Unlike almost every gambling game in casinos today, Blackjack is one of the few games that can be beaten. Many hours of practice are required to effectively utilize card counting techniques, but anyone capable of doing basic math can master card counting. One of the biggest misconceptions of card counting is that it takes a genius mind to pull it off. As this guide will show you, card counting is conceptually simple. As mentioned before, however, it's sort of like learning a musical instrument: if you want to get good at it, you will need a lot of practice.
The most common card counting strategy is known as the High-Lo system, or "Hi-Lo" for short. This strategy assigns a value of either -1, 0, or +1 to a card, as shown in the table below.
You as the player would begin the count at 0 at the start of the shoe. As the cards are dealt, you simply keep a running total of the cards, known as the running count. So for example, say the first 10 cards dealt are 2, 7, 3, 10, J, 3, 6, 8, 9, A. In this case, the running count would be +1 +0 +1 -1 -1 +1 +1 +0 +0 -1 = 1. Keep in mind that you have to keep track of ALL the cards that were dealt, not just the ones that were dealt to you. Lastly, the running count is divided by the number of decks left in play to obtain what is known as the true count. So if the running count is 8, and there are 2 decks left in play, then the true count is 4. The true count is important because it determines the amount you will bet before each hand.
: The shoe is the container that holds the decks.
Card counting basically assesses when the dealer is at an advantage and when the player is at an advantage. Typically, when the true count is greater than 1, the player actually possesses an advantage over the dealer. Having this in mind, the player will increase his/her bet when the true count is greater than 1. The higher the true count, the greater the player advantage, and therefore the more the player will bet. In general, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are harmful to the player because these cards increase the probability that the player will bust. In contrast, 10, J, Q, K, and Ace are beneficial to the player and harmful to the dealer because they increase the number of player blackjacks and increase the likelihood that the dealer will bust. Thus, by assigning a +1 value to 2 through 6 and a -1 value to 10 through Ace, the player can keep track of when he/she will have the advantage and when the dealer will have the advantage.
The following table shows how much a player should bet depending on the true count. This particular strategy will result in a profit of about $25-$50 an hour.
For optimal profit, always truncate the true count you calculate. For example, if the running count is 9 and there are 4 decks left, the true count would be 9/4 = 2.25. You would truncate the decimal, so that 2.25 becomes 2 and bet 50 in that instance.