Blackjack Games Not to Play: MindPlay Tables

Part of being a savvy blackjack player is knowing strategy and how to play the game to squeeze the best odds out of a game. But another part of being a savvy blackjack player is knowing where to play and where not to play. I am not talking about specific casinos. I am talking about specific games of specific rules to avoid.

That being said, there is one specific blackjack game that I recently heard of that I feel compelled to tell of. In fact, this is more a type of blackjack table than a blackjack variation’s rules. The type of table is called a MindPlay table.

A MindPlay table is a specifically built table with a purpose. That purpose is to track the cards and chips on the table; it is programmed to determine a player’s skill level, track wagers, count the deck and how long a player has played at that table. MindPlay tables use specifically marked decks; they are not marked where a player can see the marks of course, but they are indeed marked.

Play at a MindPlay begins with the dealer removing the decks from the shuffle machine and placing them in a sort of well in the table to the right of the dealer. Once in this well-like space, an optical device then scans the deck, counting the marks, and creating an order of the cards. The cards are then dealt and played in that order.

Once play has begun the MindPlay program counts the cards as they are played, similar to how a blackjack player counts cards. When the MindPlay device’s count reaches a certain number, the dealer is ordered to reinsert the cards into the shuffler and then reinsert them into the well-like space for scanning. This counting and pre-programmed command to reshuffle is in place so that players will not be able to squeeze an advantage out of the decks through card counting.

But the optical device of a MindPlay table does more. It can track how much a player is betting, calculate their average bet and how long a player has been playing at that table. This information can be used by pit bosses when it comes to comps for players. A player can ask the pit boss for a comp, telling him or her that they have wagered this much in this much time at that blackjack table over there; the pit boss can then check the program in the MindPlay table to see if what the player says is true or not. Casinos like this feature because it will allow them better—and tighter—control on comping players.

But comping aside, the scanning and tracking of the order of the deck and the increased odds it gives players is enough to give blackjack players a reason to avoid MindPlay tables. It seems though that casinos are saying that it is not okay for players to count cards, but it is okay for them to count and track the cards.

So, blackjack players, this is one type of blackjack table to avoid. Unfortunately these tables are not labeled with signs or the like; you will not see a ‘MindPlay Blackjack’ sign sitting on the felt. The giveaway is the black well-like device in the table on the dealer’s right—in other words, near the third base position. If you see that well-like device it is highly likely that the blackjack table is a MindPlay table. Avoid it, and encourage other players to avoid it.

Counting 10s and Insurance

In the last couple of posts we have pieced together that card counting can help us with insurance. We all understand that card counting will allow us to know when the remaining cards contain more high cards than low. So what does this have to do with turning insurance to our benefit?

High cards include 10s. And insurance is a side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is worth 10 or not. Now put two and two together—it is a hard 4. No, I am kidding. Bad blackjack joke. If the, when counting cards, you find that a significant number of low cards have been played and the remaining deck is rich in high cards it means that the chances of the dealer’s hole card being worth 10 are increased.

This means that it is not a good time to take insurance.

Now keep in mind that I am not an insurance advocate for blackjack. It is a side bet and I am steadfastly against side bets. But if you are dead set on taking insurance and are playing in a brick and mortar casino where you can count cards, do not take insurance when the remaining deck is rich in high cards. This means that if you are going to risk the side bet—I mean, insure your hand—you only want to do it when the remaining cards are rich in low cards.

Unfortunately card counting cannot be used in online blackjack because of that RNG, but you can use card counting to turn insurance a bit in your favor. You know now that you can use card counting to know if the chances are increased for the dealer to have a card worth 10 for a hole card when the remaining deck is running rich in high cards.

Now you can take that knowledge and choose to wager on the hole card or not when offered insurance. For example, if you have a hard hand and the dealer has an Ace up and you have counted the card and figured that the remaining deck is rich in high cards—meaning the dealer’s chances of having a 10 for a hole card are increased—taking insurance might not be a bad thing; you know you have a weak hand and that the remaining cards favor the dealer in this case.

