Advanced Blackjack Strategies - Part 1
It's possible for a blackjack player to gain the long-term
advantage over the casino. This means you will win more money than lose over
time. To do so, you must bet more when the odds of winning a hand are in your
favor and less when the odds shift to the dealer. In order to know when the odds
shift from dealer to player you must keep track of the cards as they are played.
This technique, known as card counting, does not require a photographic memory
(that's a misconception).
First off, you must understand that the probability of winning a hand in
blackjack is very dependent upon the mix of cards remaining to be played. If
this mix happens to contain an abundance of large cards like 10's, picture cards
and aces, then your chances of winning improve. On the other hand, if the mix of
unplayed cards contain an abundance of small cards like 2 though 6's, then the
odds shift in favor of the dealer.
Here are some of the reasons why large cards favor the player and small cards
the dealer. When you have a mix of unplayed cards that contain an abundance of
large cards there will be more blackjacks dealt. Yes the dealer has just as much
chance of getting a blackjack as a player but the player gets paid a bonus on a
blackjack hand (3 to 2 payoff). Also, when the dealer has a stiff hand (like 12
to 16) he must draw. If the deck is rich in large cards, the dealer will most
likely bust. Unlike the dealer, the player does not have to draw on a stiff
hand.from a deck rich in large cards. Also players will profit more when
doubling down in a mix rich in large cards. Likewise if a player has a pair, he
can split the pair into two hands, a sometimes lucrative play when the dealer
shows a weak face card. The dealer on the other hand will usually make good when
he holds a stiff hand and draws from a mix of cards containing an abundance of
How does a player know when the unplayed cards are either rich in large or
small cards? You must keep track of the cards as they are played because with
this information you can deduce whether the unplayed cards are rich in small or
In order to keep track of the cards you must assign a tag to each card for
card counting purposes. The dealer favorable small cards - 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 - have
a tag of +1 (plus one). The player favorable large cards - 10, J, Q, K Ace- have
a tag of -1 (minus one). The remaining cards - 7, 8, 9 - have a tag of 0.
Card counting is simply adding of the tags for each card that is played. For
example after the shuffle, your starting count is 0 (this indicates an equal
number of large and small cards). As the first round of play begins and cards
are faced, you must add the tags of each card. If player #1 shows a 4 and 6 your
count is +2 (sum of +1 tag for the 4 and +1 tag for the 6). Continue to add the
card tags for every card that you see. If it's a small card you increase you
count by 1. If it's a large card you decrease your count by 1. At the end of the
first round your count will be either a plus or negative number. If your count
is positive it means that there were a lot more small cards than large cards
played in the previous round. That means the reverse must be true for the
unplayed cards - namely the unplayed cards contain a slight excess of large
cards over small cards. This is precisely the point at which the edge swings to
the player on the next hand and therefore the player should make a larger bet.
Likewise when the count is negative, the edge is with the
dealer and the
player should bet the minimum.
To learn how to count, get a deck of cards, shuffle them, and then turn one
card over and recite the tag for that card. For example if your first card is a
6, recite "plus 1". If the next card is a queen recite "minus 1". Continue to do
this for the entire deck of cards to help you associate the tag for each
Next take the same deck of cards and flip the cards over one-at-time and keep
the running count. For example if the first card is 5, you count is "plus 1". If
the next card is a 3, your running count is "plus 2". Assume the next card is a
7. Your running count is still "plus 2". Continue to flip each card and add the
tags. When you are finished counting a deck of cards your running count should
be 0 (this is how you can check the accuracy of your counting).
Now you are ready to cancel the tags of a group of cards to make counting
even easier. Instead of flipping over one card at a time, flip 2 or 3 cards at
one time. Glance at the cards and cancel every high card and low card. When you
learn this technique you won't have to count every single card that you see on
Keep practicing card counting with your deck of cards until you can count
down a deck accurately in 30 seconds or less.
In part 2 of this series on Advanced Blackjack Strategies I'll show you how
to bet based on your running count.