your ability to play accurately, and if you lose the basic running count you are at a disadvantage. Don’t try additional counts until you can keep the running count expertly.Blackjack played with a perfect basic strategy typically offers a house edge of less than 0.44%, but a typical card counter who varies his bets appropriately will have an advantage of about 1% over the casino. Card counting can be mastered by ordinary people, however, the amount of practice it takes to get to be an expert will vary from individual to individual. If you are serious about beating the casinos, practice for many hours before placing your bets.Learn more about blackjack at my website.Joe Starr writes on a variety of subjects to keep his brain from fogging over. Visit his website allaboutcasinogambling.com to learn about popular casino games and strategies.

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