How to Count Cards in Blackjack

Card counting is one of the many skills that blackjack players want. Whether because they saw it in a movie and thought it looked cool is beside the point. Card counting is one of the pieces of blackjack strategy that can increase players’ blackjack odds.

Players who are determined to beat the house are the ones who turn to card counting and who take the time to learn it and practice it so that they can take full advantage of it.

It also pays to practice your card counting skills as you also to not want the casino staff to throw you out of the casino.

Card counting is actually pretty easy to learn. The problem many aspiring counters have is that they actually have to practice this skill and keep practicing it. Those who take the time to learn and practice card counting can get the edge on the house by 0.5% up to 1.5% for those who are truly skilled.

One of the easiest counting systems to start with is the Hi-Lo system. In this system the cards are assigned the following counting values:

+1 = 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
0 = 7, 8 and 9
-1 = 10, Jack, Queen, King and Aces

Starting at 0, players then add the positive or negative values of the cards that are played. When the count has a high positive number it means that a good number of low cards have been played and that the remaining deck is rich in high cards that favor the player. This is when card counting blackjack players begin to raise their wager.

But when the count turns strongly negative it means that a number of high cards have been played and that the remaining cards in the deck are low, which favor the dealer. As I am sure you can figure, this is when player begin lowering their wagers.

To practice card counting, sit down with a deck of cards and silently add the positive and negative values, starting from 0, as you look through the deck. You have to keep practicing this until it becomes easy and you hardly have to think about the math—so that you are at ease with counting silently in your head without any outward appearances that you are counting.

Once you are comfortable with that, turn some music and the TV on to provide some distractions like you would find in a casino. Now keep practicing until you can count through the deck with ease with the distractions around you.

Sure card counting can have a good impact on your blackjack odds when playing in a casino, but those odds are not achievable if you are unwilling to take the time to practice. So take the time, practice and then go try your hand at card counting at a blackjack table in a casino.

Good and Bad Blackjack Tips: Card Counting Online

When looking at online casinos many of them have little sections on their sites with information about their casino games and casino games in general. Not always, but fairly often casinos will actually give players tips on how to play, say, blackjack and tips for blackjack strategy.

Now what is funny to me is that there are some players out there who blindly follow those tips on how to play blackjack and for blackjack strategy. Stop and think about that. You want to follow the tips on how to play better—as in win money—from the online casino—which wants to take your money? Yeah, that is what I thought too.

So I went out to see what some of these tips are. Some of it was as I expected and other times I was surprised. There are actually online casinos out there that will offer genuinely good blackjack playing tips.

Here is some of what I found and some blackjack tips about what I what I found.

I did find online casinos that encouraged players to use card counting. This is very dubious to me. Card counting is very much frowned upon in brick and mortar casinos. So first off why would an online casino encourage players to use it in online blackjack?

The answer is simple. Because card counting is ineffective in online blackjack. Because of the game’s RNG no card is ever discarded and all are still in the deck, so to speak since we are talking about a virtual game. On top of that, again because of the RNG, it is like all of the cards are shuffled before each round because the RNG randomly pulls a combination for the beginning of each round.

So online casinos will encourage card counting for online blackjack because it will not actually work and it actually can hurt a player’s online blackjack odds by trying to use it. Players could increase their wagers, thinking that they are getting the jump on the house and a run of high cards, when there are not any discards to back up that run.

Really all this so called blackjack tip is doing is encouraging players to use a blackjack strategy that does not work online in order to create erratic betting, which causes a gain in money for the online casino. So understand card counting does not work online, even if the online casino’s tips say it does.

Oh, and think twice about an online casino that is encouraging you to use card counting when playing online blackjack.

Blackjack Strategy: Card Counting Odds

Card counting has always had this glamorous image in the blackjack world. It is considered the crème de la crème of blackjack skills. It is also the blackjack skill that can allow the player to beat the house. But how much of an edge does this piece of blackjack strategy give a player?

You might be surprised.

A skilled card counter may only get a 1% edge over the house.

But when you think about it and compare it to other casino games, that 1% is not as little as it might sound. Blackjack already has the smallest house edge of all the casino games: 0.5% for the player who uses perfect basic strategy, and card counters certainly do use it.

Card counting is when a blackjack player uses a counting system to get an idea of what kinds of cards are left in the deck. If their counting system reveals that a good number of lower cards (2 through 6) have been played, it means that the remaining deck has more high cards (10 through Ace) left than low cards.

