Does blackjack card counting really work? Part 1

Does Blackjack card counting really work? Yes, it does! You win by betting more when the remaining deck is favorable and less when it is unfavorable, allowing you to gain an overall advantage and win in the long run. However, for practical purposes, card counting doesn’t work because you need to risk huge amounts to win just a little. I’ll show you what I mean later in the presentation. How does card counting work?

As the cards are dealt out, the composition of the remaining cards changes. Having more good cards and fewer bad cards remaining in the deck is favorable to the player. When the remaining deck is good enough to give you an advantage, you bet more. At other times you bet less or stop playing. How do you count the cards?

You only need to keep track of one number, the running count which starts at zero for a freshly shuffled deck. Each card has a point value. The low cards 2 through 6 have a value of +1 and the high cards 10 through ace have a value of -1. The cards in the middle have a value of 0. You can see that the numbers of good and bad cards are balanced.

blackjack gameAs each card is dealt out and revealed, you add 1, 0, or -1 to the running count. The starting count, average count, and ending count are all 0 but any mismatch between low and high cards dealt out causes the count to fluctuate around 0. A positive count means extra bad cards have been used up and extra good cards remain in the deck which is favorable for future hands.

You might wonder why low cards are bad at high cards are good. Cards that are good for the player are good for the dealer too, right? Not exactly.

There are some player advantages that are enhanced when good cards are plentiful and bad cards are lacking. For one thing, an abundance of aces and tens means more blackjacks. This is good because when you get a blackjack, you win one and a half bets. When the dealer gets a blackjack, you lose only one bet. When both you and the dealer have a bad hand, you can stand on yours.

The dealer must hit and maybe bust. In this situation, the dealer is even more likely to bust with many tens remaining. When it’s to your advantage, you can double down on 10 or 11; the dealer cannot.

Many tens remaining in the deck increases your chances of making a good hand with your one hit card. So how do you use the count? When the count becomes high enough to overcome the house advantage, you increase your bet. At other times you decrease your bet or stop playing.

You can modify a few marginal hit or stand playing decisions based on the count. To get the best advantage of knowing the running count, you need to determine what’s called the true count, which adjusts for the effects of the remaining decks. For example, removing one low card from a single deck is enough to offset the dealer advantage and give you an even game. This is called a true count of +1.

To get the same effect from a six-deck game proportion-wise, You need to remove one low card from each of the six decks or a total of six low cards. This is a running count of plus 6 which is the same as a true count of +1. In general, the true count is the running count divided by the number of decks remaining. This graph shows you how your overall advantage or disadvantage changes with the true count.

With a count of 0, which is the average count, you have an average loss of 1/2 of 1%. A true count of +1 is enough to offset the dealer advantage and give you a fair game. No win or loss on average. You need to true count of +2 to have an advantage of 1/2 of 1%.

To get a 1% advantage you need a true count of +3. So how often is the count favorable? Not very often, as shown in this graph. The Red Zone represents losing times and the Green Zone the winning times. The average count is 0, and most of the time the count is near zero, where you play at a slight disadvantage.

About 15% of the time, the count is good enough that you can make some profitable bets. For example, when the true count is +2, you have an advantage of one half of 1%. You need to bet much more during these times to make up for losses during the other 85% of the time.

When the count goes negative, you’re playing at a strong disadvantage, a good time to quit or take a restroom break. In Part 2 of this presentation. I’ll show you why car counting is risky and I’ll make some recommendations.