Card counting in blackjack is strictly for players who are ready to go beyond recreational play. Why? Well, honestly, it’s a strategy that involves learning an awful lot, and until you are really ready to take your game to a new level I don’t recommend attempting to master something so complex… card counting can give you a false sense of security and until you are very good at it, stay away from casinos – mistakes can be very costly.
Blackjack card counting works on one basic idea: that a deck rich in tens and aces is better for the player, and conversely that a deck with lots of small cards is better for the dealer. The math behind it may make your head spin, but it breaks down like this: Blackjacks are more common with 10-value and ace rich decks, and that’s in YOUR favor. As well, the possibility of busting on a stiff hand is higher, and while the dealer is forced to hit to a certain point, the player is free to decide when to stop.
Card counting requires the player to keep track of all the cards that have been previously dealt, and to gauge their chances accordingly. Commonly a player will assign values to different cards, and with a careful eye one can turn the tables on the casino!
Ken Uston’s Plus/Minus Card Counting Blackjack Strategy
This method assigns a value of +1 to any 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, and assigns -1 to both tens and aces. Other cards are counted as zero, or neutral. At the start of a deck (or shoe, a string of decks) the count is zero. The counter then adds or subtracts to the count by watching the deal… this is called the “running count”. If your running count is positive, this indicates a deck generally more stacked with large cards. If you want another indication, find the “true count” by dividing the running count by the number of decks left to be played… in a multi-deck game this will give you an idea of about how many good cards are still out there relative to what’s been played. Card counters usually bet more as the count favors them, so factor this into your betting strategy!
Again, the online casino world guards against card counting by using a continuous shuffle, so the count becomes useless. In the real world, casinos look upon anything that may be used to reverse the house edge as inappropriate, so part of the fun of card counting is trying to make it look like you’re not doing it! It’s within their right to limit your play, or bar you altogether, so take care not to go crazy jacking up your bet when you get good counts, or you’ll give yourself away!