Counting Cards in Blackjack
Card counting is a procedure whereby a player keeps track of what cards have been dealt out of the deck (or shoe). The counter uses this information to assist him in making playing decisions. Before the reader develops any pre-conceived notions on what Card Counting really entails, let me dispel a couple of misconceptions.
Card Counting does not give you psychic-like powers to predict the next card out of the deck. What Card counting will do is give you a good indication of whether a deck is favourable or unfavourable and the extent of this favourableness or unfavourableness.
Card Counting does not involve memorizing every card that comes out of the deck. If you are envisioning Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rainman sitting at the Blackjack table memorizing every card that is dealt with special autistic powers, you are thinking of Card Counting all wrong. When you count cards, you are not keeping track of individual cards. All you are doing is keeping a relative score of high value cards (10’s and Ace’s) to low cards (2, 3, 4, 5 and 6).
Card Counting: Basic Premise
The game of Blackjack is focused around 10-value cards (10’s and Face Cards) and Ace’s. Why? Because combined, they are the most plentiful card in the deck. The most basic premise of Card Counting strategy is that decks rich in 10-value cards are advantageous to the player and decks short on 10-value cards are advantageous to the Casino.
Why are decks rich in 10-value cards favourable?
There are three main reasons:
The higher the proportion of 10-value cards remaining in the deck or shoe, the greater the likelihood of drawing a Blackjack (A 10 value card and an Ace). The Dealer has the same increased chance of getting a Blackjack under such circumstances and will therefore get more Blackjacks also. While that is true, when the dealer draws a Blackjack, you will lose your entire bet (Unless you also have a Blackjack). When you draw a Blackjack, however, you will not only win your entire bet, but you will also win 50% more. Remember, Blackjack pays 3-2. You will therefore win, not 100% of your bet, but 150% of your bet. Therefore, although both the odds of you and the dealer drawing a Blackjack increase during favourable conditions, you will win 150% of your bet when you draw the Blackjack while the dealer will only take 100% of your bet when he draws a Blackjack. Therefore, you will be more than happy trading Blackjack’s with the dealer under these favourable conditions.
The dealer must draw when he has a 16 or less. He has no choice. When the deck is favourable, he runs a greater risk of busting. You, on the other hand, can alter your strategy to take advantage of favourable conditions. You don’t have to take a card when the odds of busting are great because of a favourable deck.
Doubling Down. You have the option of doubling your wager. During favourable conditions, this can be an extremely valuable.