Do card counting systems work? Basic Blackjack strategy says to do what the dealer does—take an extra card if the score of your hand is 16 or less or stand if the score of your hand is 17 or greater. But many players want to try for better odds and want to increase their chances of winning hands and often will turn to card counting.
Successful card counters can learn how to keep track of the cards that are in play so that they are better able to maximize their winnings. Card counting systems can help players know when to increase or decrease their bets depending upon how many aces and tens are left in the deck. It can also help players know how to strategize, such as tell them when would be a better time to hit or stand on certain hands.
Systems of Card Counting
There are three systems that players can learn. Here they are listed in order of difficulty.
Keeping Track of Tens
This system involves counting all of the face cards and tens as they are dealt to anyone. The player needs to keep track of everything they are dealt, which takes some practice. After about half of the shoe has been dealt, they should be able to tell whether only a few of the ten value cards have been dealt or whether most have been dealt—and, the player can adjust his strategy accordingly.
To do this successfully, the player needs to know ahead of time how many ten value cards are in the deck—after all, if the player does not know this fact, he will not know how to tell if most of the ten value cards have been played or not. The player can remember that there are 16 with a ten value in each deck. He can then multiply this number by the number of decks in play in the shoe. Or, he can memorize this:
• 1 deck has 16 tens • 2 decks have 32 tens • 3 decks have 48 tens • 4 decks have 64 tens • 5 decks have 80 tens • 6 decks have 96 tens
Keeping Track of Tens and Low Cards
This system involves all of the face cards and tens as they are dealt to anyone—as well as the low. Again, the player must keep track as they are dealt.
They are given a value with this system, and they must keeps a running total in their head as they are dealt. Here are the values:
• Aces = -1 point • Face cards = -1 point • Tens = -1 point • Low cards (2-3-4-5-6) = +1 point • High cards (7-8-9) = 0 points
For every one that is dealt, the player adds or subtracts to the running total in his mind, as indicated by the value listed above. If the running total reaches above zero, this means that the remainder of the deck waiting to be dealt has quite a lot of tens in it; therefore, the player should increase his bets. A running total below zero means just the opposite.
Calculating the Ratio of Tens to Other Cards
This system involves keeping track of all of the cards as they are dealt—and it involves doing math quickly without the use of a calculator or a pencil and paper. Because of this, it is definitely the most complicated of the three. First of all, they needs to know the original ratio of a deck. This refers to the number of ten value to the number of other cards. In a regular deck, this ratio is 36 to 16, which works out to be 2.25 mathematically. To figure this, you take the two numbers—36 and 16—and divides them (36 divided by 16), which equals 2.25.
Keeping these original numbers and this original ratio in mind, they must then pays attention to all of the cards as they are put into play. After each hand, he subtracts each ten value from the 16, and each other from the 36, to reach new totals. Then he uses the same mathematical formula to reach a new decimal figure.
If this decimal figure is less than 2.25 at any point, this means that the remainder of the deck has quite a lot of tens in it; therefore, the player should increase his bets. A decimal figure above 2.25 means the opposite.
Specific Card Counting Rules for Hands
When following any of the systems above, there are some rules players should follow in specific situations. These should be memorized.
+2 or higher:
• Take out insurance • If the dealer has 2 or 3, stand • If the dealer has an ace, double down with a 10 • If the dealer has 10, surrender with a 14 (if allowed) • If the dealer has 9, 10, or ace, surrender with an 8 (if allowed)
-2 or lower:
• If the dealer has 10, hit on a 10 • If the dealer has 2, hit on a 9 • If the dealer has 4, hit on a 12 • If the dealer has 2 or 3, hit on a 13 • Instead of doing a split or a double down, get a hit
Tips for Card Counters
Try to choose a slower dealer if possible so that you will be able to get a better view of all of the cards as they are played. Sit at the end of the table, either at the far left or far right of table. This is so that you will have an easy view of all of the other players’ cards when they are played.
Watch to see the dealer’s deck penetration. This is the point at which the dealer stops using the same deck(s) before reshuffling. Try to select a table at which the dealer uses at least 65% to 70% of his shoe before reshuffling. The more of his shoe that he uses before reshuffling, the more advantageous it is for the card counter because he will be better able to estimate which cards are left in the deck through the use of his card counting skills—thereby better increasing his odds at winning hands.