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Card Counting 101

The concept of card counting is considered by many players to be a Blackjack strategy of the past. With the innovative ways of land casinos, adding multiple decks, dealer not waiting until the last card before shuffling, and the dreaded shuffle machine which reshuffles played cards back into the deck after each play when needed. Although this may be true, there are still useful times when card counting can come in handy. Some casinos still deal from a single deck, however it is difficult to find, and counting cards with multiple decks is harder but it can still work to your advantage. The only time card counting has no benefit to the player is when the dealer uses a shuffle machine, or when playing online Blackjack, as it acts like a shuffle machine using a fresh deck each hand. Since finding a single deck Blackjack game may prove to be tricky, this article will focus on card counting with multiple decks Blackjack.

There are variations of Blackjack that will occur from casino to casino that may affect the end result of the following method, as there are many factors that need to be addressed. How many decks the dealer is using being the greatest influence.

Even when using the most solid of strategies, there are no guarantees. You may lose track of your count, or the cards may not co-operate with you. Taking the time to learn this strategy will still give you an edge. It will allow you to know roughly what cards are left in the deck and the probability of getting a needed card. In this example we are going to learn an easy form of card counting, one that does not require memorizing any cards or knowing complicated math equations. Instead of counting every card in the deck, as some complicated card counting methods use, we will focus mainly on the cards valued at 10 and the number of players at the table.

So how does it work? While playing Blackjack at a table with 3 other players, you would predict that at least 4 ten valued cards would be played. If there are only 3 played, the running count would be +1 (4 cards expected 3 cards played = +1). This means that the next round there is expected to be 1 extra ten to turn up. If however there are 5 tens played the running count would be -1 (4 cards expected 5 cards played equals -1). This tells you that there is a lower probability of turning a 10.

Now we need to distinguish the difference between a running count and the true count so we can compare apples to apples. If we look at the discard pile and it appears that 3 decks of a 6 deck shoe have been used, we need to recalculate. For example, if our running count is +6 and there are 3 decks used we need to divide the running count by the number of decks used to get the true count. In this example +6 divided by 3 is 2 and we find that our true count is +2. This will tell you that in the remaining 52 card decks, there are 18 tens and 34 non-tens. Early on this strategy will hold little if any benefit, but as the discard deck grows, you will know what the probability of a 10 card being drawn. If many 10 cards are already played there may be a high chance of a low value card to be drawn next and you may wish at that point to double down. As there are no sure ways of drawing the card you need in Blackjack this is a great tool in deciding your strategy and how to play the best Blackjack you can.

Here are some other Blackjack strategies:

Basic Blackjack strategy: The basics of Blackjack you need to know

Advanced Blackjack strategy: An example of more advanced Blackjack strategy including card counting.

Shuffle tracking: Learning effective ways to keep track of cards as the deck is shuffled.

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