Blackjack – Does Card Counting still work

Does Card Counting still work in today’s Multi-deck Blackjack Game

  • Question 1: Does card counting work in today’s multi-deck blackjack game?

  • Question 2: Can blackjack be beaten in today’s environment?

  • Question 3: Which blackjack winning strategy should I adopt?

  • Question 4: Should I learn how to count cards or is there a more effective way to win better suited for today’s blackjack environment?

QUESTION 1: DOES CARD COUNTING STILL WORK IN TODAY’S MULTI-DECK BLACKJACK GAME?

For traditional blackjack players, in the multi-deck shoe games, only for long-term players and assuming that they have sufficient bankroll and time to play to the long term. Most blackjack players simply do not play to the long-term.

In Stuart Perry’s book, Las Vegas Blackjack Diary, reviewed in the 2001 edition of my best selling Blackjack: A Winner’s Handbook, Perry describes a three-month period of intense card counting play in Las Vegas. The winnings his $20,000 bankroll generated, he complained at the end, did not reach expected value and his conclusion was that the had not played to the long term.

And, if you take the time to analyze his the meticulous records, most of his winnings were derived from the single- and double-deck games which can still be beaten using card counting with proper casino comportment.

In Barry Meadow’s book, Blackjack Autumn, also reviewed in “Handbook,” a similar conclusion was reached after Meadow’s 60-day journey through Nevada. His outcome was different than Perry’s; he generated $21,000 in winnings from a starting bankroll of just $8,000. But, in the end, Meadow said: “I was lucky. I could just as easily have lost. I could leave tomorrow, play 60 more days, and wind up behind.” And, I might add, most of his winnings were generated from the still beatable single- and double-deck games.

Did Perry and Meadow play to the long term? Their conclusions seem to say otherwise. I will leave you with a rhetorical question: If a two-month or three-month duration of intense, daily blackjack play, cannot generate a long-term sample, what can?

Blackjack: A Winner’s Handbook discusses the problem of card clumping as it relates to short term play. Simply put, clumping wipes out the card counters edge in many games by inverting the information generated by the count. Instead of an advantage, as the count may indicate, the counter is playing to a disadvantage as he or she bets up into a low-card clump and draws the unfavorable low cards,

Not only that, the counter is committing the very sin for which so many card counting authors criticize the player who uses a non-count system: just like many gamblers, he is betting up on successive losses.

There is another problem, however, which all but nullifies any potential theoretical advantage the short-term counter expects to realize: bankroll swings versus small advantage.

Consider the short-term card counter in his or her attempt to grind out profits using a card counting system. First, the counter must contend with boredom because betting with the count is a waiting game.

It has been shown in many card counting books that high bets make up fewer than 5 to 10% of the hands. So when those high bet opportunities present themselves, the adrenalin starts flowing as the big bet is pushed out. On a loss, another big bet as the count increases into a low card clump, and more adrenalin.

If the counter is using a betting spread of 12 to 1, which many traditional blackjack books recommend for the multi-deck shoe game, it is quite easy to lose 40 units or more in a clumped shoe. This ratio between high bet and low bet is necessary to overcome the house edge and give the counter his 1% theoretical advantage.

But these swings in the counter’s bankroll are devastating and in some instances catastrophic to a player with the standard bankroll of 200 units. Many blackjack card counting authors recommend bankrolls of 200 units, and, in my opinion, even a 200-unit roll is not safe in a heavily clumped shoe game. It is interesting to note, however, that books published late in the 20th century, have upped this units per bankroll number considerably -Vancura in Knock Out Blackjack to 1000 and Ian Andersen is Burning The Tables in Las Vegas to as high as 2000.

Kenny Uston writes about downswings in Million Dollar Blackjack:

“. . . if you were to play and enjoy a 2% advantage on every hand (which is unrealistically optimistic), after 2,500 hands you would have a 20% chance of losing. This statistic is continually borne out by our actual playing experiences . . .”

He then goes on to describe a 22-day period “in some of the most favorable games I’ve ever experienced. The interval included five days of playing only positive four-deck shoes at the Fremont (team play), five days of juicy single-deck game at the Dunes and six days of playing only positive shoes at the Desert Inn.”

At the end of this period, betting optimally to his large bankroll and with the true count, Kenny was down $35,000.

Now you have an understanding of why I stressed two bankroll divisor numbers in Chapter 3 of Blackjack: A Winner’s Handbook; today’s player, playing to the short-term, with winning strategies in this book, can start with a bankroll 1/or even 1/10th the size of the traditional card counters’ bankroll.