That is how knowing how the richness of the remaining deck can help you to decide whether taking insurance at the blackjack table might benefit you.

Card Counting and Insurance Together

If you recall my last post I discussed what exactly insurance is in blackjack. This was my opener to my overall explanation that insurance can in fact be used in the grand scheme to make money from blackjack. But such a trick is not for the newly green players of blackjack. And it is not for online blackjack play, but that is because card counting is necessary to turn insurance to your advantage.

Blackjack is one of those casino games that players can use strategy to turn the odds in towards them. Card counting is a blackjack strategy of skill that can actually allow the player to turn the game’s overall odds in their favor and beat the house. This is because card counting allows the player to have a good idea of whether the remaining deck is rich in high or low cards. It is that same principle that allows card counting blackjack players to actually take advantage of insurance.

Remember from my last post that I said that all insurance is, is a side bet on whether or not the dealer’s hole card will turn out to be a 10 value card.

This translates over to card counting like so: 10 value cards are considering high cards. If, through counting cards, a blackjack player knows that the remaining cards are rich in high cards—meaning rich in Aces and 10 value cards—it means that the chances of the dealer’s hole card being worth 10 are increased. This is similar to how the chances of a player being dealt a natural blackjack are increased when the remaining cards are rich in high cards.

So the beginning of our blackjack strategy for taking advantage of insurance is to use card counting. And that means developing your skills in counting cards. But do not run off to the casino, counting cards and taking insurance if the deck is rich in high cards—there is one more piece that goes along with this blackjack strategy

Card Counting Tips: CSMs and RNGs

Well you have already had a basic explanation of how to begin card counting, but there are a few more things that you need to know before you reach your card counting glory.

There are also some blackjack games that you will want to avoid with card counting. Online blackjack and blackjack tables with Continuous Shuffle Machines. The reasons you want to avoid those blackjack games are very similar.

I will start with CSMs. CSMs are devices in which the cards from one round are fed into the device and the entire deck reshuffled before the next hand is dealt. Hence the continuous part.

This causes none of the cards that have been played to be discarded, and without discards there is nothing to count. Card counting is a way of keeping a loose running tab on the cards that have been played and removed from play under the remaining deck hits its reshuffle point. But since CSMs keep cards from being removed from play there is no point in trying to count them.

As for online blackjack, it is powered by a Random Number Generator. An RNG functions similarly to a CSM, but not exactly.

When an online blackjack game is created, its RNG is programmed with every possible outcome, such as all possible starting hands and dealer up card combinations. When a player clicks Deal, the RNG pulls from all possible starting hands and dealer up card combinations. This has an effect like a CSM because no cards are ever ‘discarded,’ it is possible for any of them to show up in the next rounds.

Because cards are not effectively discarded in a blackjack game with CSMs or RNGs card counting becomes useless in those games. It is best to stick with a standard game of blackjack in a brick and mortar casino—one without a CSM.

Card Counting Not as Hard as it Seems

I am not joking. Card counting really is not a hard blackjack strategy skill to learn. It takes time, practice and patience to master, but the basic skill is not hard.

If you can add and subtract 1 then you can count cards. Many novice card counters will start out with the Hi Lo counting system. It is the most basic and teaches novice counters the basics that will allow them to move up to more advanced counting systems in the future.

The Hi Lo system starts out by assigning counting values to the cards, either a +1, a 0 or a -1 like so:

Cards 2 through 6 are assigned and counted as +1
Cards 7 through 9 are assigned and counted as 0
Cards 10 through Ace are assigned and counted as -1

Players then count the cards on the table with their appropriate counting values, adding 1 and subtracting 1 where necessary. It is as simple as gong around the table adding and subtracting what counting values the other players, you and the dealer have.

So what do you do with this running total that you have?

Well it depends on what the cards you have counted add up to. If the running total in your head is in the positive by +3 or more it is a good indicator that a good many low cards have been played, hence the higher positive count. A positive count means that the remaining deck is rich in high cards—the cards that favor the player and increase your chances of being dealt a natural blackjack.

