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If you want to be effective at counting cards, you need all the advantages you can get. You have probably heard about the Hi-Lo method of card counting before, this determines whether there are still 10’s and A’s in the deck or not.
The True Count
To be truly successful, it is important to take another step and determine the advantage/disadvantage per deck left to be played and look at how many decks are left. You can calculate the True Count by dividing the Running Count by the amount of decks that are left.
Unlike the Running Count, a True Count will tell you the advantage that you have over the casino in percentages. If the True Count is zero, the casino has a 0.5 percent advantage over the player. For every additional +1, the player gains a 0.5 percent advantage. So for example, a True Count of +6 would mean that the player has a 2.5 percent advantage.
True Count Vs Running Count
The Running Count is only going to tell the player whether there are fewer or more high cards in the deck compared to the lower cards. For example, if the Running Count is +6, it means that there are six more high cards than low cards in the deck.
If you only have six cards left to play, you know that these are all going to be high cards (provided you counted correctly). However, if there are say, six decks left, the information is not as useful. This is why the True Count is needed. It helps to make strategic decisions at the blackjack table by letting the players know the proportion of high cards per deck.
Why it helps
A True Count of +1 or lower means that the advantage lies with the casino. Any True Count over +1 means that players have the advantage. Any good card counting strategy has the True Count as its basis. Understanding the True Count tells players when they have the advantage, and this is ultimately how they make their money.
The Hi-Lo Counting system is one of the easiest card counting systems to learn for blackjack. Developed by Harvey Dubner and popularised in Stanford Wong’s book “Professional Blackjack” it is a simple counting system which can offer good results even for a relatively inexperienced blackjack player.
The question of whether you should use it depends firstly on where you intend to play.
If you intend to play in online casinos then there is no point using ANY card counting system. The fact that the casino software shuffles the deck after every hand means that you cannot reliably count the cards with any degree of accuracy.
So should you use the Hi-Lo counting system in a real world casino?
Well, legally you can. There is no law against card counting. However, if you are caught doing it then it is highly likely that the casino will ask you to stop, or even ask you to leave.
This is precisely what happened to Ben Affleck recently when he was believed to be card counting at the Hard Rock Casino on vacation with his wife Jennifer Garner in Las Vegas.
Therefore, if you are going to use the Hi-Lo counting system you have to develop the skills to use it without it being patently obvious that you are doing so. That may sound easy, but when you have a pit boss and a team of security cameras trained on your every move, the pressure is on.
If you are going to use the Hi-Lo counting system, then you need to develop a way to use it and hide it well. This may mean throwing a few ‘off-scent’ bets, betting large when you know you are likely to lose, betting smaller when likely to win and the count is in your favour.
The real skill in using the Hi-Lo counting system is doing it without detection. If you can master this, then use it, if not, then it may not be the best idea to use in a real world environment.
Probability, in blackjack, is the one element that can tip Lady Luck in your favor. Forget card-counting and progressions; the pure odds of flat-betting are what most people depend on when they sit at a blackjack table. The whole purpose of becoming proficient in the game is to increase the probability of winning and decrease the probability of losing. This is where the concept of house edge is important to understand.
The House Edge
This is a little-understood term that is calculated as the difference between what you actually make on winning bets and what you lose on all other bets. In commercial gambling, the house edge is always a positive number, which means that, on average, a player will never make back the money he bets. For American Roulette, the house edge is 5.3%, which means that for every $100 bet, the loss is $5.30. In other words, the house always wins. Of course, this is oversimplification of an extremely volatile situation where the player also occasionally wins; however, because players usually reinvest their winnings into bets, the average is allowed to play out naturally.
Blackjack, however, is a game of skill as well as luck, so the odds are a little different here. The house edge in a game of blackjack is usually between 0.5% and 6%. The higher house edge applies to gamblers who do not follow a system and rely on pure ‘gut’ feel to tell them when to hit, stand, split or double. For card-counters, the scenario changes drastically: the house edge for this category of gamblers starts at -5% and goes up to 1%. That means if you are an expert card counter, then you will end up making 5 cents on every dollar that you bet.
