Wins and losses in blackjack depend on a number of factors and are not entirely random. For this reason, enthusiastic players may try to beat the house by working out systems to even the odds … legally. These gamers are known as advantage players (“AP” for short). One of the most common methods used by advantage players is blackjack card counting – that is, keeping track of all the cards that have been seen in play. This enables an AP to predict, with greater accuracy, how many high cards will come up in future deals, which in turn will reduce the risk associated with wagering on blackjack hands. Card counting takes practice and concentration, but it is certainly doable.
What is Card Counting?
Card counting is often assumed to be the difficult task of remembering the exact value of every single card that is dealt. This would require powers of memory and concentration far beyond those of the average human being, especially when playing with multiple decks. Instead, a card counter assigns a value to certain groups of cards, which vary according to the system of counting blackjack that is used. The popular Hi-Lo system counts 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace as -1, cards 2 through 6 as +1 and 7, 8 and 9 as zero. (NOTE: These values change as you move up through several levels.) So the card counter’s task is to keep a running total of the values according to this system.
Know Your Game
The ability to count cards will not, by itself, help you to win at blackjack. The act of blackjack counting will give you information, but you have to know how to use this information. Start by familiarizing yourself with the game. Learn all the rules of blackjack and study the variations. Then study the basic blackjack strategy – the chart of possible moves that are suggested based on the value of the cards that have already been dealt. Blackjack strategy is not a foolproof system for guaranteed wins, but it provides a way of evening the odds.
Once you have learned the fundamentals – rules, strategy and card counting system – it’s time to practice. Try dealing the cards more and more quickly, counting as you go. Memorize the card pairs that cancel each other out – in other words a -1 and a +1, such as a King and a 3 – so that you can identify them fast. Practice counting over and over until it becomes almost automatic. Use a timer for this if it helps you. If you are easily distractible, discipline yourself to count accurately even with distractions such as conversation in the room.