Now if the opposite is going on and you have a running count of -3 or more it indicates that more high cards have been played and passed out of the game. At this point the remaining deck is rich in low cards which favor the dealer, and it is time to reduce your wager.

This afternoon I will go over some card counting tips to help you make even more of a success out of card counting in your blackjack strategy arsenal.

Card Counting Basics for Blackjack—Part II

Now that we have discussed the legality of card counting, we can move on to other basics about blackjack—no need to worry about being arrested for card counting now.

Now we will go over where card counting can and cannot be used.

If you want to use card counting and are dead set on using it, you will need to make a trip to a brick and mortar casino because card counting will not work with online blackjack.

I have no doubt that you have heard the rumor that card counting only works when you know how many decks are being used, and that it makes card counting possible for the online blackjack games that do tell players how many decks are being used.

This is not accurate.

Knowing the number of decks in play does not have any impact on the success of your card counting abilities—regardless of whether you play blackjack online or in a brick and mortar casino.

What does make a brick and mortar casino necessary is that cards are discarded from play. In online blackjack, cards are never discarded; the Random Number Generator (RNG) pulls from all possibilities when ‘dealing’ cards in the game. Say for example you were just dealt a 4 of spades and a 2 of clubs. In a game of blackjack in a casino, those cards would be removed from play. Granted, with multiple decks there is a chance those exact cards could show up again.

But the point is that two low cards would have been removed from play, which increases the ratio of high cards left to be played.

That is the who purpose of card counting—to give players an idea of whether the remaining cards are rich in high cards or low cards. Knowing this helps them to choose how to wager on their rounds. And since any cards could be dealt in online blackjack, card counting is ineffective. If cards are not removed from play, who can you tell if the remainder of the deck is rich in high or low cards regardless of the number of decks in play?

You cannot, and that is the whole reason why card counting cannot be used with online blackjack. Knowing the facts about card counting can pay off in that avoiding the rumors about card counting that could interfere with the effectiveness of the skill. And interfering with the effectiveness can interfere with the success of the skill.

Card Counting Basics for Blackjack—Part I

Card counting is one of the most coveted blackjack strategy skills in the game. It is easy to play according to basic strategy—all you do is look off of the chart and make the recommended play. I am not saying that basic strategy should be dispensed with in favor of card counting. Actually both are necessary.

Basic strategy can get you within 0.5% of the house’s edge over you. But card counting can make up that half of a percent and even tilt the edge in your favor.

But such a skill as card counting does not come as easily as basic strategy. It requires practice and patience to learn. That practice can make the difference between gaining that slight edge over the house and being caught and subsequently kicked out of the casino.

Because of its known potential to beat the house edge, card counting has built up a reputation, some of which is true and some of which is not. Part of using such a strategy skill in blackjack is to know what is true and what is rumor.

One of the biggest is that card counting is illegal. This is not true exactly.

There is now law that says that card counting is against the law. However, casinos are private businesses. This means that they can choose who they want to do business with, and by that I mean they can refuse to allow players to play as playing is considered a business transaction between a player and the casino. It is on these grounds that casinos can have a card counting player banned from the blackjack tables or removed from the casino.

This is why you want to practice your card counting skill regularly—you do not want to get caught counting. You must be able to count quickly and quietly in your head without any outward signs that you are doing so, and all in the midst of the lights and sounds that make a casino what it is.

That is the first most basic thing you need to know about card counting—the actual legal stand point on the highly acclaimed blackjack strategy skill. You need to know that it is not illegal but that there is the risk of being removed from the casino if you are caught counting. Knowing this helps enforce the need for practice and it also imparts the seriousness with which casinos regard card counting blackjack players.

Blackjack Makes Brushing Up on Your Math Skills Fun

For most people math ends when we get out of school, be it high school or college. Other than basic adding, subtracting and multiplying we do not really use much math. And with all these nifty apps for mobile devices we almost never do basic math anymore. But blackjack can help you brush up on your math and make it fun at the same time in two ways.