Because there are more high cards left, the chances of being dealt a strong hand or a natural blackjack are increased. This is when skilled card counters will begin to raise their bets.

But when their counting system reveals that a larger number of high cards have been played, leaving the remaining deck rich in low cards that favor the dealer, the player will then begin to decrease his bets.

It is having the idea of what the remaining deck is rich in that gives players that 1% edge on the house—if they can exploit it and not be caught by the casino staff. And the risk of being caught is why players must be skilled at card counting to include it.

Blackjack Odds: Another Reason to Cut Insurance from Your Blackjack Strategy

Some players are die hard about insurance and blackjack. They insist on insurance remaining a part of their blackjack strategy.

It has been explained numerous times why insurance is bad for your blackjack odds.

For one thing it is a side bet. Side bets were created with the purpose of squeezing even more money out of players. The best you can do with insurance is break even. In other words you wager an additional $5 on a $10 wager just to hang on to your $10. It is still more money on the line, which is another opportunity for you to lose money. Losing money is bad for your blackjack odds and will lower them.

For another thing the only way to win an insurance bet is for the dealer to have that 10 for a hole card and to therefore have a natural blackjack. Hoping to win an insurance wager is hoping for the dealer to win the round. And there is something just wrong about hoping for the dealer to win.

Finally there are the blackjack odds of the dealer having a 10 card and the money involved in those odds.

A dealer only has a 31% chance of having a 10 card for a hole card. That is only four times out of thirteen: 10, Jack, Queen, King. The other nine out of thirteen, or 69%, of the time the hole card will be any other card.

Now we are going to say that you are wagering $10 per hand, which makes insurance $5 each time. In terms of money this means that you could expect to win $40: four times $5. So if there is a nine in thirteen odds that the card is anything other than a 10 card it means that you will lose $45.

So you see, by taking insurance you are hurting your own blackjack odds and losing more money that you would not have to. Insurance makes for bad blackjack strategy.

Blackjack Strategy: Winning and Losing with Insurance

Over the weekend a question related to blackjack strategy and insurance came in. I was asked if it was possible to work insurance into one’s blackjack strategy and win with it.

I had to sigh. Here we go again with insurance and blackjack strategy.

Insurance should not have any place in a player’s blackjack strategy.

Insurance is not the protective play that the casinos would like for players to believe it is. Insurance is only a side bet on whether the dealer has a card worth 10 as a hole card. In other words, a side bet on whether the dealer has a natural blackjack or not. Players only win their insurance wagers when the dealer does have blackjack.

So first you are rooting for the house to win if you want to collect on that insurance bet. And there is something just wrong about rooting for the house to win.

Second, if you do win your insurance wager, you are not anymore ahead. Sure you might think you are because you have won the side bet. Whoopie! You won the side bet! But since the dealer has won with a natural blackjack, you have lost the round.

In money-speak: yes, you won $10 from your insurance wager, but you lost your original $10 wager. Pat yourself on the back and order a drink from the nice waitress to celebrate.

In a round winning an insurance side bet causes you to break even. You are no further ahead money-wise. And since you gave money to the house you did not have to you actually hurt your own blackjack odds.

Side bets hurt your blackjack odds because they put you in a position to lose more money faster. Imagine if you lost both the insurance side bet and lost the round—you would then be out more money than if you had only lost the round.

And, yes, it is possible to lose both the insurance bet and the round. Say the dealer actually has a 9 for a hole card, giving him a soft 20 that he stands on; and you only have a 19. You lost your insurance bet and the round.

The reason insurance should not be factored into your blackjack strategy is because it hurts your odds by putting you in a position to lose more money. Opportunities to make money increase your odds, and opportunities to lose money decrease your odds. So. No insurance in your blackjack strategy.

Basic Blackjack Card Counting

There are any number of blackjack card counting systems out there, ranging from complex to simple. Obviously if you have decided to begin learning card counting it makes sense to start with an easy system. Then, once you have become skilled at using that system, learn a newer more complex one if you would like.

The easiest blackjack card counting system is also one of the most common. It is called the Hi Lo system, and it is the one that the majority of beginning counters start with. It is a basic counting system whose only demand on your math skills is to add and subtract a positive one and a negative one.

