Friday, December 16, 2011

Card Counting Basics - Part 2

If you haven't already read it, Part 1 can be found here.

What Does Card Counting Do?

Counting cards allows you to keep track of the ratio of the number of cards left that are good for the player against the number of cards left that are bad for the player.

Cards That Are Good For The Player
The cards that are best for the player are the tens and aces. Some of the reasons for this are obvious.
  1. Increases the frequency of blackjacks (it's the name of the game!)
    1. But doesn't this increase the frequency of blackjacks for the dealer too? Yes, it does, but while you only lose your original bet when the dealer gets a blackjack, you get paid 3 to 2 when you get one against the dealer.
    2. The blackjack is the most profitable part of the game for the player.
  2. Tens and aces tend to give you better starting hands, and make your decisions easier.
    1. An example would be playing a card total of 20 is much easier on the player than playing a card total of 14.
  3. Increases the chance of the dealer busting.
    1. While the player has the option to hit, stand, double, or split to their heart's content, the dealer is restricted to playing by a certain set of rules. One of those rules is that they must always hit with less than 17 no matter what the player holds. Having more tens in the deck increases the chance that they go over 21.
  4. Double downs tend to be more profitable.
    1. Think about what hands you usually double down on. 9, 10, or 11. Getting a 10 or ace (except on 11) will greatly increase your chance of winning the hand.
Cards That Are Bad For The Player
The worst cards for the player are the 5's and the 6's. Slightly less bad for the player are the 2's, 3's, 4's, and 7's. Some counts differentiate between the two tiers, but for most counters this really isn't necessary. Some of the reasons these are bad are the exact opposite of the reasons above.
  1. Less chances of the dealer busting.
    1. Low cards really help the dealer when they are forced to hit as it's easier to stay under 21.
  2. Double downs become less profitable.
    1. Once again, the hands you double on are 9, 10, and 11. Low cards are terrible for these situations since you only receive one card.
  3. Starting hands tend to be of a lower quality.
    1. Any hand that involves low cards will usually be inferior to hands that involve big cards.
So Now What?
Since it is known what cards are good for the player, and which cards are bad, all that needed to be done was to come up with a simple way to keep track of these cards. The Thorp Count, detailed in the original book on card counting, Beat the Dealer, was the first method used to count, but it was really only a viable option against single and double deck games. The casinos became wise to this and began adding more decks for the player to face off against. The methods were then refined and we have the newer strategies of today. There are now many counts to choose from such as hi-lo, ko, KISS III, and the Zen Count, among many others.

All of these counts use a similar method of assigning a numerical value to each card in the deck, and then keeping a running tally, or a running count, to track the overall value of the unplayed cards. While they all have the same goal, they don't all accomplish it in the same way. Next we will go over how different card counting systems work.

Continue on to Part 3

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