Card Counting in Blackjack Introduction

Blackjack has got to be the most popular card game in the world. This may be because it is so easy to play. Or maybe because it has the unique quality of changing odds during the game depending on how one plays. Blackjack odds can tilt wildly in the dealer's (casino's) favor in average play or it can turn to the player's advantage. card counting is a method by which a player can gain the advantage.

Card Counting

In the 1960s, Professor Edward Thorp discovered that when the majority of cards left in a deck are high-ranking, it was advantageous for the player and disadvantageous for the dealer. If the remaining cards were low-ranking, then the opposite was true. By keeping track of cards, one would know the best times to bet more money. Thorp wrote a book entitled "Beat the Dealer" in which he revealed a card counting technique that would lend the gambler an edge over the house in the long run. This delighted gamblers and struck fear in the hearts of casinos everywhere, and ever since, players and casinos have been at war through card counting.

How Card Counting Works

Card counting is simple. You identify which cards are helpful to the player (you) and which are not, and you score accordingly as each card is dealt. Systems differ, but generally, if your good cards are dealt, you lose points by counting negative (reducing the previous score). If your bad cards are dealt, you gain points by counting positive (adding to the previous score). Most counting systems begin with zero. That will fluctuate as the cards are dealt.

So for example, if a 2 card is dealt (a low card), you may count +1. If the next card is a queen, that is -1 so you are at 0. Next card is 3 so you are back to +1. Then 4 brings you to +2 and so on.

You want only the bad cards to be dealt first, so only the good (favorable) cards will remain later in the game. When you know the count is in your favor, you will step up your bets. If it's not in your favor, you will bring your bets to a minimum.

Why High Cards Are Good for the Player

There are several reasons why a preponderance of high cards are good for the player and bad for the dealer. It should be remembered that the player has choices in blackjack, whereas the dealer has none. This is what allows the player to take advantage of high cards.

With high cards, the benefits are:

- Dealer will bust more often - Player will get blackjacks more often - Players will be dealt stronger hands more often

OF course, the player can bust as well and the dealer can get blackjacks. But the difference is the player can choose when to stand and when to hit. With a blackjack, the player is paid 3:2. So the profit is greater.

Card Counting Today

Before Thorp's book, the casinos used single decks for blackjack. Now to discourage card counters, they often use multiple decks (shoe) and often cut off part of the deck and practice preferential shuffling to make it even harder. This means shuffling the deck(s) just when it is turning to the player's advantage.

Card counting is thus harder to practice nowadays. If you want to try card counting, do so in smaller casinos where it is more likely they will use attractive offers to lure customers from the bigger casinos.

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