Almost all of the cards have a positive or negative counting value assigned to them. The only cards that do not are 7, 8 and 9. Those three are considered neutral and have no value in this counting system. The other cards are assigned like so:

2, 3, 4, 5, 6 are all +1
10, J, Q, K, Ace are all -1

The way this system works is that the player will add up the values of the cards that are on the table, including the dealer’s face up and hole card.

So say that you are playing with one other person. You have a 5/6 and you double for 9. The other player has 2/6/5 and stands. The dealer has a 10 with a hole card of 6 and hits for 7 and busts. Adding up the value of cards played, starting with your hand and ending with the dealer, would look like this:

1 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 1 + 1 + -1 + 1 + 0 = 5

Your count ends with a positive number. This means that more low cards were played than high cards, and so the remaining deck is richer in high cards.

You keep adding to you count with the next round. In the case of our example you pick up with 5 at the beginning of the next round.

A positive count means the remaining deck is rich in high cards, while a negative count means that more high cards have been played leaving the remainder of the deck rich with low cards. Blackjack card counters will raise their wagers with a positive count, and lower them with a negative count.

As the simplest blackjack card counting system, it is easy to see why so many beginning blackjack card counters start with this system.

Best Worst Blackjack Betting System

I have got to say that there is no better birthday present than stumbling across a blackjack betting system written about by someone who knows nothing of the game. Yet this betting system they are writing about is the big secret key to blackjack. Oh it makes me laugh.

So this is my blackjack birthday present to me: presenting and poking holes in the latest blackjack betting system.

This blackjack betting system is called the Labouchere. And its writer claims that it is the most precise way to “consistently winning big money.” This Labouchere betting system is a negative progression system. This however is incorrect as the progression is based on winning, meaning you only progress to the next step if you win the round.

Winning is positive. Losing is negative. So, yes, a negative progression system based on winning. Hmm, what does that tell you right there?

In the opening description about this betting system, the writer claims that you have to win all bets, meaning that you have to win every round. Yes, this is a realistic betting system because you win every single round of blackjack you ever play. If you did win every round, you would not need a betting strategy or system, and the casinos would not offer blackjack.

The Labouchere begins by the player righting down a series of number. These numbers can be any number and the series can be any numbers in length as the amount of numbers needed is not stated. For explanation purposes here is a string of random numbers 4, 6, 3, 7, 2, 1, 9.

We then add the first and last number together for our first wager. Based on the above string we are betting 15chips. What value of chips is up to you, but it must be 15 chips. If you win, you cross the first and last numbers out and then add up the next two. So our next water is 6+1=7 chips.

This continues as long as you win. But if you lose you have to start all over with the beginning first and last numbers. But as long as you win, because remember that you win every round of blackjack, you are done playing when you have combined that last two numbers.

So if we were playing blackjack with this betting system and were winning every round, we would bet like this:

4+9=15
6+1=7
3+2=5
7+ uh oh, I do not have a second number. Hmm, guess the writer of this betting system should have mentioned that your random length of random numbers needs to be even in total.

The problems with this betting system are very obvious. The numbers used to determine wagers are random, and random does not work in strategies. The number of numbers needed is random as well. This betting system is based on the idea that the player wins every round of blackjack, which does not happen.

Clearly, the creator of this betting system does not understand the first thing about blackjack. And you can see why betting systems should be avoided when playing blackjack.

Blackjack Strategy: Can Insurance Help Me?

Recently I was asked a question in regards to blackjack strategy and insurance. The young man in question plays blackjack online, and had heard that insurance can sometimes be advantageous for the player. He wanted to know if this were true or not.

In a way, yes, it is true. But! But it cannot be used for online blackjack.

In order to make insurance work for you in terms of blackjack strategy you need to be a card counter. And I do not just mean that you have just started counting cards in the casino. You need to be a strong card counter.

Real quick let’s take a moment to review what insurance really is. Insurance is offered when the dealer has an Ace showing. The player can then make a second wager for half the amount of his original wager so that if the hole card is a 10 he will receive a payout that is equivalent to his original wager, but he will lose his original wager.

It sounds like this in not a bad idea, but players who take insurance will lose more money in the long run simply because they are wagering more money when they take insurance. Because insurance is really a side bet on whether the dealer’s hole card is worth 10 or not.

So if the player stands to lose more money in the long run, how can there ever be a time when taking insurance is advantageous to the player?

There are only two occasions when taking insurance could be advantageous: when you are holding a 20 or a natural blackjack AND you have been counting the cards and know that the deck is rich in high cards.

