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Counting Cards in Blackjack

Some people believe that efficient card counting in Blackjack can actually tilt the odds in favor of the player over the dealer. Card counting involves keeping some kind of track of the types of cards that have been played. There is little doubt that a truly accurate count would be a help in making decisions in various circumstances. But keeping an accurate count takes a bit of discipline, and the dealers do a good job in disguising the number of cards remaining, which is a hindrance to most counting systems. The use of multiple decks is also an inhibiting and limiting factor.

Perhaps the most common card counting system involves adding and subtracting one point value for every card that is played. The count must be kept in the player's head and is best done as the card is revealed. Every 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 that a player sees he should add one. Every 10-point card or Ace a player sees he should subtract one. Any 7, 8, or 9 and the count remains the same. What this tells you is, when the number is positive there are more Aces and tens than normal and when the number is negative there are less Aces and tens than normal.

You can see how this knowledge could perhaps change a player's strategy when deciding to double a bet, or in taking a hit. This is not higher level math and actually can be done easily enough, but it also must be considered in conjunction with the number of decks remaining.

Divide the positive or negative score by the estimated number of decks remaining to get an idea of how many ten-point cards and Aces remain. So, for example, if you have a total of 9 and you have three decks remaining, it means that the average number of high cards is greater than usual by an average of 3 per deck. This is 3/52 more than usual. Not an insignificant number considered over a long series of hands.

This knowledge can also affect betting, because the higher the count, the more the advantage lies with the player. It theoretically increases the dealer's chances of exceeding 21 (because the dealer must draw a card on 16 or less). This means that on higher counts, the player should increase his or her usual bet to take advantage of this situation. The odds in normal Blackjack are fairly close anyway, but some believe that a count of 2 or more gives enough of an advantage to the player that the player should double his or her usual bet on the prospect, and that every increase in the count is a good reason to increase the bet further.

Players should realize that counting systems cannot tilt the odds in their favor more than a few bare fractional percentage points and then only for a few fleeting moments. This having been said, counting systems are interesting and are worth exploring, even implementing. The system described above is a very simple one. There are certainly more elaborate systems in existence. Players should also understand that it is highly unlikely that they are going to make a fortune or even a living from playing Blackjack. It really is a pass time, a game, and should be played as such. Even the best strategy player implementing the most prescient counting system is going to have losing streaks and will find that casinos are not in the business of handing over money easily to their clientele. Play for fun and play responsibly.

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Remember blackjack is a gambling game. Players should never gamble more than they can afford to lose.

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