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Card Counting in Blackjack on a Conceptual Level

By: Fabian Rictor, Wednesday December 18th 2013
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Card counting is one of those things that gets a lot of attention in the media and movies once in a while because, if you don't know any better, it seems like some crazy way that geniuses are able to get an advantage against the casino and win a ton of money playing blackjack. There are a number of misconceptions about what card counting is, how it works, and what you need to know to make it work for you. Here we want to clear up some of those misconceptions and give you an understanding of card counting in blackjack on a more conceptual level.

If you're playing high-level blackjack in terms of basic strategy, then your payout rate against the house can still fluctuate over time depending on which cards are left in the deck. Because blackjacks pay out at twice the number rate, and because high cards like tens make it easier for the dealer to go bust with what are considered weak dealer cards showing (two through six), it gives the player an advantage whenever there are a lot of high cards left in the deck relative to the other cards.

That's why all card counting systems give you points for when low cards are dealt from the deck since it increases the number of high cards left in. Along similar lines, high cards being dealt from the deck hurts your advantage, so they indicate a decrease in your count. This is the same principle that drives the main action from all different card counting systems. The only things that really change between systems are how much each card counts as and whether or not you keep up with how many aces are left in the deck as a separate count.

Overall, card counting is all about getting a good idea of what your advantage is like compared to your average payout rate in the game. Whenever your count is particularly high, your advantage is going to be high. This is when you take advantage of this knowledge by betting higher amounts. This is the mechanism behind card counting that allows you to make money, and it's the number one thing that casinos look out for when trying to spot card counters. It's a worthwhile strategy to learn, but you have to learn it particularly well to avoid giving yourself away.

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