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How to Count Cards in Blackjack in Few Steps
03-05-2009, 04:20 AM (This post was last modified: 11-10-2009 12:00 AM by KillJoy.)
Post: #1
How to Count Cards in Blackjack in Few Steps

Card counting is a card game strategy used to determine when a player has a probability advantage. The term is used almost exclusively to refer to the tracking of the ratio of high cards to low cards in blackjack and its derivatives.

The principle of counting cards in blackjack is that a deck of cards with a high proportion of high cards (ten-valued cards and aces) to low cards is good for the player, while the reverse (a deck with a high proportion of low cards to high cards) is good for the dealer.

LEGAL NOTE: Card counting without an outside device is completely legal. There are no provisions in the rules of blackjack or United States law that prohibit card counting.

Try playing Blackjack in our Game Section:

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1. Memorize (learn) Blackjack Basic Strategy

Basic strategy has been proven to be mathematically valid so there is nothing to "learn", only to memorize. To become a successful card counter, basic strategy must become second nature. You accomplish this by playing a lot of hands.

2. Choose a counting system to your liking

After you decide to learn how to count cards you must decide which system to use. There are over 100 card counting systems available. For starters you should learn a simple system, though a more complex system theoretically means more money per hour. Why? Because you have a greater chance for making an error while counting with a more complex system since you just started learning how to count. Another reason is that going from a simple one-level count to an "advanced" multi-level count only produces marginal gain at best, especially when playing in multi-deck games. So which counting system should you learn? The most popular counting system used today (and also one of the easiest to learn) is Hi/Lo. This is a good first system to learn because it is easy but effective. It uses a simple one-level count where the Ace is reckoned. (a value on the Ace). Count systems that assign no value on the Ace need to use a "side count" for betting purposes. This means extra work at the table. You can always move up to a more complicated system later on.
We will be using "Hi/Lo" counting system in our example.

[Image: hilocount.JPG]

Hi/Lo is best for multideck counting. For a single deck you could rather use Hi-Opt 1.

[Image: hiopt1count.JPG]

3. Learn the Running Count

Reading the Hi/Lo table above we see that in Hi/Lo counting system the 2-6 cards are valued at +1, and the 10-value cards and Aces are counted as -1. The 7,8,9 are neutral in this count. There are the same number of cards in each group: 2,3,4,5,6 and 10,J,Q,K,A. To learn how to count, get a deck of cards and flip them over one at a time and keep the "running count". If they come out 9,Q,2,3,6,2,7,A we would count 0,-1, 0, +1, +2, +3, +3, +2. When you finish with the whole deck, the running count should be 0. If it’s not so, then you are making mistakes.

Also practice this by flipping over 2 cards at a time and keeping an accurate count.

Idea TIP: It’s helpful to learn how to ignore cards that cancel each other out. For example, if you see an Queen and a 3 then you know they cancel each other out so instead of adding both numbers into the count (which means doing 2 additional calculations) you ignore them and you don’t have to do any more math.

4. Convert the Running Count to the True Count

From the previous step we know how to do the "running" count, and now we have to convert it to a so called "true" count. This is done by dividing the running count by the amount of decks we have not seen yet. For example:
We are in a 7-deck game, after 1 deck has been dealt and the running count is +12, we divide this running count with the number of the undealt decks (7-1=6), which gives you +2. If you have trouble keeping the count straight in your head, use your chips as a reminder. If the count is 4 then have a stack of 4 chips.

5. Bet Spreads

In order for you to make money this way, you need to bet more on hands where you have an edge and less on hands where the casino has the edge. For example, if the odds are in your favor then bet $40, if they are against you then bet $5. The difference between the two amounts is known as the "bet spread". The bigger the bet spread means more money you will make but the bigger the bet spread the more likely you will be caught counting cards. That’s why we balance the spread. Your bet spread needs to be high enough to make money but low enough not to attract attention because a large bet spread is the biggest indicator that someone is counting cards. A 8-1 spread is good but anything bigger and you'll get some heat. So, a general rule would be, as the count goes more in your favor then your bet spread should be bigger and vice verse. The following chart can be used as a rough guide on how much to increase your bet with the count.

[Image: betspreadcount.JPG]

In order to make money several conditions need to be satisfied. The 2 important conditions are:
-to have a decent bet spread and
-good deck penetration.

What is deck penetration?
"Deck penetration" is how many of the decks in play are actually dealt. The higher percentage of the cards that are dealt the more likely the count is to get high. So how does the casino manipulate the probability of the count getting high? For the casino to minimize the probability of the count getting high, for example they may only deal out 3 out of the 6 decks they are using before shuffling. Profit margin is so thin when card counting that it is very sensitive to the variables involved. If the game conditions are bad then don't play it.

6. Proper bankroll management

As in poker, you must have a large enough bankroll to suffer any draw down. Bankroll swings are more drastic with counting for the same average bet than non-counting. Why? Lets look at an example:
If a non counter makes 5 bets of 100$ then his average bet is a 100$. But if a card counter makes 5 bets like 20$, 20$, 20$, 220$, 220$ then his average bet is also a 100$ but with larger fluctuations because of the bigger bets. Because of this fluctuations you will need to have a bigger bankroll when card counting.

ADDITIONAL INFO: Card Counting Terminology

"Depend on the rabbit's foot if you will, but remember it didn't work for the rabbit." - R. E. Shay
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