How does Blackjack card counting work?
BlackJack is one of the most popular casino table games in the world. As with all the casino games, house features some kind of an edge and blackjack is not an exception. While you can't do anything to lower casino edge in most games, it's different with BlackJack. Shortly after the game was launched, some of the sharpest math minds noticed, that it's possible to change the casino edge by keeping track of cards.
This is also known as card counting method and players are often referred to as advantage players. Keeping track of cards means noticing and counting the high or low value cards, that gets dealt. By doing this player gets a better idea about the amount of high-value cards left in the shuffle machine. It's suggested that a deck featuring large amount of high-value cards will benefit the player more, as there's a higher chance to hit BlackJack, which pays 3 to 2. Having a large amount of small cards (5s 6s etc.) benefits the dealer and hurts the players chances.
While there are many card counting systems on the market, the most commonly used one is the Hi-Lo system. This blackjack card counting system is based on assigning a different values to cards, that are dealt. The count starts at 0, when decks are shuffled. Each card dealt changes the current count by either +1/-1 or 0. Goal of card counting is to add a point value to each particular card, this way making a rough translation to the effect of cards removal. This effect is the exact calculation of changes into the house edge, by a single cards removal from the deck.
When using a Hi-Lo card counting system in blackjack, cards have the following values:
2s – 6s = value of +1
7s - 9s = value of 0
Ts – As = -1
So what's our takeaway on the card values offered? When the card count is highly into the positive, there are many high value cards in the deck, thus you have to bet higher. Vice versa, when the count is highly negative, it means, that many high value cards have been dealt. The chance of hitting a blackjack is way lower, so you shouldn't increase your bets. Instead, you should decrease them.
How much can you win counting cards?
A typical game of BlackJack in a casino will feature a house edge of roughly 0.48%, which is small compared to other casino games, such as roulette. This means, that for every $1000 wagered, you are expected to loose $4.8 . If you are a decent card counter, you'll be able to get an edge of 1% over the casino, which turns into an expected win of $10 for every $1000 wagered. Higher edges are also possible, but this depends on your skill level, variation of the game, hands dealt per hour and other factors.
Take into account, that BlackJack is a game of high variance. As usual, games which feature a tiny edge will have the most action. It's easy to win thousands at BlackJack, however it's also easy to lose them. Longterm is the only thing that matters in the end.
BlackJack card counters are advised to have a large bankroll for playing. Normally, you'll be looking at a bankroll of 100-150 times the maximum bet allowed. There is no limit to the amount of money, you can win, while counting cards at blackjack. It all depends on the amounts of money, you are betting.
Is Blackjack card counting illegal?
Card counting is not illegal, however, it's also closely watched by the casinos. No casino will allow card counters to play at a Blackjack table. While it's not forbidden by law, casino has an opportunity to ban any player from entering their casino. There's also a casino blacklist, which most casinos have access to. Once you are on this list, you'll have a hard time entering any casino worldwide.
Casinos are spending huge amounts of money and time, in order to prevent card counters from being able to play. There are several systems and softwares implemented, to scan blackjack tables for possible card counting.
Casinos are also taking some basic steps to make it harder for card counters, such as dealing while player is increasing his wager. Talking to a particular counter, to mess up with his mind is also one of the basic methods used.
Card Counting in a team
Card counting in a team was implemented way back in the 70s. Ken Uston published a book on this very same topic in 1970. The book was based on Ken's experience, as he was working in a team, playing as the big player. Card counting by MIT students has also been visualised in a movie called ''21'', which is based on somewhat real life happenings.
Team counting includes a team of at least several people. It's divided in spotter players, who always play for the table minimum and big players, who as per they name – bet big.
Spotters are first ones to join a blackjack table, they keep a track of the count, but don't take advantage of it. When the deck gets hot (highly positive), the spotter signalises the big player and he then joins the table. A spotter says something unrelated, which is agreed before and specifies the current count. Based on that, big player makes a bet and now keeps a track of the current count. When the deck starts to cool off, he leaves. This is exactly the way, how many card counting teams stayed under the radar of casino card counting spotters and softwares. Several teams have won millions of dollars from the casinos over the years.
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