The Gambling Guru writes about card counting. (From the Gonegambling Newsletter.)
Games of chance offered by the casino basically fall into two categories, finite and infinite. Infinite games refer to games like craps and roulette where each decision is independent of the previous decision. What happens on one roll of the dice or spin of the wheel does not directly affect the probabilities of what might happen on the next roll or spin. Infinite games have no definite starting point and no definite end.
The games that tend to be finite are card games, the most familiar of which is blackjack. In blackjack, what happens on one decision does have a definite mathematical effect upon the probabilities governing the next decision. The reason is that certain cards are more favorable to the player than others, and as these cards are removed from the deck during play, the odds of the player winning the next hand changes. And blackjack, as do other card games, has a definite beginning and a definite end. The game begins when a new deck or shoe is put into play and ends when the deck or shoe is exhausted. So that is what I mean when I say it is a finite game.
As most of you know, gamblers have been trying to exploit this principle of changing odds in the game of blackjack for many years now. Their method of doing this is by using various methods to track the remaining composition of the deck. This is usually referred to as “card counting”. When a card counter cases the deck, he assigns a value to each card based upon its relative importance to the player. When the remainder of the deck consists of more cards that are favorable to the player, then the counter raises his bet. If the cards are unfavorable, he keeps his bets low.
There are quite a few counting methods that have been devised by the pros. Some are fairly simple and some quite complex. But it has been my experience that the highly complex methods generally don’t fair that much better than some of the more simple ones. And an experienced player might want to use different counting methods depending upon playing conditions and whether he is playing a multiple 6 or 8 deck game as opposed to a single or double deck game.
One easy method of tracking the cards is to assign a value of +1 to all the low cards (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7). Since more high cards remaining in the deck favors the player (better chance for the dealer to bust or for the player to get a blackjack), then each time you see a low card played you mentally count “Plus 1”. Now when a high value card of 9, 10, jack, queen, king, or ace is played, you count “Minus 1”. Since the 8 is virtually a neutral card, we assign it a value of zero and we ignore it as far as the count is concerned.
When learning to count cards, it is best to practice by looking at 2 cards at a time. When playing multiple decks especially you will see 2 cards dealt face up to each player. Rather than trying to count each individual card as it is dealt (often difficult with a fast dealer), simply look at each player’s 2 card hand which will be face up. Then you can easily count each individual card dealt as the players take their hits. So, if you see a 5 and a 6, count plus 2. If the next hand is a king and a 4 which has a combined value of zero, the count remain plus 2. You get the idea. Practice keeping a running total of the count adding or subtracting each 2 card total or each individual card as it is dealt.
For the purpose of this method, you should always have a “true count” of at least plus 3 before raising your bet. The “true count” is the running count divided by the approximate number of decks left in the shoe. Therefore, if the running count is plus 10 and there are approximately 5 decks left in the shoe, then the true count would be plus 2. Naturally any minus or negative count would not even be considered because you must have a positive count of at least +3 before raising your bet.
Next week we will try to get into the subject in more depth. Eventually we will see an example of a more complex counting method and also see how we can use a count variation in order to help us adjust our hitting strategy and make it more effective than just playing regular basic strategy in every situation. Also we will discuss how much to vary our bets according to the count. Go to free blackjack to read more about blackjack card counting systems.