Here, then, are my recommendations for the traditional card counter in confronting the realities of today’s multi-deck shoe games:

1. Do not bet up with the count on successive losses as most other blackjack books recommend; set a rigid table stop-loss amount and adhere to it count or no count. Table departure is the best decision you can make under these losing conditions because it is quite possible that this same low-card clump may come back to whack you in the next shoe.

2. Consider some alternatives from Blackjack: A Winner’s Handbook and my best selling Casino Gambling on how to exploit those other 90% of the hands where the count does not indicate an increase in your bet.

3. Consider abandoning the count altogether in the multi-deck shoe games and choosing an alternative non-count method (see Chapters 13 and 14) of Blackjack: A Winner’s Handbook and Chapters 7 and 8 in Casino Gambling.

4. Play the single- and double-deck games in which card counting results more closely approach the theoretical models. Use a short-term strategy in these games. There are many such games in the Nevada casinos and many casinos in other locations also offer these games. Study the methods in Chapter 17 of “Handbook” for possible use.

QUESTION 2: CAN BLACKJACK BE BEATEN IN TODAY’S BLACKJACK ENVIRONMENT?

Yes, blackjack can still be beaten. But it is not as simple as it was in the ’80s when blackjack players could learn a point-count system, a basic playing strategy, and money-management betting tactics.

You have to recognize two realities of today’s game:

1. For reasons already discussed; i.e., the non-random shuffle engendered card clumping, the count does not always work. You must learn when to use a count system and when not to.

2. Even if the count would always work against today’s game, the pit bosses have become very adept at spotting card counters by their betting patterns. In Atlantic City, where state regulations prohibit the casinos from barring gamblers, pit bosses can either restrict a player’s betting spread (the ratio between a big bet when the count is high and a small bet when the count is low) or shuffle up (shuffle and restore the cards to a new deck or new shoe to effectively remove the player’s advantage) on a player if his or her betting spread becomes too high. In Nevada a person detected as a card counter or thought to be a card counter may be barred from play.

QUESTION 3: WHICH OVERALL BLACKJACK STRATEGY SHOULD I ADOPT?

The decision on what strategy to adopt can be made with information you acquire from Blackjack: A Winner’s Handbook. I will help you make this decision. If you learn how to count, it should become one of a number of winning tactics you employ.

The first major decision you must make is, should you treat blackjack as a short-term or long-term game?

If you do decide to become or remain a traditional player and treat blackjack as a long-term game, I suggest that you seriously consider the recommendations given above about playing the single- and double-deck games.

All the information you need is contained in Chapter 15 -A Handbook of Card Counting Drills.

But if you decide to treat blackjack as a short-term game, as I do, I will teach you when card counting should be used and when it should not. Short-term players have many advantages that long-term, traditional card counters do not, mainly time is on their side. They choose their times to play; they decide when to enter and leave a table not accepting the fact that they must play a waiting game, not accepting the risks of playing in an unfavorable game. They choose their games with care; they understand when they are in a favorable shoe or favorable segment of a shoe.

QUESTION 4: SHOULD I LEARN HOW TO COUNT CARDS OR IS THERE A MORE EFFECTIVE WAY TO WIN BETTER SUITED FOR TODAY’S BLACKJACK ENVIRONMENT?

If you haven’t yet learned how to count, I recommend postponing that decision until a later date for reasons already given in this report.

Study this the my two best selling books and first prove to yourself that what I have written about the problems of card counting in the shoe games are real. Start by reading Stuart Perry’s Las Vegas Blackjack Diary which I review in detail in “Handbook.” This book will give you an excellent idea of the realities of card counting in today’s blackjack environment.

Get into the habit of observing blackjack games when you go to the casino, either while in the game or from behind the table. It is easy to spot card counters by their betting patterns. For example in a round of play featuring few tens and many small cards, watch the players’ bets on the next round. There is a good chance that the one increasing his or her bet is a counter. Watch a few more hands to determine if the counter continues to bet up into a possible low card clump. Note the results.

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This article was written by Jerry Patterson. For more on dice control, or to learn the rudiments of casino craps, pick up a copy of Jerry Patterson’s best selling gambling book – Casino Gambling: A Winner’s Guide to Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Baccarat and Casino PokerCasino Gambling has been the top selling gambling book on amazon.com and bn.com since April 2000, shortly after its publication.

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