Understanding Card Counting

The Basics: Understanding Card Counting Techniques

During the course of play in blackjack, the dealer exposes cards as they are dealt to the players and him or herself (the dealer). Carefully noting the cards exposed gives an idea of the remaining cards in the deck yet to be dealt. The players will make their bets according to their inferences in two possible ways.

  • Players may place large bets in the event that they have an upper hand over the dealer. In this case the players will increase their bets when many aces and tens are still in the deck, hopping that they will hit a blackjack and in this situation, the dealer is more likely to bust.
  • Players may move away from the basic strategy owing to the composition of the cards dealt. For example, if there are many 10’s left within the deck, players may opt to double down as they will be better chances of attaining a good hand.

Card counting is essential in blackjack and it gives a player an added advantage over the house.  The concept is all about keeping the count during game play and when each card is dealt on the table, the count gradually changes.

In a typical card counting system, cards are assigned point values and grouped as high and low. Low cards (2-6) are usually assigned with positive values while high cards (10-A) are assigned with negative values and 7-9 are often assigned with neutral values of 0 at which they do not have an effect to the count.

The Running Count

Therefore, the tracking of the count as cards are dealt on the table is often known as the running count. The running count can have a count of a positive value or negative and if the running count is 0 this would indicate that the high cards and lows cards in the deck are even.

If the running count has a positive value, this indicates that more low cards have been played on the table and the deck is high card rich. If the count is very high at a positive side, this can give a greater indication to the player that a large number of cards remaining in the deck are high card rich.

A negative value of the running count indicates that more high cards have been played on the table.  Therefore, by making use of the running count, a positive running count and negative running count give an indication of the cards remaining in the deck.

The running count is used in the decision making process, especially when it comes to the bets. Players will increase their bets when they have a positive running count and reduce their bets when they have a negative running count.

The True Count

The true count is achieved when the running count is divided by the number of decks used in the variation. The true count gives a better indication of the cards remaining in the shoe. The running count give an approximation of high or low cards remaining in the shoe while the conversion of the running count to the true count gives a better approximation of high and low cards remaining in the shoe.

In comparison with the usual 0.5-1% that is achieved whilst using the basic strategy in blackjack, a card counting system can give the player up to a 2% edge over the house. Card counting mostly rewards towards the end of a complete shoe when a few possible cards are yet to be exposed. Single deck blackjack games are most vulnerable to card counting.

Generally, all card counting systems make use of different point values assigned to high and low cards. According to the system you will adopt, you would have to know the point values assigned to each card so as to make it easier to keep track of the running count and true count. Some card counting systems make use of a few point values while others make use of more than 4 point values at which advanced card counting systems would assign point values to neutral cards as well as the Ace. However, advanced card counting systems give out clearer results when compared to the basic card counting systems.

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