First there is the basic math that is inherent with blackjack—you have to add up your cards for your hand total. Now I do not know about you, but I find the idea of adding up numbers on a sheet of paper less interesting and less fun than when adding up cards in a hand of blackjack.

But the big aspect of blackjack that can help you brush up on your math skills is card counting. Card counting uses the addition of positive and negative numbers. For example you could be adding a -1 to 3, which gives you 2.

Sure you might be saying that the above example looks easy but imagine that you cannot see the actual positive and negative numbers, and that you have to do all the math instantly in your head as soon as you see the cards and without giving away to anyone else that you are doing the math in your head.

Now you see where the challenge and the fun comes in to using blackjack as a fun way to brush up on your math skills. Not to mention you will be gaining a blackjack strategy skill in card counting that you can use to help lower, if not beat, the house edge.

Playing Blackjack in an Online Casino

Blackjack is an old casino game. It can be traced back to France in the 1700’s. That is not to say that it is French—after all there is Spanish 21, which is a very similar card game with obvious Spanish roots—but the 1700’s was the first record of blackjack in a casino.

Anyway. Times have changed and players are no longer limited to playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino. Instead they can stay at home and play from their home computer. Or from their office at work if they feel risqué enough to do so.

And while online blackjack has many similarities with blackjack played in a brick and mortar casino, the two are not identical.

One, the feeling of being just you and the dealer is emphasized in that you are the only player at the virtual table. This is not like some online poker rooms in which you will be playing with a few real people from somewhere on this planet. Online blackjack is just you and the game.

Two, some types of blackjack strategy cannot be used in online blackjack. Namely card counting. Card counting requires cards to be discarded. This does not happen in online blackjack thanks to the RNG, which pulls cards and starting hands from all possibilities, creating in effect no discards.

But there are some other differences.

Three, you do not have to worry about whether you are playing at the right table with a minimum wager you are comfortable with. Online blackjack starts at $1 and most will go up to $200 per table. But the player is the one who choose how much he wagers within that range. So if you only want to wager $1 per hand, you go right ahead.

Four, you do not have to feel like you are on the spot or judged by other players that you are making the wrong play. Online blackjack can make you feel more confident in your playing without the pressure of other players telling you how to play your hand or that you played it wrong or that you took the dealer’s bust card (which is a myth anyway).

Online blackjack comes with good things and some that are more inconvenient. But on the whole I think it is a good way to play, especially if you are new to blackjack and are just branching out into playing for real money. Playing blackjack online keeps your confidence intact while allowing new players to become accustomed to playing with real money at smaller amounts than can be typically found in a brick and mortar casino.

Really Good Blackjack Payouts

The numbers have just come in from Cinema Casino, an online casino based in Malta. It seems that September was a very good month…for the blackjack players.

During the course of September online blackjack players at Cinema Casino received a total rate of 100.28% in payouts. In translation that means that on average the online blackjack players at this online casino received a little more than 100% of their wagers back in payouts. They turned a profit from playing blackjack.

I love this game. True, it is a bit harder to win real money from online blackjack but that is because card counting cannot be used in online blackjack. So I applaud the online blackjack players at Cinema Casino.

But what is curious to me is why Cinema Casino is so widely publishing this payout information. Granted the monthly payout reports are not exactly top secret. They are audited by the auditing facilities at eCogra before being published.

And while the affiliation with eCogra is a very good sign, a part of me cannot help being a tad bit skeptical. Perhaps it is just seeing an online casino boasting their payouts so much—it is not something one sees all that often.

And they are quite boastful, check it out:

Victor Roberts, casino manager, said, “Players can trust in the fact that they always come out with full pockets when they play on CinemaCasino.com. Winners are not born. They are made—by us!”

Makes me raise an eyebrow no doubt. But I still have to say that September’s online blackjack players at Cinema Casino are not going to argue the point. After all, they did turn a profit in online blackjack.