Saturday, December 17, 2011

Card Counting Basics - Part 3

If you haven't already checked them out, here is both Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Finally, How to Count Cards!

Now that we have the background information out of the way, it's time to actually break down how to count cards.  I'm going to start this off by explaining a bit about what components a count has, and how you can use those to decide what is best for you.

To begin, there are two different types of counts.  There are balanced counts, and unbalanced counts.

Balanced:  A balanced count usually starts with an initial running count of 0.  In a balanced count there are an even number of cards that are given a positive numerical value and cards that are given a negative numerical value.  Since there is an even amount of both, a completely brand new deck would have a neutral, or 0, count.

For example, the most common card counting system, assigns all cards 2 through 6 with a value of +1.  This comes out to having 5 ranks of cards with a +1 value.  10's and Aces have a value of -1.  This, once again, comes out to having 5 ranks of cards with a -1 value (10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace.) 

Balanced counts also require you to convert your running count into what is called a true count.  This is acheived by taking your running count and dividing that number by the number of decks remaining.  The true count is an accurate representation of the player's advantage at any given moment.  Balanced counts are generally considered more difficult than unbalanced, but also more powerful.

Unbalanced:  An unbalanced count is generally considered to be easier to learn than a balanced count, but they are usually less powerful (this is not always true).  Unbalanced counts are great for beginner's as they do not require you to convert your running count into a true count.  Do not let the alpha male inside you decide you won't waste your time with unbalanced counts because of a tiny loss of power.  I still use, depending on the game, an unbalanced count.
An unbalanced count has more ranks given a positive numerical value than they do ranks with a negative numerical value.  For example, take a look at the KISS III count.  You will see that there are two more positive cards per deck (since only black 2's are counted as +1) than negative.

This is actually a very cool feature as it works as a sort of "auto correct," where it automatically will adjust your inital running count as you play.  Let me give you an example of this.

Using the KISS III system, your initial running count for a 6 deck game is 9.  You gain an advantage whenever your running count reaches 20 or above.  So how many more positive cards would it take to get an advantage?  11 obviously as 9+11=20.  If you take that 11 and divide it by 5.75 (remember you've taken 11 cards out of the 6 decks and you get 1.9.  A true count of 2.0 is usually where a balanced count begins raising its bets, assuming it's a level 1 count.

Now let's fast forward through a few decks.  We're down to 4 decks remaining.  Our initial running count with 6 decks left was 9, but since then we've been counting 2 extra positive cards per deck.  That means a neutral count would rise by 2 for every deck played.  So at 5 decks it becomes 11.  At 4 decks it becomes 13.  Now how many cards does it take to get an advantage?  7 more positive cards.  Let's take that 7 and divide it by the number of decks remaining and we get 1.8 again. 

So we had a running count of 20 both times, and the unbalanced count was able to pinpoint our advantage both times, and we didn't even have to true count!!  (Although we did).

Confused Yet?  Don't Give up!

The stuff above is really only for informational purposes.  You won't be expected to understand that to count cards.  It's something that will come with time as you get more experienced.  If you can add and subtract by 1, and are able to divide by the numbers 1 through 8, then you can count cards.  If you take anything at all from the above section it's that both balanced and unbalanced counts are viable options to learn, but I recommend an unbalanced count for beginners. 

I really didn't want to break this down into so many parts, but there is much to explain when it comes to blackjack, so keep make sure to read Part 4!  (coming soon!)

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