True the dealer could wind up with blackjack, but the net gain is the same. Take a look.

You are making $10 wagers. You have a natural blackjack and take insurance. If the dealer does have a natural blackjack too, then you push and hang on to your $10, but you also collect on the $5 insurance wager, picking up $10.

If the dealer does not have a natural blackjack, you lose the $5 insurance wager, but win $15 from having a natural blackjack. Subtract the lost $5 from the $15 you won, and your net gain is still the same: $10.

But taking insurance under these conditions can only happen when the deck is rich in high cards, and the only way to tell that is to be skilled at card counting. And because this little blackjack strategy trick requires card counting it means that it cannot be used for online blackjack since card counting cannot be down in online blackjack.

But this insurance trick is still a fun additive to your blackjack strategy—a bit of a sneaky way to take a play meant to take a player’s money and turn it around.

Natural Ways in Blackjack Strategy to Reduce the House Edge

When playing blackjack, players who desire to be savvy blackjack players will work and work to build a blackjack strategy that they can use to reduce the house edge and increase their own blackjack odds. This is true across the board of blackjack players. Those who play in brick and mortar casinos seek to beat the house, just like online blackjack players. It is one of the similarities between the two formats.

The desire to be a savvy blackjack player will take players on a quest from one of the internet to the other. They will closely examine strategy methods of others and tear about blackjack betting strategies. For players who play in brick and mortar casinos, they will practice and practice at card counting.

But for all of this work and studying, many blackjack players overlook a very effective way of reducing the house edge that is built in to the very basics of the game: double down.

Doubling down hits the house edge for 1.6%. When you consider that other plays only knock off fractions of a single percent, a hit of 1.6% is quite large.

When a player doubles down, he has the chance of winning twice the amount off of the house that he normally would on that particular hand. Because blackjack odds are about money, the opportunities that give the player a chance to take more money from the house are the ones that increase blackjack odds the most.

So why are blackjack players hesitant to double down and why do others disregard it entirely?

The answer is simple. They are afraid to put more money on the line. And with an attitude like that, a blackjack player might as well be handing over a portion of their bankroll.

And it is not like players are left with no way of knowing when the best chances to double down are. Basic strategy tells players when the most opportune times to double down are, which further decreases chances of loss and increases chances of winning.

With that knowledge in hand and knowing just how much damage doubling down can do to the house’s edge, it is most unwise to ignore doubling down. And that is exactly why any savvy blackjack player will not ignore the ‘natural’ means of increasing their blackjack odds, and will not forget doubling down in their blackjack strategy.

Low on Money: Blackjack Betting Strategy

It happens from time to time. Okay, perhaps it happens more often nowadays with an economy that is not so great. Whether you might be a bit low on funds because of the economy or because you had to put new tires on your car, it does not mean that you have to give up your blackjack playing.

In fact you can work some low stakes options into your blackjack betting strategy just for those times when money is a bit harder come by.

First off, there is no blackjack rule that says you have to play the game at $25 per hand. There are a good many blackjack myths out there, but the correct playing minimum is not one of them.

If you are playing blackjack in a brick and mortar casino look for the blackjack tables with the lowest table minimums. There is no shame in playing at them. Often people will play at them for fun, to save a few bucks or to keep their bankroll in check.

The only thing to watch out for on tables with low table minimums is the house rules. You do not want to play at a table that is offering an even money payout on a blackjack, or one that allows the dealer to hit on a soft 17 or any of the major house rules that hit your blackjack odds hard.

For example, if you are faced with a $5 that offers even money on blackjacks or a $10 table with regular house rules, you will want to play at the $10. Part of playing low stakes blackjack is playing smart. Playing at a table with blackjack odds eating rules you will lose more money faster, thus defeating the purpose of having a low stakes portion to your blackjack betting strategy.

Thankfully playing low stakes in online blackjack is a bit simpler. For one thing the house rules are pretty standard, meaning you are not going to find a standard game of blackjack with funky rules like an even money payout on blackjack or a dealer hitting on soft 17. The blackjack variations will have those, but you know to avoid those.

So all that is left when playing low stakes online blackjack is to control your wagering—wager the lowest amount possible. Many online blackjack games offer several wagering options ranging from $1 up to $100 per hand. Obviously if you want to go with some low stakes online blackjack, your strategy should be to make $1 wagers.

The point of working some low stakes options into your blackjack betting strategy is so that you can still enjoy the game when your bankroll is on the low side.