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. As 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.

  1. I saw you were doing simulations for different betting systems at different games like Roulette. I was wondering if you could do a simulation with card counting. 

  2. Do the running count changes have inherent mathematical properties or are they just estimations of a parameter where trying to use more precise steps wouldn't be humanly possible (e.g. say 6 has a true value of +0.872… instead of +1 and 7 has a value of +0.014…)?

  3. I guess my opinion on the matter is I thought the point of counting was to have the higher chance of hitting blackjack which pays off more..

  4. It works over time….yeah, you gotta literally make it a full time job to end up ahead in the end. The vast majority of players do not put in 7-8 hours of playing daily.

  5. Card counting only ever worked with single deck games with no random shuffles. There are few single deck games left and even if you find one they have horrible rules which offset most card counting advantages.

  6. You make several mistakes. First of all, it is a common myth that most of the advantage of counting cards comes from blackjack paying 3 to 2. It isn't. Otherwise, the blackjack-pays-6-to-5 games would be all but invulnerable to counting methods, and though they suck and I wouldn't play them, they are in fact beatable. Most of the advantage actually comes from the fact that you'll succeed more often when doubling down. You won't be doubling down as often mind you, but when you do, you'll be winning more often because usually you want a 10 when you double down, and the times when you are doubling on a soft hand, it means that the dealer shows a bustcard (2-6), and if the count is very high, it means the dealer is more likely to bust from that point on. Another is it is not realistic to say that the breakeven point is a truecount of 1. It's closer to 2. For an infinite # of decks, it's at 1.8. That means a house edge of 0.9%. You're assuming 0.5% across the board regardless of the number of decks in the shoe. The house doesn't have an edge of merely 0.5%, it's more like 0.7%, more like 0.8 or 0.9% in a 6-deck game. So it's certainly not a breakeven point of a truecount of 1 in a 6-deck game, so you wouldn't say a count of 6 at the beginning is the breakeven point. I usually just round up and assume 2 as the breakeven point myself. But you can't just take the house edge in a 2 deck game and apply that same ratio of low cards to high cards that produces breakeven to a 6-deck game. It also depends on the exact rules, like whether you can double down on any 2 cards or just 10 and 11, and whether resplitting aces is allowed. As for the % of the time the advantage is yours, that depends on where the cutcard is and also the exact rules, like whether you can double down on any 2 cards or just 10 and 11, or whether resplitting aces is allowed. It's not nearly as cut and dry as you depict, it is extremely dependent on the conditions that vary from one game to another. Finally, it is not linear. If the count goes super negative, the house edge starts to disappear again. It isn't as simple as a 0.5% edge for each 1 of the truecount. Try playing blackjack with just the 2's, 3 4 5 6 7 and 8 cards of a deck, and the 9's 10JQK and A's taken out, but now hit on 17 or less every hand no matter what the dealer has, and you'll see that for yourself. You shouldn't take a bathroom break every 10 minutes FFS, just play through and calculate the way your optimal strategy changes for both positive and negative counts. If you leave in the middle of a shoe when the count goes negative ("wonging out") what you are actually doing is stealing from the other players, because they'll play more hands in the rest of that shoe in your absence, this is why I generally don't do it unless I'm the only one at the table and I'm planning on leaving for a long while. After all, what are you going to do, constantly leave and come back? That's a good way of getting heat. In fact, it's the BEST way of getting heat. You sit there and take your punishment when the count goes negative, and don't you wong in either (mid shoe entry), that's also stealing from the other players, because then they'll be getting fewer hands from the rest of the shoe in your presence. You're there to take the house's money, not the other players'.

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