Blackjack is commonly known to be a game of both skill and luck. The development of strategies to increase the player’s edge has intrigued many and resulted in the publication of numerous 'winning formula' books.
Counting cards is the main strategy used by Blackjack enthusiasts. It involves the player making a mental note of all the dealt cards so that he can get a feel for what is left in the deck. If the deck has more high cards left (tens, faces and aces) then this may trigger him to raise his bet as he would consider it more likely that a Blackjack may be drawn.
Card Counting Systems
There are various systems that have been touted across the years some simple some extremely complex. The most well-known math-based system for card counting was published in 1962 by Ed Thorp. His ‘Beat the Dealer’ book made him famous and had players trying out his tactics in an attempt to improve their winning streaks. Blackjack Strategy cards became all the rage.
There is no need to memorize the actual card but most systems give the cards a numeric value (eg those based 2-6 have one value, those higher another etc.)
Some of the systems marketed over the years are:
Single Level Systems
The Single Level Systems is a simple method of card counting where high cards have a low score of -1 and low cards have a high score of +1. A player will feel that he has an advantage if his running total starts to rise in value. This indicates that more low scoring cards (i.e. high value cards in Blackjack) have been dealt or thrown, leaving the remaining deck rich in ten-value cards. Depending on the hand dealt, the more ten value cards remaining in the pack, the more likely they are to be dealt a winning hand.
There are quite a few variations on the Single Level System, for example the Hi/Lo Count, Knockout Count, Hi Opt 1 – all of which slightly vary how the counting values are allocated across the pack.
Multi Level Systems
The Multi Level System is based on the same concept as the Single Level Systems. However, rather than a score of either + or -1, the cards are grouped together and given different values, perhaps ranging from -3 through to +3 based on the Blackjack value of the card. This system is harder and more complicated to use but provides a more accurate indication of the contents of the cards still to be dealt. Examples of Multi Level Systems include Hi Opt 2.
Balanced and Unbalanced Systems
There are also Balanced and Unbalanced counting systems:
Balanced Systems result in a total of 0 once all the cards in the deck have been counted. This is generally accepted to be an effective method for single card games but other factors need to be incorporated into the calculations when more decks are in play.
Unbalanced systems do not have a pack total of 0 and do take account of the number of decks in play. The starting value of the counting is set dependent on the number of decks in play.
Does it Work?
Casinos have made an effort to counteract the card counting tactic by introducing shuffling machines and more multi deck games. The higher number of decks in play, the more difficult it is to implement the Blackjack Strategy. Card Counting Charts or Blackjack Strategy Cards are banned from most land-based casinos but can, of course, used for online Blackjack games.
Although books and seminars on Blackjack Theory and Strategy promise punters amazing success, most level-headed players simply believe that they will improve their playing edge and give an added advantage over the house, but will certainly not lead to a win every game!