Blackjack Strategy & Card Counting

blackjackFor the serious black jack player, a black jack strategy based on statistical probability is not only useful but imperative. It is really difficult to become a long-term winning blackjack player by simply going by gut feelings or various superstitions.

For most of us, the easiest black jack strategy to learn is the basic strategy. Basic strategy is not optimal strategy, but it is a really good start.

Example of basic strategy

This is a basic strategy for a blackjack table that use four to eight decks, the dealer stands on a soft 17, doubling after splitting is not banned, and only original bets are lost to a dealer blackjack. At a blackjack table with other rules, the basic strategy must be adapted accordingly.

The player’s hand

The dealer’s face-up card

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A

Hard totals (excluding pairs)

17–20 Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay
16 Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Hit Hit Sh* Sh* Sh*
15 Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Hit Hit Hit Sh* Hit
13–14 Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
12 Hit Hit Stay Stay Stay Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
11 Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Hit
10 Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Hit Hit
9 Hit Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
5–8 Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit

Soft totals

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
A,8–A,9 Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay
A,7 Stay Ds*** Ds*** Ds*** Ds*** Stay Stay Hit Hit Hit
A,6 Hit Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
A,4–A,5 Hit Hit Dh** Dh** Dh** Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
A,2–A,3 Hit Hit Hit Dh** Dh** Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit

Pairs

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 A
A,A Split Split Split Split Split Split Split Split Split Split
10,10 Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay Stay
9,9 Split Split Split Split Split Stay Split Split Stay Stay
8,8 Split Split Split Split Split Split Split Split Split Split
7,7 Split Split Split Split Split Split Hit Hit Hit Hit
6,6 Split Split Split Split Split Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
5,5 Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Dh** Hit Hit
4,4 Hit Hit Hit Split Split Hit Hit Hit Hit Hit
2,2–3,3 Split Split Split Split Split Split Hit Hit Hit Hit

Sh* = Surrender. If surrender is not allowed, hit instead

Dh** = Double. If doubling is not allowed, hit instead.

Ds*** = Double. If doubling is not allowed, stay instead.

Basic strategy stipulates that you never purchase insurance or accept “even money” when the dealer shows an ace.

Card counting

Card counting can be implemented in combination with basic (or virtually any other) blackjack strategy to improve the player’s chance of long-term success. Counting cards is not difficult, but it typically requires a lot of time and dedication before it produces any noticeable long-term impact on the player’s bankroll.

Card counting is done at traditional blackjack tables without shuffling machines. If there is a shuffling machine and the dealer continuously puts used cards back into the shuffling machine and mix them in with the other cards in the machine, then card counting becomes pointless.

Since it is very difficult to remember all the used cards, several card counting systems have been devices. Two of the easiest ones are Ace-Five and Hi-Lo. An example of a more complexed system,one that provides the uses with more information, are Wong Halves.

Other examples of commonly used system for card counting at the blackjack table are the Revere System, the Zen System and the Knock-Out system.

The Ace-Five Black Jack System

Just like most other cart counting systems for blackjack, the Ace-Five system assigns specific number points to each card in the deck. Instead of assigning number for a large amount of cards, this system focus on just aces and fives. You start at zero. Every time the dealers takes an ace out of the shoe, you subtract by one. Everytime the dealer takes a five out of the shoe, that means plus one for your counting.

The higher you get, the less fives and the more aces are left in the shoe, and this is considered favorable for the deaeer. You can now use the information to decide how much to bet. Many players stick to a blackjack strategy where they increase their bet size as soon as their counting reaches 2+.

How to avoid detection during card counting

How do casinos view card counting? The answer is that it varies. Some casinos doesn’t really care, because they know that many card-counters are pretty bad at what they’re doing and end up losing money long-term any way. Other casinos have a very strict anti-card counting policy, and then there is also quite a few casinos that doesn’t really care unless you actually start winning big and attract attention.

black jack 2In most jurisdictions, card counting is legal. However, most jurisdictions also allow the owner of a casino to send guests out the door when they are no longer welcome. So, even if you are not doing anything illegal, a casino can still decide that they don’t want you playing in the casino anymore. They can either send you out right away, or simply refuse to let you in the next time you show up.

So, how does one avoid being pegged as a card counter? Well, the most obvious answer is also the most annoying – don’t win to much! Since the purpose of card counting, at least for most of us, is not to provide mental stimulation but to win cash, this is of course not a very popular tip.

So, what can we do if we want to win but do it under the radar? There are several methods to employ here. For starters, you can avoid being too obvious with your bet changes. If you have spent 30 minutes counting cards and betting the table minimum, the dealer will take notice if you suddenly start betting the table maximum instead. A gradual shift is better – let the dealer think that you are being caught up in the game. Or act as if you gradually are becoming a bit tipsy; inebriated people make strange bet changes all the time. Of course, you should never become a nuisance at the table, since this is more likely to have you thrown out than the card-counting itself.

If possible, don’t seem to focused on the card at the table. It is easy to clam up and become the super-silent super boring blackjack player when you are counting cards, because you want to focus at the task at hand. This is a bad strategy for anyone that wish to avoid detection. Practice your strategy and your card counting skills (e.g. by playing blackjack online for pretend money) until you are so skilled that you can do it without becoming a “robot” at the table. Make a little bit of small talk, display emotions, order a drink (but don’t get drunk) and make it seem like you are enjoying yourself rather than being someone who has blackjack as a job.

Last but not least, a popular strategy is to work in teams. Then the person doing the card counting doesn’t have to be the same as the person doing the bets. You can sit at table and count cards playing the minimum bet every round. When it is time to start betting more, you signal an accomplice that can arrive and start out with bigger bets right away, while you keep on doing your small bets. Since your accomplice haven’t established a betting pattern prior to this, there is no anomaly for the staff to pick up on.