Introduction: Card Counting and Ranging Bet Sizes
Blackjack is beatable if cards aren't shuffled every hand. Depending on the remaining cards, the advantage can swing to the player. This means you can keep track of the cards that have already been dealt, and then determine whether the cards remaining are more favorable to you or to the casino.
When there are a lot of 10s and Aces left in the deck, and fewer low cards, the deck favors the player. That’s mostly because blackjack becomes more likely, and the player gets paid a 50% bonus on every blackjack and also a dealer holding (12-16) will bust every time if the next card drawn is a 10.
Card counting allows players to bet more with less risk when the count gives an advantage as well as minimize losses during an unfavorable count. Card counting also provides the ability to alter playing decisions based on the composition of remaining cards.
The card counting technique I’m going to explain here is called Hi-Lo. It’s simple to learn, yet powerful enough to give you a fair estimation of remaining favorable cards.
Step 1: Basic Strategy
Basic strategy is the mathematically correct way to play based only on your cards and the dealer’s up card. The basic strategy chart gives you the correct play for every possible situation at the blackjack table.
It will show you whether you should hit, stand, split, double, or surrender. You look across the top of the chart for the dealer’s up card, and along the left side for the hand that you hold.
Most people play at a 2-4% disadvantage to the house. By playing perfect basic strategy, you’ll be cutting down the casino’s edge to under 0.5%. It is the basic building block for winning at blackjack.
Step 2: The Hi-Lo Strategy
Here’s how it works. Low cards, 2 through 6, are good when removed, and are assigned the value plus 1. High cards, 10s through Aces, are bad when removed, and are assigned the value negative 1.
The middle cards, 7, 8, and 9, are mostly neutral, and assigned the value of 0. You always want to start counting at the beginning of a shoe, starting with 0.
Step 3: Counting Cards
Every time a card is layed down on the table, you add its value to maintain what is called a running count. You always want to start counting at the beginning of a shoe, starting with 0.
The 4 is a low card. Plus 1.
The 8 is worth 0, so the count stays at plus 1.
The 5 is worth 1, so the count goes to plus 2.
Another low card 3 brings us to plus 3.
9s are zero, we stay at plus 3.
An Ace is minus 1. The count drops to plus 2.
The 2 is worth 1 and brings us to plus 3.
The Jack is worth minus 1, so our running count goes down to plus 2.
4 takes it to Plus 3.
3 takes it to Plus 4.
King drops it to Plus 3.
So the Running Count is Plus 3
Step 4: Determining True Count
First, we take the running count and divide it by the number of decks remaining.
We know what our running count is but how many decks remain? We can estimate how many decks remain by looking at the number of discards. Casinos use a 6-deck shoe, so take the number of decks you see in the discard tray, and subtract it from 6. That’s how many decks are remaining in the shoe.
Divide the running count by the number of decks remaining. This is called the true count.
Step 5: Betting Unit
First, before you start play, you have to determine your betting unit. Then, when you have the advantage and the count’s favorable, you bet in multiples of your betting unit according to the count. Your bankroll is what you’re willing to invest in yourself as a blackjack player. Your betting unit should be 1/1000 of your total bankroll.
Raise or lower your unit as your bankroll changes. By constantly adjusting your betting unit,you will never go broke,and your bankroll will increase faster in the long run.
Your maximum bet should be at least 4 times your betting unit. Your maximum bet can be higher if it won’t get you kicked out of the casino. Never bet more than 1/4 of|the money you have on you on one round, because you always want to have enough money to be able to split and double down.
Step 6: Optimal Betting
Subtract 1 from the true count to determine how many units to bet. Multiply the number of units to bet by your betting unit.
For Example, your betting unit is 100, running count is +10, true count is +5, then the optimal bet would be 4X100 which gives us 400.
Play two hands at a time on spots next to each other, and bet that amount per hand. If you’re the only player at the table, or if you can only play 1 hand, bet 25% more on one hand.
Step 7: Practice Well
Here are a few practice drills
You should always carry a deck with you. Count down an entire deck. If you do it correctly, the count will come out to zero. Try determining if the last card is going to be low, middle, or hi. When you’re counting right, you’ll know what it is.
Deal cards on a table while keeping the count. Deal the cards out while saying the total of each hand. If you can get a friend to deal to you, there are some great drills you can do with a partner. Have a partner deal to you, as you try to play and count at the same time. Do the same thing, but this time have the dealer say the card values out loud.
The stress test, or the check-out. While your partner deals and tries to distract you, count down and play 3 full shoes. If you can get through all 3 shoes making less than 3 mistakes total, you’re ready to try your new skill.
Step 8: Disclaimer!
The Techniques mentioned here are by Andy Bloch who was once a part of MIT Black Jack team and is only for instructional purpose. I am not responsible for any loss you make by employing this technique.
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