Is the Winning Edge Guaranteed for Card-Counters?
Not all card-counters make money, but doing this will increase the probability of winning each time the cards are dealt. Conversely, those with no system don’t always lose. The game itself is too dynamic to make generalizations, but the fact remains that these statistics do play out in the course of an average day at the casino.
Since blackjack seems to be a game more popular with gentlemen than ladies, you might be surprised to learn that the first documented blackjack professional was in fact a woman – Eleanor Dumont, whose tragic life remains one of the more interesting stories from the history of blackjack.
Arriving from France to the Wild West in the 1850s, Eleanor Dumont first settled in Nevada City, where she became a famous blackjack dealer in her own gambling establishment. Her skills at cards were matched by her style and charm – the fact that she was a lady dealer in a rough Wild West setting only helped to increase her popularity. This was a time when gold fever drew all sorts of characters to California, and it is easy to imagine the picturesque setting in which Madame Dumont worked.
Renowned for her honesty and fair-play, she also had a trademark custom: generously treating the losers with free champagne. Her business was doing so well, that soon she opened a larger gambling den, called Dumont’s Palace. Clearly, she knew not only how to shuffle and deal, but also how to run a successful business! Unfortunately, Madame Dumont’s sharp wit could not save her from the foolish choice of her heart.
Following the gold fever from Nevada City to Pioche, Madame Dumont came into contact with Jack McKnight, a local saloon owner, and fell in love with him. After they married, the wealthy Madame Dumont bought a farm to settle down with her husband, but unfortunately her happiness did not last long. McKnight stole her fortune and disappeared. Hurt and betrayed, Madame then spent years travelling across Wild West, hoping to find and shoot McKnight, but she never managed to find him.
These later years of her life were also when she earned her famous nickname – Madame Moustache. This was due to her thick upper-lip fuzz, which she began sporting as a moustache in her forties.
Finally, she returned to California, where she went back to being a blackjack dealer. Sadly, the misery of her later years proved to be fatal, as eventually she overdosed herself with Morphine. In her death she was not forgotten – her funeral was one of the largest in the area. In spite of her tragic ending, Madame Moustache is well remembered and celebrated for her glory days even today, and remains one of the likely candidates for the Blackjack Hall of Fame.
Many novice Microgaming casino fans are unaware that one of the games with the lowest house edge can be made even more profitable for the user if they follow a specific plan. The game is blackjack and the plan is Blackjack basic strategy!
How Can You Have Blackjack Basic Strategy, Isn’t It A Game Of Chance?
Yes, Blackjack is a game of chance but it is one with a limited number of possibilities. The fact that most online casinos use single, double, six or eight decks of cards, mean that it is entirely possible to analyse all possible eventualities that you can see. Namely, what your two cards are and the face up card of the dealer.
Furthermore, it is also possible to calculate what the chances of success are for each possible situation in the game of blackjack for each of the four possible options the player faces, splitting, doubling down, hitting or standing.
What blackjack basic strategy is? A table that clearly shows that when the dealer has face up card of value X and you have a hand of YZ, then you should take the stated option in order to give you the best statistical average of success.
Does This Mean I Will Always Win Using Blackjack Basic Strategy?
No, not at all. Even if you learn Blackjack Basic Strategy by heart and know exactly what to do whatever cards you can see, there is always the element of chance that the dealer may still win.
What blackjack basic strategy does do though, is put the odds in your favour more, than simply playing an ad hoc game. If you follow blackjack basic strategy, you will win more hands of blackjack than you would playing an off-the-cuff game. This has been proven over millions and billions of hands.
Is Blackjack Basic Strategy Illegal?
Absolutely not, you can use it when you play at an online casino, or in a real world casino – and if you master it, you can make a game that is already one of the most favourable to the player, into one that offers a consistent chance of success, more of the time.