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Card Counting: Advanced Blackjack Strategy

By: Ryan Alders, Tuesday August 19th 2008
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Basic blackjack strategy assumes that all cards have equal probability of being dealt. But in real life situations, whether in online blackjack or in land casino blackjack, this is not so. After a deal has been completed the cards go to a discard tray. These cards do not come into play till the next reshuffling of the decks takes place. Hence these cards cannot be dealt in the next deal. If one remembers what these cards are then one can deduce which are the cards still left in the shoe and can therefore make more informed decisions that might even go against what basic blackjack strategy dictates. Keeping track of the cards in the discard tray is advanced blackjack strategy, which goes by the name of card counting.

The following instance illustrates how advanced blackjack strategy comes into play. When the player's present hand value is 16 or 17 basic blackjack strategy may require him to stand. However if the player knows that the discard tray contains a large proportion of high value cards then the shoe will contain a large proportion of low value cards. The player has a good chance of drawing a low value card and should hit taking advantage of the special situation.

It is impossible to keep track of individual cards and card counting does not endeavor to do that. Card counting gives an estimate of the relative proportion of the high value and the low value cards. The easier card counting systems assign a value of '-1' to high value cards and a value of '+1' to low value cards. As cards are exposed in the deal the keep a count of the cumulative value of cards consigned to the discard tray. Large positive running scores indicate a high proportion of low value cards in the discard tray and therefore a high proportion of high value cards in the shoe. Similarly large negative running scores indicate a high proportion of high value cards in the discard tray and therefore a high proportion of low value cards in the shoe.

There are several card counting strategies in operation. Which strategy to use really depends on how fast and accurate the player is at mental mathematics. For example the more advanced blackjack strategy of card counting assigns a value of '-2' to very high value cards, a value of '-1' to moderately high value cards, a value of '+2' to very low value cards and a value of '+1' to moderately low value cards. This enables them to bracket cards into more focused groups and take better decisions.

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Comment by: Augustine On: December 13, 2009
I think it's kind of bad advice to thing that counting cards works at online casinos. The fact is that online casinos shuffle their decks with each deal so counting cards becomes kind of irrelevant and not really all that possible.

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