The purpose of Blackjack card counting is to know when the shoe decks at the table contain cards that are favorable to you, the player, thereby knowing when to make a larger bet.
Many casinos now use continuous shuffle machines (CSM’s), where the cards are automatically shuffled after each hand. It is impossible to count when these contraptions are used.
The movie 21, Starring Kevin Spacey, is a dramatization of a true story about a group of six MIT students that beat Vegas casinos for millions by mastering card counting techniques while playing blackjack. It gives a pretty good account of how the system works. The movie is based on the book, Bringing Down the House, by Ben Mezrich.
The Objective of Card Counting
As per the aforementioned, the objective is to know when the decks contain cards that are favorable to you, the player, thereby knowing when to make a larger bet.
You would do this by mentally assigning a point value to the cards being dealt and keeping track. Even if you are math skilled and are able to hold a running count in your head, there is still no guarantee. If the shoe is favorable, it may be the other players at the table or even the dealer, who are dealt the better cards.
Contrary to what most people think, card counting is not illegal. However, if caught you will be asked to leave the casino. Their personnel, advantaged by the eye in the sky view, pit bosses, floor persons, and dealers are all trained to spot counters.
A simple strategy works like this: Assign the following point value for reach card dealt: any 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are (+1). 7, 8, 9, are considered neutral, so do not count them. 10, J, Q, K, A, are (-1). Do the mental tabulation. If the count is +4 or higher, it means that lower value (unfavorable) cards have been dealt and higher (favorable) cards remain in the shoe. The opposite is true when the count is below +4 or in the minus field. Mentally continue the accumulative running count after each hand until the next shuffle. This many sound easy, but the rapid pace can be confusing. One mistake could blow the count in the wrong direction. If you still think you would like to try your hand at counting, here are some helpful tips:
First learn simple basic strategy. Without it counting is meaningless.
Practice. Practice. Practice. Try it at home with multiple decks first. Try counting in groups of 3 or 4 cards each to represent individual players. Tabulate up to 20 to 30 cards to simulate a full table of seven players per round. Speed is important.
When you’re ready, choose the right table. Look for the slowest dealer, a table with favorable rules, and a shoe game with the least number of decks. Sit down to buy in at a fresh shoe immediately after the shuffle. Note that some casinos do not allow mid-shoe entry into a game.
Favorable rules for the player are: Blackjack pays 3/2, split any pair, double down on any two cards, double after split allowed, and dealer stands on all seventeen’s.
Don’t get greedy. Keep your bet spreads low, to a range of 5 times the table minimum. For example, at a $10 table, never bet more than $50 on a favorable count. If you keep jumping from $10 to $100, you will get caught.
Don’t be obvious. If you try to act like the World’s dumbest blackjack player while playing perfect basic strategy, you will get caught. Remember, practice, scout, select, play, and have fun.